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The Food Lab: My 11 Favorite Recipes of the Year, 2014

I spend so much time cooking and thinking about what I'm going to cook next that I don't often get to look back at what I've actually done. This has been a pretty big year for me recipe-wise, with some fun breakthroughs, some delicious staples that have made their way into my everyday life, and other recipes that, while they may not be the simplest, are worth every second of the time and effort that go into them. Here are my favorites of they year. They aren't necessarily the most popular, but they were the ones I had the most fun developing and eating. More

The Food Lab: The Secret to Perfect Beef Tenderloin? The Reverse Sear Strikes Again

Whole-roasted beef tenderloin is a once-a-year celebratory dish that can be fantastic if done properly. The problem is, its extra-lean meat lacks flavor, not to mention how easily it dries out and overcooks. Our slow-roasting reverse-sear method ensures perfectly medium-rare meat from edge to center with a nicely browned, flavorful crust. More

How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin for Roasting

Beef tenderloin is the most expensive cut of meat on the steer. At a good butcher or supermarket, a trimmed center-cut tenderloin can run you as much as $25 to $30 per pound! But there are ways to minimize that cost. The best way is to buy the tenderloin whole and untrimmed, bring it home, and trim it yourself. More

How to Tie a Butcher's Knot

A butcher's knot has one big advantage over a regular square knot: it's a slip knot, which means that once you tie it, you can adjust it very easily without needing an extra finger to hold the knot in place as you tighten it. More

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

If you've ever been awestruck by the texture of a purée or a soup in a fancy restaurant, odds are a high-power blender was responsible. The good news is, they're now easily available for the home cook. The bad news? There are many options, and they're pricey. We're talking at least $400. For those bucks, you want to make sure that you're getting the best blender for your needs. Here's the scoop. More

A Cookie a Day: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

It was a little over a year ago today that I finished a quest that I started when I ate my first Chips Ahoy! as a little kid. OK, "finished" is a strong word. Like The Lord of the Rings, this was one of those quests that honestly feels like it never ends, but at least I made it to the first climax. After months of tweaking, testing, and gorging myself on butter, sugar, and chocolate, I'd arrived at the closest I'd ever come to the platonic ideal of a chocolate cookie. More

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Leg of Lamb

It always baffles me when I hear statistics about lamb consumption in the US. Compared to chicken, beef, and pork sales, lamb consumption is a drop in the bucket And why? It's certainly one of the most delicious meats around, with its meaty texture, and intense flavor. Because I love lamb so hard, I'm going to try my best to remedy that situation, starting with the best way to cook a boneless leg of lamb. I'm talking about a method that delivers mild, flavorful meat with a tender texture and a perfectly rosy medium-rare hue all the way from edge to center, surrounded in a crisp layer of browned, crackly fat. Here's everything you need to know. More

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Prime Rib

Is there anything more truly beautiful than a perfect prime rib? A deep brown crust crackling with salt and fat, sliced open to reveal a juicy pink center that extends from edge to edge as it gets sliced. It's the ultimate in luxurious holiday roasts, but its high price can make it daunting to cook for even seasoned roasters. Here's the definitive guide to buying, storing, preparing, cooking, carving, and serving absolutely perfect prime rib. More

The Food Lab: Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce

When it comes to meat sauces, ragú Bolognese is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. To arrive at this version, I started with Barbara Lynch's great recipe, adding a few tweaks here and there to enhance meatiness and texture (hello pancetta, gelatin, and fish sauce!), and employing a unique oven-based cooking technique that develops rich browned flavors all while maintaining the tender, silky texture that the best sauces have. This is the kind of sauce that will leave you and your loved ones weak in the knees. More

The Food Lab's Complete Guide to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

The key to a successful Thanksgiving is planning. Know what needs to get done, when it needs to be done, and how much manpower and time it's going to take you. There's no better way to derail a calm evening by scrambling at the last minute to make sure your turkey is cooked through, or the gravy isn't burning. There are many theories as to when to prep each individual item, but here's my own schedule of events, starting the week before Thanksgiving. More

Spice Up Your Holiday With Three Spiced Nuts Variations

@petes eats

Understood, but you have to know when what tests are appropriate. When we're trying to answer specific questions like, say, whether salt makes eggs tougher or how laminating affects pasta dough, we do t tests and double blind tests and actually do the science. But when the question is "what nut do you like better," doing it lole that just doesn't make sense. You end up with middle of the road recipes with no personality (think: Cook's Illustrated). Same with restaurant reviews and eating guides. We WANT the pieces to be opinionated and well backed up. If you just want crowd sourced favorites, there are places to get that, but It's just not our schtick.

Spice Up Your Holiday With Three Spiced Nuts Variations

Yeah, I agree with Daniel, and to add to what he was saying, sometimes when I'm developing a recipe, even when I have a panel of tasters, I still may choose to do something that none of them like but I personally like. At the end of the day, a recipe, just like a good story, should expressed the opinion of the writer or recipe developer. At Serious Eats, we try to back up that opinion with as much fact as possible, but a lot of it still has to come down to taste.

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

@poopypopcorn

They are ALL loud, though the vitamix is the loudest.

