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J. Kenji López-Alt

J. Kenji López-Alt

Managing Culinary Director

J. Kenji López-Alt is the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, and author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, where he unravels the science of home cooking.

A restaurant-trained chef and former Editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine, he is the author of upcoming The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, to be released by W. W. Norton.

He currently resides in Harlem with his wife and dogs.

He can be contacted at kenji@seriouseats.com

  • Website
  • Location: Harlem, NY
  • Favorite foods: Asparagus. Ramps. Freshly made tofu. Brussels sprouts.
  • Last bite on earth: Mapo dofu. Ramps.

How to Make Takeout-Style Kung Pao Chicken

As much as I now love real-deal Sichuan kung-pao chicken, my absolute favorite Chinese dish as a kid was this mildly spiced Americanized version—and to be honest, I still love it today. Just because it's a Chinese-American standard, complete with slightly-gloppy-sauce and mild heat doesn't make diced chicken with peppers and peanuts any less delicious. Here's how to make it at home. More

The Food Lab: Slow-Smoked, 40-Ounce, Dry-Aged Porterhouse Steaks

Smoking is generally a method reserved for long-cooking, tough cuts like pork shoulder, ribs, or beef brisket, intended to deeply flavor and tenderize the meat over the course of a half day of cooking. But with a bit of finesse and a couple hours of free time, it's perfectly possible to get that same smoky flavor into a thick-cut steak and still have it come out perfectly medium-rare and juicy, so long as you play your cards right. Here's how it's done. More

The Food Lab Turbo: These Pimento-Jalapeño Cheeseburgers Will Knock You Out

There's something about the way the caviar of the South (as pimento cheese is affectionately known) melts into a rich, oozy coating, its acidity and punch of pimento flavor accenting a thick and juicy grilled burger in a way that regular cheese just can't. Add some pickled jalapeño peppers in there in place of standard pickles and you've got yourself one hell of a fiery backyard treat. More

The Food Lab: Essential Techniques and Recipes for the Summer Grill

In honor of the grilling season I'm missing, I'm going to make it my goal to get as many folks out into their backyards and onto their balconies as many times as possible this summer, because let's be honest: everything tastes better when there's fire, smoke, and cold beers involved, and what better way to gently nudge folks outdoors than with recipes and techniques? I've written a fair amount about grilling in the past, and while this list doesn't encompass quite everything I've done, it does hit the staples of an omnivorous summertime grill with plenty of chicken, steak, sausages, burgers, and—my favorite—corn. More

What the Frappe? THIS is a Real Milkshake

You know what a milkshake is, right? Ice cream, a splash of milk, perhaps some flavored syrup or malt (if you want to get extra special), all blended together with a powerful whirring disk until smooth and creamy. That's what you think a milkshake is, but you're wrong. As any true New Englander can tell you, what you got there ain't a milkshake. It's a frappe, plain and simple. More

From the Archives: Wicked Good Lobster Rolls

A lobster roll consists of chunks of tender, sweet, cooked lobster meat barely napped in a thin coating of mayonnaise, all stuffed into a top-split, white-bread hot dog bun lightly toasted in butter. How do you make the best of such a simple creation? As with many things, it all comes down to attention to detail. Perfect selection and treatment of ingredients, balance, and above all, the ability to restrain yourself from over thinking. It's just a lobster roll, right? More

Trevisano May Be the Best Vegetable You've Never Grilled

You've never grilled trevisano or radicchio? I don't blame you. I pity you, but I don't blame you. They're both hearty bitter lettuces, and they both become remarkably sweet and succulent when charred over a live fire. Served with a drizzle of good olive oil and saba—a sweet wine-based condiment—along with a sprinkle of gorgonzola cheese, it's the best vegetable you've never grilled. More

How Ivan Orkin is Changing New York's Ramen Cuisine

With the opening of his flagship restaurant on the Lower East Side, Ivan Orkin brings a wacky touch to New York's somewhat staid ramen scene. Beyond the lighter, less fatty ramen broths (a refreshing change-up from the New York standard), he now has menu items like fried tofu with Coney Island chili sauce and roast pork onigiri topped with tomato. Orkin's new restaurant shows the potential for ramen to join the broader category of American cuisine. More

