Month: October 2019

Crispy Cheese- and Kimchi-Topped Skillet Rice Recipe

Crispy Cheese- and Kimchi-Topped Skillet Rice Recipe

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] What happens when you have so much leftover rice that you get sick of fried rice? This dish is the answer to that question. Made with leftover rice and a list of ingredients that keep forever in the fridge—like gochujang, soy sauce, […]

Crispy Kimcheesy Rice: The One-Skillet Snack Your Late Night Needs

Crispy Kimcheesy Rice: The One-Skillet Snack Your Late Night Needs

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] What do you do with leftover rice? Easy: Make fried rice. But what if you have a lot of leftover rice? Easy: Make a lot of fried rice! No, but what if you have so much leftover rice, you get sick of […]

The Best Rice Cookers | Serious Eats

The Best Rice Cookers | Serious Eats


Steam escaping from the open lid of a Hamilton Beach rice cooker filled with cooked rice

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who grew up with a rice cooker, and those who didn’t. If you didn’t, I extend to you my sincerest sympathies; if you did, high five!

People who are accustomed to seeing a rice cooker on their parents’ kitchen counter will require no explanation for an equipment review of rice cookers; the utility and convenience of this type of device was likely demonstrated to them on a near-daily basis. A comparative review of rice cookers on the market with similar capacities and similar price points will probably be interesting, if not immediately useful, given that they likely own a rice cooker today, which they, too, use on a near-daily basis.

But those of you who didn’t grow up in a household with a rice cooker may be skeptical. After all, it’s fashionable to abhor unitaskers, and what could be more limited in its use than a device solely designed to cook a single grain—one that, particularly in the United States, isn’t all that popular?

Needless to say, if you don’t eat much rice, or if you (inexplicably) dislike rice, then this equipment review isn’t for you. But if you love rice and eat a lot of it, there are few kitchen gadgets that are as useful as a rice cooker. A good rice cooker offers convenience and gustatory pleasure in equal measure: perfectly cooked rice, whenever you want it, whether it’s first thing in the morning or right when you get home from work.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

The Best Rice Cooker for Most People: Hamilton Beach 37548

The Hamilton Beach 37548 was the surprisingly strong performer in our many tests, keeping pace with rice cookers that are much more expensive. Despite having a far more rudimentary control panel than its competitors, as well as fewer presets and a more subdued exterior, it was just as good at cooking long-grain rice as it was short- and medium-grain, and was the standout winner for cooking brown rice. It also managed to cook rice in less time than any of its competitors. Given its price point and performance, we believe the Hamilton Beach 37548 is the best rice cooker for most households.

The Best Rice Cooker for Control Freaks: Cuckoo CR-0655F

While the Hamilton Beach 34758 performed excellently in all of the tests we conducted, the Cuckoo CR-0655F was another consistently strong performer. Given its slightly higher price point relative to the Hamilton Beach, we decided to recommend the Cuckoo only for those home cooks who are quite serious about rice. Similarly, while another rice cooker performed marginally better than the Cuckoo CR-0655F, its much higher price compelled us to recommend the Cuckoo, instead.

Other than its good performance, the Cuckoo has a relatively small kitchen-counter footprint, an attractive exterior, and a number of different cooking presets, including one for germinated brown rice (GABA). While the control panel isn’t as intuitive as we’d like, once you get used to operating it, the Cuckoo offers up a range of customization options, including how long to soak your rice, how long to heat it, and at what temperature to cook it, which is particularly useful for cooks who regularly purchase and eat different varieties of rice, including “new crop” rice, or rice that has been harvested relatively recently.

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Good Rice Cooker

[top]

First and foremost, a good rice cooker must cook rice good well.

What do we mean by “well-cooked” rice? It depends on the variety, but generally speaking, rice should cook up evenly, so that all the rice grains in the cooker are of the same quality, and there aren’t pockets of over- or under-cooked rice, or any areas of scorched rice. The rice should remain distinct grains that are soft enough to eat, but not so soft that they become mush. Long-grain rice should be fluffy and dry, while short- and medium-grain rice should cook up slightly sticky but neither water-logged nor coated with a starchy, gummy paste. Brown rice should (and we acknowledge that this is a matter of taste) cook up into individual grains with a pleasing amount of chew and very little stickiness between grains.

A good rice cooker should also be easy to use and able to cook rice in a reasonable amount of time. It doesn’t matter how good the rice is if it takes more than an hour to cook.

Beyond cooking rice, a rice cooker also serves as a rice warmer, keeping cooked rice at serving temperature for long periods of time without scorching it or drying it out. Once you’re done with it, a good rice cooker should be easy to clean.

