Life at Sea: The Pleasures and Perils of Nautical Cooking

That's interesting about the fridge. I have a number of family members who do the intense off the grid RV camping thing. A lot of similarities in regards to lack of space, water and power storage, solar cells etc. Now most of their fridges while fairly small, aren't mini fridges. But aren't a huge draw on their resources. They run on electricity only when the camper is hooked to the electrical lines. Otherwise they run on propane. In transit you could run it off the propane, though that's a bit unsafe so the fridge basically acts like a giant insane cooler for the hours of driving.

They don't burn much propane. The folk's machine has 2 or 3 (can't remember) standard sized propane tanks (like you'd use for a grill) mounted in the nose. And that feeds the stove, fridge, heat an hot water. Even in 2-3 weeks of camping They've never gotten close to running out of propane. Though I don't know how available refills are on the yachty circuit. For camping, even in really out of the way places, its typically just pull the tanks and drive to the nearest town or gas station.

But at the cost of some space, and a very small increase in propane usage, it might give you some more usable time on the fridge, even if you're not running it all the time.

The Best Smokers Under $500, 2015 Edition

@tdp312 I've got a little chief up in the garage. Great little smoke box, but it doesn't really cold smoke. Depending on air temp and weather it runs between 140 and 200 degrees according to my thermometers. Low but its still technically cooking the food. That's what the box trick is for, in the manual they recommend propping the box up above the smoker vents, and using dowels to hold the racks in the box. That gives you a true cold smoke. But its dodgy and difficult to pull off.

The best smoke houses for cold smoking I've used were my grandfathers. An electric hot plate at the bottom of an old, broken refrigerator. He recommended only using one that had a steel lining. But I've seen newer fridges with plastic lining used with few issues.

No Tools? No Experience? No Problem. How I Hacked an Ace Barbecue Smoker

@MattT imusa Pots are REALLY badly made. They typically cost around half what a bad pot would cost, and are even worse than that price point would suggest. I don't know where they are from, or even what exactly they or made from (typically aluminium of some sort but its never more specific than that), but for some reason they are all over the poorer areas of North East US cities. Especially those areas with large Hispanic or Asian populations. I don't think I've ever seen one that wasn't warped or discolored, even when brand new. This might be the only appropriate use for them. This pot seems to run around $40 US online ($52 AUS), but I remember seeing them around Brooklyn for closer to $20 US ($26 AUS). You can find similarly priced, but similarly crap pots online. At my local restaurant store a decent but cheap aluminium pot of that volume would likely run $60-$70 US ($78-$91 AUS) which is only marginally cheaper your hundo. Last week we bought my dad a high BTU outdoor propane burner. To go with it we got him a 60qt aluminium steamer pot at just over $100 US ($130 AUS). 40 quart pot was $80 US ($104 AUS). And those are pretty crap pots. Last time I priced a 60qt aluminium pot at the restaurant store it was around $170 Us ($221 AUS), for good thick anodised aluminium (none of the others I've mentioned are thick or anodised).

So I really don't think the pricing is going to be too far off if tacked to the quality of the pot. If I could express how bad Imusa's stuff is you might get it better. I mean its typically one step above foil. Pots that are shit but actually usable as pots are a bit more in line with the $100 bucks your talking about (depending on if you ran the exchange rate). I suspect your taxes are slightly higher and your country is less willing to let in borderline dangerous imports from Asia and South America.

No Tools? No Experience? No Problem. How I Hacked an Ace Barbecue Smoker

@scannest I have a Little Cheif electric smoker, designed for low temp smoking fish and jerkey making (not truly cold smoking but sub 200F). Experience with that and fridge smokers using hot plates would lead me to believe a very small hot plate would not really put out enough heat to hit BBQ temps. And there's very, very little room in the bottom of a Smokey Joe, so you will be limited to very small hot plates. IIRC Alton uses the hot plates with either a cardboard box to make a cheaper version of my fish smoker, or with heavy terracotta pots. The terracotta is gonna have a lot more insulation and heat retention than a cheap aluminium stock pot. He might do better to add some mass to the smoker. Either bricks, sand, or just a water pan in the bottom of the pot, raised by a rack to keep from cutting off the smoke. Or insulating the pot with welding blankets or a high eat insulation. But all of that is just going to push the cost of this smoker closer and closer to the retail cost of a smokey mountain.

@Mouseman In terms of the meat thermometer? Yes please, I've owned some good cook's thermometers and they are awful across the board. But that dial type bbq thermometer is an entirely respectable thermometer. I often see them recommended in bbq circles as replacement for the built in units that come pre-installed in most smokers/grills. Though there are better models, and you are supposed to double check them with a probe placed in another area if you're going extra nerdy.


