When we make dinner, we put garlic in everything. That’s no accident! European, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisines all have used the alium bulb to season food for millennia. When a Blue Apron box arrives, it will almost always include a whole head of garlic, but most recipes only use a couple of cloves. If you’ve gotten a few boxes, you might have leftover garlic piling up. This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity. Here’s how to use extra garlic to create flavorful meals all week long.
The flavor of garlic changes drastically depending on how it is prepared. Raw garlic adds spiciness; gently cooked garlic becomes fragrant, and roasted garlic becomes sweet and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Watch the video below to see how Chef Lili Dagan uses extra garlic to make spicy garlic bread, sweet garlic confit, garlicky roasted tomatoes, and chewy garlic chips.
How to use extra garlic
Make spicy garlic bread
Vampires beware: raw or lightly cooked garlic adds extraordinary flavor! Even a little bit will add a big bite to salad dressings or roasted vegetables. We’re not talking about chomping on uncooked whole cloves here. To make garlic spicy, not overwhelming, we start by mincing each clove, then keep chopping until the cloves resemble a paste. You can speed things up with a food processor, like chef Lili does while making spicy garlic bread.
Make sweet garlic confit
Slow heat turns garlic soft and sweet. Using low heat to make a garlic confit will create cloves so mild that you can eat them whole. To try this at home, you’ll need a lot of peeled garlic and olive oil. Try our hack for peeling multiple cloves at once: just separate the cloves, put them in a sealed container, and shake until they slip right out of their skins.
Make savory tomatoes with garlic
If separating all those cloves sounds like too much work, try this recipe for slow-roasted garlic and tomatoes. Just chop a whole head of garlic in half and send it into the oven. The garlic will infuse the tomatoes and oil with flavor. After it’s cooked, the cloves will pop right out of their skins.
How to remove garlic odors
After you’ve chopped it, the odor of garlic can linger on your fingers for the rest of the evening. Here’s a trick for removing the scent: just rub lemon or another citrus fruit on your hands. This works particularly well if your dish just so happens to have orange or lime in it, in which case prep the garlic first, then prepare the citrus and vanquish the garlicky odors once and for all.
For tomato lovers, August is a sacred month—it’s the magical time of year when the farmer’s market overflows with ripe, juicy, heirloom tomatoes. These in-season beauties are delicious on their own, or as the star of a simple tomato sandwich. In the winter months, the selection is slimmer. Out of season tomatoes can pale, watery, and flavorless. Don’t despair just yet! The secret to how to find good tomatoes in the winter lies in plain sight.
Smaller tomatoes don’t need as many resources to ripen. They also have a lower water content, so they’re less likely to taste, well, watery. In the winter months, the smaller the better. Look for cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. If you can find them, vine-on cherry tomatoes will be the best bet. Once you get your tomatoes home, be sure to store them properly to preserve flavor.
Even in the depths of winter, cherry tomatoes will bring bright flavor to salads, pastas and grain bowls. These are some of our favorite tomato recipes to make all year long.
These tacos feature jalapeños two exciting ways: fresh, in a simple salsa (your cherry tomatoes may be red or yellow), and dried, in the chipotle paste used to season the beef. Chipotles are smoked, dried red jalapeños, and their bold, savory flavor complements the beef’s richness.
Cavatappi pasta provides a perfect complement to the bright flavors and textures of sautéed shrimp and zucchini in this easy dish. It’s all brought together by a light sauce of mascarpone cheese and our piquant salsa verde.
You’ll make a delightfully crispy, golden coating for chicken breasts by dredging them in spiced butter and cheesy breadcrumbs before baking in the oven to achieve a golden, crunchy exterior. They’re finished with a drizzle of spicy-sweet chipotle sauce and a topping of dressed tomatoes for welcome freshness and acidity.
This vibrant salad gets deliciously sweet flavor from a simple fig jam and apple cider vinaigrette. It’s perfectly balanced by a bounty of crisp vegetables (romaine, tomatoes, and radishes) and creamy mozzarella.
