How to Make a Perfect Steak

Making yourself a steak? That’s self-care. There’s something so satisfying about creating a golden brown sear on a beautiful piece of meat. If you learn how to make a perfect steak, you’ll always be able to create a meal for at-home dates, special occasions, or occasions where you’re simply very hungry. Follow our tips for the best results.

how to make a perfect steak

How to make a steak at home

Bring the meat to room temperature

To achieve a golden brown exterior without overcooking the interior, you want to cook the meat quickly. If you start out with cold meat it has to warm up before it begins to caramelize.

Heat up the pan

You want your steak to start sizzling as soon as it hits the pan. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the steak will steam instead of searing. Any moisture lingering in the pan will prevent browning.

make a perfect steak in a pan

Season both sides

Adding salt and pepper to both sides of the steak adds flavor and helps create a golden brown crust.

Feel for texture

Sear the steak on both sides for several minutes. The exact timing will depend on the thickness of your cut, but you’ll be able to tell when the steak is done by feel. Press on the steak with the tip of a finger (be careful not to burn yourself!) It should feel firm to the touch, but still slightly springy.

Let it rest

Letting meat rest preserves moisture. A few minutes on the cutting board will give the juices time to redistribute themselves. That way they won’t all run out when the steak is sliced. This is a perfect time to use the browned fond to create a pan sauce.

Slice against the grain

For the best texture, slice meat against the muscle the grain. Once the meat is cooked, you should be able to see the lines of the muscle fibers running across it. Slice perpendicular to these lines to create tender pieces of steak that will fall apart in your mouth.

Once your steak is sliced, pour a glass of wine and enjoy. If you liked the video, subscribe to our channel.

Here’s How to Small Dice a Carrot Really Fast

how to dice a whole carrot
Whole carrots, pre small dicing

For chefs, knife skills are a non-negotiable. To work in a restaurant, you have to have several styles of cut down pat. Small dicing is one of these essential kitchen techniques. Whether it’s a potato, onion, or carrot, a small dice is about 1/4 inch square. This would be extremely simple if all vegetables started out as perfect cubes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Rounded vegetables like carrots tend to roll around, and can be tricky to dice evenly. Learn how to dice a carrot safely with these easy tips.

Start by washing and peeling your carrots to prepare for chopping.

Next, create a flat surface. Cut your carrot in half lengthwise to form two long planks.

Lay the planks down on the newly formed flat sides, this will create stability for the rest of your cuts.

Cut each plank in half lengthwise to form 4 long carrot sticks.

Line the sticks up, so that you can cut across all 4 sticks at the same time. Make even cuts all the way across, about 1/4 inch apart.

Watch the video below to see our chef demonstrate just how easy this knife cut is.

Now that you know how to dice carrot, you’re ready to get cooking. Try this technique for recipes like. Try some of our favorite recipes with diced carrots.

Recipe with diced carrots

Za’atar Beef & Carrots with Zucchini Rice & Lemon Mayo

A hearty duo of spiced beef and carrots is perfectly matched by white rice laden with tender bites of zucchini and currants.

Seared Chicken & Glazed Carrots with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

The flavor of fig—a Mediterranean fruit beloved for its rich, densely sweet complexity—elevates the irresistible glaze for tender sautéed carrots in this dish. 

how to dice and glaze a carrot

Smoky Chicken & Creamy Cilantro Sauce over Spicy Carrots & Farro

This vibrant dish is bursting with exciting flavors thanks to the blend of smoky spices.

chicken with diced carrots

Ramen Noodle & Spicy Peanut Stir-Fry with Mushrooms, Carrots & Bok Choy

Hearty, delightfully chewy ramen noodles are a comfort food staple perfect for pairing with umami-rich sauces, like the combo of smooth peanut butter spread, soy sauce, sambal oelek, and more that we’re using in this dish

Want to try this at home? You’ll need a good knife. Check out our guide to essential knives for your home kitchen.