That's actually a very clever way to build a smoker out of a Smokey Joe. My Uncle just managed to wrangle a free, nearly new Smokey Joe somehow and I may have to pass this on to him. It might be a great thing for camping. Though I'm not sure how much I'd want to give this to some one as their first smoker, a Weber Kettle is perfectly good for smoking and can be had for less (particularly the 18 inch). Without the same heat control and capacity problems. And upgrading/stablizing this thing is just going to push the cost up towards the smaller WSMs.

I wonder if your familiar with the Ugly Drum Smoker concept. Complete kits can be had for sub $150, fully assembled smokers for $300 or less. And if your willing to do the work they can be made for as little as $50. And at their most basic they don't really require much more in the way of tools than you used here. Though with more tools you can make a nicer unit. The biggest issue is sourcing a 55 gallon drum (there are both smaller and larger steal drums but they're even harder to find). I'm somewhat lucky in that several family members can sometimes get these through work, though their drums typically need to be "burned out" and power-washed to remove remnants of non-food safe contents or anti-rust lining. Buying, and shipping one if you don't have that connect is the major cost for the smoker. Though sometimes you can find them on the cheap locally through craigslist I wouldn't hope for it in NYC. But maybe with some patience and forethought you can build dad and upgrade in a year or so. Then the little smokey thing can go live where its most appropriate, on your fire escape.

The Best Charcoal Grills Under $500, 2015 Edition

@Copperkettle218 I'll just say that its very, very difficult to "master" a cooking device that's inconsistent and difficult to work with. If I cooked every day on a camp fire and got better at it than anyone's ever been, then you handed me a Weber one day? I'd be cooking better food on the Weber than I ever did on the fire. That's why those things are great. A Weber is insanely cheap for the level of consistency and control it provides. Even if your really, really good at it (and I'm pretty decent) improvised fires are inconsistent and difficult to manage. You spend a lot of your time just managing the fire. And sometimes if the weathers off, or a log is not right, or you just stuck a rock in the wrong place, it just won't work no matter what you do. Something like a BGE or high test pellet smoker is just mitigating that to a higher level. More consistency, more control. So you can focus on the food, and expect a fire that is the same every damn time.

My current boss cooks his pizzas in this pretty interesting oven. Its brick, and propane fired. But its engineered to provide the same heat as a wood fired oven, and has a chamber off to the side for loading wood chunks or logs. It gives the same flavor and results as a wood burning oven, but it performs the same every single time no matter what. And he can spend his time making the pizza taste great instead of managing a fire. My previous boss also made pizzas, but he used an actual wood burning oven. Some days we just didn't have pizza. Wood delivery didn't show up, or the wind was too high for the exhaust hood, or he couldn't get the temp up right etc. Admittedly that boss was crap at logistics and probably a con man but still.

The Best Charcoal Grills Under $500, 2015 Edition

@Max presumably Copperkettle218 is referring to using a few bricks to lift a grate (in this case an oven rack) over a camp fire. I've done that, and I've also turned a large fire ring made from an over sized truck hub into an improvised smoker. And while I get what the guy's saying, I've cooked some very good food this way, I don't 100% agree. Those good results weren't as good, and were a lot harder to accomplish than working on anything approaching a decent grill. Even something as basic as a Weber completely changes the dynamics involved.

Kamados are expensive because of material and construction costs. They're giant multi-layer ceramic pills. Double walled insulated smokers and grills likewise can't be had cheap. Nor are cooking devices built from stone or brick. Sure you don't NEED the added thermal mass, insulation etc. all that extra material brings. But better results are appreciably easier to get, and results are far more consistent.

My latest trick for getting some extra thermal mass in devices where it doesn't exist: Foil pans filled with beach sand. Much easier to fill a large area, cheaper, and more flexible than bricks. And effectively disposable. But then I live near the beach. I suppose construction sand would work too, but that's a repeat buy where as bricks aren't.

Why Raw Clams Are Making a Comeback in New England and Beyond

@jeremy hulley yous guys gots hard clams out there. I've had them a few times less salty but real close on texture when I've had them. You might have to open them your self. But that's not too hard, and when you do the flavors not too far off. Speaking as some one whose only had western clams that have been shipped a very long way.

Why Raw Clams Are Making a Comeback in New England and Beyond

@Scalfin your supposed to chew, the whole "knock it back and swallow right away thing" never made sense to me. Not only does it make the texture grosser, but you can't taste a thing.