Classic Italian ingredients like olives, capers, crushed red pepper, and more come together to make the bright, zesty sauce that mixes into tender orzo pasta. It’s the ideal pairing for chicken seared with sage, oregano, and more Italian-style herbs and spices.
Tonight’s pizza is sure to be a household favorite. We’re topping our dough with fresh mozzarella, garlic, and green bell pepper, then baking it to meld those dynamic flavors. To top the pizza just before serving, we’re cooking meatballs—seasoned with classic Italian spices—in a savory sauce made from cherry tomatoes (yours may be red or yellow).
This homemade Chex mix recipe was contributed by Jules Esposito. Jules Esposito is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. Event planner by day and freelance food writer by night, cooking is always on her mind.
Think about what makes the perfect bite. To me, it’s all about a variety of textures. Consider the fried chicken sandwich. There’s a reason they’re currently all the rage at fast food restaurants. The crispy chicken, smooth sauce, crunchy pickle chips, and fluffy buttered bread come together and create a symphony of texture. A satisfying bite is what makes a meal memorable. I believe the same is true for snack food. When it comes to snacking, one texture is more appealing than all others—the addictively noisy crunch. As a crunch-lover, I can’t think of a more perfect snack food than Chex mix. The cereal-based blend has a variety of textures and the ability to take on almost any flavor profile. It’s the ideal candidate for leisurely snacking.
When was Chex Mix invented?
Our love affair with Chex mix began back in 1955, when the wife of Ralston Purina brought her homemade party mix to a holiday gathering. Does the name Purina sound familiar? If you’re thinking of dog food, then you’re on the right track. Before Purina started making puppy chow, he created the human chow we have come to know and love. Not to worry—the businesses have been kept entirely separate, so you won’t find any kibble in the classic blue bag. According to General Mills, Purina created the first version of pre-packaged Chex Mix in 1987. Back then, it was offered in just two flavors—traditional and cheddar. Nine years later the cereal conglomerate purchased Chex mix and expanded to offer the sixteen flavors we know today.
Making DIY Chex mix at home is an easy way to clear out your pantry, feed a crowd, or satisfy any cravings you may be having. I’ve broken down Chex mix snacking into three unique flavor profiles: sweet, savory, and spicy. All of these recipes can be altered or substituted based on what you have in your pantry. Get creative and try them out!
Sweet & Salty Chex Mix Recipe
As a lover of the sweet and salty combo, I know that the balance of sugar and salt can make or break a snack. When you get it just right, it’s pure bliss. This sweet and salty Chex mix recipe is inspired by another nostalgic favorite: Seven-Layer bars. The sweet element comes from coconut flakes, graham cracker crumble, and a drizzle of dark chocolate. Topping with flaky sea salt balances it all out and completes this flavor profile.
2 Cups sweetened coconut, toasted
5 Cups chocolate Chex
4 Cups corn Chex
1 Cup Rolos, cut in half
1 Cup crushed graham crackers
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Cup chocolate chips, melted
Flaky sea salt to top
Powdered sugar, to top
Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Evenly distribute coconut on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Toast the coconut in the oven, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. About 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine both Chex cereals and the Rolos.
Into a separate small bowl, crush the graham crackers with your hands, keeping some coin-sized chunks.
Pour the melted butter over the graham cracker crumbs and stir to combine (this will help it stick to the cereal).
After the toasted coconut has cooled, combine the coconut and graham cracker crumbles with the Chex and Rolo mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a fork or piping bag to drizzle the melted chocolate over the Chex mix. Add sea salt if desired.
Place the tray in the fridge to set. Once the chocolate has hardened, break apart the chunks, dust with powdered sugar, and enjoy!
Savory Seasoned Chex Mix
For a savory chex mix, I wanted to create something that wasn’t just salty. This everything bagel-inspired Chex mix recipe is full of deep, savory flavor from Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and copious amounts of everything bagel seasoning. Add bagel chips and pretzels, and you’ll end up with a snack that has just as many flavors as textures.
