Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Foolproof Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder Recipe

Roasted pork shoulder - Photo © Danilo Alfaro
Photo © Danilo Alfaro
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Spicy, sweet and succulent, this slow roasted pork recipe is definitely one for the ages. It's made with boneless pork shoulder (sometimes also called a Boston blade roast or Boston butt).

First, we smear the roast with a spice rub made from dried chilis, brown sugar, Kosher salt and a few other ingredients. Then we roast it — first at a very high temperature to brown the outside, and then finish it at a very low temperature, to maximize juiciness.

The secret here is that by using a digital probe thermometer, we take all the guesswork out of getting the temperature right. Just insert the probe into the deepest part of the roast, set the device to 140°F and it will beep when it's time to take it out.

As long as you insert the tip of the probe into the very center, and take care not to his bone (which isn't a factor here since we're doing a boneless pork shoulder), the technique is foolproof.

And by the way, if you're thinking to yourself, "Wait, I thought we had to cook pork to 160°F, that was before 2011 when the USDA changed their recommended target temperature for cooking pork to 145°F. Which is great, because 160°F was always too high. You can read more about that here: How to Cook Pork (Without Overcooking it)

You can use this technique for a smaller roast. For instance, I did it with a 3-pound roast, and all I did differently was roast it at 500°F for 15 minutes instead of 20. Everything else stays the same (although a smaller roast won't need as much of the spice paste).

See Also
How to Cook Pork (Without Overcooking It)
How to Cook Pork Chops
Pork Ribs: A Beginner's Guide
  • 3½-4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 Tbsp dried crushed red peppers
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1½ Tbsp Kosher salt (NOT sea salt or table salt)
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 140 minutes
  • Total Time: 160 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
  1. Preheat oven to 500°F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together (everything but the roast itself) in a small bowl to form a paste. Smear it all over the roast. (You might have some left over, depending on the size of your roast.)
  3. Roast at 500°F for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 250°F and cook until your probe thermometer reads 140°F, which will take another 2 hours or so. It'll be a beautiful brown color on the outside.
  1. Remove the roast from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes, during which time the temperature will continue to rice until it reaches the target temperature of 145°F. Then slice, serve, and enjoy, while marveling at its perfect juiciness.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Prime Rib Roast: The Closed-Oven Method

Prime rib roast - Phillip Jones / Getty Images
Phillip Jones / Getty Images

This technique produces a perfectly medium-rare prime rib with a gorgeous brown crust on the outside. It works best for smaller prime ribs of between 4 and 8 pounds. For a bone-in prime rib, figure two servings per rib, while a boneless roast will yield two servings per pound.

The key to this method is knowing the exact weight of your prime rib. Just copy it off the label, write it on a Post-it and stick it on your fridge. I say this because I know how easy it is to just tear off the butcher paper and throw it away, and you really don't want to have to go digging through the trash to find the label.

Also, you don't actually need a meat thermometer with this technique, although if you're paranoid you can certainly use one anyway.