How to Tame a Raw Onion’s Bite

This post was contributed by Lori Yates from Foxes Love Lemons. Today we’re talking raw onions, one of the most common, most flavorful ingredients in our pantry.

raw red onion

I have a love-hate relationship with red onions. My grocery store sells the most amazing chicken salad sandwiches. They’re made with just a few simple ingredients—chicken, celery, dried cherries, red onions, and mayonnaise. One day I attempted to save money by making them myself at home. Unfortunately, my first attempt was a disappointment. The problem? The harsh flavor of the raw onion overpowered everything else in the sandwich, even when I significantly reduced the amount. The whole thing just tasted like an onion salad sandwich, and it left my breath in a sad state of affairs for hours after.

raw onion on a burger

My struggles came to an end in culinary school. During several of my classes, the students were in charge of running the restaurant at the front of the school. One of the most boring (but necessary) tasks was prepping ingredients for side salads. We peeled and thinly slice red onions and then soak them in a big bowl of ice water. The onions soaked in the water at least 10 minutes, but they can really sit in there for several hours while you finish the rest of your daily tasks. After soaking, the onions were drained, patted dry, and refrigerated until lunch service started.

The sulfur compounds that give the raw onions their pungent, harsh flavor dissipate in the bowl of water, leaving the resulting onion with a more mellow flavor. When you use cold water, the onion remains super crunchy. In fact, if you have a slightly older onion that is getting a bit soft, the cold water will make it crunchy again.

soaking raw onion

I’ve had hundreds (thousands?) of simple restaurant side salads in my life, but none are as good as the ones we made at my school. The harsh bite of the red onion was completely tamed by the cold water. The flavor of the onion came through without that spicy, burning feeling in your mouth and nose. Better yet, there was no terrible onion aftertaste for the rest of the day.

Try this trick for salads, sandwiches, tacos, or any dish where you want a little flavor of onion, but don’t want that to be the only thing you taste.

How Much Salt to Add to Cooking Water

How much salt to add to cooking water

When boiling, poaching, or blanching, it’s important to season your cooking water. It’s easy to skip this step, but doing so is a missed opportunity. Adding salt to cooking water seasons the inside of your food, whether you’re making noodles or beans. This is science at work. Osmosis transports water into and out of cells. As the cooking water enters the food, it brings salt with it, flavoring the inside of whatever you’re cooking. How much salt to add to cooking water depends on your ingredients and preparation method.

As a general rule, the shorter the cooking time, the more salt you should add to your cooking water. Keep in mind that not all salt is the same size. Kosher salt has large, flaky crystals, while table salt has fine grains. A teaspoon of table salt contains significantly more flavoring power than a teaspoon of kosher salt. If you were to swap salts without adjusting measurements, you’d risk over or under seasoning your dish. If a recipe calls for table salt, you substitute kosher salt if you increase the amount by ¼ teaspoon per teaspoon. 

When blanching vegetables like green beans or peas, the ingredients will only be submerged in the liquid for a few minutes. This doesn’t give them a lot of time to absorb salt. To accomplish proper seasoning, the cooking water should be extremely salty. For 5 quarts of water, add ½ cup of salt to achieve the best flavor. If you were to taste the water directly it would be unpalatable, but when the vegetables come out they will have a mild and savory flavor. 

When it comes to pasta water, Serious Eats suggests that the ideal salinity is 1-2%, depending on your taste preferences. This translates to 1 ½ teaspoons of salt per liter of water. The average pasta pot has a 6-8 quart capacity. If it’s filled three quarters full, you’re using 4-5 quarts of water. To achieve 1% salinity, you’d need to use 2.3 Tablespoons of table salt in 5 quarts of water. A liter is slightly smaller than a quart, but don’t bother getting too caught up in the conversions. Use this rule as a guideline, and don’t add significantly less. 

For boiling potatoes, you’ll need a lot of salt. Most potatoes are very mild, and thoroughly seasoning them will bring out their best flavor. Season with 1 tsp of table salt per pound of potato. 

When it comes to dried beans, the advice is mixed. Some sources say to avoid adding salt until the end of the cooking process to achieve the best texture. When we’re cooking, flavor is our primary goal. To season your beans while cooking, add 1 tsp of table salt per pound of dried beans along with enough water to cover them. 

Proper seasoning during every step of the process is the best way to ensure a flavorful dinner. Once you’re done cooking, don’t toss that water! Check out our guide to pasta water for more ideas.

How to Roast and Blanch Almonds

This guide to almonds was contributed by Nikki Miller-Ka. Nikki is a culinary expert and social media influencer based in North Carolina. A former associate editor at Food And Wine, her favorite things to cook are tacos and biscuits. 

Depending on how they’re prepared, almonds can be slightly sweet, rich and toasty, or mild and buttery. This versatile ingredient can be the golden brown star of a dish, or it can subtly enhance a recipe as a garnish. Almonds have a high oil content, giving them a long shelf life when handled and stored properly. Whole, sliced, diced, slivered, ground, chopped, or blanched—almonds add flavor and texture to just about any savory or sweet recipe.

