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Brine, Baby, Brine!
March 30, 2012 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Food Network Magazine's 100 Greatest Cooking Tips (of All Time) goes beyond the basic "taste-as-you-go" kind of advice (though it's in there).

No. 9 - After working with garlic, rub your hands vigorously on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds before washing them. It will remove the odor. Gerald Craft, Niche & Taste
posted by lizbunny (189 comments total) 130 users marked this as a favorite

 
#101 - Doublecheck that chicken is dead before attempting to cook it.
posted by cog_nate at 6:45 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


63. For better-tasting asparagus, cure the stalks: Peel them, roll in equal parts sugar and salt, and let them sit for 10 minutes, then rinse off and prepare as desired.
Shea Gallante
Ciano, New York City

Really? Is this a thing?
posted by little mouth at 6:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


59. When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some bacon. Sean Brock, McCrady's, Charleston, SC

this sounds SO wrong and SO good.
posted by anya32 at 6:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I half expect #10 to be "After eating garlic, lick your stainless steel sink clean to neutralize the odor". Gross.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


59. When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some bacon. Sean Brock, McCrady's, Charleston, SC

this sounds SO wrong and SO good.


A local place here in Philly offers a "bacon burger" as an occasional special. It's 50/50 ground beef and bacon, you can only get it fully cooked (no medium rare, sadly), and it's apparently amazing.
posted by The Michael The at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2012


As a foodie, this article made me really happy. I will be utilizing many of these cooking tips in the near future. Thanks for posting!
posted by hypotheticole at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2012


Notice how not one of those tips involved buying expensive Japanese knives. People who buy expensive Japanese knives are the gun nuts of cookery.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


34. For safety, put a wine cork on the tip of a knife before putting the knife in a drawer.

Putting a wine cork on a knife tip is dangerous, far more dangerous that a knife in a drawer.
posted by therubettes at 6:55 AM on March 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


Yeah, get those plastic sleeves instead. Easier to put on, and they protect the whole edge.
posted by echo target at 6:58 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Notice how not one of those tips involved buying expensive Japanese knives. People who buy expensive Japanese knives are the gun nuts of cookery.

You'll have to pry my Shuns from my cold, dead hands.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:58 AM on March 30, 2012 [14 favorites]


99. My general advice to home cooks is that if you think you have added enough salt, double it.

This sounds like terrible advice.
posted by jamincan at 7:00 AM on March 30, 2012 [47 favorites]


here's my cooking tip - quit overusing sugar, salt, oil and butter and give your taste buds a rest for a couple of months and you'll soon find that you will start craving the natural Sweetness, Sourness, bitterness, saltiness and umaminess of the fresh ingredients in your dish. All of this crap we do to change the natural flavor of food has its beginnings in making close to rotten food palatable. We have refrigerators now.
posted by any major dude at 7:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [39 favorites]


I think adding more salt than seems responsible is only good advice in certain situations, like boiling potatoes, and even then it only applies the first time. Because, you know, learning.
posted by helicomatic at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


59. When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some bacon.

Until, of course, the "put bacon in everything" fad is played-out. Then switch to whatever is hip next.

I love bacon, but is this really a "greatest tip of all time"? I mean...If this list was compiled 40 years ago, this same tip would be "When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some french onion soup mix".
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on March 30, 2012 [25 favorites]


This sounds like terrible advice.

To be fair, the average novice home cook is so terrified of salt that their cooking tastes of nothing.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:07 AM on March 30, 2012 [22 favorites]


59. When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some bacon.

Last fall a friend gave me a couple pounds of homemade bacon and venison breakfast sausage. It was pretty close to the best thing ever.
posted by peeedro at 7:14 AM on March 30, 2012


> 59. When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some bacon.

>> Until, of course, the "put bacon in everything" fad is played-out. Then switch to whatever is hip next.

11. Remember schmaltz? Your mom and grandmother probably used a lot of it in their home cooking. Schmaltz, or chicken fat, has a great flavor and richness; it has a deeper flavor than duck fat and can be used on nearly everything.

The list has seen the future in the past, and the future from the past is schmaltz.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


le morte de bea arthur: "Notice how not one of those tips involved buying expensive Japanese knives. People who buy expensive Japanese knives are the gun nuts of cookery"

People who buy cheap Japanese knives ('sup MAC) are actual cooks.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


And number 11 is right about schmaltz. You can make it yourself, it's worth the extra work if you are ever roasting a couple of chickens at a time. Chicken skins fried in schmaltz are pretty amazing.
posted by peeedro at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, the average novice home cook is so terrified of salt that their cooking tastes of nothing.

I avoid excess salt, but I often use Lawry's Seasoned Salt which is mostly MSG. MSG is good stuff. Pure MSG used to be sold as Accent, and in Asia you will usually find salt shakers full of ajinomoto instead of salt.

BTW, I recently saw a much better list of cooking tips but I can't seem to find it now. It had photo pairs of right/wrong techniques, and it was not broken up into 10 pages for hit inflation. I'll look around some more but maybe someone has seen it and can post.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:19 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pure MSG used to be sold as Accent

It still is. You can also find plenty of MSG stuff in the Goya aisle.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:21 AM on March 30, 2012


Oh yeah, MSG is magic. I'll admit to using Sazon Goya in every pot of beans and sometimes in chili.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:21 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Charlie Don't Surf, you'll actually find in Japan, fairly commonly, a combination of salt and MSG sold in a shaker as "aji-shio" ("shio" being "salt"). I wouldn't know the sales statistics, but it's certainly not hard to find at any given supermarket.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:22 AM on March 30, 2012


Use Applewood-smoked bacon for your bacon-burgers, chopped well and mixed 1/3 bacon to 2/3 lean ground beef. Then grill over anything but gas. Fire-roast jalapenos, smash them seeds and and all, and use like relish. I'm breaking out the grill this weekend.
posted by achrise at 7:24 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


charlie don't surf: was this it?
posted by gauche at 7:25 AM on March 30, 2012


If you find you need more oil in the pan when sautéing, add it in a stream along the edges of the pan so that by the time the oil reaches the ingredient being cooked, it will be heated.

Huh, that's a good idea. I had never heard it before (unlike a lot of the rest of these tips, many of which I do find useful but which I've already run across in cookbooks/cooking shows/blogs and whatnot).

I mean, I try not to have to add more oil once the food is actually cooking; but if I have to, adding slowly from the side specifically to give the fresh oil a jumpstart on heating would be very handy.
posted by theatro at 7:34 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grew up eating Vegeta seasoning. My Russian grandmother still swears by it. I never realized that it is loaded with MSG.
posted by anya32 at 7:35 AM on March 30, 2012


Now that's a sandwich!
posted by The Deej at 7:39 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


16. To make a great sandwich, spread the mayonnaise from corner to corner on the bread. People rush this step and just do a swoosh down the middle. Every bite should be flavorful. Now that's a sandwich!
Roy Choi
Kogi BBQ and A-Frame, Los Angeles


When we first moved to N America from Russia, I used to wonder why all the sandwiches sold here had all the filling piled around a small circle in the middle, leaving the ends completely bare. I actually thought there was a cooking school where they were taught how to pile everything into a two inch circle and the chef would yell if you got it wrong.

Still think that school of sandwich making is stupid.
posted by tatiana131 at 7:41 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up eating Vegeta seasoning. My Russian grandmother still swears by it. I never realized that it is loaded with MSG.

I hear the flavor profile is over 9000!!!
posted by kmz at 7:42 AM on March 30, 2012 [20 favorites]


I actually thought there was a cooking school where they were taught how to pile everything into a two inch circle and the chef would yell if you got it wrong.

I think the idea is to try to prevent a mess from spillage on the sides. And depending on the type of ingredients, the flattening process will often squeeze them out a bit.

Personally I enjoy it because I'm one of those "save the best part for last" eaters so I eat around the edges and then have a super packed center.
posted by kmz at 7:47 AM on March 30, 2012


3. You don't have to eat the fondant. It's really pretty, but if you don't want a mouthful of pure sugar, peel it off.

Duff Goldman
Ace of Cakes


You're not a chef, you're a fucking decorator.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:48 AM on March 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


13. When you deep-fry, hold each piece of food with long tongs as you add it to the oil. Hold it just below the oil's surface for five seconds before releasing it. This will seal the exterior and stop it from sticking to the pot or the other food.