Why You Should Be Making Seared Skirt Steak With Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Polenta

My wife does not love polenta. This puts a certain strain on our marriage. There is, of course, nothing not to love about polenta, especially when it's buttery, cheesy, creamy, and covered in a flavorful sauce. I know this, and I think she secretly knows this. Still, when I cook polenta, I like to hedge my bets by not putting too much time or effort into it. This quick polenta with skirt steak and tomatoes is about as easy as a meaty polenta dish can get. More

The Food Lab Turbo: 3 Grilled Pizzas With Grilled Vegetables

Grilling pizza is one of the easiest, most delicious ways to get the kind of charred, crisp crust that the greatest pizzas in the world strive for. More importantly, it affords you the opportunity to grill your toppings before applying them to the pie, giving your finished pizzas an extra level of flavor. These three topping combos are cooked 100% outside (no need to pull out a pan indoors before you hit the grill), and none of them use sauce, letting the flavor of the grilled vegetables really shine through. More

The Food Lab Turbo: How to Make The Best Egg Salad

Perfect is a word that I throw around a lot, and it's always with the understanding that it's a goal that can be strived for but never achieved. This particular recipe for egg salad is about as close to perfect as I've ever had. It's not fancy, there are no special ingredients, but it's well balanced, with bright, fresh flavors and a texture that spans from rich and creamy to crisp and crunchy. More

Knife Skills: How to Slice Scallions

When scallions are used as a base ingredient in a stir-fry or salsa, a fine rough chop will do you just fine. But the beauty of scallions is that they're as pretty as they are flavorful—provided you know how to cut them. Here are the basic knife skills you'll need to produce three different types of garnish-worthy scallion slices. More

A Foreigner's Survival Guide to Ordering and Eating Peking Duck in Beijing

@Dr.Gaellon

Unfortunately... not. There's nothing that even remotely approximates it, unfortunately. It'd be like looking for New Haven-style pizza in Beijing. It simply does not exist. I've honestly never had duck like this before.

@cg_ups

Haha, I wish. But then I couldn't write posts like this one, which... do not help Chinese tourism at all. But Chinese tourISM is WAY better than Chinese tourISTS...

@chubbywoo

Nope, not Da Dong. It's Siji Minfu!

@nmanowitz

Yeah! Look out for great dumplings, Jian Bing (AKA the best breakfast ever), Rou Jia Bing and Liangpi noodles (which are actually Xi'an specialties, but the ones I had in Beijing were better than any I had in Xi'an), and of courze Zha Jian Mian, which I had at Siji Minfu, but also a half dozen other times.

What's the Best Way to Store Tomatoes?

Daniel - great testing! One thing you should consider later in the season: try it with actual from-the-farm tomatoes. With tomatoes shipped from wherever these are coming from this time of year, it's a sure bet that they were picked underriped and gassed on delivery to induce color change, and more than likely that they were refrigerated at some stage along the trail as well, which would affect your tests.

It's useful info to have for someone buying supermarket tomatoes, but I'd be equally interest to know if the same conclusions apply to tomatoes I pick from my own backyard or from the farmers market!

Another quick note: store your tomatoes stem-side-down and they'll stay juicy longer!

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

@ida

Where's that? My wife grew up in Colombia, but spent a couple years in Maryland during middle school.

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

@Daniel

They have a pretty fantastic banana blossom and chicken salad at Uncle Boon's just a couple blocks from the office. Definitely worth a taste!

@Zach A.

That... shouldn't happen. Perhaps you accidentally clicked on an ad? I just use the arrow keys to navigate.

The Serious Eats Guide to Biscuits

@Doggzilla

What you're making is essentially just the cream biscuit mentioned above. Self-raising flour is just flour with baking powder and salt already added to it, which does save you a step in the process, but also means that your ability to customize according to your own taste (say, less salt, for instance) is cut down. It's definitely a good method if you're happy with the results. I personally prefer to make cream biscuits by adding my own baking powder and salt, mainly because I don't make enough to justify storing a bag of self-raising flour in my all-too-limited pantry space.

