'Ask the food lab' on Serious Eats

Ask The Food Lab: Do I Need To Sauté Vegetables When Starting a Stew?

"Is it necessary to sauté aromatics in a dish like a soup or stew that will cook for a long time? Many of my soups, stews, and curries have a base of mirepoix, or onions, and maybe garlic and ginger. I'm wondering in a dish that cooks for 1 hour or more is it necessary to start with the sauté? Does the sauté process add something to the flavor or texture that simmering in liquid wouldn't, or perhaps would I find that the onion would take a very long time to cook while simmering in a soup?" More

Ask the Food Lab: Does Resting Under Foil Ruin Meat?

"Does resting food under foil help retain heat or just destroy crispy skin? Or is the skin / crust not affected by a foil tent? Does protein laid bare on a plate loose that much extra heat, that tenting with foil is required? If foil is not used and the protein cools down faster does that help speed up the re-distribution of juices? I'm in the crispy skin / crackling crust crowd so I don't like to tent under foil. Am I terribly mistaken?" More

Ask The Food Lab: Do Grill Pans Actually Mimic Grilling?

"With spring on the horizon, I've started thinking about grilling. But as an apartment dweller with no grill, the grill pan is the only viable option. Have you conducted any tests on grill pans? Other than the obvious aesthetic benefit from the grill marks, I'd love to know how a piece of meat cooked on a grill pan might compare in flavor to one pan-seared and one cooked on a proper grill. Basically: do grill pans provide any actual flavor, or are they just for looks?" More

Ask The Food Lab: Is It OK To Probe My Meat?

"I've heard that probing meats to test temperatures can be bad because you creates holes that juice leaks out of. Is this true? I've always used the leave in thermometers that stay in and I don't remove it until my meat has rested. Is this an unnecessary step? What if you have to test multiple times, will that cause a difference?" More

Ask the Food Lab: Do I Really Need To Reduce Wine Separately?

"I was just watching an America's Test Kitchen episode in which they said to reduce a wine/port/red wine vinegar mixture till syrupy, then add chicken stock. I couldn't help wondering why that's any better than adding the chicken stock initially and reducing the whole thing. Water loss is water loss, right? To the same point, recipes are forever distinguishing between simmering sauces slowly versus rapidly reducing them. What's the difference?" More

Ask The Food Lab: Does Vodka Sauce Really Need Vodka?

"I like penne alla vodka sauce. I'm curious whether or not the vodka adds anything to the mix. I'm dubious that A) the alcohol in the vodka actually brings any additional flavors out of tomatoes as people claim, and B) that one could even taste these nuances in tomato flavor after dumping a bunch of cream into the sauce. I'd be interested in a food lab investigation: does alcohol in fact draw out flavor from tomatoes?" More

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