Unless you happen to be deep-frying something battered, in which case the hot oil will combine the battered food and the tongs in a seemingly permanent fashion.
posted by xingcat at 7:48 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is my recently learned Greatest Tip of All Time: You can bake potatoes in a crock pot. Just prick some holes in there with a fork and throw them in the crock pot and cook them all day on low. No oil, no water, nothing in there except the potato. THIS HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.
posted by something something at 7:51 AM on March 30, 2012 [28 favorites]


Some of these tips are actively wrong. For instance, "88. Don't dress the salad when having a big party. Leave it on the side and let the people do it themselves". What, are we going to give each guest a salad bowl so they can toss the salad after pouring the dressing on it? Or does this chef think it's sufficient to merely sprinkle some oil on top of lettuce and call it a salad?
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


here's my cooking tip - quit overusing sugar, salt, oil and butter and give your taste buds a rest for a couple of months and you'll soon find that you will start craving the natural Sweetness, Sourness, bitterness, saltiness and umaminess of the fresh ingredients in your dish. All of this crap we do to change the natural flavor of food has its beginnings in making close to rotten food palatable. We have refrigerators now.

So I take it that you have sworn off beer, wine, liquor, cheese, cured meats, pickles, anchovies, &c.?

Also, I don't want to be the guy who lists the fallacies you've committed, but if ever an argument deserved it...
posted by invitapriore at 7:56 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, I don't want to be the guy who lists the fallacies you've committed, but if ever an argument deserved it...

Oh, so instead you're being the guy who wants everyone to know you can't even be bothered pointing out the fallacies because they're too obvious to mention? Come on -- either make your point or don't make it.
posted by John Cohen at 8:03 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


guys, guys, there is a whole other thread right next door where you can have that pointlessly contentious argument
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


16. To make a great sandwich, spread the mayonnaise from corner to corner on the bread. People rush this step and just do a swoosh down the middle. Every bite should be flavorful. Now that's a sandwich!

Oh please! When I saw Paula Deen at number one I knew there would be a few good tips and 90 pieces of filler. I wasn't disappointed.
posted by Splunge at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2012


Oh boy. I'm sorry for bringing the fallacy thing up. I meant it as a throw-away crack, not a serious point. Carry on.
posted by invitapriore at 8:10 AM on March 30, 2012


You don't have to eat the fondant. It's really pretty, but if you don't want a mouthful of pure sugar, peel it off.

Duff Goldman
Ace of Cakes


See, here is the thing: I do not understand this vogue for extremely pretty, extremely decorated cakes (and many of them are very clever a la Sunday Sweets) that are just cake covered with inedible (or at least not-very-tasty) fondant. What is the point of making a cake that looks like Katamari Damacy or whatever and that gets chopped up into pieces and the fondant peeled off the instant everyone has looked at it? Sure, it's wonderfully clever, but it just seems to miss the point of cake.
posted by Frowner at 8:22 AM on March 30, 2012 [29 favorites]


Smash garlic cloves inside a resealable plastic bag with the back of a knife. That way, your cutting board and knife won't smell.

He left the word "awesome" off the end. What's with all the garlic-smell hate?
posted by phearlez at 8:25 AM on March 30, 2012 [36 favorites]


101. Add more butter, y'all!
posted by spamguy at 8:25 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


0. Move to France or Italy.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I do not understand this vogue for extremely pretty, extremely decorated cakes...that are just cake covered with inedible (or at least not-very-tasty) fondant...Sure, it's wonderfully clever, but it just seems to miss the point of cake.

This+++
If you ever watched Duff's show and the others like it, it's pretty apparent that roughly half of any cake they make is mostly inedible. There's very little cake in the "cakes".
posted by Thorzdad at 8:27 AM on March 30, 2012


fruit sculpture :)
posted by jeffburdges at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2012


I do not understand this vogue for extremely pretty, extremely decorated cakes...that are just cake covered with inedible (or at least not-very-tasty) fondant...Sure, it's wonderfully clever, but it just seems to miss the point of cake.

This is why, when we got married, our wedding cake was covered in marzipan. Just a pretty as fondant but much tastier.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:35 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Brine, baby, brine is the best tip of the bunch. (This post is major synchronicity for me as I just finished putting a bag of chicken and brine in the fridge that I will be roasting on the grill tomorrow.)

Also, I cooked competition chili for many years, and Goya Sazon was a well-used "secret" ingredient. It really is awesome stuff in a lot of dishes, but the blazing orange-red of the anchiote may surprise some folks.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:35 AM on March 30, 2012


If i met someone with corks on the tips of their knives I would just silently slip out the door and leave.
posted by quoquo at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd add to this list:

-Learn some knife skills. You're probably holding it wrong.

-When frying bacon, lay the raw bacon in a cold pan. Heating the pan first causes the strips to curl.
posted by emelenjr at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


OK, it sounds really basic after hearing it, but I've never tried cooking pasta the last 10% in the sauce. Gonna have to try it soon.
posted by scose at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2012


silicone spatulas that you can remove from the handle are the best tool for getting all of your hummus out of the food processor and all of your dough remnants out of the proofing bowel. It will limit waste and save you many many hours of cleaning time over the year.
posted by any major dude at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2012


When cooking eggplant, I like to use the long, skinny, purple Japanese kind because you don't have to salt it to pull out the bitter liquid like you do with the larger Italian variety throw it away before you even start.

Seriously. I hate eggplant.

posted by Big_B at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


And also unclosed tags.
posted by Big_B at 8:54 AM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Learn some knife skills.

This should be really be one of maybe four tips on the list. Everything starts with knife skills. If you can't effectively and safely chop, cut, slice, dice, and mince, you're going to be really unhappy cooking.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's OK, it's hard to concentrate on closing your tags when there is so much eggplant in the world to avoid.
posted by scose at 8:59 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


As a major cooking nerd, for the beginner I highly recommend either spending 20 minutes on Youtube looking at knife skill videos like Alton Brown's American Slicer, and then understanding what kind of knife to use and when (caveat: I only use a standard Bunka knife, Japanese knife haters be damned).

For those with a little more mastery under the belt, I highly recommend Knife Skills Illustrated, as it comprehensively lists the perfect way to slice and dice all veggies and more (and has a left-handed section as well!).

Now, here's a question that's totally off-topic – how do people sharpen their knives? I want to do it at home, but i'm scared of destroying the one sacred implement in my kitchen.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2012 [24 favorites]


Here's one I picked up years ago and which has served me admirably: pan-sear meat. Deglaze pan with appropriate wine, then reduce liquid by at least half. Remove from heat, whisk in small amount of butter and a few drops of balsamic vinegar to taste. This makes a fantastic pan sauce that works for pretty much any meat at all including seafood.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


Who stores sharp knives in a drawer anyway? Drawers are for flatware, not cutlery.
posted by caryatid at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Haven't seen content this informative from the Food Network since they pulled Batali's Molto Mario.
posted by wensink at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2012


Who stores sharp knives in a drawer anyway? Drawers are for flatware, not cutlery.

People with a never-ending renovation that required them to take down their beloved magnetic holder *grumble*sob*
posted by phearlez at 9:09 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


60. Don't go to the store with a shopping list. Go to the store, see what ingredients look good cheap and then make your list.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


charlie don't surf: was this it?

Yes! That is the one, it figures I saw it here. I thought I'd heard it all, my family ran restaurants and I am a great cook, but that set of tips improved my cooking immediately. For example, #10, it suggested you don't overcrowd meat when you're browning it in a pan, it releases steam and makes the meat soggy. I tried this with just some plain hamburger, spreading it out in the pan, and it made a huge difference. I probably knew this but wasn't paying attention, but now that I know to pay attention, I can see it is important. Cooking is all about little details like this.

But now this site, it's stupid. Some of these tips:

Remember, y'all, it’s all about the prep. Please tell me something more stupid, I am a stupid cook.

Store spices in a cool, dark place, not above your stove. Also do not store them in your bathroom medicine cabinet.