Andalusian Gazpacho

@pekoe

I've tried that!

It works in terms of flavor, but it breaks, with watery liquid coming out at the bottom and oil at the top. You just have to re-emulsify it by slowly pouring it into a running blender and it's good as new.

Why Beer Costs What It Does

Nicely written, and interesting stuff!

Regarding this line:

the highest-priced beers at Monk's Kettle and the Abbot's Cellar generally net the bars less profit compared with the lowest-priced ones.
Like @Flavorcountry pointed out, it is important to note that when the phrase "less profit" is used, it's on a percentage-cost basis, not on a per-bottle basis, so the bar is actually making more profit by selling a single bottle of a $6 beer marked up to $10 than it is on a $1 beer marked up to $3, even though it makes a smaller percentage profit on its original beverage costs. Of course, this doesn't take into account any liquid cash tied up in carrying lots of expensive bottles of beer.

I've never worked on the beverage side of the industry, but the basic math and principles that guide how you mark up and stock items is pretty similar to food costs in kitchens, though in kitchens, the markup is generally more like 4x instead of 3x, because food goes bad faster than beverages and you need more cook-hours per sale than you do barkeeper-hours.

Nice article, and I do hope that it elucidates some of the hidden costs for people that tend to balk at high bar and restaurant prices.

One new thing I learned which is especially interesting is that fringe items tend to be priced less aggressively than bread and butter items. Note to self: don't feel bad ordering wine at Monk's Kettle.

How to Make Takeout-Style Kung Pao Chicken

@Ghostly

Well... they're "Szechuan," but really in name only. The only actual Sichuan place up there is Grand Sichuan. I'm thinking places like Empier Szechuan, which is Chinese-American Cantonese food (orange chicken, sesame chicken, etc), along with Hunan Balcony and Hunan Garden. Then there's Ollie's, as well as all of the Chino-Latino places. All serve some form of the Chinese-American stuff that was popularized at Shun Lee. All of the takeout joints serve the same kind of stuff as well.

@Realmenjulienne

Yup, I sure found that out when we were three for a few weeks just last month. The regional cuisines you get in places that are not of the same region show just as much variation as you get with Chinese food served in the U.S. Sichuan food in Beijing is quite difference from real Sichuan food in Chengdu!

@amosbkln

No real change, but just make extra sure not to overcook as white meat will dry out faster.

The Food Lab Redux: How to Make Orange and Sesame Chicken at Home

@scalfin

We're not in China any more (reporting from Chiag Mai right now!), and we didn't get much minority cuisine unfortunately. We did, however, hit up Xi'an. I even wrote about the food!

Here you go!

The Food Lab Redux: How to Make Orange and Sesame Chicken at Home

@ananonnie

(P.S. I've been writing a few personal stories about my travels thus far, including one about food in Sichuan/Chongqing. It's not exactly up-to-date, and I'm using it mostly as a personal scratch space to practice writing and keep my family up-to-date, so please don't mind the half-finished posts and posts that are only currently photos and titles. It's hard to stick to a writing schedule when you're seeking out the best khao soi in Chiang Mai ;) )

The Food Lab Redux: How to Make Orange and Sesame Chicken at Home

@timberbt

As others suggested, potato or arrowroot should work!

@ananonnie

Coincidentally enough, I was literally JUST in Chingqing a few days ago eating dry fried chicken! The version they have there has no real coating, but I do close like the popcorn chicken style you can get in the states. I'm keeping a running list of dishes to recreate when I get home in September. Chongqing dry fried chicken is high on that list!

The Food Lab: Wicked Good Lobster Rolls

The Food Lab: Wicked Good Lobster Rolls

The Food Lab: Wicked Good Lobster Rolls

Do as many lobsters as fit in a single layer when steaming. It'll take about 15 to 20 minutes, test in the tail. Flip the buns, add lemon juice and celery just before serving, and roast on anything I use a rimmed baking sheet.

