Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Dec 1, 2011 10:24 AM

Simple things you can't get right

My travails with my current loaf of no-knead bread got me thinking about should-be-easy foods I just cannot cook well. I have mastered wedding cake, Momofuku ramen, cassoulet—any number of complicated dishes. But for the life of me I can't get a boiled egg right (yes, I have tried every method you are about to recommend; I now rely on a $20 infallible egg cooker), and my pancakes are never particularly good either. I used to also burn grilled cheese on a regular basis, but I have improved at least on that front.

What are your embarrassing weak spots?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Rice is virtually impossible for me. I don't even eat it all that often, but I'm tempted to get a rice cooker just so that I never have to think about it again (like your situation with the egg maker). However, the difference between rice and egg cooking is that rice is far more fickle a beast. There are more variables that can send a pot of rice off, which one of those fuzzy logic rice cookers can account for better than me.

    As for the boiled eggs, in a 4 qt saucepan cover 6 eggs with enough COLD water so they're submerged 1". Turn on high. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat (especially if you have an electric range, be sure to move pot to cool area like a trivet) and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and set your timer for 11 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare a large dutch oven with a LOT of cold water (4 quarts). About 2 minutes before the timer beeps, dump two FULL ice cube trays (24 cubes) into the dutch oven. Drain the eggs in a colander.

    (At this point I swirl the eggs in the saucepan to crack the shells, which makes peeling them easier later, but that doesn't affect how the eggs cook).

    Plunge the still hot eggs into the ice water bath and let them fully cool for about 10 minutes.

    If you follow these directions exactly (using proportions and timing), virtually all the variables that could send your eggs off have been accounted for. Don't try to cook too many eggs at once, use the right sized cooking vessel with the right amount of water, and use more ice water than you think you're going to need.

    Mr Taster

    24 Replies
    1. re: Mr Taster

      I'm not even going to try!! I've given up! The egg cooker works great!

      1. re: sweetpotater

        After reading this method, what do you think make your eggs fail? I've included a lot of detail in order to eliminate any ambiguity, but the actual process is very simple.

        Unless your water boils at a different temperature than mine (if you're at a high altitude) everything should work just the same in your kitchen as in mine. I should add that I use an All-Clad tri-ply 4 qt saucepan... if you're using a thin, cheaper saucepan I suppose it could potentially heat the eggs quicker and send my numbers off a smidge.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          I don't know. I have done variations of that exact method (also in an All-Clad saucepan) and usually the yolks are not cooked enough. I do the ice-water bath in a plastic bowl usually, but I doubt that makes a significant difference (especially if undercooking is the problem).

          1. re: sweetpotater

            A variation of that method is not that method :)

            I prefer my eggs ever so slightly underdone so the yolk is still a tiny, tiny bit creamy and 10 minutes usually does it. If you want a more firmly cooked egg, I'd say 12 minutes should do it.

            And once the eggs are cooked for 12 minutes, ditch the plastic bowl (which is probably too small-- the hot eggs may heat the water too much) for a better vessel. I like my 7.25 qt cast iron dutch oven because it conducts cold just as well as it conducts heat, and it easily accommodates 4 qts of water + 2 ice cube trays.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: sweetpotater

              The best thing I ever learned about boiling eggs is that you shouldn't do it! The wonderful book "On Food and Cooking" has an entire chapter on eggs and, apparently, cooking them at boiling temperature makes them tougher and more sulfurous. Instead, it suggested cooking the eggs at a low simmer so that's what I do now--for about 10-12 minutes, followed by the cold water bath. The results are fabulous! The whites are solid, but more tender and not at all rubbery, and, yeah, there isn't that overly sulfurous taste that eggs can sometimes have. I'll never boil an egg again!

              As for things I screw up--well, I'm just starting to get the hang of polenta. The trick I've found is to start with a lot more liquid than the recipes call for and slowly cook it down. If I use the amount of liquid most recipes call for, I get thick goop almost immediately which then gets lumpy (even with stirring) if I try to cook it long enough to give it the creamy texture I want.

