Food Hacks

An army marches on its stomach.  Food is at the core of our survival.  Yet it's more—it's a sensual pleasure.

Rodney Dangerfield said "Food has completely replaced sex in my life.  I even had a mirror installed over my table."  

So, without getting creepy, let's talk food, food hacks, never-before-heard-of tricks for creating the most pleasurable oral experiences.

Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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Just to kick this off, TGI Friday's potato skins, available at your grocer, are a good base for jazzing up.  Some extra bacon, green onion or chives, and some extra cheese makes a great side.  Toss on some sour cream and dive in.

Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

One more.  There are some premium-quality bouillons out there.  Lee Kum Kee chicken bouillon is one.  It's difficult to distinguish broth made with it from something like Swanson's.

What broths lack is mouth feel.  Gelatin is the solution.  I use gelatin sheets, but plain old Knox will do the job just fine.

It replaces the collagen that's rendered from the bone when making real stock.  It's not as good as the real thing, but we're talking hacks here.....

Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

If you like Asian noodle dishes, I have a quick and easy dinner I make often when the wife has other plans in the evening (she doesn't care for the dish).  I start with a skillet and some sesame oil.  I sauté veggies in the oil with some garlic.  I like some sliced mushrooms, a couple brussel sprouts sliced in half, some sugar peas, some chopped green onions and I'll throw a handful of spinach in at the end after I cut the heat off.  If I have them, I'll throw a few shrimp in too.

Next in a pot I bring ~2 cups of chicken or veggie broth to a low boil.  Then I take a pack of instant ramen (yes the cheap stuff) and throw the seasoning packet away.  I put the block of noodles in the broth (don't break them up) and then dump the skillet into the pot.  If there isn't enough liquid to cover the noodle block, add some water or more broth if you prefer.  Add a generous dollop of ginger paste and soy sauce to taste and cut the heat back to simmer.  Let it cook until the noodles are soft and will spread apart.  Usually only 2-3 minutes.

Dump it all in a bowl and grab your chopsticks.  I keep boiled eggs on hand most of the time so I slice one in half and put it on top most times.  A soft boiled egg is even better and a poached egg is my favorite.  But those take an extra pot and extra time so I usually just use a hard-boiled one for convenience.  Season to taste.  I like it a little spicy so I add some cayenne pepper.
If you haven’t tried one, buy a sous vide. Absolutely perfect temp control, and it’s impossible to over cook anything. It does change the color of some of the meat, but a quick seat in a pan or on a grill takes care of that. An essential piece of kit for the kitchen!

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".

Kenny, using packaged ramen and seasoning it yourself is a great hack.  Inexpensive and easy to keep around.

Ryan, I bought the first Anova sous vide circulator when it came out.  It was the first immersible option for under about $800 at the time.  I had come very close to buying the Sous Vide Supreme for $500 before the Anova came out.  I'm glad I waited.

Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

I never understood why the commercial versions were soooo much more expensive. I get that they are higher wattage and made to run almost continually, but at this price now, anyone can have one. If you wanna spend a little more you can get more wattage, but I’d assume you only need that for big volumes. I’ve never fallen short with my 800w version. 

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".

Kenny, no extra pot needed, just a couple extra minutes, plop your egg in the pot of stock for a few minutes to either soft-boil or poach it.

Many of our meals are hacks. Rotisserie chicken one night. Wings, back and thigh meat gets some taco seasoning for nachos the next night. Breasts get chopped and turned into chicken salad the next. Carcass goes into a gallon ziploc bag in the freezer, and when there’s four chicken skeletons, they go into the sous vide with a little water and mirepoix and a day or so later I have chicken stock for some other meal.

Leftover rice, put a can of coconut milk in a saucepan, put a can of leftover rice in. Add the seeds from one vanilla pod. Simmer and stir until it turns to pudding, and drizzle a little honey over the top for a tasty dessert. Or breakfast porridge. Put a beaten egg in if you want it to be richer and more custardy.

May you have the day you deserve!

Rotisserie chickens are the bomb.  I realize I can bake a better chicken, but I'll pay about double what a rotisserie goes for at Sam's.

Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

Let’s make this even quicker…

Good thought Dave but the broth wasn’t deep enough to boil an egg.  So I just used the skillet to make a couple over medium.

Need to follow along on this one. Hardest part of being an adult, what to fix for dinner.

I purchased a Blackstone a few weeks ago, only used it a few times. makes some great potatoes, and Smashburger's. Tried some dogs on it, those are better on the grill. Still need to try a breakfast on it.

Main Street to the Mountains

I absolutely love my Blackstone.  The unit itself leaves a bit to be desired... Thin metal, paint peeling and rust underneath, but it has opened my mind to flat top griddling.  I even got a flat top for my gas range after this last camping season.  You can do so much with it!