I'm sorry if this comes off as unduly mean, but I am trying to quit smoking and its making me punchy. So take it with a grain of salt. I'm not sure I like this article much or really get its point. It comes off as more life style porn than an informative article about clams. Its a trend in food writing I'm not fond of. There's not much info about clams aside from basic information that's easy to look up, and some hand wringing about ocean solidification and red tides (a lot of that this year), and some very vague descriptions of what they taste like. The only take away seems to be that raw clams are getting a slight push in terms of fine dining. But as badseed1980 points out its not a come back. Anywhere in the coastal North East raw clams on the half shell have always been both more available, and significantly cheaper than oysters. That hasn't changed. But if there's a push happening at the higher end of the market its going to be just a bit difficult. Clams don't utilize the same varietal/regional marketing as oysters. You almost always just see "Clams!" if you're at a place that cares you can usually ask and be told roughly where they come from ("Local" is a good answer).

If anyone was wondering what a raw clam tastes like in comparason to an oyster here's my take: Textually they are a lot firmer and less "wet", and tend to be pleasantly chewy. Counter to what the article states clams are not universally less salty than oysters, that's largely dependent on where both are raised/collected. Typically clams are more salty, where oysters are more briney. Which sounds like nonsense, but what I mean is the clams have a more concentrated, aggressive saltyness to them. And can quite often be much, much saltier than an oyster. That's still plenty palatable because clams have a much stronger flavor over all. They're fishier, and meatier. If you're clams are properly small enough they'll completely lack the chalky or creamy flavors that shellfish sometimes get. Particularly oysters. Larger clams will almost always be chalky. The effect is exaggerated in summer, because that be breeding season. The chalkiness comes from the gonads, which take up the vast majority of any bivalves body mass during breeding season. So clams, oysters, and other bivalves are still properly in season fall through winter. But its because they taste better when they aren't breeding. Not because of a lot of outdated concerns about safety.

More Than Just Peat and Smoke: The Best Islay Single Malts

@DTurkin your right, I always forget if its Welsh or Manx or both that are in the Goedelic (Gaelic) branch. Hence the qualifier. Welsh is Brittonic (British):

All of them are extent Celtic languages.

More Than Just Peat and Smoke: The Best Islay Single Malts

@benton, which would be how I got all that pedantry ground into my skull. But yeah it can be frustratingly vague at times. Like in the US Gaelic is sometimes the technical term from the archaic Irish tongue all the modern languages are derived from. But in Europe and more sensible places they call that Old Gaelic or more often Old Irish. But colloquially Americans (like me before my cousins kicked me repeatedly) just use Gaelic willy nilly to refer to all of it, creating confusion and the impression that they're all the same language. They're not and the nitty gritty is a lot more interesting if you acknowledge that.

More Than Just Peat and Smoke: The Best Islay Single Malts

I'll do a little *cough* *cough* style pedantry and point out that residents of Islay speak Scots Gaelic. Gaelic is a family of languages rather than a single language in itself. IIRC you've got Irish, Welsh, Manx, and Scots Gaelic. Which is only so named to differentiate it from Scots, the Anglo-saxon derived Scottish language.

Otherwise thanks. Some of my favorite whiskys come from Islay. I've been curious to check out some the less pronouncable ones.

8 Spices Truly Worth the Splurge

@VeganWithaYoYo As far as I'm aware Mexican cinnamon is just c.verum. And I'm not even sure that every "Mexican" cinnamon you'd run into would be produced in Mexico. A lot of these sorts of things tend to be labeled Mexican because their what's used in Mexico or have a Spanish language label.

The Good Bagel Manifesto

I can't imagine where you go that idea. It sounds like one of those scary urban legends about food like premade chocolate milk coming from milk thats TAINTED WITH BLOOD OMG!!!

This usually aren't true. I know a lot of bakers, including bakers of bagels, and work in the food business. The only way what your saying *might* be true is if your referring to the idea that whatever's left in the bin after the unbaked bagels are dipped into a bed of toppings (how its done) is re-used either for other batches of bagels, or mixed together for everything. But that's literally no different than just not tossing the whole bin after each and every bagel is dipped. No heath code compliant, clean, business is sweeping up the crumbs and shake from day old bagels out of the case to use for everything bagels. Toppings that fall off during baking are going to be too burnt to use. Everything topping is just mixed from the toppings the shop has on hand. Or can be purchased pre-mixed in bulk from your purveyors. Everything is mixed and handled exactly the same as any other topping, and the bagels are topped the same way. Unless you're dealing with a place that's so lax with sanitation and quality standards that you shouldn't be eating there at all, there's nothing about the everything bagel to be avoided.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Grilled Steak