              1. re: Lady_Tenar

                I used to be scared of polenta, but have a lot of luck now that I use Mollie Katzen's approach. Boil 3 cups water, whisk together one cup of water with one cup of polenta and poor it into the polenta. You will have to lower the temperature to a low simmer after adding the polenta and water mixture. Whisk well and stir a few times while it cooks. Cook for 17-20 minutes. This is in the Vegetables I Can't Live Without Book. In the book she adds a cup of cheese after the polenta cooks and serves garlicky greens over the polenta. Yum!

                1. re: kellyts

                  This in an interesting way of doing it. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks. :)

            2. re: Mr Taster

              Another important variable is, as someone else suggested, the size of the eggs. And also the starting temperature of the eggs, not just whether the water heats up from cold or not.

              Along with Lady_Tenar, I also have decided that I don't like rubbery, sulferous boiled eggs.

              I've taken to cooking eggs in my sous-vide water bath where I can control the temperature precisely. I did a number of experiments (and ate a lot of eggs) before I figured out exactly how Iong and at what temperatures to cook various sizes of eggs fresh from the fridge in order to get both the white and the yolk done to my taste for various purposes. (The legendary "perfect egg" has a white that is a bit too underdone for me.)
              I found I never have any need for the eggs to reach over 80°C / 174°F. The water bath and my handy-dandy chart together make a great egg cooker.

              Following Mr Taster's method and habit of consistency, the desired effects can be achieved on the stovetop by varying the time required to bring the water to the boil, most easily and consistently achieved by varying the amount of water in the pot, I think, unless one has the rare burner that can be very precisely and reliably controlled.

              If the whites are getting too firm before the yolk is cooked enough, the temperature is going too high too fast -- the outer part is getting cooked before the heat has time to reach the center -- so add water or reduce heat to bring the water more slowly to the boil.

          2. re: Mr Taster

            I've always had problems cooking rice. I've tried every method & vessel I can think of over the years. This is what works for me: Take one cup of Basmati Rice, rinse it until clear, then put it in a large saucepan full of water, add salt & bring to a boil. Boil until just al dente. Drain it well, put back in the saucepan, cover & set aside until tender. (off the heat). This is the only way I can get rice to turn out.

            I have a problem with traditional fried chicken with the bone in. I use boneless chicken breasts now & they taste good but I'd really like to make it with thighs & legs. I think living at high altitude sometimes makes it harder, it's either raw in the center by the bone or too dark on the outside. My coating never stays nice & crisp either. The flavors are good and I can make an excellent gravy with the drippings, but it's just not traditional.

            Oh & my cakes ALWAYS collapse in the center. My daughter can follow the same exact recipe & gets great results. We've made her the default baker in the house. I'm the cook, she's the baker.

              1. re: jcattles

                If your cakes are collapsing in the middle you are either opening the door too much or they are under baked.

                1. re: psycho_fluff

                  or too much leavening. Wonder if the altitude has anything to do with it.

                  1. re: psycho_fluff

                    I would love for that to be the reason. I don't open the door until the end of the cooking time when I see that the cake is browning nicely. I really do think altitude plays a key role. I also think that some of us are just better at baking than others. It's ok, I love that my daughter (she's 10) loves to bake & is learning valuable lessons when we spend time together in the kitchen.

                    1. re: jcattles

                      You need to decrease the leavener and increase the liquid for cakes at high altitude. There is less pressure pushing down, so you need less leavener to push back up, and you need a little more liquid because it boils off more quickly at the lower boiling point.

                  2. re: jcattles

                    I had problems with rice until I discovered that if you let it rest covered for 20 minutes or more after all of the after had been absorbed made all the difference.

                    1. re: jcattles

                      I always make fried chicken with the bone in, using thighs. First, I brine it overnight using the Ad Hoc chicken brine recipe :) After I fry the chicken, I put it on a wire rack over a baking tray and have them cook in the oven for a little while. This way you can take out the chicken from the fryer at the right darkness, but still make sure they're cooked.

                    2. re: Mr Taster

                      As long as you rinse your rice well (unless sticky rice), slowly rain it into you boiling salted water & only stir once it should be ok. I used to be the same but these 3 things work. Its the opposite to pasta. Every time you walk past a pot of cooking pasta, you stir it. Rice you leave alone.