Also see: How to Roast Prime Rib

See Also
Prime Rib Roast: The Traditional Method
Prime Rib Roast: The Sear-Last Method
Prime Rib Roast: The Slow-Roast Method
  • 1 boneless or bone-in beef rib roast, trimmed and tied
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 120 minutes
  • Total Time: 125 minutes
  • Yield: 1 roasted prime rib
  1. The night before you are going to cook the prime rib, unwrap the roast and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator. This will dry out the surface, which makes it easier to get a nice brown color on the roast.
  2. Three hours before you want to begin cooking, take the roast out of the fridge and place it on a cutting board at room temperature.
  3. Half an hour before you start roasting, pre-heat your oven to 500°F and season the roast generously with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  1. Now it's time to do your calculation. All you do is multiply the weight of your roast by five. That's your total roasting time, in minutes. Sounds crazy, right? But stay with me.
  2. For instance, if you have a four-pound roast, 4 × 5 = 20 minutes. An eight-pound roast? 8 × 5 = 40 minutes. Remember that number.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set the roast in a roasting pan with a rack, fat-side-up for a boneless prime rib. Or for a bone-in prime rib, skip the roasting rack and just set the roast bone-side-down in the roasting pan. If you're nervous about this crazy technique, you can insert a meat thermometer or a digital probe thermometer into the deepest part of the meat, being careful not to hit bone. If nothing else, it will provide you with some peace of mind.
  4. All right, now put the roast in the oven and roast it for exactly however many minutes you calculated above. When the time's up, turn off the oven and walk away. Don't open the oven door for any reason for the next two hours.
  5. I'll say it again because it bears repeating: Do not open the oven door, for any reason, for the next two hours. Here's a simple Au Jus Recipe you can make when there's about 30 minutes left. Or try this creamy Horseradish Sauce.
  1. In two hours, take the prime rib out of the oven, carve and serve right away. If you did use a thermometer, you'll see that the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130°F — in other words, perfect medium-rare. How easy was that?

Serves 4 to 8 people depending on the size of the roast.

Also see: Why You Need to Have a Great Butcher

How To Make Amazing Turkey Gravy

How to make turkey gravy - Lew Robertson / Getty Images
How to make turkey gravy.  Lew Robertson / Getty Images

Making gravy is one of those fundamental culinary skills that, broadly speaking, establishes the informal boundary between knowing what you're doing in the kitchen as opposed to not (or at least not yet). Not that it's so difficult — in fact, it's pretty easy.

But that's my point. It requires a relatively modest level of competency to move from that second group into the first, which, since you're reading this site, is presumably where you want to be.

Transforming a thin stock or broth into a rich, velvety-thick sauce that grabs onto your food instead of dripping through the tongs of your fork and back onto your plate, is a kind of culinary magic — at least where flour and butter are involved.

Furthermore, performing this act of alchemy on Thanksgiving is like hitting a home run in Game 7 of the World Series — there is no grander stage when it comes to dinner.

If you can cook up a yummy, flavorful gravy on Thanksgiving (especially when so many turkeys turn out so dry these days), you'll earn yourself the equivalent of a ticker-tape parade.

So: What's going to happen is you're going to make a paste of butter and flour called roux, then add your stock or broth (plus the pan drippings from your turkey) to the roux, and then cook the sauce until it's thick and smooth.

Now, here's the most important information you need to pull this off: Make sure your stock or broth is warm but not boiling. And not cold, either. And the same goes for your roux. If your roux is too cold, or if your broth is too hot, you'll end up with lumpy gravy. Basically, both your roux and your stock should be warm — not too hot or cold.

Here's what you'll need to make about 4 cups of gravy:

  • 4 cups Chicken stock or turkey stock (or broth)
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter and 45 grams flour (about 5 Tbsp)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Mesh strainer
  • Pan drippings from a roasted turkey (optional)
  • 3-4 Tbsp chopped carrots, celery and/or onion


    1. Warm the stock. Heat four cups of stock or broth in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, just until it's warm but not boiling. If you have the pan drippings from a roasted bird, add them to the stock or broth, but be sure to drain off any excessive amounts of fat first.
    2. Sauté the veggies. Melt four tablespoons of butter (or the fat from Step 1 above) in another saucepan over medium heat. If you have carrots, celery and/or onions: Chop them up (about a tablespoon of each for every cup of broth you're using) and cook them in the hot butter or fat until slightly browned but not burnt.
    3. Make the roux. Stir the flour into the pan with the hot butter (with or without the veggies) to make a paste called a roux. Cook for a minute or two, until the roux is a golden brown color, then let it cool until it's warm but not cold.
    4. Whisk in the liquid. Slowly pour the warm stock or broth into the pan with the warm roux, whisking the mixture as you add it. Return to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and reduce the sauce by about a third.
    5. Season and serve. Strain the gravy through a mesh strainer. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper and serve.