For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight. And then throw the eggs out and go buy new ones.

Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin. Are you fucking kidding me?

When you're browning meat, you should blot the surface dry with a paper towel so the meat doesn't release moisture when it hits the hot oil. Too much moisture makes the meat steam instead of sear, and you will lose that rich brown crust Or you could get a larger pan and use the tip I just cited. Or you could read #50 on the list, which says the same thing. Kudos to the editor for including two contradictory tips.

A cast-iron pan is a valuable kitchen ally. It offers an even cooking surface and is a breeze to clean. And I could beat you over the head with it, if you tell me such stupid tips again. No, cast iron pans are a pain in the ass.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Addendum: After reading a particuarly nuanced Amazon review, apparently the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Professional Knife Kit is the one to get re: comprehensive knife skills?

Yikes, nerd skills retracted.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2012


23. Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan, then place the chicken on top. The onion will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about 3 minutes on high heat.

I can attest to this one, and the resulting sauce being very good. Also helps to have a ginormous cast-iron skillet to roast in as well. Also:

75. Clean as you go.

Yes.
posted by phong3d at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight.
---And then throw the eggs out and go buy new ones.


I think this is a cultural thing. In the US people seem to want to refridgerate eggs. Elsewhere it is not so common (I am in the UK and keep my eggs at room temp and they last long past the "expiry" date). Something to do with how they are manufactured or something?
See also.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:14 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


"In Europe eggs are sold unwashed and are stored at room temperature protected by the waxy coating the chicken applies. American eggs are washed, sanitized and coated with mineral oil to replace the waxy coating. After washing they must be refrigerated until used."
posted by mojohand at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Never ever ever brine. It makes everything taste like ham. If you want to eat ham, just buy ham!
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually blotting meat is a good idea, regardless of the size of the pan you use. Fish and poultry as well.
posted by Splunge at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2012


No, cast iron pans are a pain in the ass.

I dunno, I love my cast iron pan above all other pans in my kitchen. It keeps a nice nonstick and evenly heated surface. It's also easy to maintain since I've never had to do anything to keep it seasoned beyond cooking with oil on a regular basis.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:25 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


No, cast iron pans are a pain in the ass.

Eh? They don't go in the dishwasher, but other than that you just scrub them with hot water and dry them off. I've never needed to season might beyond the initial purchase either.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:28 AM on March 30, 2012


Never ever ever brine. It makes everything taste like ham. If you want to eat ham, just buy ham!

But I guess if you don't want to eat actual ham, it's good to know there's a way to make anything taste like ham.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:28 AM on March 30, 2012


Another one:

-If your gut says cook it for a couple more minutes, it's done. If you cook it until you think it's done, it'll be overdone.
posted by emelenjr at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


10. Brine, baby, brine! Ya gotta brine that poultry to really give it the super flavor.
Guy Fieri
Diners, Drive-ins and Dives


My god, even in fifteen words he's obnoxious as all hell.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2012 [30 favorites]


He left the word "awesome" off the end. What's with all the garlic-smell hate?

^This. Especially when the next thing you do is slice something (cheese? carrots?) that ends up having a slight taste of fresh garlic. I know it's too random to be a thing ,but it is fun.
posted by sneebler at 9:32 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


And then throw the eggs out and go buy new ones.

If you are using pastured eggs (not supermarket eggs) there's no need to refrigerate them at all. They'll last for weeks at room temperature as long as you don't wash them (until right before you use them).

Even if you're using industrially-produced eggs, leaving them out overnight won't hurt them.

kurosawa's pal, this little device works great. It's kept my Wusthofs sharp for over ten years.
posted by caryatid at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fresh eggs are just fine at room temperature for at least a week or two, but religiously refrigerating them does seem to be a US thing (I know I grew up with it) and it wouldn't surprise me if it was required by health codes for restaurant licenses.

I tend to agree that arbitrarily doubling your salt sounds like a terrible idea, at least when working from modern recipes; by all means adequately season your food, but not everything has to taste like it came out of a Chili's kitchen. And along those lines, I submit #101: You can reduce the amount of sugar called for in most baking recipes these days by at least 25-33% and your cookies/cakes will still be delicious, without making your teeth itch.
posted by usonian at 9:33 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the salt tip sounded a little glib. I prefer to use less salt during cooking, but then sprinkle a little fleur de sel over the dish when serving. The surface salt makes the food taste saltier than it actually is.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:37 AM on March 30, 2012


The "done time" one seems odd. As you continue to adhere to that rule, you will become a more experienced chef and therefore eat increasingly undercooked food. Right?
posted by troika at 9:40 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're supposed to wash eggs?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


They do come out of chicken butts, Empress.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:47 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


What?
posted by Splunge at 9:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am going to second and third and nth the statements about letting meat rest. I know, recently a culinarian buddy and I made steak salads to go along with a viewing of Mystery Men. I will confess, as I was on a budget, the steaks I used were far from the best. Well, once we got the steaks cooked, we let them sit for about five minutes. They were amazing.
posted by Samizdata at 9:50 AM on March 30, 2012


No, cast iron pans are a pain in the ass.

Sir, those are fighting words.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


Sometimes I don't add any salt at all, depending on ingredients. For example, edamame beans with japanese sweet potatoes, peas and butternut squash taste better when no salt is added because sweet potatoes are naturally slightly salty. In fact, flavour of peas in particular comes through much better if no salt is added.

But if the same dish substitutes lentils for edamame, it does need a tiny bit of salt.
posted by rainy at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2012


They do come out of chicken butts, Empress.

Yeah, but you don't eat the part that touches that bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on March 30, 2012


Yeah, and cast iron pans are the best.. I practically never use anything else. I don't need to use dish soap for either enameled le creuset nor for non-enameled lodge skillet. Both are much easier to clean than high quality calphalon steel pan I have (and almost never use), because oil clings to steel and you really need to use soap to clean it well.
posted by rainy at 9:57 AM on March 30, 2012


Yeah, but you don't eat the part that touches that bit.

But: butts! ew.
posted by rainy at 9:58 AM on March 30, 2012


There's some great tips here but I'm always baffled when I encounter advice from a chef on how to cut an onion that includes making horizontal cuts. The way an onion grows in layers makes it superfluous. Instead of making both horizontal and vertical cuts, just cut radially and you're good to go. It's both safer and faster. I hope that old school method of cutting onions goes out like the idea that searing meat seals in the juices.
posted by umamiman at 9:59 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I saw these stainless steel 'stones' being sold at one of those kitchy stores, for rubbing your hands to remove the garlic smell. I thought that was ingenious, until this post reminded me my kitchen sink is stainless steel. Hence, #9.
posted by lizbunny at 10:08 AM on March 30, 2012


EmpressCallipygos: "They do come out of chicken butts, Empress.

Yeah, but you don't eat the part that touches that bit.
"

Ummmmm, yeah, I kinda do.

Oh, the shell. Whoops!
posted by Samizdata at 10:11 AM on March 30, 2012


>>I actually thought there was a cooking school where they were taught how to pile everything into a two inch circle and the chef would yell if you got it wrong.

I think the idea is to try to prevent a mess from spillage on the sides. And depending on the type of ingredients, the flattening process will often squeeze them out a bit.


I believe the difference in schools of mayo-spreading is cultural and stems from quantity of materials piled into the sandwich: here's a Euro-style ham sandwich and here's an American-style ham sandwich.
posted by Dragonness at 10:21 AM on March 30, 2012


You're supposed to wash eggs?

I don't. I was just catering to the delicate sensibilities of those who think eggs can spoil overnight.

umamiman, my thoughts exactly. You don't need those horizontal cuts.
posted by caryatid at 10:21 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf:
But now this site, it's stupid. Some of these tips:

Remember, y'all, it’s all about the prep. Please tell me something more stupid, I am a stupid cook.

Store spices in a cool, dark place, not above your stove. Also do not store them in your bathroom medicine cabinet.

I know people who do the stove-top thing. Greasy, nasty cinnamon tins... Of course, they won't read this article; they're too busy forwarding cat pictures and gang-related computer virus warnings.