Many rice cookers on the market today offer a variety of other features, such as delayed start times, the ability to cook other grains, and ancillary functions like steaming vegetables, but we didn’t assess how well any of the rice cookers performed these additional functions since our primary objective was to find the best rice cooker, not the best vegetable steamer.

The Testing

[top]

If you’ve ever been in the market for a rice cooker, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot of models available. Some leading companies like Zojirushi and Cukoo each produce enough options that an entire review could be consumed just by a single company’s offerings.

We selected the rice cookers for testing by looking at recommended rice cookers from other publications, like The Wirecutter, as well as top sellers on Amazon. To keep the number of cookers manageable, we introduced a few criteria to narrow the field. We limited the maximum yield of cooked rice to about 15 cups, which is more than enough rice for a family of four, plus guests (and at that size, the rice cooker wouldn’t take up an unreasonable amount of kitchen counter space). We removed any rice cookers that had a maximum cooked rice capacity of fewer than 10 cups. And finally, with almost no exceptions, all the rice cookers in our review cost less than $250, though we did take a couple more expensive machines for a spin, just to see how they stacked up.

We did run into one issue with Zojirushi, specifically, as we ended up with three machines that fit our criteria, and so our first order of business, therefore, was running early rounds of testing pitting its models against each other, moving forward only with our top pick from the company.

Once we had a narrowed the field down to a diverse array of rice cookers from various companies, we conducted further side-by-side rice-cooking tests with six rice cookers using both short- and medium-grain Japanese rice, medium-grain brown Japanese rice, as well as long-grain basmati, brown basmati, and jasmine rice. We tested the rice cookers at both the minimum and maximum rice-cooking quantities. For most of these tests, we cooked rice in each cooker according to the manufacturers’ directions, using the measuring cup that comes with each rice cooker to measure out the rice and the fill lines within each rice cooker’s pot to measure out the cooking water. We reasoned that this is the way most people would use a rice cooker—that is, they would follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

This first test was enough to narrow down the field to our top three cookers. From there, we set the finalists against one another using jasmine and medium-grain Japanese rice, both according to the manufacturers’ instructions and, separately, using our own pre-determined quantities of rice and water. We also tested their warming functions using short-grain rice over the course of eight hours, and we tested how well they did when cooking a flavored rice, using set quantities of rice and dashi.

Finally, when we had determined the winners, we tested them against an Instant Pot, using the Instant Pot’s method for foolproof rice.

In each test, the rice used was washed and rinsed using an identical method: the dry rice was placed in a bowl, which was then filled with cold water. The rice was swirled by hand in the water 15 times and then drained, and the process was repeated seven times to ensure the rinsing water ran clear. The rice was then drained thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer before being placed in each rice cooker’s pot.

Overhead view of hand rinsing rice in cloudy water

For each test, we recorded the weight of the dry rice, the weight of the rinsed rice, and the weight of the water used, as well as the amount of time it took to cook each batch of rice.

The quality of the cooked rice was assessed by me three times after cooking: immediately after the cooker stopped cooking, and five and 15 minutes after, to see how the rice evolved in that short window post-cooking. Each rice cooker lid was kept closed between assessments.

In harder-to-judge situations, as in the brown rice test and some of the later tests with the winning three rice cookers, I asked members of the Serious Eats staff to do side-by-side taste tests so that my assessment alone wasn’t determining all the results.

Winnowing the Field

[top]

The first round of tests involved cooking medium-grain white Japanese rice, medium-grain brown Japanese rice, and basmati rice in each of the cookers, in varying quantities, in six different rice cookers. The results of this round left us with three rice cookers that were clearly head and shoulders above the others: the Zojirushi NP HCC10, the Cuckoo CR-0655F, and the Hamilton Beach 37548.

White Rice

[top]

Steam escaping from open lid of a rice cooker

In the second round, we tested the Zojirushi, Cuckoo, and Hamilton Beach against one another using different varieties of white rice. For this test, we used short-grain Japanese rice, medium-grain Japanese rice, basmati rice, and jasmine rice, all of it polished (i.e. white), in varying quantities, cooking the rice according to each manufacturers’ directions.

The Zojirushi performed quite well with each variety, but it did particularly well with the Japanese rice varieties. It performed excellently with the short-grain Japanese variety and with basmati rice, producing the best results in each of those rounds. However, the Zojirushi performed poorly with jasmine rice, making the worst batch in that round.