Bagelnomics: The Curious Pricing of New York's Bagel With Cream Cheese

@ryuthrowsstuff

Actually, the way we did it when I was a kid was based on temperature. If huge bagels were hot hot hot just out of the oven,mthe. It was butter. If they were a little cooler, them cream cheese. I'd go in and ask the bagel guy what was hot. If there was a plain, sesame, egg, salt, or onion bagel hot, then I'd get butter. If not, then it was plain with cream cheese. Later on they introduced everything, which became my new favorite. It still is.

Bagelnomics: The Curious Pricing of New York's Bagel With Cream Cheese

@Max

Great article and conclusion. Nobody but a true NY Jew could combine bagels, math, Yiddish, and frugality so seamlessly in 2,000 words or less.

Two questions:

a) Of the places that offer you a giant amount of cream cheese when you don't specify schmear size, can you get even more savings by ordering the bagel, scraping off the cream cheese and saving it up for the next couple of days' worth of bagels?

b) Doesn't keeping cream cheese at the office and schmearing at-leisure violate the Heisen-Bagel Uncertainty Principle? Like good Neapolitan pizza, the act of transporting a bagel from its place of baking immediately and irrevocably drastically reduces its quality. If I'm getting my bagel from my local bagel shop (for me that was Columbia Bagels until it closed, followed by Absolute), then I'm going to be asking them which bagels are the freshest (or just feeling the glass to see which are the warmest), and I'm going to start eating it before I'm out the door, before any of its crisp-chewy balance can be destroyed.

On a related note, bagels will be one of the things I miss most about NY when we crash-land back on the West Coast in a couple months. :(

Gadgets: Breville's Smart Waffle Maker Produces Perfectly Browned Waffles

@Donna

We've got to test this guy out against the Will it Waffle Kitchenaid waffle iron we've been using at the office. A waffle-off. Or a waff-off or something like that.

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

@Ocean

It actually was an apartment before we took it over. And before that, it was a cannoli factory. No joke!

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

@BillyZoom

Don't worry, it's coming, and the iron ain't cooling none. The goal is PERFECTION, not speed. But it's all written. We're in the final stages now, but release is still a little ways out. (and it's TWO books, actually!)

How to Make the Crispiest Shredded Hash Browns

I was just gonna link to my mashed potato post, but @jaykayen beat me to it!

He's right: you can't par-boil shredded potatoes in acidic water. They turn plasticky and never ever soften. Actually, for some reason I can't really explain, if you try boiling shredded potatoes in even plain water, they don't soften up the same way that whole chunks of potato do. It's really weird. Even soaking for too long in regular water seems to have the same effect, to the point where the shreds of potato never soften no matter how much you fry them subsequently. I'll have to see if I can figure out how to explain that at some point.

10 Sensational Stops for Japanese Food in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Oh man, I would've killed for a list like this last time I was in the area. Now I'll just have to go back! I did manage to get to Tsunahachi and it was by far the best tempura meal I've ever had (review here!).

From the Archives: The Best Basic Guacamole

@SHole

Actually, we're pretty selective about when we use the term "Best"! At Serious Eats, we do a whole range of recipes, from super complex, over-the-top researched numbers to very simple, no-need-to-test-more-than-twice recipe. If we call a recipe "The Best," it's because it's the type of recipe in which we tested everything we could possibly think of in order to give it the best possible outcome. So while there's no such thing as "the best" that fits every single person's taste (my best might not be your best), you can read into the title as meaning "The Best Attempt Kenji has Ever Made at Making a Basic Guacamole Recipe That Fits the Precise Criteria as Defined in the Associated Post, Which Also Happens to Explain the Testing and the Science Behind the Recipe."

So, I understand your point, but I do want you to realize that we don't throw around the term frivolously. If we call something Best or Perfect or whatever, it's because we honestly believe we've put more work into researching and testing said recipe than any other source you'll find online.