How to Tie a Butcher's Knot

@Shayrose

Yes, you can do it like this:

But the string is not any easier to remove when you do it with one piece. It's still easiest to snip through each section rather than try and unravel it whole.

The Food Lab: The Secret to Perfect Beef Tenderloin? The Reverse Sear Strikes Again

@Anne H

The actual recipe is linked to top and bottom:
http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/12/slow-roasted-beef-tenderloin-recipe.html

It has instructions for both traditional sear and for broil, as well as timings for everything.


@John J S

Yeah, I cooked a copule sous vide as well. That may well end up being a separate post. Sous vide is great for even and efficient cooking, though it does make it a little harder to sear at the end.

@kabes137

I use a standard half sheet pan and rack. They're cheap!

@Seannie

Yes, charcoal would work great for the sear. I'd pull it about 5 degrees below target temperature.

How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin for Roasting

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

@raverlingibject

Uh oh. Weird. Are you on mobile by any chance? I just figured out that on mobile the half stars don't render. I'll see if we can fix it.

Taste Test: The Best Ready-Made Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Hey guys!

I understand the comments about wanting to see full testing results in things like this, but it was a very conscious decision we made to feature only those products we would recommend buying. If it isn't called out as a favorite, you can infer that it simy wasn't worth buying from our perspective.

We're in the business of leading people to better, tastier food and slamming a product, especially f it comes from a small scale producer, is something we used to do because it got us more traffic (people love to see disses) but never sat quite right as all it really did was get us an our readers a few laughs at the others' expense.

Anyhow, a couple of you did make some good points about the GF and vegan cookies and it's definitely our oversight to my at least comment on them in the results.

I don't have the actual data with me, but for what it's worth, the vegan cookie dough from Hampton Creek would've blown away any of these the largely inedible ones we tasted in this test. As for the gluten free, I believe Immaculate was the best option.

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

@yertle

Try refreshing your browser's cache. The stars are all out of four!

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Buying and Cooking Hams

@etu001

It's somewhere in between a city ham and raw prosciutto. Definitely dryer than a city ham and saltier, but with a much more intense hammy flavor.

@rkc1972

I've had excellent hams from Harry & David as well a crazy good (and crazy expensive) one from Snake River Farms.

@unixrab

Follow this recipe!

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

@DominiqueN

I didn't include it in these specific rounds of testing, but I owned both a Thermomix and a Vitamix for many years and compared them side by side. As far as pure blending power goes, the Thermomix doesn't compare. It has far too wide a base to blend efficiently. That said, as an all-in-one chopper/cooker/blender/scale appliance, it can't be beat. It doesn't beat any item individually, but for a small kitchen it's ideal.

@smnokey

I use the immersion blender 90% of the time, but for those times you want really smooth soup or are making a smoothie, that's when you bring out the big guns.

@kwvogel

Those smoothie cups are convenient for sure, so if you make a ton of smoothies, the ninja could work out for you. That said, the smoothies they produced were not anywhere remotely close to as smooth as what you get from any of the three blenders shown here. The Ninja also has a very short warranty, which doesn't instill confidence in its wuality.

@ryuthrowsstuff

That's interesting. I've only ever seen Vitamix's in restaurants. Maybe it's a regional thing or a particular type of restaurant uses one over the other.

@drmarcj

I tried to be complete but I didn't actually include that Oster model in my testing. Does it have a metal or plastic gear?

Vitamix vs. BlendTec vs. Breville: Who Makes the Best High End Blender?

@MmmmBeer

The BlendTec Designer is available refurbished from the BlendTec website!

@Joe MacBau, @chrisdapos, @Peter Ambler

I actually tested many blenders beyond the three that I'm writing about here. These three were the best for various reasons and would be the only three I recommend in terms of overall quality and value for money.

@OtusB

For what it's worth, of the sub-$200 blenders I tested, the Breville Hemisphere Control Plus and the KitchenAid 5-Speed were the best models I tried.

I'm glad you're happy with your Ninja! In my side-by-side tests though, it just didn't stack up to comparable models, and moreover, it's got some really cheap-feeling parts that I'm afraid will go kaput as soon as the (short) 1-year warranty expires.

@monopod

I've never heard of that happening and it looks like BlendTec responded and is looking into why. I'd be very surprised if that was a regular occurence and not just a fluke (besides, things like that are 100% covered under warranty)

@reason

I wrote a basic guide to making creamy soups!

@Mopnglow

My basic recipe was:

100 grams kale leaves
150 grams frozen mixed berries
100 grams water (or more to taste if you like it thinner)
50 grams sugar, honey, or agave nectar (optional)
100 grams yogurt

Blend. Drink.

Chocolate-Covered Caramel-Filled Shortbread Cookies (A.K.A. Homemade Twix)

Hey all - it's no good that your cookies are burning! I tested this recipe multiple times, and when I originally wrote my shortbread recipe for Cook's Illustrated, it was also tested extensively with multiple ovens and test runs from home cooks at the same temperatures given here. That said, it shouldn't be burning for so many folks, so I think I gotta revisit and double check to try and figure out what might be going wrong.