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
¼ Cup everything bagel seasoning
3 Cups rice Chex
3 Cups corn Chex
2 Cups wheat Chex
1 ½ Cups crushed pretzels
1 ½ Cups everything bagel chips
1 Cup potato chips
Preheat the oven to 250ºF.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and everything bagel seasoning.
Measure and combine all Chex cereals in a large bowl. Lightly crush pretzels and both chip varieties so they are bite-sized (roughly the size of the Chex) and add to the bowl.
Pour the butter mixture over the cereal and combine. Distribute the mix evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with more everything seasoning, if desired.
Bake at 250ºF for 15 minute intervals, tossing occasionally, until lightly toasted. Let cool and enjoy!
Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chex Mix Recipe
In any crowd, there is always someone who loves heat. How spicy? Well, now that’s the question! This recipe can be adjusted to satisfy everyone—from fans of mild spice to wicked-hot wing lovers. Simply add more buffalo sauce or ranch seasoning to tailor it to your needs, bake, and enjoy!
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 Tbsp. Buffalo ranch seasoning (or more if desired)
¼ Cup Franks Red Hot Buffalo Sauce (or more if desired)
3 Cups rice Chex
3 Cups corn Chex
2 Cups wheat Chex
1 ½ Cups Cheez-Its
1 ½ Cups pretzels, lightly crushed
1 ½ Cups bagel chips, lightly crushed
Preheat the oven to 250ºF.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, Buffalo ranch seasoning, and Buffalo sauce. Stir to combine.
Measure and combine all Chex cereals in a large bowl. Lightly crush Cheez-Its, pretzels, and bagel chips with hands so they are bite-sized and add to mix.
Pour the butter mixture over the cereal mixture and combine well. Distribute evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional Buffalo Ranch seasoning if desired.
Bake at 250ºF for 15 minute intervals, tossing occasionally, until lightly toasted. Let cool and enjoy!
Still feeling snacky? Try these homemade jalapeño poppers, it’s hard not to love them.
Nothing gets a party going like a cheese board: it breaks the ice, provides a place to congregate, and gets the people snacking. While no one will turn her nose up at a box of crackers and block of extra sharp cheddar, a truly next-level cheeseboard is both impressive and easy to put together—so long as you’ve got a game plan. Read on for our guidelines and watch the video few pro tips.
The Best Cheese for a Cheese Board
The cheese is the reason we’re all here, but the best advice is to keep it simple. Odd numbers tend to look best on a board, so pick three delicious, interesting, eclectic cheeses. Age, texture, and origin are they key factors to consider: one creamy, one crumbly, and one funky cheese is a good place to start.
PRO TIP: Cut small pieces or slices into your cheese before you put the board out for guests; this is a great way to suggest a serving size, create motion in your presentation, and make people feel comfortable to dive right in. No “first person to cut into the cheese” jitters.
What is a Charcuterie Board
Charcuterie is the French word to describe cured and cooked meats like pâté, bacon, and cured salami. Incorporating some charcuterie into your cheese board, or building a separate charcuterie board with an array of cured meats, will add luxurious flavor and texture to your spread. Try visiting a local butcher to what’s in stock. Freshly shaved prosciutto and whole dried sausages will beat the precut stuff at the supermarket any day.
Picking Meats for a Charcuterie Board
Balance is key when it comes to the carnivore-friendly part of your cheese board. Texture and flavor are the most important variables: try pairing delicate prosciutto (a fan favorite) with one hard, cured salame (such as chorizo) and one soft salame (like soppressata). Avoid overkill on salt or spice. If you’ve loaded up on powerful flavors, add a slice of pâté or terrine to provide a mild foil for them.
PRO TIP: Lili Dagan, Culinary Manager, is the resident cheese board expert in the Test Kitchen after years perfecting the craft while working in events. Her signature move? A meat river. Fanning out delicately rumpled prosciutto or slices of salami into a ribbon that travels from one end of the board to the other makes the arrangement feel ample and deliberate.