@JeffOverley

Guacamole with garlic makes me... ok, it doesn't make me sad, but I do like to keep things simple. The great thing about this recipe, however, is that it's really the technique—the salting and smashing of aromatics—that matters in terms of flavor development, so if you were to follow the technique adding garlic to the aromatic base, I guarantee you'll make the best, most flavorful garlicky guacamole you've ever made.

This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters

@lookmanospaces

I miss the office too! But only a little. I just got down from a two day hike on Mt. Emai in Sichuan, then had a bowl of mapo doufu and a cold beer as soon as we got back. It was pretttttty fantastic (both the hike and the beer). I know Robyn's there in spirit too!

The Age of the Vegan Tasting Menu: A Look at Del Posto's 8-Course Vegan Meal

@BGEPizza

You can reach Ed (or any of the editors) directly at their first name @seriouseats.com. Ed's is ed@seriouseats.com, and I'm sure he'd be happy to talk to you about your concerns!

The 11 Best Things I Ate During My Cross-Country Road Trip

Re: chick-Fil-a

I'm only going to say this once and any comments on the subject from here on out will be ignored, as it is irrelevant to the point of this article (and I'm on vacation, dammit!)

The "traditional marriage" stance is one made by the founder of the company. It does not reflect either Chick-Fil-A's overall stance, nor their practice. AFAIK, they do not discriminate in hiring or serving LGBT customers in any way whatsoever. Would I give my money directly to the founder? Nope. But I'm happy to spend my money at a company that provides a good service, pays it's employees well with a history of high employee satisfaction rate, whether or not it was started by a bigotous nut job. Same reason I have no problem dining at in-n-out, despite the company being run by "traditional marriage"-supported folks. Also the same reason I don't have problems dining at pretty much every restaurant or franchise that is operated by someone who has differing beliefs from mine. So long as the actual company acts in an upstanding way and doesn't force the beliefs of its owners or founders onto others, then no problem.

Heck, if I, as a devoutly liberal atheist were to follow all of my beliefs to their uncompromising logical extreme, forget boycotting Chik-Fil-A, I'd have to boycott entire states where gay marriage is not allowe and creationism is taught alongside real science. My money go to that? Heck no! While I'm at it, might as well stop spending money in the US period until they get rid of the word "god" on our currency.

See the point? An individual's opinions, even if they are the leader of an organization, does not necessarily reflect the rest of that organization or their actions.

The Serious Eats Guide To Pizza In Naples

A few months ago, my wife and I spent all of 24 hours in Naples on our way home from Sicily. It was probably the second-most pizza-packed 24 hours of my life (the first being when I took my Colombian brother-in-law on a whirlwind pizza tour of New York). We hit over a half dozen pizzerias over lunch alone, and a few more for dinner. Here now, I present to you the Serious Eats guide to Eating Pizza in Naples. More

Video: Serious Eats Cooks Peking Duck At Buddakan

Ever made a traditional Peking duck? Turns out it's a pretty involved process, requiring not only multiple steps but multiple days, cooking apparatuses, and spices. The end result: an incredibly crispy, juicy bird that's seriously delicious. Come along with Serious Eats's own Carey Jones as she learns how to make Peking Duck. Chef Brian Ray of Buddakan gives us the grand tour. More

60+ Holiday Snacks in 20 Minutes Or Less

Uh oh. The buzzer rings. Friends are coming over to spread holiday cheer and you panic. Serve frozen dumplings...again?! You can do better than that. Print out this list of easy-to-assemble, stress-free, mostly-sub-20-minutes-to-prepare munchies and paste it to the fridge. Here are 60+ dips, hors d'oeuvres, small bites, toasty snacks, sweet nibbles, appetizers, and more festive munchies to prepare in a snap. More

30 Cookie Recipes from the 2011 Serious Eats Cookie Swap

The Serious Eats Cookie Swap has become an annual tradition. We break out the Duane Reade tinsel and twinkle lights, and are forced to do a major office detox to make room for cookies. Many, many cookies. (OK, maybe a dozen doughnuts snuck in this year too). It was our third year swapping, and as per tradition, the tables were covered with butter-laden treats. Our NYC-based contributors really pulled out their ninja baking skills. Get all the recipes here. More