My apologies for anyone who ended up with burnt cookies!

@Lindsaymouse

IS your candy thermometer calibrated? The caramel recipe I use here is actually really pretty standard so I'm not sure why it would come out hard like that. There's nothing particularly unique about it - tons of easy soft caramel recipes just like it in book sna dover the internet.

@Bethesbian

The cookies are pretty tender and should cut with a thin knife just fine.

Knife Skills: How to Sharpen a Knife

@chickentenders

I'd use a dummy knife or at least your least favorite. Sharpening takes off material. If you do it wrong or too aggressively, potentially a lot of material. This can't be taken back.

The Food Lab: Can I Dry Age Beef At Home?

@Mitchel Baxter

Thanks for the feedback!

Whether you flip the steaks or use different wrappers or anything you do, the issue is still that what he (and Cook's Illustrated) call "dry aging" is very emphatically not dry-aging, a process that due to basic biology and chemistry requires a minimum of at least a few weeks to even begin to have an effect on the finished product. In three days, the best you can do is dry out the exterior of a piece of meat, which has advantages, but those advantages have nothing to do with actual dry aging.

The Food Lab: Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce

@ardubs81

I haven't tried actually mailing it but yes, jarring and delivering. I process Jars in a pressure cooker.

@all asking for metric: what dorek said. We use weights and often give metric units when precision is important (dough, charcuterie, etc) and volume when it's not. The sauce will still come out well whether you use 65 grams of onion or 80 so we have no need to be precise there.

@dauthi

I understand what you're saykng, I just think maybe the photos are not representing it well. The sauce DOES stay parted when you part it (look at the second to bottom photo at the pot in the background). I agree that it should be thick and get tan looseness from the pasta water.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Prime Rib

@AndroidUser

True - there will be trace amounts, particularly if you cut into a vein that was clogged or has a clot in it, but it's a very, very small amount. Gravity works well.

@g2boojum

No, you actually don't get a ton of drippings with that method (because the juice stays in the meat). So it's not the best if yorkshire pudding is your main goal.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Prime Rib

@FredipusRex

Yup, exactly. Water and myoglobin pigment.

And sorry about the salt question - edited to make sense!

@ExNYer in SF

I actually haven't looked around much in SF. That photo was taken in NY. I do believe that I've seen fatty meat at Whole Foods though. Certainly you can mail order.

The Food Lab: Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce

@scalfin

by all means save it!

@Veganwithayoyo

I haven't tried it with that recipe yet, but my first thought would be that it'd require a lot more stirring because it doesn't have the protective layer of fat on top. That said, it should taste great done in the oven!

@Dauthi

er... are you serious? If anything it's actually a little too thick (I almost considered reshooting the final photos). Like look at the third photo from the bottom. It's almost just solid meat, it doesn't run like a sauce at all!

@vonmoishe

er... that's a really tough question. That's like asking how to make macaroni and cheese without cheese. Dairy and meat are the two really essential parts of the dish. I suppose you can try doing what I do in my vegan Bolognese recipe and use almond milk, but the flavor won't really be the same.

The Food Lab: Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce

@eliotm

I'm definitely going to be doing some more experimenting on that front, though my recipe for Texas Chile Con Carne does offer the option of finishing in the oven.

@selyar

There's not much to say! They're... chicken livers. You can often buy them in little tubs from the butcher counter or sometimes in the freezer near other frozen meat.

@jwilliams

yes, leaf gelatin will work.

@santiago Cardona

I didn't, but I could definitely see that being nice!

@T.R. Appleton

Use extra lamb.

@Daheep

We don't have a fish sauce taste test planned, but good idea. I call for Asian fish sauce because Italian is so darned expensive and difficult to find.

@imwalkin

The flavor cooks out if you add it at the beginning. Similarly, in Thai and Viet food, you generally use it as a condiment at the end so that you get the full effect of its flavor.

@Withaflourish

No real big details yet other than that it will be released next fall. 2 volumes, over 300 recipes (vast majority of them new), over 2k full color photos, about 1200 pages total, lots of fun stuff and good food!

The Best Slow-Cooked Bolognese Sauce

@lavenhouse

You'll need one at least 5 quarts in size. Larger would work.

@Cassandra Jane

Try this version in which the livers are blended. Or just omit them if you really don't like them!

@Blue Tecken

Fish sauce has a more complete flavor profile than MSG and also contains inosinic acid, which increases the effects of MSG.

Ancho-Rubbed Bison Tenderloin With Spicy Cilantro Sauce

@fwilger

Did you pre-sear yours or just plop it in the oven and post-sear? The timing was pretty consistent. I measured it with four test runs.

Perfect Prime Rib With Red Wine Jus

@Parker D

135 to 137 is high. Medium territory. I'd use 130.

The Food Lab: The Best Way to Temper Chocolate

@kcAA

Yup, I fixed it, thanks! I haven't tried a heating pad.

The Food Lab: Use the Pressure Cooker to Make the Fastest and Easiest Mushroom-Packed Risotto

@Deana

I'd use about 3 ounces total dried mushrooms, rehydrated in hot stock as per this recipe, chopped and sauteed in butter.

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