@Kenji, didn't say it was comprehensive, just said its the one that gets cited most often. But like I said I think the major concern in most of the tirades I've seen about the stuff is down to consistency. So I wouldn't so much say maybe you were lucky as I'd say maybe you were equal parts careful and capable of regularly finding decent quality stuff. Near me I'm effectively restricted two or three brands, Only one of which will pop up at a time. And then only occasionally and at one of a handful of big box stores. I don't know where any of them stand in terms of quality. But based on the the handful of times I've encountered Royal Oak at other peoples homes I'd say the two pack of 20lb bags I purchased was decent. The royal oak didn't seem to contain as much non-burnable debris as my bags (I believe it was Frontier or Cowboy). The bags I bought had more larger chunks, that seemed more fully carbonized though (they had more of that 'ring when tapped together' thing going on like Japanese charcoal).

I got better heat by sorting larger chunks, of roughly the same size, keeping the dust and debris out, and my lid off. But even then the fire was terribly uneven, and not appreciably hotter than I get with brickettes. Or at least it was hotter so briefly that it didn't practically matter. I suspect a big part of my problem was how much of the coal was burning off during lighting. But no matter how I lit the charcoal, or how early I added it to the kettle/started cooking on it I didn't seem to be getting a more usable fire. None of my usual fire/heat maintenance techniques seemed to get the heat up, and just extended the burn time. Using my grandfathers "put the shop vac on blow, and get it intimately acquainted with the grill" trick worked fine, but it works pretty well with brickettes too (there's a bit more ash). And if I'm going to be blowing extra air into my grill (its a hell of a lot of fun if you can make it work), I might as well stick with brickettes. I could probably make it work with enough care and practice, but it strikes me that its always going to be a more finicky and unreliable way to cook.

All About Geoduck: The Life of a (Delicious) Oversized Mollusk

The sheer volume of our local seafood that gets shipped to Asia is ridiculous. For example I live in an area with a Tuna fishery. But I have never, and likely will never, eaten local caught Tuna. It all gets sold to the Japanese (and increasingly Chinese). If I want to eat local Tuna I'd have to go out an catch it myself. Which is a pretty expensive proposition. You'd figure the higher prices paid by Asian buyers would be good for the local fisherman. But the vast majority of that money goes to one or two distributors out here, or most likely New Fulton fish market in the Bronx.

Its pretty disturbing when you're watching guys bring in boat loads of fish everyday, and yet when you head out to most fish markets everything is labeled as from Massachusetts (if your lucky), Chile or China.

4 New Twists on the Bloody Mary

The Fisherman's Breakfast. A long standing variation here in the North East. Basically a bloody mary with a fresh shucked raw clam as garnish. Not particularly common these days, but its name come from it being what the fishermen around here would have first thing in the morning before leaving the docks. To kill the hangover from the night before.

Also works well with oysters, and it nice served as a "shooter".

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Grilled Steak


Well the Cooks Illustrated test would be the big one, and it was linked from the AmaizingRibs article I posted. But that link is dead, and Cooks does paywalls, and assorted other nonsense. Probably one of the more frustrating things they get up to. AFAIK by weight the lump will most often burn hotter. But the central contention was when measured by volume lump burns about as hot as brickette. Now that's basically one of Cooks typical lazy assumptions. But it makes a lot of sense to me practically speaking. The limit on how much charcoal I can practically work with is not in the weight. But in the volume limitations of my grill, chimney starters and other accessories. With lump, because its less dense, I can fit less actual fuel in a given set up so it brings the temperatures I can practically work with down. That just magnifies the inconsistencies in the product. I had very little luck getting consistently high temps out of the stuff with the one bag I tried. I even went so far as to sort the coal by size (not that much trouble as I was already trying to pull out the construction waste). Combine that with all the other concerns, price, the trash mixed in (which your paying for BTW), and charcoal that's clearly construction waste that's likely to have been treated in some fashion, short cook times, lack of consistent supply, and I'd rather not deal with the stuff. I can increase heat other ways if need be. Find some way to blow some added air in there, or there are brickettes that burn hotter as well.

Basically I'm just angling for you guys to do a more comprehensive test. I'd probably stick with brickettes regardless of results, because I likes all that consistency. I'll burn wood if I want something finicky and uneven. But I'd be more willing to try lump for certain applications or special occasions if it turns out the conventional wisdom was 100% correct.