The Cuckoo performed best in the medium-grain Japanese rice test and in the jasmine test, and was a very, very close second in the short-grain test. It placed third in the basmati test.

The Hamilton Beach secured second place in the basmati test. It didn’t take the top spot in any one test, but overall it did a good job in all of them, making it, on average, a very solid performer.

In every test, the Hamilton Beach cooked rice the fastest by several minutes. The Cuckoo always cooked rice second fastest, and the Zojirushi always took the longest.

Brown Rice

[top]

We tested each of the three cookers using medium-grain brown Japanese rice and brown basmati rice.

The Hamilton Beach performed best in both brown rice tests, producing fluffy and distinct grains of brown rice that were a little firm directly after cooking, but softened to a pleasing consistency after about 15 minutes. The Cuckoo and the Zojirushi, on the other hand, produced brown rice with a mushy, sticky consistency, very reminiscent of the texture of cooked short- and medium-grain Japanese rice varieties. While I preferred the wetter, stickier brown rice results, both of the other tasters clearly chose the Hamilton Beach rice over the other two.

Both the Cuckoo and Zojirushi took well over an hour to cook the brown rice varieties, whereas the Hamilton Beach cooked both within an hour.

Quick-Cooking Modes

[top]

All three of the top rice cookers have a quick-cooking mode, one that each of the manufacturers say produces rice of a relatively inferior quality but in much less time. For this test we chose to use short-grain Japanese rice.

The Zojirushi performed best, producing rice that seemed indistinguishable from normally cooked rice, and it took 26 minutes to cook. The Cuckoo came in second place, cooking up rice that was a little on the wet side, but still perfectly palatable, in 32 minutes. The Hamilton Beach produced rice that was perfectly serviceable, but was nevertheless a little wet and starchy toward the top of the vessel and very slightly scorched on the bottom, in 29 minutes.

Rice Warming

[top]

Given that one of the essential functions of a rice cooker is keeping cooked rice warm, we decided to test each of the three top cookers’ warming functions. We cooked three cups of short-grain polished Japanese rice and, without opening the cookers, let the rice sit for eight hours before tasting.

All of the rice was piping hot and ready to be served when we opened the rice cookers, and the quality of the rice in each pot was pretty comparable, but the rice in the Zojirushi was undoubtedly the best, tasting almost like just-cooked rice. We speculate that this rice cooker’s induction heating system is the reason why it performed so much better in this test, alone among the other tests.

The rice in the Cuckoo was a little more mushy than what we’d come to expect from the device, in light of other tests, but it was perfectly serviceable. The rice in the Hamilton Beach was slightly scorched—a little more scorched than in the quick-cooking test—and a little mushy but still palatable.

Seasoned Rice

[top]

Finally, because rice cookers are used not just to produce plain rice, but rice dishes seasoned with flavorful liquid and other ingredients, we decided to also test how these cookers would fair if used for a recipe, rather than used strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, so we used a fixed quantity of rice (300g) and a fixed quantity of dashi (450g).

While all the results were a little mushy, given the relatively high volume of liquid to amount of rice, the Cuckoo produced the best rice in this round, followed closely by the Hamilton Beach. The Zojirushi was a distant third, producing rice that was mushy to the point of being pasty.

In this test, the Hamilton Beach cooked the rice in the fastest time, at 36 minutes, with the Cuckoo following close behind (39 minutes) and the Zojirushi leisurely following up in the rear (49 minutes).

The Instant Pot Test

[top]

Whenever rice cooking as a topic comes up, someone will inevitably point out that you can cook rice in the Instant Pot. To pre-empt any complaints about our review of rice cookers (single-purpose machines) not including something about Instant Pots (multi-purpose cookers that are, in the end, mostly electric pressure cookers), we decided to test our top three cookers against the Instant Pot. Since each of the rice cookers had different manufacturers, and since we wanted to give the Instant Pot as fair a test as possible, we decided to use Instant Pot’s guide to making perfect rice in an Instant Pot as our method for all the rice cookers.

Essentially, in this method, you rinse a fixed volume of rice in water until the water runs clear, then add the rinsed, drained rice to the pot along with the same volume of water, then you cook it.

The results of this test were definitive: This is a bad method for cooking rice in any machine, including the Instant Pot. Of all the rice in this test, the Instant Pot’s rice was the worst: both under- and over-cooked at the same time. The other machines produced rice of subpar quality, in part because the method outlined by Instant Pot uses far too little water for the amount of rice.