                      1. re: psycho_fluff

                        I second this. I am only recently able to get rice perfect, even trying this technique at first yielded me a few failures first. However lately I've turned out some awesome rice with every single grain fluffy and discrete.

                        The method on this website is what I've pretty much duplicated with success:

                        I've turned out some really yummy jasmine rice using coconut milk instead of water, too.

                      2. re: Mr Taster

                        Eleven minutes makes undercooked yolks for me.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          are you using extra-large eggs? because i've found that the yolks of large eggs tend to get chalky beyond 10 or 11 minutes .

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Always large. Because recipes usually are calibrated towards large.

                        2. re: Mr Taster

                          I'm not sure what fuzzy logic is but I can cook rice on the stovetop just fine and i STILL prefer a rice cooker for about 10,000 reasons. If you want to know what they are you'll just have to start a thread in cookware ;-)

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              What a helpful post!!! I have a similar method, but yours is even easier! I bring my eggs to a boil then turn the burner to as low as it goes for 8 minutes. Same cold water... and the colander. To test them I always pick one up with a slotted spoon and kind of judge the weight of it... I am never ever really sure, so I dunk it in the cold water and start peeling... much to my surprise I "usually" come up with a perfect boiled egg with a fluffy yellow center. WOW now I have a fool proof method for sure! Thanks Mr Taster!

                            2. BISCUITS! My are always hockey pucks and I have been trying for years.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: beanodc

                                beanodc, I've been on a biskit quest. First success was with America's Test Kitchen. They are "drop biscuits" Butter is melted then mixed with cold butter milk and this is mixed into the dry ingredients. A key, that I had to learn myself, is to reserve a little of the liquid and then add just enough for the dough to for a ball. Then you can play around with it a little, like a dash of cream of tartar. I also have been struggling with rice and will try the suggestion above.

                                1. re: stymie

                                  I will check out that recipe. I will tell you that I must have collected more than a dozen "never fail" recipes and I continue to make hockey pucks. But I will try again.

                                  1. re: beanodc

                                    Maybe you're over-working the dough? Or maybe your baking powder is old. A lot of people don't get new baking powder often enough, and it loses it's "punch" after a while. That would be an easy thing to fix!

                                    1. re: beanodc

                                      Please forgive me for being what I'm sure is the 24th person shoving glib tips at you, but I've had luck using animal fat or butter and doing the drop kind. If your biscuit dough is rollable without being chilled for a long time, it's going to make a dry biscuit.

                                      1. re: beanodc

                                        Have you tried the Popeyes copycat recipe with bisquick, sourcream SPRITE and melted butter?

                                        Its amazing.

                                    2. re: beanodc

                                      What recipes are you using? What kind of flour are you using and how old is your baking soda?

                                      My favorite chemical leavening biscuits are Peter Reinhardt's/Fine Cooking buttermilk biscuits.

                                      I made my own recipe for yeast biscuits from 2-3 recipes and finished products that I reverse engineered.

                                      1. re: beanodc

                                        overmixing is the problem, when it looks like it wont come together and you have massive chunks of butter roll it out, cut it, and bake. The large knobs of butter give you the layers and flaky product. and cold liquid and cold butter, they will be perfect.
                                        also check your recipe, it may be bunk

                                      2. I do not know how to cook fine cuts of meat. I have a long pork tenderloin in the fridge thawing now, and I am so dithering about whether to cut it in half or not before roasting. I've only cooked one pork tenderloin ever, and it wasn't very good.

                                        I can broil a steak, but I have never attempted prime rib, or even large cuts of pork. I've always been afraid of paying a lot for a nice cut of meat and then ruining it.

                                        So for me, it is fear that is holding me back. One the one hand I think my fear is ridiculous and on the other hand, I almost never buy fine meal.

                                        36 Replies
                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                          I'm with you on this. There's just the two of us, so I don't need that much for every day, and I'm afraid to experiment with some big roast for the first time whenever we have company. I always feel very secure with my salads, sides, and dessert, but if my husband doesn't grill it, I worry lots about my meats.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            I love pork tenderloin. it's tender and inexpensive. They only weigh about 1.25 pounds so they are fine for 2 people.