For best results when you're baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight. And then throw the eggs out and go buy new ones.

Whuh? You are under the delusion that eggs rot overnight? My only problem with this is that it depends on the recipe: for crusts and many cookies, you want to start with cold fat.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:22 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, the average novice home cook is so terrified of salt that their cooking tastes of nothing.

No, actually, it just tastes like food instead of salted food.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:26 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


cast iron is amazing. like any other thing worth doing, it takes time to learn how to use it right.

japanese knives are amazing. they're sharp, precise, and a little fragile. what you'd expect given Japanese cuisine. german knives hold their edges longer and you can really hack meat with them, but they just lack that last little bit of Japanese precision

mise en place is the single most important thing i've ever learned about cooking. if everything is ready to go, so are you. the meal will flow with ease. shit, I guess I'm agreeing with Paula fuckin' Deen. forgive me, St Bourdain.
posted by ninjew at 10:34 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]



Never ever ever brine. It makes everything taste like ham. If you want to eat ham, just buy ham!


That's ridiculous. I've cooked the best chickens and turkeys of my life since I learned about brine. They're fantastic and well received, and it's easy to do.

Maybe you're doing something wrong?
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:34 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


59. When grinding your own beef for burgers, grind in some bacon. Sean Brock, McCrady's, Charleston, SC

this sounds SO wrong and SO good.

A local place here in Philly offers a "bacon burger" as an occasional special. It's 50/50 ground beef and bacon, you can only get it fully cooked (no medium rare, sadly), and it's apparently amazing.


Here in Southern California there's a place that does this, it's called Slater's 50/50. It's not amazing, it's just an overcooked hamburger with bacon flavor.

Because overcooked hamburgers suck, I started experimenting with grinding cooked bacon (not crisp, still soft and cooled) into my beef, but spreading out the bacon flavor into the beef just covers up the beef flavor and dilutes the bacon, and it was only ok. I decided that I much prefer to cook slices of bacon and throw them on top in the conventional way, that way you get the separate flavors in each bite.

I also tried slicing some pre-cooked chorizo-type sausage very thin, browning it, cooling it, then grinding it into the meat, but again the flavor just overwhelmed the beef. What was good, though, was using those slices on top of a burger made of less flavorful beef instead of bacon.

Really, though, getting top-quality beef and grinding it yourself makes for a burger that doesn't need any bacon or much of anything on it. Mayo and pepper, that's it.

If you like to overcook your beef, though, you might as well grind some bacon in there. Maybe the burger won't dry out as much. Cooks Illustrated actually has a recipe for a well-done burger with butter drizzled into the meat.
posted by Huck500 at 10:35 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


In most cases, the option to substitute cheddar for Parimiggiano Reggiano, cream cheese for mascarpone, a can of cherry-pie filling for a jar of Amarenas, salted for unsalted butter, rum for kirsch, syrofoam-packed button mushrooms for shiitakes, and so forth DOES NOT EXIST, unless you are a culinary genius.

And in most cases, if you take these substitutions lightly, you're not.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lentrohamsanin: (re: Duff Goldman, Ace of Cakes) You're not a chef, you're a fucking decorator.

You know him from a tv show on which he decorates cakes != he's just a cake-decorator. He's a professional chef--graduated Culinary Institute of America; he worked at French Laundry (named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world every year for the past ten years), which is an extremely prestigious position for a chef. So take your ignorant and snobbish cheap shots if you like, but you just look stupid.
posted by tzikeh at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd add "Nonstick pans should not be the default option."
posted by jason_steakums at 10:42 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


umamiman: "There's some great tips here but I'm always baffled when I encounter advice from a chef on how to cut an onion that includes making horizontal cuts. The way an onion grows in layers makes it superfluous. Instead of making both horizontal and vertical cuts, just cut radially and you're good to go. It's both safer and faster. I hope that old school method of cutting onions goes out like the idea that searing meat seals in the juices."

One of greatest things I learned taking weekend consumer classes at one of our local Culinary Schools was this technique to dice onions. I'll never return to the horizontal cutting again. Also a knife technique class that changed the way I view and use a knife. Oh, and an introduction to the chef's knives that the school recommends which I was able to purchase on eBay for less than $50 - Mercer Genesis 10 inch Chef's Knife
posted by jgaiser at 10:45 AM on March 30, 2012


No, actually, it just tastes like food instead of salted food.

A pot of unsalted beans are a terrible thing to overthink. Or eat. Also, unsalted yeast bread is inedible.
posted by rtha at 10:45 AM on March 30, 2012




No, actually, it just tastes like food instead of salted food.

Used properly, the salt accentuates flavours that aren't there. Your food shouldn't taste like salt, it should taste salted.

The backlash against salt is largely because of fast food and prepackaged food where it's being used in a heavy handed and irresponsible way. Properly used salt in a well prepared meal is a different story altogether.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [15 favorites]


Woops, how about it accentuates the flavors that "are already there." Can't accentuate something that isn't there.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2012


This list was worth reading just for #40: To get nice, crispy caramelization on roasted vegetables, simulate the intense heat of an industrial oven: Bring your oven up as hot as it goes, then put an empty roasting or sheet pan inside for 10 to 15 minutes. Toss the vegetables — try carrots or Brussels sprouts — with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them on the hot pan. This method will give you the high heat you need to caramelize the sugars in the vegetables quickly.
posted by bearwife at 10:50 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


60. Don't go to the store with a shopping list. Go to the store, see what ingredients look good and then make you

I think this was the worst tip on the list. If you're a good enough cook to follow this rule, you don't need to be told it. If you need a recipe, this isn't helpful.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 10:52 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


There's some great tips here but I'm always baffled when I encounter advice from a chef on how to cut an onion that includes making horizontal cuts. The way an onion grows in layers makes it superfluous. Instead of making both horizontal and vertical cuts, just cut radially and you're good to go.
Too true. It's a shame that people think their chopping unfinished when they see those layers still stuck together, not realizing that within the first minute of cooking, they will come apart, turning what looks like hunks o' onion into anything as small as fine dice. When prepping for people who don't know this, I always get major anxiety over how much stress I am causing them. I whisper hard at those onion chunks in the pan to break up! Break up before they see you!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:56 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read something recently - possible mefi-related- where the writer said something like "don't put a lot of salt in dishes at the beginning of the process, because it can add a bitter taste.... add the salt towards the end, so it sits on the surface of the food and tastes like salt".

I don't think this idea has anything to do with brining as a concept.

What are your thoughts on this?
posted by sneebler at 10:57 AM on March 30, 2012


Totally. Not making a list is a good way for me to forget things I really need. There is no rules that says I can only buy things on my list.
posted by VTX at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2012


76. Shoes off, music on, favorite beverage in hand — enjoy your time in the kitchen.
Claire Robinson
5 Ingredient Fix


So she's advocating cooking barefoot and drunk?
posted by yellowcandy at 11:00 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem with salt is if you get used to oversalted, it's no longer oversalted to you, it's just right. Our taste is more accepting of slight oversalting than slight undersalting, so people tend to oversalt as a safer choice, as well as for masking slight variations in cooking and ingredient quality.

In fact, if you are not used to oversalted food, many dishes (but not all!) will taste really great without any salt.

There's a separate issue that restaurants condition people's taste in direction of oversalted, overbuttered, over-onioned cooking. It's just simpler and more practical for them. People who are used to this type of taste will complain if it's not there, people who aren't used will just feel it's a more intense flavour than they're used to, and that's not as objectionable.
posted by rainy at 11:03 AM on March 30, 2012


So she's advocating cooking barefoot and drunk?
Who wouldn't? Soused is the best sauce.
posted by modernserf at 11:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


76. Shoes off, music on, favorite beverage in hand — enjoy your time in the kitchen.
Claire Robinson
5 Ingredient Fix

So she's advocating cooking barefoot and drunk?


Claire? Oh, hells yes.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


okay, someone find me a video showing this radial onion cutting technique becuase I'm not sure I can figure it out on my own. (I'm going to make a spicy Ethiopian stew this weekend and it calls for 3 cups of onions which I'd normally just blitz in the Cuisinart.)
posted by vespabelle at 11:06 AM on March 30, 2012


I read something recently - possible mefi-related- where the writer said something like "don't put a lot of salt in dishes at the beginning of the process, because it can add a bitter taste.... add the salt towards the end, so it sits on the surface of the food and tastes like salt".

