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The Food Lab's Complete Guide to Sous Vide Rack of Lamb

My question on things like this (where you sous-vide first and then sear) is how much does the sear increase in the internal temperature of the meat?

So, if I want a final internal temperature of 130 degrees F, should I sous-vide to 125 and then sear and assume that the sear will increase the internal temperature by , say, 5 degrees F? or should I just sous-vide to the temperature that I want to get at in the end (although it seems like the sear would increase that temperature)?

Kenji, this question also applies to your method of grilling/cooking large steaks where you cook at a low temperature for a long time, and then sear at the end. If I want a given final internal temperature, what temperature do I want the meat (relative to the final temperature I want) to be at before I sear it?

Chengdu Taste is the Best Sichuan Restaurant in America. Here's What to Order.

Hey, Kenji. I am no expert by any means in Sichuan cuisine, but I've had a few different Sichuan dishes at various places in the San Gabriel valley (mostly dan dan noodles). And, I've also cooked with Sichuan peppercorns at home.

I have eaten at Chengdu Taste (and had the toothpick lamb, mapo tofu, and the rabbit dish).

I did think everything at Chengdu Taste was very, very flavorful BUUUUTTT... it was so overwhelming with the numbing sensation it was basically unbearable and just obliterated everything else. I especially realized this when I took my leftovers home the next day, and when I would literally just taste one tiny piece of the rabbit (or a sip of the mapo tofu), my entire mouth would go entirely numb. From just the barest amount of food.

I am not opposed to the effect of Sichuan peppercorns and have enjoyed it a lot in many other dishes I've had at other restaurants where there is a mild to medium amount. But, it seems to mean that it should be balanced with the other flavors of the dish.

What is your opinion on this? As I've said, I don't know what the proper amount of numbing is "supposed" to be, but did you feel like it was too much at Chengdu taste?

From the dishes I had, I thought the amount used at Chengdu Taste was just overwhelming in such a way that it detracted from the dishes. In the same way I am opposed to something just being so spicy so you can taste nothing else, I am also not in favor of so much numbing as to longer being able to actually discern what you are tasting.

The Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia

I know this will be controversial but can we concur that, as a concept (and in execution) that Philly cheesesteaks just are not very good.

I have had many Philly cheesesteaks (Tony Luke's, Jim's, Pat's, Geno's). The main problem is it just not a "balanced" sandwich. To contrast, take an Italian Beef Sandwich. Once again, loosely similar in concept to a cheesesteak but it is balanced by the giardiniera which gives some acid and heat. And the meat itself also is seasoned with more Italian-y seasonings (e.g., oregano).

Or take a good hamburger where you have the meat, you have the cheese, but you also have some freshness from some lettuce, you have some sauce of some sort (thousand island, or just ketchup and mustard). There is actual flavor.

The PROBLEM with a cheesesteak is it just has NO FLAVOR. As noted in this article, "Even cooked fresh to-order, the meat was consistently unseasoned, bland, and often dry." THAT IS KIND OF A MAJOR PROBLEM SINCE A MAJOR PORTION OF A CHEESESTEAK IS THE BEEF!!

There just is nothing particular "great" about a cheesesteak, even in its best incarnation. Sure, it's edible. But, it's just barely even good.

Sorry, City of Brotherly Love. Try again!

The Food Lab: How to Cook Mussels (The Easiest Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, One-Pot Meal Around)

How far in advance can you de-beard the mussels? The problem I have is, if I am cooking for someone, I don't wanna have to sit there and de-beard them while my friend waits. Can it be done, like, 2 or 3 hours in advance?

How to Make Rich and Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo That Won't Weigh You Down

My question is does anybody every actually add any sort of acid to these type of heavy dishes (alfredo, carbonara, etc...) to help cut through things? It seems like it would make sense to add something (lemon juice, white wine vinegar, etc...) but I never actually see it incorporated into any recipes. Is there are any reason for this?

The Food Lab: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Very impressive, Kenji!!

But, I do feel, in my experience, that the best chocolate chip cookies do have either some toasted walnuts in them (preferably very finely chopped or ground in a food processor) and/or some oatmeal (once again, ground in a food processor). They may also have some malted milk powder and/or a very small pinch of cinnamon and/or a pinch of espresso powder or something like that.

It's not that these things are overtly noticeable but they do add a depth of flavor to your standard chocolate chip cookie.

It's definitely understandable that, given the endless variables, you didn't make every single possible cookie!!

But, if you get a chance to give us a recipe with some ground toasted walnuts and/or oatmeal in there, that'd be... sweet!!!

Open Thread: What's Your Favorite Boxed Mix Trick?