    • A bay leaf will add flavor and aroma to the gravy. You can add a bay leaf to the stock or broth while you are first heating it up, or add it to the gravy in Step 5 before reducing it.
    • Add a finely minced clove of garlic to the carrot-celery-onion mixture in Step 2.
    • You can hold the gravy on the stove for a while, but it may continue to thicken. If this happens, just thin it out with some more hot stock, broth or water.

    More Thanksgiving Sides:
    • Green Bean Casserole
    • Glazed Carrots Recipe
    • How to Cook Corn on the Cob
    • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
    • Cranberry Sauce Recipe
    • Homemade Stuffing Recipe
    • Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    How NOT to Thaw a Frozen Turkey

    Frozen turkeys - Paul Swansen / Flickr
    Paul Swansen / Flickr

    There are four ways to thaw a frozen turkey — and three of them are bad. Each one, for one reason or another, increases the likelihood of someone coming down with a case of food poisoning. And that's not the way you want to remember your Thanksgiving.

    There's only one safe way to thaw a frozen turkey, and we'll get to it in a moment. But first, here are three ways NOT to do it:

    1. Don't Thaw At Room Temperature

    Like on the kitchen counter, or the dining room table, or in any other room of your house.

    Besides being really weird to have a turkey defrosting in some random bedroom or dare I say it, the bathroom, thawing a turkey at room temperature is a terrible idea. Uncooked meat or poultry (including frozen) shouldn't be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Any longer than that and you're just begging for a case of food poisoning.

    So, don't even think about this one.

    2. Don't Thaw In the Microwave

    First of all, most microwaves are too small. If you have a turkey small enough to cram into your microwave, you don't really need to resort to this method in the first place. There's a better option for you a bit further down the page.

    But even supposing you had some colossal microwave oven, this still would not be a very good plan. Given the number of different wattages, power levels, minutes per pound and other variables, the most likely outcome of microwave thawing is a turkey that's still frozen in some parts, while other parts are already cooked. Not good. Stay away from this method.

    3. Don't Thaw In Cold Water

    It's technically possible to safely thaw a frozen turkey in a sink full of cold water, but it won't be easy.

    The problem is, you need to allow 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of frozen bird, and you MUST keep the water at 40°F or colder the entire time. For a large turkey, that means monitoring the temperature with an instant-read thermometer and changing the water every half hour for 12 hours!

    What's so special about 40°F? That's the lower limit of the Food Temperature Danger Zone. If the turkey gets any warmer than that, it gives dangerous bacteria a chance to multiply like crazy. So unless you're strictly committed to changing the water up to 24 times, don't bother with this method.

    And by the way, whatever you do, don't try to thaw a turkey in HOT water. That's even worse. I saw someone recommending that in the comments section of some web site, and I just about choked on my eggnog.

    So that's three wrong ways to thaw a frozen turkey. Now for the right way:

    4. Do Thaw In the Refrigerator

    Thawing in the refrigerator is the ONLY safe way to defrost a frozen turkey. Here's how to do it:

    • Make sure that your refrigerator is at 40°F or colder.
    • Leave the turkey in its original wrapper.
    • Place the bird on a tray or in a pan to collect any juices that leak out.
    • Keep it at the bottom of your fridge so that any leakage won't contaminate anything below.
    • Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey.

    Here are the basic weight guidelines for refrigerator thawing:

    Turkey WeightThawing Time
    Up to 12 lbs1-3 days
    12 to 16 lbs3-4 days
    16 to 20 lbs4-5 days
    20 to 24 lbs5-6 days

    As you can see, thawing a 20-pound turkey in the refrigerator will take the better part of a week. So plan ahead! A bit of preparation will ensure that you're not faced with a still-frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning.