I don't think this idea has anything to do with brining as a concept.

What are your thoughts on this?


Depends on what you're making. Sometimes salt is part of the chemical process. For example, salt can help sear a side of meat on a barbecue grille.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2012


Oops, just to make that clear, rather than brining, a light dusting of salt will help sear meat over coals.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2012


Despite his strange beliefs regarding eggs, I'm with charlie don't surf - the list is mostly thunderingly obvious with the occasional dash of flat out wrong ('always start with a smoking hot pan', 'double the salt').

So she's advocating cooking barefoot and drunk?

That leapt out at me, too - I have a seriously hefty, ten-year-old scar on my right foot due to drunkenly dropping a cast iron griddle pan while drunk-cooking a steak sans shoes. I still cook drunk, obviously, but always make sure I have sturdy footwear on.
posted by jack_mo at 11:09 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


28. Organize yourself. Write a prep list and break that list down into what may seem like ridiculously small parcels, like "grate cheese" and "grind pepper" and "pull out plates." You will see that a "simple meal" actually has more than 40 steps. If even 10 of those steps require 10 minutes each and another 10 of those steps take 5 minutes each, you're going to need two and a half hours of prep time. (And that doesn't include phone calls, bathroom breaks and changing the radio station!) Write down the steps and then cross them off. It's very satisfying!

--Gabrielle Hamilton, who wants you to know that she is not at all OCD, and that she has turned clockwise 2.25 times more often than she has turned counter-clockwise since getting up this morning.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a separate issue that restaurants condition people's taste in direction of oversalted, overbuttered, over-onioned cooking. It's just simpler and more practical for them.

Also, restaurants tend to know what tastes good, and taste tends to be their first concern.

For people who have gone down the shadow path of substituting hemp and flax seed and (insert health fad here) for salt, fat, and strong flavors: Just because you've got used to it does not mean it tastes better. And you can't expect the rest of us to agree with you.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "They do come out of chicken butts, Empress.

Yeah, but you don't eat the part that touches that bit.
"

While generally true, sometimes an egg cracked too hard will bring the outer shell in contact with the egg itself. If you've ever had to pick a bit of shell out of an egg (and boy is that fun!) you have potentially contaminated it.
posted by Splunge at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2012



So she's advocating cooking barefoot and drunk?
Who wouldn't? Soused is the best sauce.
posted by modernserf at 11:04 AM on March 30 [1 favorite +] [!]


I might never be a sous-chef, but I can sure get soused.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:21 AM on March 30, 2012


While generally true, sometimes an egg cracked too hard will bring the outer shell in contact with the egg itself. If you've ever had to pick a bit of shell out of an egg (and boy is that fun!) you have potentially contaminated it.

Which is why you should also crack eggs against a flat surface instead of on the edge of a pan or bowl. On a flat surface, you're less likely to inadvertently send bits of shell into the interior of the egg.
posted by emelenjr at 11:23 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


kurosawa's pal: "how do people sharpen their knives? I want to do it at home, but i'm scared of destroying the one sacred implement in my kitchen."

I've struggled with this for so long. I think most people here know not to take it to the (literal) hacks who use grinding wheels, and I've found a guy locally who hand sharpens with whetstones. But I've been thinking about getting a sharpening system at home and have read so many conflicting opinions about this.

There are people who say if you get a good machine, the quality is actually better than done by hand (due significantly in part to the difficulty of finding a skilled sharpener, or becoming one). And less than hand perfect but sharp knives are better than knives that stay unsharpened because your guy is halfway across town.

There are people who say unequivocally that machines are evil and you might as well strangle puppies for what it's doing to your knives.

There are people who say you shouldn't own good knives if you can't spent 30 years apprenticing in japan with knifemakers to learn how to sharpen on stones.

I've attended a sharpening class with strops and microscopes, but saw that the proprietor had changed the shape of the point on a knife that someone had brought in.

I've even heard conflicting things about whether or not using a honing steel is ok.

Basically at this point I am terrified and have no idea what to do.
posted by danny the boy at 11:24 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


For people who have gone down the shadow path of substituting hemp and flax seed and (insert health fad here) for salt, fat, and strong flavors: Just because you've got used to it does not mean it tastes better. And you can't expect the rest of us to agree with you.


Whenever did I say anything about hemp, flax seed or any other health-faddy obsession? I never even had help seeds, and I've only added a bit of flax seeds when baking bread and didn't care for them. Good job with that strawman though, you really kicked his ass.
posted by rainy at 11:25 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


76. Shoes off, music on, favorite beverage in hand — enjoy your time in the kitchen.
Claire Robinson
5 Ingredient Fix

So she's advocating cooking barefoot and drunk?

Claire? Oh, hells yes.


some of my best meals ever were prepared while I was baked to a crisp. music, summer heat, friends in the kitchen.. it generally leads to a good place. as long as I at least start the prep before smoking up so I don't try to throw the meat on the fire before the rice is done. you know how all your senses feel so amazing when you're buzzed? an awesome meal you just created yourself is kind of majestic
posted by ninjew at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying there's no place for salt in the kitchen, just that not using it is also quite ok in a lot of cases, and many foods will not taste like "nothing" when prepared properly. It just tastes like "nothing" to someone who is accustomed to using salt in everything.
posted by sunshinesky at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


For knife sharpening we're happy with our Chef's Choice 120, as originally recommended by Cook's Illustrated. It ain't cheap ($130) and I'm sure someone with patience and skill can do a better job hand sharpening than the machine does. But it works well and is convenient. The most important part is it has three different levels of grinding (the third is honing), so you don't remove more metal than necessary for a quick tune-up. Also it has a set angle which works fine for our basic chef's knives. (It may be exactly wrong for Japanese knives.)
posted by Nelson at 11:31 AM on March 30, 2012


Good job with that strawman though, you really kicked his ass.
Whenever did I advocate the use of straw? Shit tastes terrible.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:35 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


My knife sharpening recommendation is a Lansky set. Not quite idiot-proof, and I use german blades so they're a little more robust than some of the japanese knives, but this set gets them damn sharp every time.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know him from a tv show on which he decorates cakes != he's just a cake-decorator. He's a professional chef--graduated Culinary Institute of America; he worked at French Laundry (named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world every year for the past ten years), which is an extremely prestigious position for a chef. So take your ignorant and snobbish cheap shots if you like, but you just look stupid.

And McDonald's executive chef is a CIA grad who worked at the Four Seasons. The food under his imprimature is still garbage, regardless of his bona fides.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whenever did I advocate the use of straw? Shit tastes terrible.

Classic failure to use enough salt on straw stew.
posted by rainy at 11:38 AM on March 30, 2012


Tip for sharpening knives: Start with your grandfather the butcher's old Solingen steel knives marked "BAVARIA".
posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:40 AM on March 30, 2012


My two top cooking tips would be:
1. add diced sushi-age to anything and/or everything.
2. add a couple of teaspoons of finishing olive oil to any dish (the oil has to be high quality, strong pungent or spicy taste profile (or both)).
posted by rainy at 11:43 AM on March 30, 2012


A sadly necessary tip: Frozen != non-perishable.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:47 AM on March 30, 2012


vespabelle: "video"

vespabelle: "okay, someone find me a video showing this radial onion cutting technique becuase I'm not sure I can figure it out on my own. (I'm going to make a spicy Ethiopian stew this weekend and it calls for 3 cups of onions which I'd normally just blitz in the Cuisinart.)"

Take your choice. A number of pretty good ones here
posted by jgaiser at 11:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


vespabelle: Try this.
posted by caryatid at 11:57 AM on March 30, 2012


And McDonald's executive chef is a CIA grad who worked at the Four Seasons.

In terms of cooking world prestige, French Laundry >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> pretty much any hotel kitchen on earth by a factor of 150 or so, particularly one in Dallas. Yes, I know, Dallas is a nice city, but it ain't French Laundry. Also, just because you don't like the mass-market stuff that comes out of McDonald's doesn't mean that the guy, in his personal capacity, doesn't know a thing or two about cooking.