                                            I highly recommend brining them in a solution of 1/4 cup table salt and 14- 1/2 cup sugar per quart of water for about an 1 - 2 hours. Although I get even better results with 7-8 tablespoons of soy sauce and a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar in a plastic bag. Sear the roast then pop in in an oven at 350° F for about 15-20 minutes. I use a digital thermometer and take it out to rest at 149° F. It is just a little pink then. I mop on some BBQ sauce about 10 minutes before it's time to remove it from the oven. After it rests slice it in 1/4inch medallions and serve with a little extra BBQ sauce.

                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                              I knew I'd get advice about the tenderloin. This tenderloin is quite large and should serve perhaps 6 or 7 people. I should have written that I am terrified of brining too! I intend to do a dry rub of smashed peppercorns and salt, and perhaps some fresh rosemary, 'aging' it with the rub for a few hours before roasting it.

                                              I don't find tenderloin that inexpensive, although in this case it was on sale.

                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                What you have isn't a tenderloin of pork if it's that big - it's a loin. Loin tends to be a little less tender than tenderloin, and might require a little extra care since it's not quite as forgiving. However, as long as you don't cook it past 140-145 internal (and you let it rest for 20 mins before slicing), it should be juicy and delicious.

                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                  It was advertised as tenderloin, and is labeled that way. It weighs 2.40 lbs.

                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                    Is it in a single cryo-pak? If so, I'll bet you've got two tenderloins in the pack. Otherwise, that was a HUGE pig! :)

                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      How set are you on keeping it whole?

                                                      my family's favorite recipe for pork tenderloin i slice it in about 1/2" medallions, then pound them to about 1/4", and cover them in a mix of flour, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, sear them off really quick with some shallot, garlic, and carrot, remove them from the pan, deglaze with balsamic, soy, cumin, dried cherries, capers, and lemon juice, then return the medallions to the pan while that sauce reduces to let it glaze them. its awesome served over broccoli and rice (or cous cous)

                                                      its delicious! sweet, spicy, and savory.... and they cant get enough of it. my brother requests it every time he comes home from school!

                                                      if ya wanna keep it whole, my suggestion is to marinate it, then grill it hot and fast

                                                      1. re: mattstolz

                                                        I do something similar. I cut medallions about an inch thick and moosh them flat just a bit with my hand. I pan sear them and when they're about done I remove and cover off heat. I add chopped shallots and one clove of minced garlic to the pan and saute them a bit in the fond, then I deglaze with a bit of wine. Cook that down a minute, and then add grainy dijon mustard, some cream, let it thicken a bit. Add the juices that collected in the dish with the pork. Then I add a few tablespoons of butter to smooth it out. Drizzle over the pork just before serving.

                                                        This was a "pantry save" one evening when we had lots of snow and I had to work with what I had in the fridge and pantry. My husband loves it.

                                                2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  I've been pulling them @ 135* and resting. New reports say there is little risk and no tric in pork anymore

                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                    There should not be trichinosis in American pork. And it is my understanding that we should not cook it as done as we were advised all those years ago. It is also leaner, and I've learned to like it unless it is presented as ham--most ham anyway. I've decided to follow a cooking method in a CI book but with a dry rub applied several hours before. I don't know whether to cut it half or not, so if this is in reality 2 tenderloins that problem is solved.

                                                    The only other time I did this cut, the tenderloin was pre marinated and both Mr. Sueatmo and I disliked it and wondered why people considered it so good.

                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      Don't buy the pre marinated stuff. Just do a simple rub with spices you like. I might use a little cumin, garlic and onion powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar and salt as a rub. Depends on what I have on hand. I also haven't found a reason to brine it but haven't tried a brined tenderloin to compare.

                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                        I won't ever again buy a marinated tenderloin. Tonight my tender loin was very tasty. It cooked faster than I expected. I like the pepper/rosemary/salt rub.

                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                          glad to hear 1) that it was tasty and 2) that youre not gonna buy the crappy pre-marinated stuff anymore. so much better doin it yourself!

