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White Sauce Can't Clump: How to Make Smooth, Silky B├ęchamel

Having taught several frustrated friends and family members the "secrets" to making a non-lumpy white gravy. I disagree at two points:

One, I've always cooked the butter until the foaming subsides i.e. the water from the butter has cooked out. Otherwise, it seems to me that the water content of the butter can react with some of the starch in the flour before the starch molecules are coated in fat, resulting in a grainier sauce.

Two, I feel that adding cold milk to the roux can cause it to "seize". Especially if too much milk is added at once or your pan isn't heavy enough to retain sufficient heat. Heating and vigorously whisking can undo the seize. But if it's not very thoroughly whisked before adding more milk it can result in lumps. I always tell people to pop the measuring cup of milk in the microwave for a minute to, at least, "take the chill off".

If you know what you're doing, you have a good heavy pan over the right medium heat and you whisk vigorously throughout; neither of these is necessary. But it seems to provide a little extra insurance. It's what I tell people for "fool proofing". (Also, when all else fails, hit that lumpy gravy with an immersion blender.)

The Food Lab: Meet Barbecue Beef Chuck, Brisket's Cheaper, Easier Cousin

@BGavin - I put the chuck on a rack about an inch off the bottom. So, it's cooking in a moist environment, but not stewing. I just put a little water to start with. Consensus on smoking blogs seems to be that liquids in a smoker's water pan don't add much. So, I'm following that logic. The meat will also give up a good amount of liquid as it cooks.

If the meat were sitting in a liquid it might pick up some flavor, but, I'd think, it's own broth is going to be best. I'd worry about a broth or beer mucking with the smoke/beef flavors.

The Food Lab: Meet Barbecue Beef Chuck, Brisket's Cheaper, Easier Cousin

Noooo... Kenji, dude, you're letting all the secrets out! I'm blaming you when chuck goes the way of brisket and skirt steak and starts costing more than strip loin.

The easiest way I've found to do chuck is to smoke it on the Weber for about 4 hours and then just throw it in a slow cooker on low. Keeps the outside from drying out and doesn't require any babysitting. (Yeah, purists, it's "cheating") I usually plan to grill dinner the night before I want to make the chuck. After I grill, I rake the extra coals to one side, close the vents, throw a couple wood chunks on, and let the chuck smoke until the coals burn out. Put it in the crockpot overnight. Great 'barbecue' for minor effort.

If I'm going to take the time and effort to babysit something on the smoker all day, I'll spend the money on a brisket.

Knife Skills: How to Cut a Whole Beef Strip Loin Into Steaks

@Hammertime70 @Kenji

I agree it's worth the savings. I haven't bought an individual steak in years. I haven't noticed much, if any, loss in quality after freezing. I do always salt my steaks before vacuum packing and freezing, which seems to give better results after defrosting. My guess is that the salt somehow reduces ice crystal formation. They seem to defrost faster as well.

The Best Gin to Buy on a Budget

I second the Gordon's question. Did it not make the cut or was it not one of the brands you tried? Personally, I'd take it over either Seagram's any day. Bombay (Original, not Sapphire) is my standard, but Gordon's is my go-to backup.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying, Prepping, Cooking, and Carving Your Holiday Turkey


The past two years I've made your Turkey Porchetta (on the smoker FYI). I've received a request to try to make a Turducken Porchetta this year. But I'm taking it on the road, so I can't use the inside-out Turducken method (I can sear/finish the roast onsite, but I can't be there all day to cook it in stages).

So, I'm thinking I'll modify the Turkey Porchetta recipe, adding butterflied layers of chicken breast, duck breast, and sausage. But I'm concerned about cooking the sausage without over-cooking the chicken and turkey.

Let's say I sous vide it to 150F, how long would it need to be held at temp for the sausage to be safely cooked? (Any other suggestions?)

The Pizzadilla: This is What Happens When a Quesadilla and a Pizza Make Sweet Love

@jamo1973 - I have the same issue. What I do is heat my stone on the bottom rack of the oven so it's screaming hot. Then, (with a very heavy pair of welding gloves) move it to the top rack before launching the pizza. It's counter-intuitive, but the top of a pizza will cook faster on the upper rack. Something to do with convection currents or something. (TL/DR->

How I Built a Barbecue Restaurant in Brooklyn: So I Failed My Construction Inspection

Re-inspection fees are just an extra tax on construction. Your contractor should have told you up front- you will fail your first couple inspections, you will pay the re-inspection fees. If you don't have a violation, they will invent a violation.

Here in Georgia (Red-est of the Red "Business Friendly" states), I once had an inspector say he was failing me because we had no GFCI in the laundry... as we are standing in the laundry looking at the GFCI. His reasoning- he didn't find the GFCI quickly enough when he looked for it.

The Food Lab: For the Best Chicken Parmesan, Take a Lesson From the South

I was surprised to not see vodka making a cameo in the breading given the success in the KFC and General Tso's recipes. Much like General Tso's my biggest issue with parm is the breading becoming soggy.

From the Archives: How to Pick and Cook a Holiday Ham

Tried curing my own ham this year. There were a few fresh hams at my local Farmers' Market in late February. Couldn't resist. Adapted Kenji's dry brine corned beef recipe. I'm opening the bag tonight to smoke it... here's hoping it's cured, not spoiled.

Open Thread: White Chocolate, Yay or Nay?

White Chocolate, yes! Sweetened hydrogenated palm kernel oil "confectionery" masquerading as chocolate, NO!

The 'Influential' Burger (That Influences You to Order Chili Dogs Instead) at The Varsity in Atlanta

Of course it was bad! You ordered it wrong. It's supposed to be topped with chili, pimento cheese, onions, slaw and a ton of mustard. Then you can't even taste the burger. No Atlantan in his right mind ever wants to actually taste a Varsity "steak". Better yet, just get two chili cheese slaw dogs, rings and a FO.

Poll: Burgers with Two Proteins: Way or No Way?

The fourth law of sandwich dynamics:

BBQ Pork Burger

Help Me Help My Vegan Friends

Thank you, everyone, for your help. You've given me some really great ideas of ingredients to try working with. I really wanted some basic ideas so I could start exercising my creativity and having fun with this.

@Siobahn and AnnieNT. Exactly. That's my issue. I don't want to just try to make a vegan-version of non-vegan dishes. But being a non-vegan, I just don't know the "spice palate" is, so to speak. It's just like when I first started cooking Chinese. I had a firm grasp of the Western pantry and what ingredients added what elements. But with a different cuisine it's like a different language. If I want to (eventually) create paragraphs, I have to start by learning the alphabet.


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