Tip: he almost knows a shitton of things that even very good home cooks do not know.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


sneebler: I read something recently - possible mefi-related- where the writer said something like "don't put a lot of salt in dishes at the beginning of the process, because it can add a bitter taste.... add the salt towards the end, so it sits on the surface of the food and tastes like salt".

That brings to mind Nanukthedog's comment about black pepper:
I mind [my wife] reaching for the pepper the least, as it is has a strong purpose as a finishing spice. Add it too early and you get the bitter taste that Splunge mentions above - boiling it and burning it brings out bitter and acrid components and kills the fresh crisp taste. Cooks use peppercorns (not pepper) when they make stocks becausee the temperature is low enough to steep (and keep it in a cheesecloth bag along with the garni for easy removal as well as to prevent it from winding up at the bottom of the pot and over-heated), but if you make a 12 hour stock, generally you don't want to add the pepper untill hour 7.
posted by rewil at 12:23 PM on March 30, 2012


jgaiser: Oh, and an introduction to the chef's knives that the school recommends which I was able to purchase on eBay for less than $50 - Mercer Genesis 10 inch Chef's Knife

The Mercer's a damn fine knife for the money, but any potential buyers should be aware that the blade is at least as thick as any German knife and very nose-heavy - which can really add up on a honkin'-big 10" chef's knife. That might be fine or even preferable for some people; I personally prefer a lighter, more balanced blade. À chacun son goût, etc.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:49 PM on March 30, 2012


Another good list, about basic equipment rather than technique.

I can attest to the fact that those Victorinox knives are pretty flippin sweet despite being stamped. Good enough that they turn the typical forged>stamped rule into more of an apples v. oranges thing.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:11 PM on March 30, 2012


I got so tired of constantly sharpening my supposedly high quality knives that I bought a $7 stainless steel knife at the grocery store and now use it exclusively. I'm over the knife fetish thing. I just want to be able to chop my goddamn vegetables and I am finally willing to admit that cheap serrated knives have always done the job better for me than the "good" ones.
posted by something something at 1:18 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay the radial onion thing is awesome. Never seen that before.

Another onion related question:

Is there a definitive white versus yellow onion usage guide? I'm always left figuring out which one to use, and generally seem to get it right but not always.
posted by Big_B at 1:33 PM on March 30, 2012


If you've ever had to pick a bit of shell out of an egg (and boy is that fun!) you have potentially contaminated it.

Tip: fishing out bits of egg shell is easy if you use half an egg shell. For whatever reason, it's way easier than using a spoon or your fingers, and you always catch the little bit first time.

Obviously if you're worried about contamination - why is there so much irrational egg-fear in this thread? - this is awful advice, but I've been doing it since I was little and have never suffered any ill effects.

Anyway, I'm off to radially cut an onion - very cool!
posted by jack_mo at 2:31 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


caryatid: Thanks for that video. I was confused by the description people were using and could figure out what they were talking about. Turns out that this is the way I always dice onions...cutting the second way seemed unnecessarily dangerous and redundant.
posted by imdaf at 2:36 PM on March 30, 2012


Yellow onions are best for caramelizing. Apparently this is because they have less moisture than the other varieties. The more water you have to cook off, the longer it takes before they start browning all the way through. So if you really want to brown the fuck out of 'em, like for French onion soup, they're the ones to use.

Beyond that I tend to just use whichever I've got around.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:37 PM on March 30, 2012


*couldn't
posted by imdaf at 2:37 PM on March 30, 2012



Is there a definitive white versus yellow onion usage guide? I'm always left figuring out which one to use, and generally seem to get it right but not always.


IANAC, but unless you're doing something that strongly features onions (like the aforementioned French onion soup), you can get away with lots of substitutions within the onion family: leeks, shallots, scallions, red, yellow, white. IMX.
posted by caryatid at 2:43 PM on March 30, 2012


Red onions might change color on you in an alkaline dish! But the taste isn't affected.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:43 PM on March 30, 2012


For those here that think brining makes everything taste like ham - it doesn't have to be anything like that. With a brine, you are just using salt to instigate osmosis and "sneak" moisture (and other flavors, if you want) into the meat cells. As long as the salt concentration in the brine is higher than in the bird it will work. An extremely low concentration of salt is actually necessary.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:44 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although there can be a wide range of flavor intensity even within the same variety of onion(due to growing conditions, storage conditions, season, temperature, conventional vs. organic, etc), in general I find white onions to be much milder in taste and therefore more suitable for raw dishes. It's the kind of onion found on the table in Mexico for putting on tacos al pastor. Yellow onions tend to have a stronger taste and are more suitable for cooking. Of course you can cook white onions too I just don't think they'll have as much flavor.

Btw, another awesome trick: to speed up the caramelization process for onions, add a pinch of baking soda. The alkalinity helps breakdown the pectin faster. And, yes, it can make for a strange color if you're using red onions.
posted by umamiman at 2:47 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tip #1
Ron Thaganar: Start with your grandfather the butcher's old Solingen steel knives marked "BAVARIA".

Tip #2
Find someone who knows how to sharpen knives. Amazingly, we have a store that does just that in Calgary - maybe you do as well...
posted by sneebler at 2:50 PM on March 30, 2012


And McDonald's executive chef is a CIA grad who worked at the Four Seasons. The food under his imprimature is still garbage, regardless of his bona fides.

You didn't insult the quality of Duff's product. You dismissed him as a professional by saying "You're not a chef, you're a fucking decorator." We'll put aside the implication you made that a decorator is an inferior or trivial job when you stuck the epitaph in front of it, eh?

You've been caught out on your shitty throwaway insult of a dude with a pretty impressive pedigree in education, employment/entrepreneurship, and charity. If you can't acknowledge your mistake then maybe you should just stop trying to justify it. First rule of holes: once you're in one, stop digging.
posted by phearlez at 3:12 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have Henckels knives, and a sharpener very similar to the Chef's Choice listed above, and it's changed my life. I have small, weak hands, and I'm pretty clumsy, so I really need all my knives to be as sharp as possible. I know there are better ways to sharpen knives than one of those machines, but when I'm trying to get dinner on the goddamned table with my children chasing each other around my ankles, that machine is what gets the knives sharp the fastest.

I'm not a chef, I'm a cook, but I do make everything this family puts into their mouth from scratch, except our breakfast cereal and our bread. (I like homemade bread so much that if I make our own bread, I eat an extra thousand calories a day in warm buttered bread.) Some of these tips are brilliant, but some of them are ridiculous. Don't make a shopping list? What the hell? That's a sure way to get home and realize that I've forgotten the milk for the baby or my husband's shaving cream, and spent $60 on fancy cheese instead. No, I plan our menus for the week, make a list for the week, and shop from the list. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to spend $4/lb for leathery brussels sprouts when there's local cauliflower for $0.49/lb right next to it. Just be smart.

Here's my top 5 cooking tips, from a broke and busy home cook with kids:

5. It's OK to take shortcuts occasionally. Pot roast made with onion soup mix or skillet chicken made with cream of mushroom soup is not great, but it has less crap in it than driving through McDonald's. If buying the pre-diced onions at the supermarket is what's going to enable you to cook at home, then by God, do it.

4. Fresh is not always best. In the middle of winter, peas and corn will be better frozen then whatever frankenfood is out there masquerading as "corn on the cob," particularly if you live in a cold climate. Ditto for canned tomatoes vs. the pale orange mealy pucks that live in the produce section.

3. Shred green cabbage on the fine disc of your food processor, then toss it with a teaspoon of salt and a little sugar and let it wilt and drain for an hour in a colander. Squeeze the water out, then add chopped cilantro, lime juice, and maybe a little more sugar depending on your taste. Use this on your tacos or burritos instead of shredded lettuce; it's tastier and more nutritious. We call it "cabbage salsa," and I can eat it out of a bowl with a fork. If you use the coarse disc instead, it holds up more robustly and is a great side dish to anything Mexican-ish, like coleslaw except different.