How We Chose Our Winners

[top]

I’ll note at the outset that one of the reasons we ran so many tests on these top three rice cookers is that more often than not, the quality of the rice cooked was pretty comparable, except in extreme cases, like the flavored rice test. I want to also note that once you become familiar with any of the rice cookers we considered in this test, you can use it to produce very nicely cooked rice with just a little bit of tinkering with your method.

All of which is to say, determining which one of these three rice cookers would be best for a home cook involves more than a little bit of creative reasoning. We decided that for most home cooks looking for a rice cooker, they’d want a machine that’s reasonably inexpensive, one that properly produces a variety of rice types with minimal effort in a reasonable amount of time, and one that can keep the rice warm for extended periods of time without much deterioration in quality.

Taking into consideration the price points of all three of the top performers, as well as the overall similarities in the results, we found that we couldn’t reasonably recommend the Zojirushi. Its performance, while quite good across the board, was not good enough that it seemed to warrant paying about $150 more than the Cuckoo or $210 more than the Hamilton Beach.

The Best Rice Cooker for Most People: Hamilton Beach 37548

[top]

View of control panel of Hamilton Beach 37548

While its appearance would suggest that it’s nothing special, the Hamilton Beach 37548 performed just as well as, if not better than, more expensive machines. The Hamilton Beach distinguished itself above all others when it came to cooking brown rice, but it cooked every variety of rice we put into it quite well—despite having a single preset for different varieties of rice—and in every test we ran except for the test of the quick-cooking rice function, it cooked rice faster than any other machine.

If what you’re looking for is a no-nonsense machine that’s simple to use and puts well-cooked rice on the table in about 30 minutes, the Hamilton Beach 37548 leaves little to be desired. It has a few drawbacks: It produces minor scorching on the rice along the bottom of the cooker, which becomes more pronounced when the cooker is left on its warming setting for hours. It also comes with a flimsy rice paddle for fluffing and serving rice, which, while functional, isn’t pleasing to use. Finally, the measuring cup provided is squat and shallow, which makes measuring out the rice accurately a little bit more difficult than with other models tested. That being said, the Hamilton Beach 37548 proved to be quite capable of handling varying amounts of liquid for similar quantities of rice, which means it’s less susceptible to producing bad rice as a result of user error.

The cooker can handle anywhere from two to seven cups of uncooked rice, which will yield about four to 14 cups of cooked rice, although like all rice cookers, cooking the maximum amount of rice it can hold will give you subpar results.

The Hamilton Beach 37548 offers six preset modes: white rice, quick white rice, whole grain, hot cereals, steam cook, and heat/simmer (for use with rice mixes and other dishes, like soups and stews). The device comes with a steamer basket insert for steaming food.

The Best Rice Cooker for Control Freaks: Cuckoo CR-0655F

[top]

Close up view of control panel on Cuckoo CR 0655f rice cooker

The Cuckoo CR-0655F may not have beat out all the competition in every test, but it still performed well enough for us to recommend it as the best rice cooker for those who want more control. Its main competitor for the top spot, the Zojirushi NP HCC10, did outperform the Cuckoo, but at a list price of $294*, we didn’t believe that the differences in the quality of the cooked rice justified the increase in price over the Cuckoo, which costs just a little over $100.

The Cuckoo CR-0655F has a relatively straightforward control panel, particularly for cooks who plan on using the preset programs for cooking glutinous rice varieties, long-grain rice, and brown rice. The one slightly confusing element of the preset programs is that long-grain rice and brown rice share the same preset cooking program; while that may be unorthodox, it did result in the Cuckoo taking the top spot for the jasmine rice cooking test, and the second spot in the basmati test.

The Cuckoo, like the Zojirushi, has a preset program for germinated brown rice, which is also known as GABA rice, so named because the germination process increases the amount of nutritionally available gamma-aminobutyric acid.

The rice cooker also has several other functions: a steam function, for steaming dumplings and vegetables; a porridge function, for making juk/congee/okayu; a multicook function, which is essentially a slow cooker; a baby food function, which, to be frank, I don’t quite understand; and a cleaning function, which sterilizes the interior.

Finally, the Cuckoo gives cooks the opportunity to customize the rice-cooking process in three different ways: you can choose how long the rice soaks in the cooker before the cooking process begins; you can choose how long to heat the rice for; and you can choose the cook temperature. You are given four preset times for the first two options, and two cooking temperatures for the final option. We believe this level of control will be appealing to some cooks out there, particularly those who regularly purchase and eat different varieties of rice, including “new crop” rice, or rice that has been harvested relatively recently.

The Cuckoo can make anywhere from four to twelve cups of cooked white rice, and four to eight cups of brown rice, making it ideal for a small family.