                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                              For great pork loin: marinate in 1/2 c whiskey and 1/2 c soy sauce for12 h.

                                                              Roast to 135 in the oven, remove, then tent with foil to come up to 140.

                                                              Serve with sauce of 1/2 c mayo, 1/2 c sour cream, 1 tbd. dry mustard and one finely chopped shallot.

                                                              1. re: JonParker

                                                                LOL. Sounds good except neither I nor Mr. Sueatmo imbibe. Someone here will love your recipe though, I am sure of it.

                                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                                  (Disclaimer: Your post reminded me of this story. Please note that in relating this, I am in no way inferring, implying or suggesting anything about you or Mr. Sueatmo's choice not to drink.)

                                                                  I often share my cooking creations with a colleague of mine at work who is a recovering alcoholic (sober over 20 years). I made a delicious coq au vin (which uses a whole bottle of red wine to tenderize and reduce into a rich, savory sauce). By the time I cause myself offering her some, it was too late. I apologized. Her reaction?

                                                                  "Honey, I drank to lose myself and forget about my problems. Do you really think eating chicken will do that? Now give me a taste."

                                                                  Mr Taster
                                                                  (whose coq au vin, despite using an entire bottle of pinot noir, is not boozy in the slightest)

                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                    Well note that the alcohol cooks off in the roasting. Also, you could try it with pure soy sauce.

                                                                    1. re: JonParker

                                                                      According to a Chow Tip, a lot of it doesn't cook off.

                                                                      1. re: jvanderh

                                                                        This chart shows how much alcohol burns off depending on the cooking method and time, per the USDA:

                                                                      2. re: JonParker

                                                                        No to that alcohol tip. It doesn't work like that, unless the food is stewed or braised for a very long time, and I do mean a VERY long time. I would never serve food with an alcohol content to someone who chooses not to imbibe for whatever reason, unless that someone told me specifically that it would be okay for them.

                                                                        1. re: JonParker

                                                                          "Well note that the alcohol cooks off in the roasting'

                                                                          For someone with......issues...I .think of it like "cooking off" peanuts, with a peanut allergy.

                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                            There's a difference between "don't imbibe" as the poster said and "having issues." Also, that's a ridiculous analogy.

                                                                            1. re: JonParker

                                                                              Consider me dully chastised!.....Musta had a little too much sherry in my mushroom sauce....

                                                                          2. re: JonParker

                                                                            (Step up on soap box)

                                                                            According the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory they concluded that simmering a product for 1 minute will remove 50% of the alcohol content. However please note that these were calculations not experiments.

                                                                            In experiments the amount of alcohol removed is greater in products that have higher alcohol content (liquor and liqueurs) than in beer and wine. In fact the residual amount of alcohol left when adding 2 ozs of hard liquor or 2 ozs of wine and then simmering for 10 minutes was virtually identical in tests that were performed. Btw the tests that I am referring to had only 31% of the alcohol remaining after 10 minutes.

                                                                            If you do the math and make a gallon of sauce and use 6 ozs of wine to deglaze with you will start with 6oz X 12%) .72 ozs of alcohol. After simmering for 10 minutes you will have *.22 ozs of alcohol left

                                                                            128 oz sauce

                                                                            6 oz wine

                                                                            134 ozs total

                                                                            8 oz lost due to summer

                                                                            126 Total amount of sauce

                                                                            For every ounce of sauce you will have .001746 ozs of alcohol.

                                                                            As an example non alcoholic beer contains between 0.2 and 0.4% alcohol (.00025 per ozs) but is considered under US federal law as being non alcoholic. Just FYI most naturally fruit juices usually measures around .2 - .4% alcohol content due to natural fermentation.

                                                                            So if you consumed 8 ozs of this sauce (a huge portion for sauce but maybe it's a soup you are having) in your meal you will receive .014 ozs of alcohol, which is equal to 1/10th of 1 oz of wine. On the other hand if you ordered a 8 oz glass of orange juice in its place you will consumed about .002 ozs of alcohol.

                                                                            NOTE: This is only or 10 minutes of simmering if you are roasting a product for 1 hour your numbers will be much closer to a glass of OJ than a quick 10 minute simmer.