    Also see: Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

    More for Thanksgiving:
    • Green Bean Casserole
    • Glazed Carrots Recipe
    • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
    • Corn on the Cob
    • Cranberry Sauce Recipe

    Homemade Oven-Baked Stuffing with Fresh Sage

    Stuffing and wine glasses on table - Maren Caruso / Getty Images
    Maren Caruso / Getty Images
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    This homemade stuffing recipe never sees the inside of a turkey, so it's up to you whether to call it "stuffing" or "dressing." Either way, baking it in its own dish is better because the oven gets the top nice and crispy. Besides, cooking stuffing inside the bird is a major food safety risk.

    There's always a debate among stuffing aficionados over whether to include an egg. Personally, I like an egg in my stuffing, and some people like to add two, while others prefer zero. It's all a matter of taste and whether you like your stuffing to be slightly bound together or not. This recipe includes one egg, but you can use two or just leave it out, as you prefer.

    As for the herbs, my feeling is that you absolutely need fresh sage in homemade stuffing. Sage is one of those herbs where if you're doing a big harvest (as opposed to just snipping off a leaf or three), it's best to do it a couple of months before the first frost. So it makes sense that sage is so traditional in Thanksgiving stuffing. You can use additional herbs as well, like thyme and/or marjoram, but definitely make sure of the sage.

    Also, if you're adding any nuts or fruit (slivered almonds, raisins, diced apples, etc), do it between steps #4 and #5, just before adding the stock.

    See Also
    How to Make Turkey Gravy
    Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe
    Sweet Potato Mash
    • 8 slices white bread, diced (about 4 cups)
    • ½ cup chopped onion
    • ½ cup chopped celery
    • ½ stick butter
    • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
    • 1 Tbsp chopped sage, thyme and/or marjoram
    • 1 cup chicken stock or turkey stock
    • Optional: 1 cup walnuts or slivered almonds and/or raisins or diced apples.
    • Prep Time: 15 minutes
    • Cook Time: 45 minutes
    • Total Time: 60 minutes
    • Yield: Serves 6 - 8
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Spread the diced bread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Give the pan a shake midway through so the cubes brown evenly. Remove pan and let the bread cool.
    3. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until the onion is slightly translucent. Remove from heat and let cool.
    4. Transfer the toasted bread, chopped herbs and the cooked celery and onions to a large bowl. You'd add the nuts or fruit at this stage too. Give it all a toss to combine.
    1. Now, drizzle a bit of the stock over the bread cubes and gently mix. Repeat until all the bread is  moistened but not soggy. Now add the egg and toss until all the ingredients are coated.
    2. Butter a baking dish, transfer the dressing to the dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is crispy. Serve hot.

    Also see: Thanksgiving Pie Recipes

      More Thanksgiving Sides:

      • Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
      • Green Bean Casserole
      • Glazed Carrots Recipe
      • How to Cook Corn on the Cob
      • Dinner Rolls Recipe
      • How to Make Cranberry Sauce

      Friday, November 6, 2015

      Measuring Ingredients in Baking

       - Teresa Short / Getty Images
      Teresa Short / Getty Images

      When it comes to baking, weighing your ingredients is much more accurate than using volume measurements like cups and pints. If you've ever had a cake turn out too dense or too small, or maybe cracked on top, those are all problems that result from measuring your flour incorrectly.

      And you probably didn't realize you were doing it.

      Flour is particularly problematic, because the usual ways of measuring it are notoriously unreliable.

      If you scoop the flour straight out of the bag with the measuring cup, you'll wind up with more flour in your cup than if you spoon it from the bag into the cup.

      Also, sifted flour has more air in it, so there's less flour in a cup of sifted flour. With all these variables, a so-called "cup" of flour could contain anywhere between 100 and 150 grams.

      So much for precision.

      On the other hand, 130 grams is always 130 grams, whether it's scooped, spooned, sifted or whatever. And it doesn't matter whether it's all-purpose flour, bread flour or cake flour. Grams are grams.

      Weighing is Critical in Baking

      In other areas of the culinary arts, this degree of precision is less important. A recipe doesn't fail or succeed because you used 27 green beans rather than 30. But with baking, you're not just dealing with recipes — you're working with formulas.