All almonds taste nuttier and richer when they’re roasted. Roasting almonds brings their natural oils to the surface, and also crisps up the bronze, papery skins. Roasting nuts deepens their flavor, rendering them richer, nuttier, and more complex. It also gives them a crispier texture that shines in many recipes. There are two ways to roast almonds: in the oven or in a frying pan. Read on for instructions for both methods.

How to roast almonds

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Place almonds in a single layer on the sheet. To enhance browning, it’s optional to use a neutral oil and drizzle a small amount (1-2 teaspoons total) over the nuts and toss to coat evenly. Roast whole almonds in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, sliced almonds for 5-7 minutes, and slivered almonds for 6-8 minutes. Place in the oven and check every 5 minutes. 

Stir and shake the pan so that the nuts are redistributed to roast evenly. When the nuts are browned and smell nutty, remove them from the oven and immediately transfer to a work surface or an unheated baking sheet to cool. The nuts will continue to cook and potentially burn if not removed to a cool surface. 

To toast a small number of almonds, use a frying pan. Place the nuts in a single layer in a small dry skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 3 to 5 minutes until they start to smell nutty and they look golden. Pay attention to the pan closely as pan-roasted almonds burn easily on the spots in contact with the pan.

romesco sauce ingredients with roasted almonds

Try this romesco sauce recipe using roasted whole almonds. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.

What are blanched almonds?

Blanched almonds are almonds with the skin removed. Blanching refers to briefly submerging the almonds in boiling water to loosen and remove the skins. Without skins, almonds have a shorter shelf-life but can still be roasted or processed to make almond meal, milk, or flour.

How to blanch almonds

There are two common methods for blanching almonds: an overnight soak or a 5-minute boil. Be sure to dry the almonds thoroughly after blanching in a single layer on paper towels or on dish towels. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. 

Overnight Soaking Method

Place almonds in a bowl. Fill it with cold water just until they are fully submerged. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a paper towel, or a loose-fitting lid, and let it sit under refrigeration overnight. Drain the water from the bowl. Gently squeeze the almonds to loosen their skins—they should slip off easily. Compost the discarded skins.

Boiling Method

Fill a small saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, add the almonds to the saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let them rest for 2 minutes. Drain the water from the pan into a colander as soon as the skins become wrinkled. Rinse the almonds under cold water and gently squeeze the almonds to loosen their skins immediately. Start peeling the skins while the almonds are still warm—as they cool down it will become more difficult to remove the skins. 

Try this Tangy Sweet Meyer Lemon Almond Tart recipe with blanched almonds. The crust will become brown, nutty and pair perfectly with the bright, fresh meyer lemon filling.

A Guide to Cooking with Bacon

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.

types of bacon

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 and 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. 

Try this recipe: Skate Wing with Crispy Lardons and Frisée

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. 

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. 

cooking with bacon for sandwiches
Classic B.L.T. Sandwiches with Tomato, Avocado & Cucumber Salad

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.  

cooking bacon in the oven
Cooking with bacon in the oven

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. 

Recipes we love with bacon 

Pancetta & Onion Jam Cheeseburger with Smoky Fingerlings

Pan-Seared Chicken Legs with Purple Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Vinaigrette

Triple Pork Mazeman with Roasted Garlic & Pea Tips

For more cooking tips and tricks, click here.

Types of Peaches to Love this Summer

The platonic ideal of a peach, enhanced by nostalgia, comes enormous, round, and bursting with juice that tastes of summer sunshine. But while all types of peaches are good peaches, that image leaves out the many other equally delightful forms the fuzzy fruit takes on: crisp enough to add that cherished sweetness to a salad or palm-sized and perfect for snacking. 

When Are Peaches in Season?

What the stereotype gets right, though, is the timing: peaches are a quintessential summer fruit, coming into season starting in May and peaking around the country in June, July, and August, before tapering out through the fall and ending in October. 

How Can You Tell a Peach is Ripe?

The color of a peach is a great indicator of its ripeness, but not in the way most people think: though the attractive red blushing looks nice, it only indicates if your peach got a mild sunburn or not. The real key to finding a ripe peach is looking around the stem and making sure no green tinge remains. While you check that area, look for the first hints of wrinkles on the skin near the stem—that indicates it is perfectly ripe. 

