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.

In Defense of Bluefish

@Silicon Valley Man

Apparently the North Pacific is the only place in the world you can't find the things. But its possible they're available under a different name:

In Defense of Bluefish

I feel like half the problem with blue fish is that it really is an oily fish, but many people try to treat it as if its not. You need to grill it or otherwise cook it hot, or get some acid involved and basically treat it as what it is. As others have noted its great in escabeche, or smoked, or pickled. It goes well planked, or cooked in a foil packet over a hot fire. It does well with heavy flavorings, and you really should get some acid involved. Its not a fish you're going to poach, or pan sear with minimal spices till its medium rare at the center.

It also really helps to get properly handled blue fish. It needs to be bled when caught, and gutted relatively quickly, and chilled properly after its been dispatched. It also helps to stick to smaller fish. A 1-2lb blue fish tastes much "cleaner" than a 10lb monster. And the baby ones (usually called snapper around here) are crazy tasty, if a little boney.

Equipment: Why it's Worth Buying an Olive Oil Pourer

@kenji, I could see the faster flow being an but of a problem, but I've had so many issues with other types of pourers (particularly with Oils, they seem to weirdly harsh on the things) that I'd rather stick to something that I wont be replacing as frequently. I also live in a place where the millions of fruit flies will move in on your water glass if you give them half a chance. They definitely move in on my oils, butter, toilet, and nose if I don't cap them in some way.

Equipment: Why it's Worth Buying an Olive Oil Pourer

Kenji I'm gonna contradict you on pourers. I've spent a good 10 years dicking with these things behind the bar. Metal pourers of the type listed have a handful of problems. They're prone to clogging, the relatively restricted flow can lead to the liquid over flowing through the vent or an improper seal with the bottle neck. But the big one is that they're prone to breakage. Specifically the stopper material will separate from the metal spout itself. With the plastic ones this can leave the stopper itself firmly lodged in the bottle, and damage it on the way out. The spout itself can actually be damaged in the process. Those little metal lids? may keep dust out, but they break easily and do nothing to keep bugs out (which is the major problem, more so with booze but with oil too). In terms of the cork stopper models? They work well enough particularly with wider mouth bottles, but quality on the cork is inconsistent. They tend to leak where the spout enters the cork, leak where the cork meets the bottle, and cracked or warped corks are common. The plastic stopper models are much more prone to the the stopper separating though, and harder to fix when it happens.


Is what you want. Square, plastic, screened pourers. They're durable, wide gauge neck so they pour fast without jamming, the screen keep bugs and dirt out. They tend not to separate, leak, or break easily. And they fit the neck of any standard hooch bottle, most olive oil bottles, many wine bottles and anything with a similar guage neck. They will separate when used with very sticky substances; but they're far, far, far less prone to it than any other design I've used. Its the standard in every bar, I love them, they make my life bearable and chefs are constantly stealing them from me. The cork models have their use in bottles with a wider opening as they come in "wide" and "extra wide" sizes. So if you've got a weird, special, or non-standard bottle in mind by all means go cork.

Also, if anyone was wondering, its always a good idea to get these down at the restaurant supply store. Bags of one dozen are typically just a few dollars regardless of what design you go for. And never buy "measured" pourers, they've got this little bearing in them that's supposed to stop pouring after x volume (typically 2oz or 1.5oz). They're inaccurate, frequently jam, unsanitary, let bugs in, and generally make life hell.

The Genius of Crispy Deep Fried Artichokes, Roman-Jewish Style

I remember a few years ago running across a similarish recipe from some site about ancient Roman food. It was like a much cruder version of this. Basically you used full sized artichokes and cut them in half (or down to the level of the choke anyway), trimmed any thorns, and cut the stems flush with the bottom (the article I pulled it from had you fry them separately to mitigate waste). Then you'd take the prepped artichoke and place it cut side down in a skillet with a cup or so of olive oil in it. The artichoke would basically steam and soften, then you would smash it down into the bottom of the pan. Theoretically the leaves were supposed to "bloom" outward as you smashed the artichoke, allowing the tender parts to be pan fried to crispness. In practice there was a lot more cracking and breaking, it was tasty in the end but didn't really work so well. So I never made it again.