You should be able to get a good soft boil by plopping the lid on and letting the steam do the work.

In fact, I don't boil eggs, I steam them.  I use one of my Fissler pressure pots (2.4L, I believe), add a cup of water and puncture the air sac end of the egg.  Once it comes to pressure, timing is easy and the results are very consistent.

Here's the best part.  The pressure seems to separate the egg from the membrane inside the shell, and the boiled egg literally slips out of the shell.

Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

I'm a big fan of my Blackstone too, bought used but like new and apparently never left in the weather I have no rust issues and on my covered back porch, it'll only be subject to humidity so hopefully rust will be a non-issue.  It's a real game changer when doing a large quantity of hash browns or stir fry, way better than even a large pan on the cook top.

My hack would be peeling hard boiled eggs, especially if you have many to do.  Peel them right away and as hot as you can handle.  Peel a band of shell from the middle which should come off easily and in large pieces, then the top & bottom pop right off.  I can do nearly a dozen in a minute which is particularly handy if making deviled eggs or some other dish that requires many.  Nothing is worse than putting them in the fridge then two days later fighting with each shell for five minutes only to strip away at least 20% of the egg white that won't release from the shell.
For hard boiled eggs, the quicker you can cool them from boiling to fridge temp, the better they will peel. If I get them into ice water (with plenty of ice cubes) right away, and keep them in the ice water until all the ice has melted (typically about 45 minutes), they peel very easily, even more than a week later.

Slow cooling (as in just water cooling them) will have most of the white sticking to the shell.

May you have the day you deserve!

Ok here's a hack.  I love a good fried rice dish.  It's so easy on the griddle but you can do it in a pan too.

They make fried rice blend rice, if you can find it.  If not I do a 50/50 mix of white rice and jasmine rice.  Make it ahead of time.  The key is you want it dry.  Leave it in a bowl uncovered in the fridge for a day, it'll dry right out.

Then don't be shy with the oil.  Put a good amount down, add the rice, and crank the heat.  I find it hard to get enough heat to make a nice crust on it.  Mix semi-frequently, oil for consistency (I always end up using more than I think), and soy/teriyaki to taste (I don't measure - get a good color and try it, iterate). I do the sauce about 3/4 of the way thru cooking.  Veggies and protein about half way thru.  Eggs dead last.  Scramble them, pour in the middle, and just mix everything together.  It's hot enough they will cook really fast.

My biggest tip to anyone who wants to cook food that is always "right" is to buy a good quality instant read thermometer. I have this one, but less pricey models do almost as good work as this one.

Thermapen I picked the Orange one :-)

As instantly as you will be able to know the current temp of your food, you will also become a better cook just as fast. 
Most in this thread already, know this. This is for a food noob, and mostly it pertains to cooking meat. These are thing to always do, and if you do, your food will be cooked better, with much less frustration.

Always bring your meat to room temp before cooking it. In a pinch at least leave it out at room temp 25 to 30 minutes before cooking.

Always completely dry the meat before cooking, pat it dry, squeeze it dry, just get the water out. It helps cooking, and also makes spices, and marinades to better adhere, and penetrate the meat.

Always take the meat OFF of the heat, and cover it, lightly (aluminum foil tent), to placing it inside a cooler, at least 5 degrees before you want the temp to be for your preferred degree of doneness, and let the meat "rest" for at least 5 minutes before cutting it. IOW if you want your steak to be a perfect med/rare then you want 130, to 135 degrees, so pull it at 120 to 125 degrees, it will keep warming if covered, and that "rest" time allows the meat fibers to relax, and the juices to redistribute through the meat.

Know things, like how hot do I want my???? Every kind of meat has a "range" of temps to cook it to, know before you cook what your goal is.

In a way this is exactly like woodworking. Knowledge, and skill to Prepare your stock (wood, or meat) before starting to make your project. 

Or, just go old school Caveman style and pitch it in the fire, and take it out when you think it should be done. I hear those carbon fibers taste real good, and alternative is just eat the charcoal, saves $$$$$ buying steaks, and chops.
Hard boiled eggs, life is too short.

I am from this camp All ready for you, just waiting, shelf life is really long, and they are already shelled, so all that time wasted on that, Phhhhffffttt. To me, my Wife, that's all that really matters, but we have made deviled eggs using them, served them to people as just a hard boiled egg, and nobody has said damn this is one of those pre pre pre eggs, I'm gonna kill youuuuuu. NADA hasn't happened, so the blind taste test says.....

The only down side is price as far as I can see, and loving hard boiled eggs as much as I do, I'm always eating them, and now have all that time since I'm not making them....

Seems like it's a thing.
All this talk of hard boiled eggs makes me think of "Cool Hand Luke" had to eat 58 of them in an hour.

Main Street to the Mountains

Thermapen: buy once, cry once. 

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".