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Everything You Need to Know to Buy Better Shrimp

@Kenji that is how we found out. G-mas barber sheers "graduate" to lobster duty when they get a bit worn. Sometimes when we're short on lobster tools the good ones pull double duty.

Everything You Need to Know to Buy Better Shrimp

Those shrimp deveiner tools are tricky to use, and most you'll run into will be out an out crap. At home I usually use a pair of scissors. All metal barber's scissors are great as a seafood tool. You just stick the lower blade in the opening for the digestive tract, snip along the back, and then wipe away the shrimp poops on a paper towel. Its an extra step technically but its a lot less finicky. And instead of a bulky single use tool cluttering up a drawer, you've got an additional pair of kitchen scissors for finesse work. And their great when shelling lobsters.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

@RICHOPP Well that's an established problem. But its got little bearing on the specific claim that you can punch a circular die through {x} fish and produce something that passes for scallops. Its about simple mislabeling. Now in my experience a lot of this happens at the distributor level. Like Escolar (which is dangerous to eat) being sold as "white tuna" or "hawaiian butter fish" to obscure what it is. Or those Chinese scallops masquerading as American product I mentioned early. Other times its just misinformed staff. Even in seafood restaurants you'd be surprised how little people actually know. I remember getting in an argument with a chef about Yellowtail. He swore up and down it was a tuna and insisted that the staff announce it as yellow tail tuna. Its not a tuna. Its an Amberjack, which are IIRC are more closely related to mackerel. I told him if he wanted it to sound fancier he should just call it Hamachi. It went on the menu as "Yellow Tuna". And of course "mislabeled fish" would include the long standing practice of labeling what is frozen fresh, and what is imported local.

Beyond Jell-O: Everything You Can Do With a Packet of Gelatin

Kosher gelatin is not, generally speaking, vegetarian. Most of the Kosher gelatin I've run into is just made from Kosher beef. Unless its specifically labeled as containing one (or more) of the other substitute substances you mention its not vegetarian.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

@gaffer I don't need to travel for that sort of thing. I can find all that stuff right near my house if I want to take the time. Although this summer there's some brown and red tide problems so it takes a little more thought that most summers. I don't actually see much of seafood being a luxury. I mean I certainly see places inland charging through the teeth for oysters and lobster. But there's cheap fish nearly everywhere you look. I think the difference in the seafood places is down to changes in whats fashionable. And maybe a bit more that your good local seafood doesn't stay local. The vast majority of our local catch gets shipped up to the big market in the Bronx where its promptly purchased at inflated prices by the Japanese. So your seafood place in a fishing town has the same limited mass market options as every other restaurant in that chunk of the country. You can work around it, and I know some places that do. But you're gonna be working with a dozen different purveyors or fishermen, and end up serving really seasonal food and/or having consistency problems. Its very time consuming. OR you can work with the purveyors from a higher price tier who'll do that shit for you and charge more.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

@gaffer I really doubt it was even a past practice. The meat doesn't even look anything like a scallop

Once cooked, even likely, it flakes apart really easily too. It'd never hold shape. And on anything smaller than a pretty big ray its too thin to pass as even a bay scallop. If you take a whole cross section of the wing (as the claim indicates) most of the thickness there is going to be very hard cartilage. Trying to eat it, even on small fish is a bit like chewing plastic. And the skin on those things is thick and tough enough that they use it to make some pretty rad leather. It would make even less sense 50 years ago (60's if my math is right) as scallops were way way more available and far cheaper at that point. The differences in cost an availability even further back would have been far more extreme. I've seen photos of the fishing villages near my home town from the 20's. Piles of scallops 20-30 feet high outside the now long gone canneries and fish docks.

@Kenji I wouldn't necessarily be that confused if was just a claim that some scallops were fake. I could see something like those processed Asian fish cakes passing for a really low grade, over cooked scallop. I do know that at a certain point in the 70's Chinese shellfish farms were marketing their scallops as Peconic Bay Scallops to increase their market price when that particular fisher collapsed. But the specifics don't wash at all with every experience I've ever had with sea critters.

The Food Lab: How to Sear Scallops

I've been reasonably sure for years that the fake scallop thing is a myth. I've never seen them, no fishmonger,fisherman or cookbI've ever met has encountered them.

And it doesn't really make sense if you think about. Rays and skate are the most common cited subsitutes. But structurally it makes no sense skate and Ray meat is visibly striated. And when cooked its very flaky with a slight colegen stickyness similar to braised meat. If you just punched rounds out of the wings you'd mostly be getting inedible cartilage. It would never pass as a scallop. The other claimed culprit is Pollack, which is also incredibly flakey. Even processed Pollack like crab with a k wouldn't pass texturally.

Now I've heard plenty of fish described as tasting like scallops (don't know myself can't eat scallops). But none of those would visually or texturally pass muster. Monk fish for example. I'm sure you could process fish into something similar, but that's at odds with the myth and look how well that works out for krab.

I've begun to suspect it's just an urban legend the uninformed use to explain over cooked and wetpack scollaps.

Traditional or Not, There's Technique at the Heart of Teriyaki Burgers

IIRC both the association between pineapple and teriyaki and the Americanism sauces with garlic and crap in em, come to us from Hawaii. Where there both pineapples and a heavy Japanese influence on the food.