Other Additions to a Cheese & Charcuterie Board
A cheese board goes from good to great with the addition of a few *extras* — some crunchy, tender, sweet, and pickly bits to cut through the salt and fat of the main event. Little bowls of one-biters like roasted nuts or olives, provide necessary textural contrast. Briny bites like a cornichons or gherkins refresh your palate. Finish things off with a few condiments. Grainy mustard, honey, and jam all adds a spreadable or drizzly pop of flavor. The sweet and salty contrast of jam or honey will work will with almost any cheese.
Best Crackers for Cheese
PRO TIP: Don’t forget the carbs. Your cheeses and spreads will be SO lonely without something to put them on. Simple crackers will do the trick, providing a dependable base without overpowering any exciting flavors.For a gourmet touch, try this: thinly slice a baguette, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toast in a 400ºF oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping once.
Charcuterie & Cheese Board Tips
Fruit is your friend! Celebrate the time of year by adding some seasonal produce to your board. Concord grapes and stone fruit in the summer or citrus and pears in the winter add color, freshness, and a welcome respite from cheese.
PRO TIP: Temperature matters. Take your cheese out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before you plan to serve it, to come to room temperature. A cheese’s flavor, smell, and texture changes in the cold (and not in a good way), and you want those wedges and wheels to shine!
Charcuterie & Cheese Board Pairings
Cheese’s best friend? Wine, of course. Check out the Blue Apron collection of food-friendly white wines, six wines to pair with your festive holiday cheese board.
Leftover turkey sandwich Friday is as much of a tradition as Thanksgiving itself. We love thick slices of turkey slathered with cranberry sauce and gravy in between two slices of hearty bread. If you’re feeling wild, toss a little stuffing in there too. We’re not here to knock the classic approach, but if you look forward to leftovers as much as we do, you might love this alternative take on a leftover turkey sandwich.
The spirit here remains the same—it’s all about mixing together and piling up leftovers. Here, we’re transforming the experience into a warm and gooey sandwich reminiscent of a sloppy joe.
To do this, we’re taking our turkey and shredding it. Use two forks to pull a few slices of turkey apart into thick strands, as shown above. Once you have a sizable pile (however much you’d like to eat), add it to a medium-sized sauce pot with a few spoonfuls of gravy. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn, until the gravy has melted into a saucy texture and the turkey is warmed through.
Even the simplest version of this sandwich will be delicious. For a quick and easy preparation serve your turkey and gravy mixture over a single slice of toast. Eat it as an open-faced sandwich, or grab a knife and fork.
If you’re craving a little more decadence, go all out and load your sandwich up with fixings. We created an over-the-top breakfast sandwich with pulled turkey and gravy, bacon, cranberry sauce, lettuce, and a fried egg. For a little textural contrast, we recommend serving on buttery Texas toast.
Try this technique to give your leftovers new life on Friday. This might become your new favorite way to create a turkey delicious breakfast or hearty lunch. Once you’ve finished your sandwich, check out some of our favorite ways to enjoy leftover mashed potatoes, greens, and pie.
Every year people rush to the grocery store before Thanksgiving. The problem is that most of us are searching for the same ingredients. If you’re late to the game, the store could be out of Brussels sprouts or cranberry sauce. This might be a setback, but not even a Turkey shortage will stop us from celebrating. Chef Lili Dagan is here to help you work through any missing ingredient emergencies. We planned an alternative Thanksgiving menu that’s packed with flavor and full of seasonal produce.
An Alternative Thanksgiving Menu
Roasted cabbage with warm pancetta vinaigrette
If Brussels sprouts are in short supply, this roasted cabbage dish is a great solution. Cabbage is readily available all year round, and it’s from the same family as Brussels sprouts. Once this head of cabbage is roasted and covered with a savory pancetta dressing, you might not even be able to tell the difference.