Serious Eats' Bacon Banh Mi

Our recipe for Bacon Banh Mi brings our favorite Vietnamese sandwich home, swapping out the usual array of cold cuts and charcuterie for bacon but staying true to the other elements that make this sandwich so balanced and irresistible. More

My All-Pie Thanksgiving Fantasy

When you think about Thanksgiving and you think about various elements of the Thanksgiving meal, it seems like you're just waiting through the big meal to get to the pie. I really believe this, which is why I always fantasized about an all-pie Thanksgiving. (Anyone with me on this?) At an editorial meeting about a month ago, we were at the office talking about Thanksgiving coverage and I shared this fantasy with the team. Knowing how much I adore and obsess over pie, the Serious Eats editors weren't too shocked, so we did the only thing we know how to do: make it happen. More

BraveTart: Make Your Own 3 Musketeers

Urban legend has it that some industrial candy snafu botched the names of 3 Musketeers and Milky Way. The tale has a certain logic. 3 Musketeers doesn't have three ingredients but Milky Way does. And the very name Milky Way recalls the smooth, uninterrupted creaminess found in 3 Musketeers. Those kinds of wonky urban legends ran amok in the eighties, but we have the internet now, so let's clear this stuff up. It's not a tasty tabloid tale of "Switched at Birth!" but rather "Murder, She Wrote." More

BraveTart: Make Your Own (Better) Soft Batch Cookies

When you first joined me in my quest to unlock the secrets of culinary time travel, I told you it would take equal parts science and magic to make the foods that could power the flux capacitor of the mind. I said, "leave the DeLorean in the garage, preheat your oven to one point twenty one gigawatts, and rev that Kitchen Aid to eighty eight mph. We're going back to the Eighties." And we did. But while there, what if some careless action altered our timeline? Could we, like Marty McFly, inadvertently create an alternate universe? One where the Keebler Soft Batch Cookie tastes freaking delicious? Friends, this isn't speculation. I have done such a thing. More

Memphis-Style Barbecue Sauce

This "Memphis-style" is my favorite to make at home—it takes the aspects of sweet tomato-based sauces I grew up on, but by dialing back the sugar and amping up the vinegar, creates a sauce where seasonings and spice are more defined and achieves a pleasing balance between the main defining aspects of a barbecue sauce. More

Boston: Fried Ipswich Clams at B&G Oysters

These are the only fancy-restaurant fried clams I think are really worth the cash ($14 half/$26 full). That they start with Ipswich bellies makes all the difference; these juicy, sweet, whole-belly behemoths are harvested from the mud flats off Ipswich, where experts claim that the particularly nutrient-rich soil gives the bivalves their superior, almost nutty flavor. More

Boston: Tamarind Bay's Lalla Musa Dal

As food aesthetics go, the murky, rust-brown, pebbly lalla musa dal at Tamarind Bay Coastal Kitchen can't compare to the restaurant's other specialties like the fennel cream-sauced cauliflower dumplings or the spiced lobster tail. But famed Indian chefs like Julie Sahni don't consider this dish "the most exquisite of all dal preparations" for nothing, and speaking in terms of decadence, it outclasses the rest by a long shot. More

Guide to Grilling: Planking

For all that I've grilled (150-plus recipes and counting), there's always plenty of uncharted territory. One of those areas: planking. There aren't usually many planking recipes in cookbooks, save the ubiquitous planked salmon. Put simply, planking is cooking food directly on a piece of hardwood. When cooking this way, the surface of the food touching the wood picks up some of the plank's natural flavors. More

How to Make Bagels at Home

I don't use the word magical lightly, but there really is something wondrous about making bagels at home. Maybe it's the shape. I think most everyone understands a loaf of bread, but the round shape with a hole ... well, it seems like a whole lot more work than simply plopping some dough in a loaf pan. But it's not. Really. Try making just one batch of these, and I'm sure you'll have the process down pat. Put on your sorcerer's robe and follow along! More