Our Best Cooking Tips

Checking Steak for Doneness

On one hand, take your middle finger and touch it to your thumb. Tap the area just below your thumb. Then pick up an instant read thermometer and stick it in the thickest part of the meat and read the temperature. For medium rare remove at 125, resting will take it up to around 130. Seriously, we’re not sure why anyone would let their cooking ego get in the way of perfectly cooked food. Better yet, turn to sous vide – perfect, idiot-proof steak every time.

Tenderize your Meat

Use meat tenderizer and a jacard to tenderize cuts of meat like flap meat and skirt steak. Some assume that powdered meat tenderizer is some horrible artificial chemical concoction, but it’s actually natural enzymes found in papaya and pineapple (papain and bromelain). The enzymes break down collagen in the meat making it tender. Use it in conjunction with the jacard for the most tender beef fajitas or bulgoki ever. Need a jacard? Get one here!

Better Bits of Bacon

When making bacon bits (for quiche, for example) add about ¼ to ½ cup water to the skillet, enough to barely cover the chopped bacon and then boil. The bacon fat will render in the water, and more importantly, it will render it evenly so you don’t have those bits of flabby fat attached to cooked bacon. The water evaporates, allowing the bacon to finishing crisping up perfectly.

Stir Fry in Cast Iron

Despite assurances from manufacturers about Teflon, we either choose to use something else, or try to keep the heat down and keep fat in the pan when using nonstick. But with a stir fry that’s not going to be hot enough. So use cast iron – it gets screaming hot, won’t drop in temperature when food is added, and will let a little fond develop that you can deglaze with your sauce mixture to add extra depth to your finished dish. Just don’t use it with noodle or egg-based stir fries.

Braise Tri Tip

Tri tip is an unusual cut of beef in that you can grill it, roast it and braise it. Try stewing a New York steak or grilling up a chuck roast to see what we mean. Tri tip is a bit leaner than chuck (so your yield is higher than chuck), but treat it gently in a 260 degree oven for about 3 hours. We also advise prime grade tri tip if you can find it – it’s not expensive and adds more marbling (i.e. moisture).  

Easier Grill Grate Oiling

Wiping down your grill grates is an essential cooking tip that ensures that meat doesn’t stick, and it seasons your grates to prevent rust from forming. To make it easy, grab a zipper lock sandwich bag, squirt a tablespoon of oil in the bag, and stuff in a paper towel, then zip closed. It makes it really easy and mess-free to transport the baggie out to the grill. Once outside, just remove the paper towel from the bag with grill tongs, swab the grill, then stuff the used paper towel back in the bag and zip closed for easy disposal.

More Cooking Tips!

Keep your mashed potatoes warm

Make your mashed potatoes a couple hours ahead of time at Thanksgiving and keep them warm in a low slow cooker or Instant Pot. It’s unbelievable; you don’t even need to stir them. No last minute potato prep, no crowded stove top, and no “speed reheating” that almost always results in scorched pan bottoms. 

Baste your Steaks

We love sous vide for perfect steaks every time, and the fact that we can drop them in the bath hours before dinner knowing that they’ll stay perfect enables us to avoid worrying about timing dinner. But the steaks need to be seared after cooking to get a nice crust on the exterior. To boost browning and flavor, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet for the last minute of searing and baste the steaks with a large spoon. After removing steaks, drizzle the sizzling butter over the steaks before slicing and serving. 

Perfect Boiled Eggs

As we mention in our book, Cooks Illustrated came up with best way to cook soft and hard boiled eggs. We use a steamer basket, and bring 1” of water to a boil. Eggs right from the fridge. 6 ½ minutes covered for perfect soft boiled, 11 ½ for hard boiled (but not dried out). Run tap water over them at the end. They solved the soft boiled egg conundrum that has plagued mankind since the egg and/or chicken came first.

Head for South America

A fantastic dinner at a South American restaurant featured an Aji Amarillo sauce on the empanada. This is one of few grocery items that is well-worth looking around for. Aji Amarillo paste can be found online at Amazon. Mix 50/50 with mayo to make a unique dipping sauce, or dig up some traditional aji amarillo sauce recipes online. Something a little different, and really tasty.

Roasting jalapenos

When roasting small chiles over a gas burner, use a small cooling rack over the flame. It keeps them from dropping through the stove grates and starting a small and delicious smelling fire in your kitchen.

Skip browning ground beef and chicken (sometimes)

Sometimes trying to brown ground beef (e.g. for tacos) and small pieces of chicken breast is just not worth it. It almost always results in dried out meat, because the pieces are just too small to retain moisture. So for chicken chili, we drop the chicken in uncooked and let it come up to temperature slowly. Same with ground beef. The extra flavor from browning that the Maillaird reaction gives you is not always worth dried out and chalky meat.