Baked beets with hazelnuts and goat cheese
Green beans are in season in the spring, so Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily the best time to find these legumes. Instead of turning to canned beans, try switching to seasonal beets. These delicious baked beets bring sweet and tart flavors to your holiday table.
Fresh and roasted citrus relish
Thanksgiving is the cranberry’s time to shine. If your store is out of fresh cranberries (or canned cranberry sauce), you can create a sweet and bitter relish using seasonal citrus. This dish combines roasted and citrus to create a complex, tart jam that would be delicious on a turkey sandwich.
Beef tenderloin with sherry-dijon pan sauce
No alternative Thanksgiving menu would be complete without the protein. If Turkey is out of stock this year, opt for a flavorful beef tenderloin. This dish is faster and easier to prepare than a whole turkey, but will still make for a show-stopping centerpiece.
If you like bacon, you like pork belly. Bacon and pork belly are the same cut of meat, prepared and sold in slightly different forms. This versatile protein is an easy way to add savory decadence to dinner. Here’s how to get the most out of this delicious ingredient.
What is pork belly?
Pork belly is a thick, fatty cut of meat from the belly of a pig. The fat is what makes this cut so special—it adds plenty of rich flavors. Unlike bacon, this product isn’t cured. While bacon comes pre-loaded with smoky and sweet flavors, this protein will have a pure and versatile pork flavor. It’s typically sold in a large slab and served in thick pieces. When compared to bacon, these thicker pieces are meatier and chewier.
How is Blue Apron’s pork belly made?
Blue Apron’s pork belly arrives fully cooked. Before it’s shipped to you, the meat is seasoned and cooked in a water bath. This method, also known as sous vide, creates tender evenly cooked meat.
All about fat
When you look at a slice, you can clearly see the striped layers of meat and white fat. You’ll also see an extra-thick stripe around the exterior, known as the fat cap. There’s no need to remove this. The extra fat is delicious, and much of it will render out during the cooking process. When the meat is cooked at a high temperature, the fat melts and renders out. The meat fries in the newly melted fat, creating a flavorful brown crust with a delightfully crispy texture.
How to cut it
The best way to cut pork belly depends on your dish. We recommend using a sturdy chef’s knife to create ½ inch slices. Pieces this size will sear quickly and offer a combination of crispy and chewy textures.
Searing pork belly
Even though it’s fully cooked, we recommend searing the meat before serving. You don’t need to cook it all the way through. The goal is to warm it through and create a crispy crust.
Keep the fat
Once it’s in the pan, you’ll notice that a lot of fat is melting out. This is normal! When the meat is removed, some melted fat will remain behind in the pan. This bonus fat is a blessing, so be sure to save it. Leftover pork fat can be used in place of butter or olive oil in most recipes. Strain any leftovers and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week, and dispose of them if they starts to smell off. Try using your leftovers to fry breakfast potatoes or to make a rich pie dough.
Most of us only make a whole turkey once a year. Cooking an extra-large bird isn’t the easiest kitchen task, and we don’t get a lot of practice! If you’re in charge of the main dish this Thanksgiving, a little preparation can help you pull it off perfectly. These are some of the most common problems with Thanksgiving turkey and how to avoid them
Why is my turkey dry?
This is the most common complaint when it comes to Thanksgiving turkey. If your turkey is dry, it means that the outer portion has overcooked. The size of the bird is what makes this a challenge. It can be difficult to achieve food safe temperatures at the center of the meat before the exterior dries out.
How to prevent it
Keep your turkey moist by cooking it evenly. Let the turkey sit out of the refrigerator for about an hour before roasting. If you put a cold turkey into the oven it will take longer to cook. The heat works its way from the outside in, and the longer oven time will mean that the exterior has more time to dry out.
How to fix it
If you’re set on a whole turkey, just slather on the gravy! If the turkey is too dry to be enjoyable, dry dicing it up and serve turkey pot pie instead. The moist filling will disguise the dry turkey.
Why is my turkey bland?
If your Thanksgiving turkey is bland, it has probably been under-seasoned. Turkeys are big, and it takes a lot of salt and pepper to flavor the entire bird.