The Food Lab's Definitive Guide to Grilled Steak

I find it odd you guys are still recommending lump charcoal over brickettes. Nearly every other reliable source I go to for grilling and BBQ advice has, over the past few years, reversed track and started recommending brickettes. Apparently its an issue with consistency. While its possible for lump to burn hotter for the reason you site, its also possible for it to burn cooler because of smaller pieces, dust and debris choking off the air supply. And I've seen an increasing number of consumer tests done by various places that indicate it typically burns at about the same temperature as brickettes most of the time.

That's what I found the first time I tried it. I got a couple of chimneys where I seemed to have a higher temperature. But for the most part the fires were significantly cooler, more difficult to light, and didn't last long enough to cook over practically. I also found a number of nails, rocks, plastic and other distressing bits in the bag (it was a supposedly decent, name brand). It costs more, I have to burn much more of it to cook for a given duration, it doesn't give me a practical or predictable boost in heat, and I can't be sure the contents of the bag are safe to burn. So I've been sticking to charcoal. Amazing ribs has a nice rundown in their charcoal article:


I just used my smokenator for the first time last week. I've never had an easier time smoking ribs on a Weber.

16 Seafood Recipes for Your Memorial Day Bash

Lately I've been enjoying Butter Fish as a local fish similar to fresh sardine. Typically its a bait fish so its dirt cheap, very tasty.

The Ultimate Mad Men Finale Dinner Party

@ I'd say yeah, I've gone to the effort of making it a few times. And frankly no matter how well it turns out it just not good enough to justify the effort. Also it had a bit of a moment a few years ago, particularly in the UK. Seemed to be everywhere.

Children of the Corn: Baby Corn, Demystified

@Cybrczch thanks for the added info. I think my soil hates me but maybe I'll try again.

Children of the Corn: Baby Corn, Demystified

As per the reccomendation to grow corn in your garden: It can be a little tricky, it takes up a lot of space and its pretty prone to certain pests. Including the super gross corn borer and several other worms that will attack the ears directly. I've heard you can protect your plants "naturally" by tossing some mineral oil on the silks, but I doubt that works. Just be prepared to work with some basic pesticides or otherwise protect your pants.

Personally I've had really poor success trying to grow corn in my home garden. Though my grandfather did fine with it for years.

Why You Should Turn Your Taco Night Into Puffy Taco Night

I was actually going to suggest fry bread as an option for those without access to fresh massa. It's made frome wheat flour so no one should have a problem finding the ingredients.

For a More Savory Martini, Swap Out the Vermouth for Sherry


Its a "martini in terms of class/type of beverage. But you're right it probably has another name that's a bit more specific.

I like to swap out for other white fortified wines. Dubonnet is a bit more soapy and bitter, Lillet is a lot more floral. That sort of thing. Sherry makes just as much sense though. Its still fortified wine. Its just aged and oxidized more and lack the flavoring herbs.

Taste Test: The Best Supermarket Bacon

@AndroidUser I don't see the offense in including those products. Some of them taste pretty good, they're widely available, they don't meccisarily cost more. And despite the fact that most of them contain inconsistent levels of nitrates, and often higher levels then regular cured products there's little or no indication that they're more harmful or more dangerous or toxic or scary or bad for you than regular cured products. Just as there's little indication that the levels of nitrates in regular products are bad for you.

SE explained what "uncured" means in this context, and linked to the relevant info from the USDA. Which seems about right to me. The products aren't notably different than other bacons, aren't dangerous, and aren't a ridiculous scam. Its basically just a foolish marketing ploy. The only point of view from which I could see these things being so enraging is if you're completely paranoid about nitrates and want to avoid them at all costs. In which case you better not be eating celery either.

Roasting a Pig

My brother an I will be doing a hog this coming Saturday 40-50lb range. We've done this 3 times before, and he's done several pigs and a few lambs on his own. We'll be butterflying the pig and cooking it on what's basically a catering style grill. Shallow fire tray with adjustable grill height and a massive barrel style cover, with an off set fire and some water pans it does pretty well for this sort of thing.

We've got a nice handle on how we're going about it. ~225F, skin down protected by foil initially, basting with apple juice/vinger and lard on the meat side. Depending when we pick up the hog we'll either inject or let it take a long sit with a heavy rub. No sugar outside the juice. Expecting 6-8 hours not including rest but planning for longer. Maintaining a consistent temp can be tough in this grill. Using charcoal and a bit of hardwood for smoke.

Anyone have additional tips or advice?

Thanksgiving: What's Your Stuffing Approach?

It can be a very personal question. Do you use a boxed mix? Stovetop? Semi-homemade? Totally from scratch? Dry out the bread overnight first? And where do you fall in the dressing vs. stuffing debate? To clarify, "stuffing" is when it actually cooks in the bird's cavity while "dressing" bakes in a separate pan. Please discuss. More