Pick up the peach gently to check the texture. It should have a little give—or a lot, if you want that dripping-down-the-chin level of ripeness. Finally, use the best tool for the job: sniff your peach. It should smell just like that wonderful syrupy flavor you hope to find inside. 

How to Remove a Peach Pit

The best way to remove a peach pit is to eat around the pit until none of the flesh remains. But that works less well if you plan to cut or slice it for salads, sauces, or sweet desserts. In those cases, the secret to cutting a peach comes in cutting it around its equator. Slice through the flesh to the pit all the way around the middle, then hold the top half with the stem in one hand and the bottom half in the other and twist them in opposite directions. Then repeat the process with the half in which the pit remains. The pit will pull out easily from the quartered peach—and you’ll be ready to start dicing or chopping.

Freestone

As the name implies, freestone peaches are less attached to their pits, which makes them useful in sliced preparations, like Fontina and Peach Grilled Cheese. They also tend to be larger than clingstone varieties, and less juicy, which makes them terrific for baking.

Clingstone

Clingstone peaches are smaller, juicier, and more difficult to get the pit out of, so rarely end up looking as nice once you do. But plenty of great peach dishes end up cooking the peach anyway, like in Seared Chicken in Coconut-Peach Broth, so nobody can even tell—and the added sweetness of these peaches makes it worth the grapple-factor.

Semi Freestone 

This hybrid of the two main types of peaches aims to bring the best of both varieties into a single peach: big, juicy, and easy to separate from the pit. With this versatility, it can easily be used in any type of dish, in nice large wedges for a Cherry Tomato and Peach Panzanella or diced small for a Peach Salsa to go with Spice Rubbed Pork Medallions

Melting Peaches 

Melting flesh peaches ripen quickly into super-soft, buttery smooth fruit that, as the trope goes, need to be eaten over the sink. Messy and delightful, they tend to work best eaten out of hand or used in a sauce that doesn’t depend on the peach for texture, like Chicken and Honey-Glazed Peach.

Non-Melting Peaches

Non-melting peaches retain their structure as they ripen, gradually becoming less firm but holding their shape. All non-melting peaches are clingstone peaches, though all clingstone peaches are not non-melting. Use a non-melting peach for the types of dishes where the peach shape draws the eye, like Peach and Arugula Salad to go with Seared Trout.

grilling types of peaches
Learn how to grill peaches

Types of peaches

Donut Peaches

These hybridized descendants of a very old type of peach look just like their namesakes, only with a small pit in place of the hole. The petite size and lack of acid—which makes them seem sweeter—make these a great snacking peach. This is one of our favorite types of peaches.

Nectarines

Most people think of nectarines as a whole different fruit, but nectarines are simply a type of peach with a genetic mutation that keeps them fuzz-free. That makes them nice for eating directly and allows bakers to leave the skin on, and they can stand in for a peach in any recipe.

Arctic Supreme 

A large creamy white and red-skinned peach with white flesh, this clingstone’s big flavor is worth the mess it takes to pry it from the pit, especially showcased in a dish like Seared Chicken with Ginger-Peach Sauce.

Babcock

This semi-freestone peach with smooth skin is on the small side and is also one of the less sweet options. It has a little tartness to it, which can work well in savory preparations, like a Peach and Snap Pea Grain Bowl.

Belle of Georgia

A white freestone that grows into a big, red-blushing fruit with firm flesh, this peach makes an easy one to cut or slice for salads or use in Peach Salsa to go over Seared Chicken.

Desert Goldstone 

This medium-sized yellow clingstone peach boasts great flavor lurking below its red-blushed skin. It’s a clinger, but once it’s in your Peach Pan Sauce for Pork Chops, nobody will notice if it got a bit mangled as you pulled the pit.

Early Amber

A bright yellow-fleshed peach with medium firmness and a strong blush to the skin, this looks and tastes the part of the classic peach and holds up well as wedges, like in a Peach Caprese Salad.

Elberta

Super sweet, compact, and freestone, this baseball-sized peach ripens to a rich yellow and tends to be low in acid and high in juice – great for eating whole with plenty of napkins or as the base of a grilled peach cobbler.

Learn more about other seasonal stone fruit here.