It came to mind when you mentioned this dish in early artichoke posts. If it hadn't been for all the translated Latin from crazy old sources I would be thinking I'd just ran into a crap recipe for carciofi alla giudia by now.

Cooking With Olive Oil: Should You Fry and Sear in it or Not?

I've always found that the various arguments vis a vis certain cooking methods, application of heat to certain ingredients, etc it be pretty ridiculous. I've seen people arguing that you should never cook over charcoal/open flame of any kind (cumbustion = carcinogens!), you should never sear or brown anything (caramelization/maillard = carcinogens/toxins!), you shouldn't heat any oil to its smoke point, shouldn't smoke things, shouldn't cook with red wines (either sulfides or tannins being bad) and a dozen more obscure things. None of them seem to hold up when you poke them with a stick.

When these sorts of claims have any sort of connection to actual research (or reality) it tends to be a single, or small handful, of studies based on simple bench tests. The sort of thing where a researcher looks at say a seared steak. Finds a particular compound in said searing, and then either identifies it as a known carcinogen or squirts massive, massive amounts of it into cultured cell lines. In either case there's little or no regard given (in the research or subsequent buzz) to how much of said compound is in the food, whether that compound will actually make it into the body, what effect it has in vivo, what dosage has any effect in vivo, whether the compound can accumulate in the body over time, whether there is any effect population wide, etc. In other words at no point does there seem to be any attempt to tie any of these sorts of claims to practical, real world effects on the individual or populations. A test that indicates "if you extract, purify and concentrate these specific compounds that are found in steak. Then squirt them onto isolated cells in concentrations not possible in the real world, and incubate under ideal conditions. Some of those cells will go cancery" gets magnified up to "heating olive oil gives you cancer". Or even more nebulously the chemophobia and "toxins" claims crop up.

Its all a bit odd, and very disproportionate. Minute quantities of whatever substance are deeply feared while legitimate dangers go un-considered. Like I once met a smoker who refused to use canned tomatoes or eat gluten because both supposedly gave you cancer. So it doesn't surprise me you found the science to be a mess. Often there's a legitimate nugget there. Some substance that really does exist or is created, but in such small quantities that the next step in research (actually people, in number) can't really find an effect.

The Case for Loving Vintage Cookbooks

My family all work from Mary Margaret McBride's Encyclopedia of Cooking. Apparently it was published in the 50's and given out as a 12 volume set as promo items at a super market. You could redeem one volume per visit or something. There are collected single volume versions out there although they can sometimes be pricey. Excellent recipes and it covers a hell of a lot of ground.

A Traditional Menu for Your St. Patrick's Day Feast

@AmyClaire celebrating St. Patrick's day with anything other than a trip to church and a family meal is fairly non-traditional for the Irish as well. The whole shebang is a tradition from diaspora communities with its origins in the US. So corned beef and cabbage as an Irish American dish for the Irish American version of St. Patrick's day is about as traditional as it gets.

Hell even that "Irish Soda Bread" linked above bears no resemblance to soda bread as it most commonly exists in Ireland (it looks more like that brown bread, less the butter and sugar).

Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai (Steamed Chinese Dumplings)

@iamchaosthought. Fat back usually lives in with the fresh pork in the butcher dept. Though I've also seen it over with the bacon and hot dogs in other areas.

This is nice. I often find that the seafood, particularly crab and shrimp, at most of the Chinese places I run into tastes a bit... strong. Like its not particularly fresh. Making siu mai at home kind of solves that problem.

The Science of Pie: 7 Pie Crust Myths That Need to Go Away

@seth gordon

Maybe mezcal in key lime pie crust? It tend to be cheaper, more aggressive, and smokier than tequila.

The Science of Pie: 7 Pie Crust Myths That Need to Go Away


How does the butter's water content factor in? I was under the impression that the additional water from the butter was at least partially responsible for the firmer texture of all butter pie crusts. At least that's one of the rationalizations I often see for limiting the amount of butter in traditional recipes.