                                                                            Hope this sort of comparison helps people to understand that the amount of alcohol you receive in food in so miniscule that unless one has religious reasons there is no reason to eschew a sauce or soup that has been flavored with alcohol.

                                                                            (step down from soapbox)

                                                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                              Great post.
                                                                              I think it comes down to religion or someone who's belief in recovery involves completely and totally avoiding alcoholic beverages (and mouthwash).
                                                                              I think it's a bit extreme, because I've never felt any effects when consuming sauces made with alcohol, but I respect that everyone needs to do what they gotta do in their own way.

                                                        2. re: sueatmo

                                                          Yeah, fine cuts of meat are terrifying! I don't eat meat very often and, when I do, I get local, sustainably raised (read: expensive) meat, so usually I stick to stews and braises, which use cheaper, tougher cuts and which I'm great at. But once in a great while I want a steak and they intimidate the hell out of me. Last time I tried cooking a steak, (searing it in a pan and then finishing it in the oven) it ended up overdone (I like my steak medium.) I used it in steak salad and tacos, so it was okay, but I would really love to be able to properly cook a steak the way I want it, for the rare occasions that I have it.

                                                          1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                            It really doesn't matter the cooking method for steaks, the only sure fire way to not overcook a piece of meat is to use a thermometer. Pull it a few degrees shy of your target temp & let it rest. When cooking a steak, I find the touch method works pretty well. For rare, the steak should feel like the part of your hand between your thumb & forefinger when your hand is relaxed. For medium, make a loose fist, notice that area is firmer? For well done, make a tight fist, it's alot different right?. It's ok to touch the steak as it cooks, press on it gently and compare to your hand. Make sure to let the meat rest to re-absorb the juices before you cut into it.

                                                            1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                              If you have a good broiler, I'd use that. Broiling is old-fashioned, but for me it works well in my convection oven. Beyond that, though, I don't do steaks that often and so any other advice I might have would be not reliable. All I can do is commiserate. And it is good to know that I am not alone.

                                                              1. re: Lady_Tenar

                                                                For you and the others who fear cooking meat -- I used to have the same problem, and like Lady T., I stuck to braises and stews.

                                                                The Complete Meat Cookbook by Aidells and Kelly got me out of my rut. It gives really clear instructions about exactly how to cook all the different cuts of meat. I bought the book and a good meat thermometer, and after several months of study and practice, I was able to roast fearlessly and pan sear a mean ribeye. I highly recommend it (with the caveat that their strange method for carnitas was a total flop for me).

                                                              2. re: sueatmo

                                                                I like to marinate pork loin in milk and soy sauce. Remove from marinade and dry off. Salt and pepper the meat and sear a couple of minutes on each side. Remove from pan and rub w/ 1/2 mayo and 1/2 brown mustars. Put on a rack on a pan at 350 for 15-20 min. Remove, rest for at least 10 min. and roll in finely crushed pistashio nuts. Best pork loin ever.

                                                                1. re: sherriberry

                                                                  A pork loin is probably out of my price point, truthfully. I have a tenderloin around because it was on sale, and my son will be in town for the weekend. So I bought it.

                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                    I meant tenderloin. With only two of us, I almost always do tenderloins, not a larger loin. Sorry for the confusion.

                                                                2. re: sueatmo

                                                                  The easest and most reliable method to cook meat is to use a meat thermometer. I stop cooking all red meat and pork when the internal temp hits 135. Cover it and let it rest 5 or 10 minutes and it will be perfect! The worst thing you can do to pork roasts is to over cook it.


                                                                  1. re: Burghfeeder

                                                                    Except for a lovely pork shoulder, cooked long and low. Yum.

                                                                3. Drip coffee. Seriously. It never comes out tasting good, even under direct and close supervision by DH. He's the coffee go-to guy in our house.
                                                                  Poached eggs No problem if I use an egg poacher. But poaching in hot water/vinegar? Can't get it right. I don't even bother anymore!

                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                  1. re: freia

                                                                    Do you drip with an automatic coffee maker or with a manual filter? What kind of filter do you use?