2. Get a garbage bowl. I have two sets of nesting stainless steel bowls, and I put one of the small ones next to the cutting board when I start cooking dinner. Peels, packages, ends, whatever, it all goes in there, and then I can empty it into the garbage can later. It makes cleaning as you go so much easier.

1. Dinner preparation time is, coincidentally, Horrible Children Time, when everyone in the house suddenly needs 110% of your attention. Get your mise done early. Make sure the pot you'll need AND THE CORRESPONDING LID are clean, get out the cutting board and put it on the counter with the knife on top of it. Grab an onion and two carrots and a rib of celery, and stick them together in the fridge in a grocery bag. A step that will take you ten seconds when the kids are at school or napping will take you two shrieking minutes when everyone's whining and pulling at you.
posted by KathrynT at 4:28 PM on March 30, 2012 [14 favorites]


I like to line a large bowl with a plastic shopping bag. Then I just pull the bag out and toss it. One less bowl to wash.
posted by Splunge at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like to line a large bowl with a plastic shopping bag.

that's brilliant and I will do that from this point forwards.
posted by KathrynT at 4:38 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


One less bowl to wash.

That assumes the outside of the shopping bag was clean.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2012


KathrynT, that "cabbage salsa" sounds great! Totally making that soon.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:19 PM on March 30, 2012


"how do people sharpen their knives? I want to do it at home, but i'm scared of destroying the one sacred implement in my kitchen."

Whetstone. Loads of tutorials on youtube showing you step by step. Start with a crap Walmart knife or the cheapo paring knives, if you're in love with your $100 amazing knife, the technique is the same regardless. A large hardware store will have cheap composite whetstones, ask an old dude who's shopping, not the 16 year old in paint mixing, if you can't find one.

You cannot sharpen those white ceramic knives at home. Throw it away when dull.

You can also hone a knife to true the blade, which is different equipment. That's fixing if the thin cutty edge folds over, and if your knife has seen years of non-sharpened abuse, it might need that too.
posted by Phalene at 5:58 PM on March 30, 2012


charlie don't surf: "One less bowl to wash.

That assumes the outside of the shopping bag was clean.
"

I bag my own groceries. I peel the bags from those racks at the end of the conveyor belt. They never touch the floor. But you're right, I still worry. That particular bowl is rarely used for anything else though. Now you made me nervous.
posted by Splunge at 6:07 PM on March 30, 2012


Now, here's a question that's totally off-topic – how do people sharpen their knives?

People here are going to sneer (a poem!), but get a Chef's Choice 130. Will sharpen the living hell out of your knives with no skill required. Just use the first and third slots for the initial sharpening, and only the third for occasional maintenance. Endorsed by America's Test Kitchen.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:07 PM on March 30, 2012


As for most used knives I will admit one thing. I often look at my good knives and think, "I don't want to use one of those to just chop some veggies..." Then I get my Miracle Blade out. My mom bought me a set years ago. One of them was a combination knife and bench scraper. I go over it with the steel and use it. It chops great and scoops like a pro.

I am embarrassed. This is between the two of us, okay?
posted by Splunge at 6:12 PM on March 30, 2012


BTW, if you don't have a honing steel, the unglazed bottom of a ceramic cup will work just as well. Example. Just be careful.
posted by Splunge at 6:16 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's ridiculous. I've cooked the best chickens and turkeys of my life since I learned about brine. They're fantastic and well received, and it's easy to do.

Maybe you're doing something wrong?


Not me - I've never brined because I don't like the taste. To be clear, I don't like the taste of other people's brined fowls. So maybe *they're* doing it wrong. But tbh, I don't have a problem with dry fowls, since I don't eat any low-fat cuts, I only eat dark meat and I never eat turkey except at gunpoint.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:25 PM on March 30, 2012


Maybe you'd like a properly brined turkey?
posted by Splunge at 6:33 PM on March 30, 2012


Sounds like an offer I can't refuse. I'll bring the beer!
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:07 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Notice how not one of those tips involved buying expensive Japanese knives. People who buy expensive Japanese knives are the gun nuts of cookery.

I don't agree with that. They don't advocate buying a set of expensive knives, but they do advocate getting ONE well-made (and therefore expensive) chef's knife to use for multipurposes. That knife is will usually be german or japanese.
posted by savvysearch at 8:19 PM on March 30, 2012


toodleydoodley: "Sounds like an offer I can't refuse. I'll bring the beer!"

Actually my brother is a briner. He makes some awesome turkeys. But he lives in Florida and I'm in NYC. OTOH, I'll be moving to Florida soon. And when I do, you have an open invitation to not only a perfectly brined turkey but some fine smoked meats of your choice.
posted by Splunge at 8:24 PM on March 30, 2012


Greg_Ace: "The Mercer's a damn fine knife for the money, but any potential buyers should be aware that the blade is at least as thick as any German knife and very nose-heavy - which can really add up on a honkin'-big 10" chef's knife. That might be fine or even preferable for some people; I personally prefer a lighter, more balanced blade. À chacun son goût, etc."

Yep.. It's a hokin-big 10" chef's knife and I love it. Love the weight and for me the balance is right
posted by jgaiser at 8:38 PM on March 30, 2012


Well see, there ya go. I'm glad you enjoy your damn fine inexpensive knife! :-)

I'll also say that I have yet to experience as comfortable a handle on any other knife as the Mercer had - and I've experienced quite a few.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:59 PM on March 30, 2012


They don't advocate buying a set of expensive knives, but they do advocate getting ONE well-made (and therefore expensive) chef's knife to use for multipurposes. That knife is will usually be german or japanese.

Well I would recommend two. I have a Henckels four star 9 inch carving knife, and their 4 inch paring knife. You really need a short knife for detail work. Some people with smaller hands might prefer the 3 inch paring knife.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:45 PM on March 30, 2012


One of my standard presents for people when I come home is a Japanese knife, since I live in Japan. I've found an awesome store where, if the owner is in (he takes a couple days off a week), he'll stamp your name along the side of the knife with a hammer and a chisel. I love my santoku, and my vegetable knife is one of the best I've ever had, though it's a knife you need to respect. It's freakishly sharp, and needs to be kept dry at all times.

As for sharpening, I swore off all grinding doo-dads after my sister used one on a knife I gave her. It notched the knife in three separate places. Get a stone, spend five minutes on YouTube, and enjoy having a sharp knife.

As for the brining thing, aside from an actual ham brine (salt, brown sugar, curing salts), there are all kinds of brines out there. Buttermilk brines are awesome for chicken, especially fried. Cider brines are good for pork roasts. Experiment a bit.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:18 AM on March 31, 2012


how do people sharpen their knives?

Basically at this point I am terrified and have no idea what to do.


Me neither.

It's an example of something pushing beyond the limits of how human minds can interact with Google and YouTube in the coming years.
posted by colie at 4:10 AM on March 31, 2012


Foshner makes one of the most well-balanced, consistent, comfortable, and top rated chef's knives in the market. It holds its edge. It cleans well. It costs $29.99. Since it is pressed, it does not have the bevel at the hilt, like a wustoff or henkel. This means that the knife sharpens easier and does not wear out after years of sharpening, the blade edge edge stays level, and doesn't distort at the beveled hilt. When I trained someone out pf the dishroom and into the prep kitchen (or onto the line, in one case), rather than buy them a beer, I would give a forshner away to them.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:18 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do restaurants generally sharpen their knives? Use a mobile knife sharpening service?
posted by sneebler at 7:13 AM on March 31, 2012


sneebler: How do restaurants generally sharpen their knives? Use a mobile knife sharpening service?

Some restaurant kitchens use subscription knife services - you buy an initial set, then they bring you an identical set weekly and trade them out with the sharpened ones.

Some kitchens have had the mobile sharpening service, but only once or twice a year. They set up a perfect bevel, and give you a good edge to build on.

Both big kitchens I worked in had one simple EKCO Knife Sharpener, and it worked great for everything. They cost $2.99 at the grocery store, and can be screwed to the counter. It gives a very sharp edge, but not a brittle one, which is my main complaint with the high-falutin', high-dollar ones.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:17 AM on March 31, 2012



I avoid excess salt, but I often use Lawry's Seasoned Salt which is mostly MSG. MSG is good stuff. Pure MSG used to be sold as Accent, and in Asia you will usually find salt shakers full of ajinomoto instead of salt."