The Secrets to Making the Best Shrimp Cocktail

@bdcbbq That's not the point of cocktail sauce at all. Its not chili heat. Its horseradish, same compound that gives mustard its oompf. I really wouldn't want my cocktail sauce to have capsaicin heat too it.

My approach is to treat it like a Bloody Mary. Horseradish, Worcestershire, old bay, lemon and black pepper.

Oh and the shrimp gets sous vide in bacon fat.

How to Make Homemade Preserved Horseradish

I dunno if you guys published this at the right time of year. Horseradish is weirdly seasonal. In the warmer months the roots won't be spicy, and can often get pretty woody. And if you harvest before the greens have sprouted (meaning spring basically), the plant might not necessarily survive being harvested. It takes 2+ years to get a decent, usable root out of a horseradish plant, so when you harvest you want to just take one of the roots, or part of the root, and replant to rest. The rule of thumb around these parts is one week before or one week after mother's day. You really won't even see roots in the markets at other times of year.

But basically with the late season the North East got our horseradish plants didn't even sprout till late June to early July. But by now its a bit too warm out to get roots with any sort of spice too them. You can harvest in the fall as well, when it cools off again. But from what I understand your plants have less chance of surviving till next season if you do.

The Food Lab: How to Make a Burger King-Style Whopper Fit for The King

While I normally scoff at Vlasic pickles, your totally right here. Out of all the decent quality, national brand pickles they actually taste the most like the pickles you get on a fast food burger. We keep some of their "chips" on hand for burgers and certain sandwiches. Otherwise we stick to multi-gallon jars of B&G, other deli-grade brands, or any of the many fantastic NY area "artisinal" brands for our pickle needs.

The Food Lab: Chicken-Fried Chicken Is Country Cooking at Its Most Comforting


I've noticed these recipes all seem to go with a deep fry. I've been told by numerous angry southerners that the best/most traditional approach for chicken or country fried anything is to pan fry in shallow oil (1/2 to 2/3 coverage) with the meat in direct contact with the pan (always cast iron).

I've found fried chicken burns where it contacts the pan by the time the center is cooked and the rest of the coating browns. But it always worked damn good for things cuts like country fried steak.

What's your stance?

For Some of the Best Fried Chicken, Look to...the Tuscan Jews?

"Anyone wanna wager on whether there's a connection to Africa that ties all of this together?"

While I'm willing to bet there's an African or at least Soul Food connection to the specific spices commonly used in Southern fried chicken, US fried chicken traditions are usually held to have been brought over by Scottish and Scots-Irish immigrants during the Colonial period and the first Immigration Wave. So I doubt you'll find a single well spring fried chicken tradition in Africa that is responsible for both the American and Italian tradition. Breading and frying things is surprisingly popular in the British Isles when you start poking old recipes with a stick. An uncle just provided me with his mother's method for frying rabbit. It sounded for all the world like Southern fried chicken. With the added bonus of a clever way to clean the rabbit without having to gut it.

The Food Lab: Four Secrets to Improving Any Fried Chicken Recipe


So basically I took skin on boneless thighs and marinaded them for several hours in grated ginger, garlic paste, soy sauce and a small amount of mirin. I bagged them in threes with a table spoon of the marinade (frozen) and cooked for 3 hours at, I think, 145 for 3 hours. Then cooled them. Then I mixed some of the liquid from the bag into a some corn starch to make a slurry/batter, then dredged in additional flour and corn starch. Then I double fried at my friers highest setting.

I only approached it this way because I was working with a tiny 6 cup frier my brother had given me. Apartment sized he called it. I didn't trust it to cook the chicken through properly so I figured the circulator and double frying would cover my ass. As it turns out it's a pretty decent frier if you use tiny amounts and double fry everything.

It reminded me of kfc because the meat had that tender almost braised texture pressure fried chicken gets. And it had a loose, crunchy, but ill attached coating much like kfc. It seems like getting the coating to attach to cooked chicken is the big issue.

The Food Lab: Four Secrets to Improving Any Fried Chicken Recipe


I've used sous vide for karaage. The results are a lot more similar to kfc or other pressure fried chicken, than traditional southern fried chicken. So while it might be a safer alternative to attempting to pressure frying at home. It's not a notice able improvement for traditional crispy juicy results. And not any easier to boot.

Staff Picks: Our Favorite No-Shame Snacks for When No One's Looking

@Daniel when I was a kid I spent an inordinate amount of time with my grandfather. Mostly creating messes in the fields while he took care of something in the barn, or getting attacked by the barn cats and goats while he fixed someone's car. But the big reward at the end of the the day was sardine sandwiches and cooking shows on PBS is the late afternoon.

Always canned sardines, mustard, fresh chopped onion, on rye. Always sardines in oil or water. Sandwich cut into quarters. And then we'd watch Julia Child, Martin Yan, The Frugal Gourmet, and a dozen other shows I can't even begin to remember.

It imbued in me a deep love of the canned sardine. My g-pa was a King Oscar man, Bumblebee if he absolutely had to. These days I've been making it a point to seek out decent sardines. Spanish, Portuguese, or French. And I've been pleasantly surprised how amenable to the idea of canned fish my friends have been.

But the real winner has actually been the left over oil from the cans. It can be the cheapest ass can of sardines I can find. If I pour the oil off to another plate and serve it up with some nice crusty bread and refer to it as something "traditional", people lose their minds over it.

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.