How to prevent it
Before cooking, season the entire turkey thoroughly with salt and pepper. This can be done the night before Thanksgiving. An overnight brown allows time for the flavors to penetrate deep into the meat.
How to fix it
Once the turkey is cooked, there’s not much that can be done to correct the seasoning. Yet again, it’s gravy to the rescue.
My turkey doesn’t have crispy skin
This is a bummer, but not a disaster. Turkeys are large, and the ratio of meat to skin means that most pieces only include a small strip anyway.
How to fix it
If you notice this problem before the turkey is completely done, you can turn the heat of the oven way up for the final few minutes. A blast of heat from a 450ºF oven might be enough to crisp up the skin before serving. If your turkey is done but the skin is rubbery and inedible, just take it off of the breast after carving.
How to prevent it
Water is the enemy of browning. Before your turkey goes in the oven, make sure that the skin is as dry as possible by patting the entire bird with paper towels. Rubbing the turkey with olive oil or butter before roasting will encourage browning. You can also baste the turkey with fat while it’s in the oven.
My turkey exploded
It can happen! If you fry a damp or partially frozen turkey, it can explode. The temperature of frying oil is around 350ºF, well above the boiling point of water. When water droplets or ice fragments are introduced to hot oil, they instantly expand and turn into steam. This rapid transformation generates pressure that can tear the bird apart, sending hot oil flying in the process.
How to prevent it
If you’re frying a turkey, be sure to thaw it for at least three days in the refrigerator. Dry the entire bird (including the cavity) thoroughly before setting it in the oil. For safety, stand as far away from the pot as possible when lowering the bird in. Oil can splash out of the pot if even a tiny bit of water remains.
When you taste a wine at home your main goal should be enjoyment. With that aim in mind, learning how to taste wine step by step is a great way to figure out what you love.
Professional sommeliers are trained in what’s known as deductive tasting—the ability to taste a wine and discern its grape, origin, and approximate age by flavor and scent alone. Sommeliers blind taste wines in competitions and to earn advanced certificates. Day to day, sommeliers use their tasting skills to choose wines and recommend pairings.
These are the steps wine professionals take to evaluate a glass of wine. At home, information about where the wine is from and how it was made is readily to you. You don’t need to play a guessing game, but following these steps can help you get deeping your appreciation for wine.
Examine the wine in the glass
Before you take a sip, tilt your glass to the side and look at the color of the wine. Notice shade and intensity. The color can tell you about the type of grape and the age of the wine. Young white wines are bright and clear. Aged white wines will take on a brownish hue. As red wine ages, the red color fades to a rusty brown. Different grapes also have different hues. Malbec is known for its deep purple shade, and Pinot Grigio can be detected by a slightly salmon tint.
Swirl the wine around the glass to aerate it, and inhale deeply. Don’t be shy! You’ll get the most out of this if you really stick your nose into the glass. Search for fruit, herb, and earth aromas.
Tip: Try tasting two similar wines side by side, like a French and a Californian Chardonnay. Comparing the glasses will help you appreciate their differences.
Taste the wine
Take a sip of wine and notice the tannins and acidity. A high-acid wine will make your mouth water, and a high-tannin wine will create a drying sensation. Pay attention to how the aromas change as you sip and swallow the wine.
Take a second to really think about the wine. Do you like it? Would you rather drink it outside at the beach, or inside during a snowstorm? Don’t be afraid to get creative with your descriptions.
This guide to oven cooking with bacon was contributed by Jonathan Bender. Jonathan is a food writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri. He’s the author of a pair of cookbooks: Stock, Broth & Bowl and Cookies & Beer.
Crispy. Fatty. Smoky. The sizzle is real. Let’s talk about bacon—the glorious strips on a B.L.T. and the crispy bits that make dish extra special.
We’ve put together a guide that helps you learn about the different types of bacon, including the difference between bacon and pork belly. We’ll walk you through how to defrost and cook bacon, as well as what to do with bacon grease and (the unlikely event of) leftover bacon.