*This model was selling for $249.99 when we called in models for review, hence its inclusion in these tests.

The Competition

[top]

Frontal view of Zojirushi NP HCC10 rice cooker

Again, while we have not chosen to recommend the Zojirushi NP HCC10, it did perform quite well in our tests. Given its poor performance in the jasmine rice cooking test, and its high marks for the way it cooked Japanese rice varieties, we do think that cooks who make a lot of Japanese rice might find this Zojirushi model worth seeking out. It comes with instructions for using the preset programs to cook varieties of rice typically found in Japanese markets, but not in American markets, like polished rice with the germ still attached and two types of “semi-brown” rice.

We also want to note that Zojirushi, alone among the brands we tested, has some accommodation for those with visual impairments: The “Start” and “Cancel” buttons have a raised dot and dash, respectively, so you can start and stop the machine by touch alone, and all Zojirushi models have (quite loud) sound signals (the default is a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”) to indicate when the cooking process has begun or ended.

Here are notes on the other models we tested for this review:

  • Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy NS-ZCC10: Long the Serious Eats test kitchen rice cooker, the Neuro Fuzzy was taken out of consideration when it produced relatively mushier rice than its Zojirushi counterparts.
  • Zojirushi NS-TSC10: This cooker had comparable results to the Zojirushi NP HCC10, but it took far longer to cook rice of both white and brown varieties.
  • Aroma MTC-8008: The Aroma consistently produced rice that was quite wet, and had issues with even cooking for smaller quantities of rice.
  • Oyama CFS-F12B: Similarly, the Oyama produced rice that was quite wet.
  • Hamilton Beach 37570: The higher-end Hamilton Beach surprised us by being a middle-of-the-pack machine, in contrast to its cheaper, high-performing sibling. It did fine in the test for white rice varieties, but tasters thought it was the second-best brown-rice cooking machine in the first round of tests to winnow the field.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.



Source link

Get to Know Culantro, the Herb That’s More Cilantro-y Than Cilantro

Get to Know Culantro, the Herb That’s More Cilantro-y Than Cilantro

Like cilantro turned up to 11, culantro (a.k.a. recao) deserves a place in your kitchen. Read More Source link

Why You Shouldn’t Use Nonstick Cookware (Most of the Time)

Why You Shouldn’t Use Nonstick Cookware (Most of the Time)

A damaged nonstick coating is good for just about nothing. [Photographs: Vicky Wasik] “What happened to this pan?” I asked my mother-in-law as I pulled a nonstick skillet from her kitchen drawer. It looked like it had a severe case of eczema, every inch of […]

Hack Your Way to a Bigger Stovetop, No Renovation Required

Hack Your Way to a Bigger Stovetop, No Renovation Required


Cooking glazed carrots in a saucepan set on a Baking Steel on a gas range, with other saucepans of food warming at the same time.

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Of all the restaurant kitchen equipment and appliances that I miss working with on a daily basis, a French top range is high on my list, especially when I’m cooking a number of things at once on my stovetop. A French top has a large flat surface made of cast iron or rolled steel, with a couple of rings positioned in the center. Underneath those central rings is a high-powered gas burner that heats the cooking surface in a radiant fashion; as we already know, cast iron is a poor conductor of heat, so the cooking surface is hottest at the center, and as you move away from the rings it becomes less intense.

The graduated heat of a French top allows you to sauté, simmer, and warm food all at the same time, without having to fiddle with the knobs of your burners. Simply slide your pots and pans around on the flat-top to find the perfect area for cooking, like Sohla’s famous duck zone. The large flat surface of a French top also allows you to fit a lot more cookware on the range than you can on regular home ranges—no matter whether you are working with gas, electric, or induction—which generally only allow you to fit four to six vessels over the heating elements on the stovetop.

Overhead of saucepans jammed up on a gas range, with many of the saucepans not directly over burners.

Good luck cooking in more pots and pans than you have burners on a traditional range cooktop.

You may be thinking, “Great, thanks. That’s super useful information for when I stumble upon an extra ten grand to buy a fancy stove.” But I’m not here to give you a home-improvement sales pitch; rather, I’d like to share a little trick for MacGyver-ing a bootleg French top on a regular stove. As with my chimney starter grilling set-up and foil-lined brick rig for better skewers, I’m always looking for cooking workarounds that use equipment I already have. This time, I’m using a Baking Steel (or cast iron griddle) to make a jury-rigged French top.