To the main brownie mix (with whatever eggs, water, and oil are required), add 1 tablespoon of Kahlua and/or a little espresso powder, 1 to 2 tablespoons malted milk powder (optional), a dash of vanilla extract, and a pinch of kosher salt. Can also optionally add a pinch of cinnamon.

Spread the brownie mixture in the pan. Add then top with a mixture of 3 tablespoons melted butter, a large pinch kosher salt, and about 1/3 cup finely chopped, toasted walnuts.

Trust me on this!

So You Want to Make Ice Cream for 100 People?

@Anna Markow

Look, I'm not disputing that homemade vanilla ice cream and strawberry sorbet will be better than store-bought. They will be (if you do it up right, which I'm sure Max did). I'm just saying given the circumstances here, in my opinion, no, it was not worth the trouble. If you're gonna spend all that time, effort, and money, give people something unique that they can remember (versus just, "oh, hey, I had some vanilla ice cream").

Also, FYI, Haagen Dazs does not have any stabilizers added. Here are the official ingredients from their vanilla ice cream: (cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract).

Most other brands do though. E.g., Ben and Jerry's does: [Cream, Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Water, Egg Yolks, Fair Trade Certified (Tm) Vanilla Extract, Sugar, Guar Gum, Carrageenan]

So You Want to Make Ice Cream for 100 People?

You ask if it was worth it. In my opinion, the fact that you just made vanilla ice cream and strawberry sorbet means the answer is unfortunately "no."

I make ice cream all the time. What is the point of spending all that time, money, and effort just to give people the same flavors they can get anytime (in particular, vanilla ice cream--oy!!). In this case, while the effort of making the ice cream was nice, you might as well have just bought some Haagen Dazs and be done with it.

Rather, if you were gonna spend all that time and effort, you might as well make a unique, particular flavor that they are not gonna be able to get anywhere, ya know? What flavor exactly? I don't know. What are the favorite flavors of the bride and groom? Maybe you mix the strawberry sorbet with something else (balsamic reduction or something). maybe you make toasted coconut ice cream. Maybe you make 'wedding cake' ice cream. maybe a salted caramel. I mean, you can still keep it simple if ya want, but something with a little more pizzazz makes sense to me...

Just my two and a half cents...

Taste Test: Does Premium Dairy Make Better Homemade Ice Cream?

So actually, the answer should be it is simply the overall fat content in the ice cream that makes the difference (more fat, but only up to a certain point, will make for better ice cream). All you have to do is use conventional cream and milk but adjust the ratios of cream and milk (a little more cream relative to milk) and you will achieve the same effect. I make ice cream all the time and have found that most recipes for ice cream do not use enough cream relative to milk...

Taste Test: Boxed Fudge Brownie Mix

You definitely should have made these in an 8X8 or 9X9 pan. These packages used to give you another 2 or 3 ounces of brownie mix, in which case it was fine to make them in a 9X13 pan. But, because they have shrunk the quantity in each box, to get the optimum brownies, you have to make them in a smaller pan.

Also, the key to making boxed brownies taste great is to add your own personal stamp. I recommend a topping of chopped toasted walnuts, butter, brown sugar, and a large pinch of salt. Also, you can mix some malt powder, salt, a little vanilla extract, and instant espresso powder into the brownies themselves (and optionally a little cinnamon and cayenne for a more "Mexican-y" flavor). If you put these little twists on the boxed brownie mix, they will taste great!

Watch Takeru Kobayashi Eat an Entire Pizza in 60 Seconds

The Deadspin article does not say that Domino's booked Kobayashi. I think it was just a random party of frattish brahs...

Video: Alton Brown on Writing an Omelette Recipe

CORRECTION: I meant "make sense" not "make sentence"!!

Video: Alton Brown on Writing an Omelette Recipe

Ummm... is this video a parody? Are we being punked? It's as if Alton is schizophrenic or manic or something---he is saying words and they seem like they have meaning, but in the end, it makes no sense (I will allow that this could, in large part, be due to the editing which is chopping up his words so they no longer make sentence).

If your omelette recipe makes you end up with something that looks like an omelette, smells like an omelette, tastes like an omelette, and it "works," then it's a pretty good omelette recipe and probably not the "worst" omelette recipe. If it really were the "worst" omelette recipe, then it really wouldn't even come out as a recognizable omelette.

I am done.

The Food Lab's Complete Guide to Pan-Seared Steaks

Kenji, is it even necessary to put oil in skillet? I've always just seared my steak in a smoking hot cast-iron pan and it seems to work well. I thought part of the point of having cast iron is that it is effectively non-stick. I understand adding the butter later for flavor, but the oil isn't really adding any flavor since it's neutral, no?


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