Discover exactly what cookware you need and the right temperature, along with a few tips and tricks, for beautifully crispy bacon. Read on for a collection of recipes to let you enjoy your newfound bacon knowledge.
Getting started: Choosing the right bacon
The variety of bacon terminology can get confusing; but it’s also a helpful clue about what part of the pig was used to make the bacon.
Bacon slices, sometimes called “streaky bacon” for the white runs of fat, are most commonly made from pork belly. Here, we’re talking crackling strips for BLTs, bacon-wrapped figs and backyard cheeseburgers.
Canadian bacon or back bacon (loin),cottage bacon (shoulder), jowl bacon (cheek meat) and slab bacon (sides) are all different cuts you may encounter. The wide slices of back bacon and thin slices of lean cottage bacon can both anchor a breakfast sandwich, while fatty jowl bacon adds smokiness and depth to greens.
Chop thick slices of slab bacon (cubed or sticks of slab bacon are often called lardons) and tuck them inside tortillas for tacos, sprinkle atop pasta, or sneak some pieces in a gooey grilled cheese.
What’s the difference between bacon and pork belly?
This is a bit of a square vs. rectangle situation. Bacon is usually (but not always) made from pork belly; but pork belly isn’t bacon unless it’s been cured.
Bacon is typically cured (salt and seasoning is added to draw out moisture) and/or smoked before it’s packaged. Pork belly (named for the butcher’s cut, it comes from the belly of a pig) is sold fresh and often has a band of fat at the top, as well as fat marbled throughout the meat. Pork belly can be served in thick slices, crispy cubes, or thin strips.
What’s the difference between pancetta and bacon?
Pancetta is also made from pork belly. Unlike bacon, pancetta is not cured or smoked before it is packaged. It’s generally ok to substitute chopped bacon for pancetta in most recipes, though it may add an additional smoky flavor. You can also substitute pancetta in recipes that use small pieces of bacon, or lardons.
A note on cooking cured versus uncured bacon
Uncured bacon or pork belly is best when it can be cooked for a long time at a low temperature in order to let the fat slowly render down, transforming your slice into tender bites. Braising and smoking pork belly are popular choices. Overcooked pork belly—either at too high a temperature or for too long—can make your meat tough or rubbery in texture.
Methods for defrosting bacon
You have several options when it comes to thawing frozen bacon. If you know you’re making brunch on the weekend, place frozen bacon in the refrigerator on a plate or defrosting tray the day before you want to cook.
Need bacon to thaw faster? Put your unopened package of frozen bacon on a wire rack in your sink. Then, run a slow, steady stream of cool water over the bacon. It should thaw in roughly 30 minutes. Once you’re able to separate the slices, cook them immediately.
How to cook bacon on the stovetop
There are lots of effective ways to cook bacon. The one you choose will likely depend on your available cookware, the amount of people you’re feeding, and your tolerance for cleaning up grease. Let’s work our way from the top of the stove to your oven.
A skillet that stretches over two burners is best if you’re trying to cook a whole package of bacon strips. Cooking for two people? You can fit six strips of bacon (a little less than half of a one-pound package) in a 12-inch nonstick pan or cast iron pan.
Lay your bacon flat, making sure there’s a bit of space between each slice, on a cold skillet. Turn the heat to medium. When your bacon begins to curl at the edges, flip it to the other side. Flip your bacon frequently to ensure even cooking.
Pro tip: If you want extra crispy bacon, add enough cold water to cover the bottom of the pan while the skillet is still cold. The water will boil off, but before it does, it helps render the fat and reduces splatter. Your bacon will take a little longer to cook; but will be beautifully browned and add a nice bit of crunch to a salad or sandwich.
How to cook bacon in the oven
If you dread making bacon because of the mess and effort, you’ll want to try using a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Remember the rimmed part—grease will spill over the edges of a flat cookie sheet onto your oven floor.