The Baking Steel is already one of our favorite pieces of equipment for pizza-making at home, and doubles as a high-performance stovetop griddle. With its thick, heavy-gauge steel construction and high volumetric heat capacity, the Baking Steel always reminded me of a French top cooking surface, so I started experimenting with it as a flat-top in the test kitchen.

Front view of Baking Steel set-up with three saucepans set on it, and two pots on remaining free burners.

I’m happy to report it works like a dream—perfect for keeping food simmering or warm in a number of saucepans and pots, while also getting hot enough to sauté, reduce, and sear at high heat in a skillet. If you find that your stovetop often turns into a frustrating game of saucepan Tetris when cooking and re-heating food for a holiday meal, then I highly recommend busting out a cast iron griddle or Baking Steel if you have one. (Do note, though, that many stovetop griddles have a raised rim that will limit how many pans you can fit; the entirely flat surface of the Baking Steel griddle allows pans to come right up to the edge while sitting flat.)

As you probably have experienced, simmering, re-heating, and holding food at a consistent temperature is very difficult to do on your stovetop (it’s one of the primary advantages of sous vide cooking). You end up having to constantly adjust the heat on your burners. And then there’s the issue of space. At home, I have a small four-burner gas range that emits pretty weak flames all-around. With that setup, I can only fit four cooking vessels at a time, and even then, I have to maneuver them so that they all can fit at once—two large pots or skillets can’t be on adjacent front and back burners. It’s a cooking Rubik’s cube.

Overhead of a range with Baking Steel set up as a warming station with pots and saucepans of mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, braised kale, red cabbage, and glazed carrots.

By using a griddle, you can fit more pans over a limited number of burners and make better use of your cooktop space and heat output.

But when I pop a Baking Steel griddle over two of the burners on my stove, I open up a lot more space for cooking and heating food. I can adjust how I heat the Baking Steel, and which burners I use, depending on the kitchen tasks I need to get done. This is especially helpful when cooking large meals for holidays like Thanksgiving.

Overhead view with illustration of Baking Steel heated over two burners at medium heat for simmering multiple pans of food.

Heating the Baking Steel over burners set to medium is ideal for simmering.

If I want to cook a few things at a simmer, like sides of braised kale and purple cabbage, along with a batch of cranberry sauce and gravy, I heat the burners under the Baking Steel to medium and fit all the pots and saucepans on the same heated surface. This also reduces the risk of scorching the food that’s being cooked, as the heat is more evenly distributed through the Baking Steel than it would be with a pan sitting directly over a burner flame. You therefore don’t have to babysit at the stove as much, and you can focus on other kitchen prep.

Overhead view of Baking Steel heated only over the front burner, so that the heat is most intense at the front and radiates more gently to the back.

If you only heat the front burner, the Baking Steel will be hottest at the front and cooler toward the back, allowing you to sautée in the front and simmer toward the back.

If I need different heat levels on different parts of the cooking surface, I can do that too. Let’s say that I have just one dish that starts with sweating shallots in oil over higher heat. To do that, I bring that pan to the front area of the Baking Steel, and crank up the heat of the burner directly under it. While that’s happening the back burner can be set to a lower heat for simmering, or turned off completely to let the heat gently radiate through the Baking Steel from the front burner, mimicking the graduated heat on a French top.

Overhead view of a Baking steel set up over two burners of a gas range, with various saucepans of vegetables cooking all at the same time.

The flat-top cooking surface that you create with the stovetop griddle makes it easier to get the even heat of the “duck zone,” and provides a smoother surface for swirling a pan when you’re finishing and tossing pasta, or building a butter emulsion for glazed carrots (it’s also easier on the ears, since the sound of a skillet dragged over the grate of a gas burner can be like nails on a chalkboard).

Side view of saucepans jammed up on a gas range, with many of the saucepans not directly over burners.

Along with giving you a larger cooking surface, a Baking Steel makes for a great warming station for those big holiday meals. Getting all the food you made hot again is always a headache. The oven is inevitably tied up, and you don’t want to be constantly zapping things in the microwave or transferring everything to and from plastic bags to reheat with an immersion circulator. The Baking Steel stovetop setup allows you to heat up and hold a lot of food in a number of different pans all at once, while keeping it in sight and therefore front-of-mind (how many times have you forgotten something being reheated in an oven?).

Overhead view of Baking Steel set over two burners on high heat, with illustration showing heating of the steel.

You can also set both burners to high heat under the Baking Steel for multiple fast-cooking projects.

Because the Baking Steel and other griddles aren’t large enough to cover all four burners on even my small range, you still have a couple free ones to use if there are more projects that you need to get done on the stove. With this DIY French top, you can fit a lot more cookware on your range and get a lot more done. Dream kitchens are great and all, but we can all enjoy the benefits of getting creative with the equipment we have.