      Commercial bakers use weights for all the ingredients in their recipes, including eggs, butter, sugar, salt and even baking powder and baking soda.

      At home, where we don't deal in large quantities, there's no reason to weigh the salt or baking powder — the amounts are too tiny.

      Teaspoons and tablespoons are fine for that. But when it comes to flour, using too much or too little can really affect the recipe, so at the very least, you should weigh your flour.

      And that means you're going to want to get yourself a digital scale that can be set to grams, and preferably one with what's called a "tare" setting, which lets you put a bowl on the scale and then zero it out.

      The one I use was about 12 bucks.

      How Much Does a Cup of Flour Weigh?

      The main thing you need to know is that a cup of all-purpose flour weighs 125 to 130 grams. The exact weight will differ across different brands of flour, but if you use 130 grams you'll be all right. So when recipe calls for a cup of flour, just weigh out 130 grams and you'll be all set.

      I try to write recipes using grams for the flour and maybe the sugar and butter or shortening. Because you never know when someone creates a recipe how they measured their flour. If they spooned their flour and you scoop, your measurements will be off. But if the recipe says 130 grams and you use 130 grams, you'll know you're accurate.

      Wednesday, November 4, 2015

      What Are Collard Greens?

      Plate of collard greens with smoked turkey wings and corn bread - Andre Baranowski / Getty Images
      Plate of collard greens with smoked turkey wings and corn bread.  Andre Baranowski / Getty Images

      Collard greens are a type of leafy green vegetable that is common in southern U.S. cooking.

      Collards feature dark green leaves with tough stems.

      They're a member of the same group of plants that also includes kale, turnips and mustard.

      Indeed, collard greens share many characteristics with kale, turnip greens and mustard greens, and they're all typically prepared in the same way (at least in the southern U.S., which is where they're most popular).

      In addition to being tough, collards can also be bitter. Both of these qualities can be remedied by long, slow cooking using moist heat.

      The fact is, for all the culinary innovation happening in the latter half of the 2010s, it's difficult to imagine a better way of preparing collard greens than the tried-and-true method of braising them with a smoked or cured meat like a ham hock or turkey wing.

      Nor is it clear that there is any need to improve on it. Sometimes a dish is fully realized, and apart from a minor tweak (like whether to include things like vinegar, garlic, hot sauce), the classic southern collard greens recipe is canonical.

      It simply is what it is. Just like the best way to prepare skirt steak is by cooking it very quickly on the hottest surface available. You can season it different ways, but there's only one way to cook it.

      The same goes for collard greens. You could choose to steam them for five minutes, or sauté them, but why? These alternate cooking techniques aren't refinements, they're novelties, like pumpkin spice martinis.

      Preparing Collard Greens

      Collard greens need to be washed thoroughly before cooking them, as they can carry a lot of grit in them.

      But there's no point washing the parts you're not going to cook. So the first step is to remove the stems.

      You can just fold the leaves in half lengthwise and trim the stems off with a knife. Or you can tear the leaves away from the stems.

      Then fill up the sink with cold water and add the leaves. Swish them around a bit to loosen the grit, which will settle on the bottom of the sink.

      Drain the sink, refill and repeat as necessary until no more grit settles on the bottom. Then chop the leaves up into 1-inch pieces and simmer them in enough water to cover them along with a smoked ham hock or pork cheek, smoked turkey wing, or turkey neck.

      Note that simmering refers to a temperature range of 180° to 205°F, so the water should not be at a full rolling boil.

      Separately you can sauté some onion and garlic, and maybe a sliced serrano pepper, and add them to the pot. When the greens are done (in anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes), remove the ham hock (or whatever you used), pull off the meat, chop it up and return it to the pot.

      The flavorful cooking liquid, known as "pot liquor," is highly prized, and is especially wonderful sopped up with homemade cornbread.