For fewer dishes, line your baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, which will help trap some of the grease and make clean-up easier. Crinkle your foil lightly before you use it so your slices sit slightly above the foil and crisp up without being saturated in grease.
You can also lay the bacon strips on a wire rack atop a rimmed baking sheet. The strips can be snug; but try to keep them from touching. While the strips cook, grease will drip through the rack (and be caught by the baking sheet) so your bacon is crispier.
Start your baking sheet in a cold oven. Heat to 400℉ and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. If you prefer your bacon well-done, opt for 450℉ and roughly 20 minutes. Cook until the bacon is evenly browned.
As for the microwave oven, save it for popcorn (with a bit of bacon grease). Bacon will brown and crisp up slightly—tuck slices between paper towels on top of a microwave safe plate—in your microwave; but it lacks crunch and char.
What to do with bacon grease
Keep in mind that hot bacon grease can melt a garbage bag, and bacon grease poured down the drain can solidify and cause a back up in your pipes. You have to be a bit intentional with bacon grease.
Let the grease cool slightly before you do anything else. If you’re not keeping your grease, pour it into a yogurt cup or empty metal can while it’s still warm. The grease will solidify as it cools. After it’s cooled, it can be safely tossed in the trash.
Before you head for the trash, consider saving bacon grease to reap the delicious dividends. Pour warm bacon grease into a heat-resistant container with an airtight lid. Use a fine mesh sieve or coffee filter to catch some of the solid bacon pieces. This will improve its shelf life in your fridge.
Refrigerated bacon grease should last at least three months (frozen grease will keep much longer). Your nose will let you know when it’s time to make a new batch.
Bacon grease is handy in the kitchen. It adds a bit of umami to roasted vegetables, fried chicken, or scrambled eggs. We love the depth that bacon grease, swapped for butter, lends to cookies and shortbreads.
A note on splatter:Once splatter has cooled slightly, spray an all-purpose cleaner on your stovetop or counter. Wait a minute, then wipe it up with paper towels or a sponge. If you’re cooking bacon often, consider getting a splatter screen which will keep the grease contained.
Can bacon be saved?
It sounds impossible; but sometimes there is leftover bacon. Cooked slices in a sealed container or bag will keep for five days in the fridge. Freezing bacon? Place slices individually on wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet for several hours (or overnight) before transferring to a bag you can seal to avoid large frozen clumps of bacon. Bacon will keep for at least a month in the freezer.
Five-ingredient recipes can be a lifesaver when you want a simple treat. When you keep the shopping list this short, each ingredient really has to hold its own. We used flaky pastry as the base of this croissant bread pudding to create an impressive dessert (or breakfast) that will make it seem like you spent hours in the kitchen.
The key to good bread pudding is starting with stale bread (or croissants). The slightly dry pastry does a better job of absorbing flavor and moisture from the custard. This croissant bread pudding is a great way to use up day-old pastry leftover from breakfast.
To start, all you do is cut your croissants into pieces like the ones you see above. You can also just pull them apart if you don’t want to deal with a cutting board.
In order to give your bread pudding a little bit of a twist, add some lemon juice and lemon zest to the custard mixture of eggs, cream, and brown sugar.
Pour that over your baking dish full of croissant pieces, let the custard mixture sink into the croissants for half an hour, and put the whole thing into the oven. The croissants will puff up and brown on top.
Lemon Croissant Bread Pudding
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 croissants (stale if possible – stale bread always works better for bread pudding)
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Cut or break the croissants into medium-sized pieces and place into an approximately 10-by-7-inch baking dish.
Using a peeler, take the skin off the lemon and mince the zest. Cut the lemon into quarters.
Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, light brown sugar, lemon zest and the juice from 2 lemon wedges (or all 4, if you’d like it to be more lemony), until thoroughly combined.
Add the egg mixture to the baking dish. Let this mixture soak for at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
Bake the pudding for 1 hour or until the middle is set. Remove and let cool and completely set for about 20 minutes. Serve your croissant bread pudding plain, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or with a dollop of whipped cream.