The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Tofu 

This guide to cooking with tofu was compiled by Victoria Bekiempis. Victoria is a journalist in New York City. She covers courts, crime, and cooking. 

raw styles of tofu

Tofu is one of the most versatile plant-based proteins available to home cooks. Preparing tofu dishes presents both an opportunity to recreate restaurant favorites from the comfort of your own kitchen, and to experiment with texture and flavor.  

Tofu can take the form of a light breakfast scramble or a substantial dinner stir-fry. It can be roasted for refreshing salads, or mixed into a creamy snacktime smoothie. Tofu also boasts several advantages over other meat-free proteins. It is relatively inexpensive and can be found at almost every grocery across the U.S., whereas the availability and price of prepared and frozen vegan picks can vary. 

Whether you’re new to tofu or a longtime connoisseur, this guide will explain how to shake up supper with this soy superfood. We’ll explain the ins and outs of cooking tofu—from picking the right texture to prepping it for the pan—and share our favorite recipes. If it isn’t already, we’re sure that tofu will soon become one of your weeknight staples. 

What is tofu?

Tofu, at the most basic level, is soybean curds. To make tofu, soybean milk is boiled, curdled with some sort of coagulant, such as calcium sulfate (gypsum) or magnesium chloride(nigari),and strained. Once the liquid is gone, the solids are compressed. The process is comparable to making cheese from milk, according to Serious Eats. As for taste, many people describe it differently. Some say that plain tofu doesn’t taste like anything, while others detect a slightly sour flavor.

Are there different types of tofu? 

Yes. Generally speaking, the types of uncooked tofu you will encounter at the grocery include silken, soft, medium, firm, and extra firm. Softer tofu has a higher water content, whereas firmer tofu has a lower one, according to Bon Appétit. Many groceries also sell tofu that has been cooked and seasoned, such as barbecue-style chunks or smoky grilled slices.  Some stores sell fried tofu in the refrigerator case, which can range in texture from chewy to puffy. In some parts of the US, locally made tofu is available. 

cooked tofu

How do you prepare tofu for cooking?

The first step in successfully putting together any tofu dish: figuring out which texture is best. The water content of tofu will dictate what it can be. If you want to pump up the protein in a fruit smoothie, then silken is the way to go. If you’re planning to use tofu as a hearty main for a grain bowl, then extra firm is your best bet. 

Once you have picked the best tofu for your dish, drain whatever excess water is in the packaging. With silken or soft tofu, wrap blocks in paper towel. With firmer tofus, there are a few techniques for getting water out. The DIY route is to wrap an entire block of tofu in paper towel or cheesecloth, place something heavy like a cast iron pan on top, and then wait an hour or more for liquid to drain. If you cook tofu a lot, consider purchasing a tofu press. There are different kinds of tofu presses with various mechanisms, but the gist is that once the block is cradled inside, it squeezes the water out. You can just leave the tofu press inside your fridge and use the drained block whenever you’re ready. 

How do you add flavor?

There are a few different schools of thought on adding flavor to tofu. Some cooks say that tofu absorbs the flavors of whatever spice, sauce, marinade, or topping it’s prepped with. Others say that tofu doesn’t absorb marinades and that it needs to be pan fried in order to take in the marinades.   

In general, we have always been able to flavor tofu powerfully without that pan frying-then-marinating step. The key to doing so is to remember  that tofu is a very watery blank canvas, and act accordingly. Be prepared to add more seasoning and spices than you would normally add to food. With savory tofu dishes, toss pressed chunks or slices with generous splashes of soy sauce. Then, add spices or seasonings, before adding whatever oil your recipe calls for. 

How do you cook tofu? 

Now that you’ve prepped your tofu, it’s time to do something with it! With simple shakes and sauces, cooking could be as simple as blending tofu with whatever other ingredients are required.  Several heat-based methods of cooking tofu include baking, frying, searing, and grilling.  To bake tofu, line a half-sheet pan with foil, and lightly drizzle with oil. Place pressed, seasoned cubes of extra-firm tofu on the foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn over each cube, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, according to Gimme Some Oven. Adjust baking time to reach desired texture; the longer tofu bakes, the crispier it will be.  

Seared slices of tofu make for a great main alongside stacks of fresh roasted veggies. To do this, cut a pressed block into four lengthwise pieces. Season the pieces as desired. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan on medium-high heat. When hot, add the pieces to the pan, so each is positioned evenly. Heat for five-to-six minutes. When browned, flip each piece and cook for another two-to-three minutes.  