Side view of saucepans on a baking steel.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.



Source link

US-Grown Tea Is Incredibly Rare. This Small Farm Is Blazing a Trail

US-Grown Tea Is Incredibly Rare. This Small Farm Is Blazing a Trail

[Photograph: Jason McDonald] Ten years ago, if you’d asked Timothy Gipson what he knew about tea, he’d have probably shrugged and told you he liked it iced. That was before his husband, Jason McDonald, dragged him along on a tour of the Charleston Tea Plantation […]

The Best Apple Cider Donuts Recipe

The Best Apple Cider Donuts Recipe

1. Making the Dough: Combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and cloves in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the apple cider, rose water (if using), and almond extract (if using) all at […]

Apple Cider Doughnuts That Taste Like Apples Fall

Apple Cider Doughnuts That Taste Like Apples Fall


Sugar coated apple cider doughnuts on a torn paper bag, with a mug of cider

[Photographs: Sarah Jane Webb]

The tradition of serving fresh doughnuts with apple cider dates back more than a hundred years, but doughnuts made with apple cider? That’s more of a mid-century marvel, popularized by the Doughnut Corporation of America. Founded by Adolph Levitt (there’s a whole chapter on him in my cookbook), the DCA wasn’t a doughnut shop, but a manufacturer of automated doughnut machines, proprietary fry-oil, and doughnut mixes, as well as marketing strategies—like the introduction of national doughnut month.

Which is to say, when they rolled out the “Sweet Cider Donut” concept in 1951, it was instantly adopted by most everyone who worked with DCA’s product lines, including mom and pop shops, orchards, and doughnut chains alike. Nearly 70 years later, apple cider doughnuts are more popular than ever, if somewhat misunderstood.

The originals were characterized primarily by the use of the same spices found in apple pie—a cake doughnut meant to be served alongside apple cider—but over time, people have come to expect them to taste like cider as well. Which proves to be something of a quixotic task, as the character of apple cider is defined by its super fresh, just-pressed flavor, whereas most cider donut recipes involve a lengthy reduction process to “pack” more cider flavor into the donuts.

apple cider donuts in a brown paper bag

I don’t find that approach works particularly well, as the lengthly cooking transforms the orchard-fresh flavor of cider into something earthy and dark. More flavorful on a technical level, but it’s certainly not more of the flavor I want, which is that of fresh apple cider. Can you imagine how Max’s watermelon sorbet would taste with a watermelon reduction, rather than fresh juice? Or how about lemonade made with a lemon juice reduction?

I prefer a simpler approach to cider donuts, with fresh apple cider and a host of subtle aromatics in the dough to lay a flavorful foundation, and a topcoat of freeze-dried apples ground up with toasted sugar for a big hit of fresh apple flavor the moment that donut hits my tongue (more on that technique here).

I also start with a yeast-raised dough, rather than a cake-style one. In large part, that’s because yeast-raised doughs can accommodate a lot more liquid on the whole, allowing me to incorporate a higher proportion of fresh cider. But I also find that the lightly fermented flavor of a yeast-raised dough resonates more with the cider, playing up its natural funk. Yeast-raised doughnuts have a better structure for dunking as well, letting them soak up lots of hot cider without falling apart.

It’s not an old-school approach by any means, but it takes me exactly where I want to go: to a crisp but tender doughnut that actually tastes like apples.

apple cider doughnut torn in half to reveal its interior crumb

The dough itself is super simple, and comes together in under 2 minutes. Start by pulsing the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, instant dry yeast, salt, and spice) in a food processor, then add the cider and continue processing to form a soft but sturdy dough.

Preparing apple cider donuts in a food processor

Finally, pulse in a little fat to form a sticky but pliable dough—I love using hazelnut oil as its flavor is such a good match with apples (I have a bottle leftover from my last batch of homemade Nutella and waffle cones), but brown butter works in a similar way, adding delicately nutty richness that adds to the complexity of the cider.

I proof the dough in a greased container until it’s puffy and light, but resilient enough to bounce back from a gentle poke after a minute, a stage at which it will be roughly doubled in bulk.

Apple cider doughnut dough before and after its first rise in the bowl, where it more than doubles in bulk

At cool room temperature, say 70°F (21°C), this will take about two hours, but you can expect the dough to move faster or slower in warmer or cooler environments, respectively (or when using freshly browned butter that’s still quite hot). As with literally any stage of any recipe, the physical cues take precedent over the estimated time, so pay close attention to the dough, not the clock.