Lawry's doesn't (currently) have MSG in it, at least as a separate ingredient, although it might have in the past. Johnny's does though. "It's pure magic!"
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:30 AM on March 31, 2012


Anything on that list about the best way to make English peas?
posted by AJaffe at 10:37 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I avoid excess salt, but I often use Lawry's Seasoned Salt which is mostly MSG.

If you're avoiding sodium, this is not a solution. The M and S in MSG are 'mono' and 'sodium'. It's a source of sodium, exactly as NaCl is.

You can use monopotassium glutamate (which has the same effect, since glutamic acid is the flavor enhancing portion of both molecules) if you want to completely avoid sodium, but I've never seen a retail package of it.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:48 PM on March 31, 2012



kurosawa's pal: "Now, here's a question that's totally off-topic – how do people sharpen their knives? I want to do it at home, but i'm scared of destroying the one sacred implement in my kitchen."

I had the same concern. I considered some of the sharpeners that've been mentioned in this thread, and also the Spyderco Sharpmaker, but I ended up going with a much more ridiculous solution. The Edge Pro Apex starts at $165 with 220- & 320-grit stones - the kit I bought included a set similar to the one in my first link and I think it was around $250 total.

It's an absurd amount of money to spend on a knife sharpener for home use, but it's easy to use and the results are amazing.
posted by ethand at 1:48 PM on March 31, 2012


ArgentCorvid: Lawry's doesn't (currently) have MSG in it, at least as a separate ingredient, although it might have in the past.

Oh damn, I checked the label and you're right. I'm off to the store to get some Accent.

yellow candy: If you're avoiding sodium, this is not a solution. The M and S in MSG are 'mono' and 'sodium'. It's a source of sodium, exactly as NaCl is.

Of course. I'm just trying to get the most flavor for the least salts added.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:18 PM on March 31, 2012


I may need to check out that edge pro setup... thanks, ethand.

And on another tangent, has anyone here rounded the spine of their knives? Has it helped?
posted by danny the boy at 4:57 PM on March 31, 2012


danny the boy, I'm confused. What exactly do you mean by "rounded the spine", and "helped" what?

I once took a file to a tang (the part of the metal blade that extends into the grip) of an inexpensive knife that poked up a bit from the wooden parts of the handle, in order to make it smoother to hold; but unless I'm misunderstanding you, there's no reason I know of to round off the edges of the back of a knife blade.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:58 PM on March 31, 2012


Phalene: You cannot sharpen those white ceramic knives at home. Throw it away when dull.

Or you could just, you know, send it to the manufacturer to have them sharpen it. I seem to recall Kyocera does this either for free or for a trivial amount like $10. From experience, that is — I stupidly chipped the first one I bought by cutting into bread machine bread that still had the little mixing paddle in it.

Or I guess you could throw it out, but then that applies to pretty much any other knife too.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:22 PM on March 31, 2012


I have heard some people round the spine of their knives. You know, the back edge.

Knives come from the factory squared like this:


And after you file it down it looks like this:


So when you hold your knife you're not putting point pressure on the side of your index finger
posted by danny the boy at 6:49 PM on March 31, 2012


Ah, ok, I see. Please forgive my ignorant question; I'd never heard of that being done. I've never experienced a point pressure issue myself and had to go play with my knives to see what you're talking about.

Most of my knives are forged rather than stamped, and either have a bolster to grab (like this) or the handle smoothly transitions into the blade where the thumb and index finger go (like this). On the one stamped knife I have, it turns out I hold the spine of the blade such that it fits neatly into the crease of my index finger's middle knuckle rather than biting into the fleshy part of the finger, and there's never been enough point pressure involved in my case for me to have consciously noticed it.

Having said all that, I can't imagine that rounding off the part of a knife's spine where your fingers go would do any damage to the blade itself, so what the hell, go for it! Go easy though - as they say, you can always take more off but you can't put it back on....
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:19 PM on March 31, 2012


I learned to hand sharpen knives when I was a boy on a crummy synthetic stone from Canadian Tire.

I've used the Lanksy-like set for a few years, I was really disappointed with the quality of the synthetic stones; they'd wear out quickly and unevenly rendering them useless. I love the Spyderco Sharpmaker, but it's not great for larger knives. Small sharp ones, on the other hand, is its forte as is frequent care of your cutlery; even the coarse stones/sticks is pretty fine. The fine stones/sticks give a ferocious finish. They can also sharpen some kinds of serrations.

I think that learning how to properly sharpen is worth the effort; troll thrift stores for forged cutlery and get someone to show you how to do it properly with a real whetstone. I caved recently and got a Shun 300/1000 grain synthetic that's fantastic. Totally overpaid for it, but I think that I'm starting to prefer it over the Arkansas stone that shattered by accident.
posted by porpoise at 10:08 PM on March 31, 2012


How do restaurants generally sharpen their knives? Use a mobile knife sharpening service?
posted by sneebler


This will vary by restaurant (or food institution). In most large commercial kitchens there is a set of "house knives" that either get replaced semi-regularly or sharpened at a commercial knife service. In the more serious kitchens and especially in Japanese restaurants we all own our own knives and sharpen them ourselves. In fact I sharpen my knives every day on a water stone. But I need my knives to do things that you don't need yours to do. I have owned so many knives of so many different makes and styles over the years that I think I can point to some good information for those of you curious about knives and sharpening.

This was the first knife I ever bought to use professionally and it's a pretty good one. I still have it somewhere--though it's a couple inches narrower from being sharpened so much. This is a good place to start for someone who wants a sharp, reliable and easy to care for knife. Just wash it with soap and water after you use it, don't ever put it in the dishwasher and and replace it when it gets dull.

If you're looking to get your feet wet in the world of professional Japanese cutlery, this is a good place to dip in. I think this knife tops out at $144 USD. That website that it is on is where I, and every professional chef I know buy our knives, knife care materials, etc. Pay attention to the recommended purchases at the bottom of the page for knife care.

For a several years I used knives like this and this. The maintenance on these is nightmarish though. They absolutely must be sharpened after daily use and dried thoroughly, stored in wooden sheaths and oiled if left for any length of time at all.

Which is why I eventually switched to this and this. These are my daily use knives and they are magnificent and elegant workhorses. If you could combine the beauty, speed and elegance of a thoroughbred with the reliability and toughness of a donkey, that would be these knives. Worth every penny and they get babied, even though they don't demand it.

You'll need to know a thing or two about care and sharpening, and if you're going to buy the knife from Korin, plus all of the things like a water stone, stone leveler and saya cover (which you should) you should just spring for the movie.

And now a word on the whole ownership and maintenance thing. You probably don't need one of these knives, for the same reason I don't need a $14,000 carbon-fiber bicycle. I'm not a professional cyclist. The potential of that machine is wasted on me. You probably won't use one of these knives properly (one of the first things you learn in Japanese cooking is how to stand properly while holding a knife) nor will you maintain it properly. And that's just fine . . . because you don't need to. If, however you would like to buy one and learn how to use it and maintain it there is a wealth of information on the subject on the Korin site. I also highly recommend this book. That being said . . . use what you're comfortable with after you've taken into consideration the investment and upkeep and if it comes down to using cheap, disposable knives or buying a Victorinox and sharpening it with a mechanical sharpener that's cool too. That's how my grandma rolled and she was the most bad ass cook I've ever known. Do what makes sense for your lifestyle and level of cooking, don't buy something because it has a famous chef's name on it or because you think it will make you better at cooking--it won't.
posted by kaiseki at 2:19 AM on April 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


For rounding the spine - there's no need to round it along the whole blade, but I'd recommend rounding any bit of it where you'd place your finger(s) when you're chopping. You don't even have to round both sides, since you're presumably only cutting with your dominant hand, and I don't think it'd provide much benefit on smaller knives since with those you're generally not doing the repetitive chopping where this'd make a difference.

So, be careful not to take too much off, sure, but it's a perfectly reasonable thing to do and can be done pretty quickly.
posted by ethand at 10:03 AM on April 1, 2012


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