Breaded-and-fried tofu is also a favorite, achieving a particularly crispy texture without the labor of deep frying. Slice pressed tofu as you would when searing. Season, coat in oil, and then dunk in breadcrumbs. Place in a pan with oil that’s at medium high heat. Cook each slice for three-to-four minutes. 

With softer tofu, heat-based cooking methods are simpler. For soups or sauces, you can add soft or silken tofu to the pan or pot. Every now and then, stir gently. The tofu will heat up, and absorb some flavor, in around three-to-five minutes. For plain heated tofu, steam or pop in the microwave for one-to-two minutes. 

Recipes we love with tofu

Mapo Doufu

Coconut-Poached Tofu

General Tso’s-Style Tofu

Stir-Fried Tofu & Vegetables

Sesame & Maple-Glazed Tofu

Tofu Katsu & Soy Mayo

Sweet & Spicy Tofu

Sweet & Spicy Tofu

Pepita & Panko-Crusted Tofu

Black Bean-Chile Tofu

Spicy Sweet & Sour Tofu

How to Make Fresh Spring Rolls

The 8 Great Things You Can Do with Tortillas, Filling, and Maybe Some Cheese

Try Our Method for Crispy Fish Skin

crispy fish skin

What’s the best part of a golden brown roasted chicken? It’s the crispy skin of course! Now think about the rubbery skin of a poached chicken. Not as appealing, right? The same principle applies to fish skin. Many home cooks are in the habit of eating the filet and leaving the skin behind. If it’s cooked properly, crispy fish skin can add a satisfying textural contrast to your plate. 

How to get crispy fish skin every time 

If you’re cooking fish in a frying pan, it’s easy to achieve crispy fish skin at home. 

Start with the right cut of fish. Not all filets are skin-on! A thick piece of fish with the skin on and scales removed is a good place to start. The skin of popular fish like salmon and steelhead is packed with healthy fats and vitamins. 

how to cook crispy fish skin

Place your pan over medium-high heat, and be sure to let it heat thoroughly before you introduce the fish. When the fish hits the pan it will generate steam, and steam is the enemy of all things crispy! The hotter the pan, the more quickly the steam will disperse. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the slowly escaping water will steam the fish skin, leaving you with a soft and soggy product. 

Don’t be afraid to use plenty of oil. Oil will help conduct heat and it will keep the skin from sticking to the pan. A generous glug (1-2 Tablespoons) of olive oil should do the trick. 

Once it’s in the pan, resist the urge to fuss with your filet. Place the fish skin-side down in the pan and don’t move it for 3-4 minutes. This helps the sear develop and keeps the skin whole. As the skin sears and renders, any stuck bits should release from the pan. If you wait to move it until it’s thoroughly crispy, it should release from the pan without any trouble. 

After the skin is nicely crispy, the top of your fish may still look a little raw. To finish it off, you can either flip the fish and cook to your desired degree of doneness, or cover the pan with aluminum oil to trap heat until the fish is cooked through. 

Try some of our favorite recipes for crispy-skinned fish filets. 

Steelhead Trout Rice Bowls with Avocado, Bok Choy & Yuzu Kosho Mayo

crispy trout skin and rice

Seared Barramundi with Collard Greens, Fregola Sarda & Shallot Agrodolce

crispy fish skin filet on cous cous

Crispy Skin Salmon & Romesco Lentils with Sweet Peppers & Lemon Yogurt

All About Pasta Water

sauce made with pasta water

In restaurant kitchens, pasta water is affectionately called ‘liquid gold.’ In home kitchens, many cooks just throw it out. We’re here to make a case for treating your pasta water with respect. That means seasoning it properly and taking advantage of its special properties. Here’s how to make the most of your next pasta dinner. 

Season your cooking water

Maybe you’ve heard that cooking water should be ‘as salty as the sea.’ If you haven’t tasted the sea recently, that can be a confusing rule. As a general guide, you need about 1.5 tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta. 

Why should you save that water

While your pasta is cooking, the water absorbs some of the starch from the pasta noodles. The added starch, which is the reason that the water looks a little cloudy after cooking, is what makes this product so special.It gives the water thickening power, and helps create a base for rich, smooth sauces. The water is also packed with flavor, since it’s been seasoned with salt.

seasoned pasta water
After cooking, the water looks murky because it’s full of starch

How to save pasta water

After your noodles have cooked, you’ll need to separate the pasta from the water without pouring the water down the drain. If you’re cooking long noodles like spaghetti or bucatini, you can use a pair of tongs to grab them and lift them right out of the water. Shorter noodles, like penne or rigatoni, are too small to grab with tongs. These can be fished out with a slotted spoon, or you can use a ladle to remove several big scoops of pasta water before straining the noodles in a colander. 