The Science of Pie: 7 Pie Crust Myths That Need to Go Away


Not quite. Hydrogenated fats are unsaturated fats that have had extra hydrogen atoms forced into them to give them the properties of saturated fats. The process creates a lot of Trans fats, which otherwise only exist in trace amounts in nature. The trans fats are the bad part. Hydrogenate is a verb, it refers to applies to fats that we have processed to have more hydrogen bonds, not saturated fats that have those naturally. So lard is not hydrogenated, its that way right out of the pig. The hydrogenated oils used in classic shortening and margarine on the other hand are a factory created thing. Actively hydrogenated to make them solid.

Also I believe there is a low/no trans fat version of shortening out there these days. The only complaint I've heard is that its a lot firmer/harder than the traditional stuff. Which I know most of the trans fat free margarines are. So maybe better for pie crust.

Beyond Potstickers: Around the World in Dumplings

@rachel5453 Blintzes are technically a pancake or crepe. While its common too see them wrapped around fillings, they aren't always served that way and are never cooked with the filling in place.

Khinkali are delicious, fun fact the uneaten knot of dough is known as the bellybutton.

The Le Creuset Bi-Material Spoon Is the First Plastic Spoon Worth Owning

@richtaylor @Kenji

Amazon also does this adaptive pricing thing. Whereby the prices vary based on who's looking at them. Its supposedly based on purchase and search history, as well as how well an individual item sells on the site overall. The more likely an your are to buy an item the higher the price will be, and the price tends to go up the better selling an item is. So its not uncommon for an item to have a higher price than an affiliate link states it will have for certain (or even all) users. Or a price to be different at the same time between two users, or on two different computers. There was an internet kerfuffle about it a few years back, and it doesn't seem to be as extreme or common as it used to be. Then of course if things do sell out they show you other sellers (with different pricing). So I generally take the quoted prices from affiliate links with a grain of salt, generally expecting them to be at least a few dollars more unless I'm on it in the first hour or so after it gets linked somewhere popular. It should go down again in a few days when Amazon restocks, or be cheaper elsewhere.

And Kenji in regards to the dog food. My mother has been making her own for a year or so now. In talking to her vet it was recommended she keep vegetable matter and grains low while maximizing protein. She settled on Lentils to bulk it out with cheap protein, cheap cuts of meat, and a bit of rice for fiber, and carrot and sweet potato because I don't know why (I think its just because the dog likes it). Apparently a large volume of vegetables isn't so good for dogs, counter to what we'd assume.

The Secret to Great Coq au Vin? Lose the Coq

@Daniel I dunno that it would effect this recipe (or anything you guys really post). But I would figure volume would have a big effect on that. I've made really, really, big batches of stock, dog food, and soups (we're talking 4+ gallons) and ended up with a warm drippy fridge for enough time to be dangerous.

That said I haven't ended up with any dead relatives as a result, so practically speaking I don't think it matters much. But in a covering your butts, paranoid, better safe than sorry sort of way I can see why many places/people recommend keeping hot stuff out of the fridge. For my part I use ice or frigid weather to chill things fast before I toss them in fridgitator, but only if I end up with enough to make me nervous.

The Secret to Great Coq au Vin? Lose the Coq

I've actually been curious how Capon would work in this. Its slightly more similar to old roosters than a roasting hen. And they are at least sometimes available at supermarkets, particularly in areas with large Jewish populations. Though the only time I ever cooked a capon it was the most inedible gamey thing I've ever put in my mouth, I suspect I may have gotten a shit Capon though. It was also crazy tough, why I've been thinking ever since a braise would have been better than roasting.

Should You Really Only Cook With Wine You'd Drink? The Truth About Cooking With Wine

In terms of cooking with spoiled wine I've often found that it doesn't matter in which way the wine is off, and there are few applications where cooking with it doesn't work. Working as a bartender it was fairly common to send any spoiled or flawed wine to the kitchen. Sometimes the dishwashers would end up drinking it, but for the most part it stood in for the kitchen's cooking wine (usually boxed or otherwise low cost). I'm sure the cooks back there had figured out if there was any degree of spoilage or cooking method that was a no go in those terms. I haven't had any really rancid wine at home, so I've never had much of an issue with slightly old or corked wine in any cooking application I've tried.

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