When the dough has risen nicely, I turn it out onto a flour-dusted surface and roll it until it’s just shy of 1/2 inch thick, about 12mm. This is pretty important, so grab a ruler; taking the dough all the way down to 1/4-inch will result in wimpy, wafer-thin donuts, and leaving it over 1/2 inch will give you donut behemoths that may refuse to cook through. These problems of too thin or too thick can also be exacerbated by under- and over-proofing later on, so take care to get the dough right while you can.

Rolling and cutting the doughnuts

Of course, you can cut the dough however you like, but I find that 3-inch rounds will stretch and puff into nicely sized 3 1/2-inch rings, which feel just perfect in my hands. You can cut them larger or smaller, but do be aware this will affect how long they need to fry.

Tray of dough cut into rounds

Transfer the rounds to a greased baking sheet; using oil or pan spray rather than flour will minimize the amount of debris that later hits the oil, so it stays clean and fresh for reuse. For classic donut rings, use a 1-inch cutter to form the hole; I’ve got a set of graduated, nested cookie cutters that’s perfect for the task.

cookie cutters for making donuts, resting in a bowl of flour

If you don’t have a 1-inch cutter, don’t worry; the rings can easily be formed by hand, giving them a little more rustic charm. Just poke a hole in the center of each round, and gently stretch into a ring with your fingers.

Poking a hole in the rounds of dough and stretching to make hand-formed rings

If you like, gather and knead the donut holes and scraps into a ball, then roll and cut as before.

tray of unproofed doughnuts

Cover the doughnuts and proof as before, until the rings have risen to about 18mm or just shy of 3/4 inch. At this stage the dough will feel puffy and light to the touch, but a little resilient, not fragile. Again, the physical cues are vastly more important than the literal timing, but expect the second rise to take about an hour at cool room temperature.

solid coconut oil in a large dutch oven, half melted, with a tray of doughnut dough nearby

When the dough is nearly risen, begin heating the oil so it can hit about 365°F by the time the doughnuts are ready. As with the cake and yeast-raised doughnuts from my book, my DIY Donettes, and homemade cannoli, my number one recommendation for deep frying is a solid fat like refined coconut oil.

Little jars of refined coconut oil can be pretty pricey in supermarkets, but when shopping in bulk at warehouse clubs or online, that price will drop to just a few cents an ounce. And I’ve got 18 recipes here on Serious Eats to help justify that purchase.

doughnuts frying in hot oil

Like lard or shortening, refined coconut oil is solid at room temperature, which is a crucial detail for fried doughnuts. Imagine a piece of bread dunked in oil for a few minutes, and the way it would squish in your mouth.

That’s nice if you’re talking about a chunk of focaccia dipped in a fine olive oil, but that’s exactly the textural quality that makes doughnuts feel greasy and gross. Solid fats change all that, as they revert to their solid state once cool, giving the doughnut a pleasant, lingering richness, like a piece of bread with a thin smear of butter.

Even better? Thanks to its high smoke point, refined coconut oil won’t curse your kitchen with that awful, fried-food funk. After frying the donuts, my kitchen smells like doughnuts, not grease.

doughnuts frying in oil

Rolled and cut as directed, I like to fry the doughnuts about 90 seconds per side in refined coconut oil heated to 365°F. But the timing will vary depending on the precise size and thickness of the doughnut, as well as the temperature of the oil, so be sure to fry a test doughnut that can be cracked open to check on the interior, so the timing of future batches can be adjusted accordingly.

preparing apple cinnamon sugar and coating a fresh doughnut

While the doughnuts are fresh from the fryer, I dredge them in apple cinnamon sugar. This can be made well before the doughnuts (no need to clean the food processor in between chores) and stored in an airtight container, but because it comes together in about 30 seconds, it can also be made at the last minute.

Whenever you make it, be sure to dredge the doughnuts while they’re still warm.

detail shot of a sugar coated apple cider doughnut

In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a light but crisp doughnut with a gentle spice perfuming the dough, and an intense apple flavor in the sugar coating itself. They’re best served alongside a mug of hot cider, or while standing outside on a crisp autumn day.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.



Source link

A Chefs’ Guide to Eating Out in New Orleans

A Chefs’ Guide to Eating Out in New Orleans

New Orleans is the land of beignets, gumbo, po’ boys, and étouffée. The city’s signature Creole food—influenced by the Native American, West African, Haitian, French, Spanish, German, and Italian immigrants who found their way to Louisiana before it was even part of the US—is one […]