How to use pasta water 

Cooking water can be used to create luxurious sauces for meals like pasta al limone. The starchy water helps create smooth, emulsified sauces that are packed with flavor and perfectly coat noodles. Reserved water from cooking can also save you if something goes wrong. Is your pesto pasta feeling a little bit dry and sticky? A scoop full of starchy water can add moisture and help disperse the sauce evenly over your noodles.

Feeling inspired? Put a pot of water on the stove and get inspired by some of our favorite pasta shapes.

How To Slice Meat Against the Grain

slicing meat against the grain

When you’re serving beef dish, like zippy flank steak tacos or rich sirloin with a side of potatoes, you goal is tender meat with an enjoyable bite. To achieve the perfect texture, you need to do more than cook your protein correctly. You also need to slice the meat against the grain. This final step can make a huge difference when it comes to the overall quality of your meal. It’s not difficult—it’s just a matter of learning how to identify the grain in a piece of meat.

What is the grain in meat?

Meat is a muscle. The ‘grain’ refers to the muscle fibers, and the direction in which they run. For a tougher piece of meat, like flank or hanger steak, the grain is fairly pronounced. Tender cuts like fillet mignon have a finer grain, which can be more difficult to identify. You don’t want a long and stringy bite of meat. When you cut against the grain of the muscle, you get hundreds of tiny fibers instead of one long one. That makes the meat melt in your mouth.

How to find the grain on a piece of meat?

If you look closely at your meat after it has been cooked, you’ll see little lines running across it. That’s the grain we’re talking about. To slice meat against the grain, just hold your knife perpendicular to the grain and cut thin slices.

Next time you cook a flank, hanger, or skirt steak, check out the grain in the meat before you sear it. The grain won’t always be obvious, but if you look carefully you’ll find it. Now you’re on the path to tender, satisfying bites.

Check out a few more of our favorite steak recipes:

Ready to get cooking? Learn how to make the perfect steak.

Baked Chicken with Rhubarb and Fennel

savory chicken and rhubarb

We look forward to the appearance of rhubarb every spring. This beautiful pink vegetable (yes, it’s technically a vegetable) is so tart that it’s usually paired with sugar to to tame its tangy bite. For this reason, it’s often the star of sweet desserts like strawberry rhubarb pie, or preserves like rhubarb jam (we love this recipe). If you don’t have a sweet tooth, consider trying a savory rhubarb recipe this year.

Our recipe for combines the tangy brightness of rhubarb with the satisfying richness of baked skin-on chicken.

rhubarb

Savory rhubarb recipe: Baked chicken with rhubarb and fennel

For the chicken:

  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 (4 to 4 1/2-pound) chicken, patted dry
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small head fennel, cored and thinly sliced
  •  Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the rhubarb:

  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1 pound rhubarb, 1/2” thick slices
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 thyme sprigs

1. In a small bowl, combine salt, coriander, lemon zest, ginger, pepper and garlic paste. Rub it all over the chicken, including inside the cavity and under the skin. Stuff thyme sprigs into the cavity.

2. Place chicken on a baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish, and marinate, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

3. For the rhubarb: Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Thinly slice the lemon into rounds. Remove any seeds. Quarter lemon rounds into triangles. Blanch lemon pieces in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain.

4. In a 8×8” baking dish or a pie pan, toss together blanched lemons, rhubarb, sugar, ginger, coriander seeds, a pinch of salt and thyme sprigs. Let macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

5. Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven and another one below. Heat oven to 425°F. Toss onions and fennel in a medium mixing bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and set aside.

6. Drizzle olive oil all over the chicken. Roast chicken on the center rack and rhubarb below for 23-25 minutes, or until rhubarb is glazed and syrupy.

7. Remove rhubarb and lower oven temperature to 400°F. Spoon some of the rhubarb syrup all over the chicken. Scatter the onion and fennel pieces around chicken on a baking sheet, then continue to roast until skin is golden and cooked through and onions are browned, about 20-25 minutes longer.

8. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with onions, fennel, rhubarb and more thyme sprigs for garnish.

Still hungry? Find more recipes like this in the Blue Apron cookbook.