                                                                    I use a French press. Once you discover a roast that you like, the rest is pretty easy. I use the Sweet Maria's method and leave nothing to chance.

                                                                    Each morning I weigh 16 oz of filtered water and set it on the kettle to boil. Meanwhile, I weigh to 27 grams of whole beans (Peet's house roast)

                                                                    I hand grind the beans in my Zassenhaus grinder (takes about 30 seconds). Grounds somewhat coarse, a little bigger than the size of couscous grains.

                                                                    Dump grains into French Press beaker (Bodum Chambord). Don't cheap out on a Mr. Coffee french press- they do not work as well as Bodum.

                                                                    Wait until kettle boils, then turn off heat. Open kettle lid and let water cool for about 30-40 seconds. (Necessary to get 212 F boiling water temperature to the ideal 195-205 for best tasting extraction).

                                                                    Pour water into grounds and stir with chopstick to moisten and submerge. Place filter lid on top to hold in heat. Set timer for 4 minutes. Plunge slowly after 4 minutes, and let stand for another 4 minutes and pour.

                                                                    Perfect coffee, every time.

                                                                    But remember, if you use crappy beans, or beans not to your taste, no method can redeem it.

                                                                    It sounds complicated, but I've been doing it for so long (a couple of years) that the whole process is second nature to me. It's my morning ritual of devotion to show my wife that I love her. (I'm not a big coffee drinker-- I only drink the little bit of coffee that doesn't fit in her travel mug.)

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: freia

                                                                      For the most part, I am a pretty adventurous cook. I take on odd challenges from all cultures, but a few basics seem to cause me grief. Although they're often perfect, I have an uncanny ability to undercook potatoes, particularly baby new potatoes, though I've buggered up a gratin or two as well. I think I've become paranoid after once or twice completely overcooking the tiny new potatoes, rendering them mealy and dusty-tasting. It's very humbling serving an otherwise lovely dinner and having a diner find a crunchy nugget in their mashed or steamed potatoes. I've taken to cutting new potatoes in half, tossing them with a bit of olive oil and roasting them in the oven. I've had total success with these.

                                                                      I also have a thing with hard cooked eggs. I often undercook them slightly, rendering them impossible to peel. But, even if I cook them perfectly, or let them sit a good while, they almost never peel cleanly. I've used all types of eggs from organic to free run, farm fresh to omega 3, and all cause me problems when trying to peel. I've had better luck with the lower end grocery staple eggs, but I don't care for their complete tastelessness and pale yellow yolks. I used to just take a spoon to the odd dud in a batch, but when they're all losers, how many eggs am I supposed to gobble?

                                                                      I've gotten better with rice, since using a Le Creuset pot and being more careful about water levels and heat levels, but the odd pot winds up mushy or with a few crunchy grains on top. Very annoying.

                                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                        Try the method I outlined above which I learned about from Jacques Pepin. Something about smashing up the shells before plunging them into cold ice water allows them to peel more easily. It's not 100% perfect, but I have much better luck using this method than not using it.

                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                          Very fresh eggs are notoriously hard to peel. Let them age at least a week before you boil them.

                                                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                            I haven't tried in awhile but my matso balls are always sinkers instead of floaters; i asked at a diner once where the matso balls were big and tender... they said they use seltzer water instead of regular tap water.. i know not to handle too much... no luck!

                                                                            1. re: betsydiver

                                                                              My matzo balls are always floaters. I think the trick is how long you let them sit after mixing - the longer they sit, the heavier they will be. I read about using seltzer or other carbonated water and some people add baking soda to their matzo balls but I have not tried any of these methods. I also like to cook them in chicken stock and not in water.

                                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                                You've just answered a few questions I had about matzo ball soup. A Jewish friend's mom told me, after I said (I'm not Jewish) that i made a pretty good matzo ball soup, she advised that what ever brand of matzo meal I buy, to follow the directions on the package exactly. I've sort of been wanting to vary a little from the instructions, but Zelda sort of scared it out of me. But my matzo balls sink to the bottom at first, then always rise to the top. Again, I've never had the nerve to vary from the recipe on the box (nearly always Manischevitz)

                                                                              2. re: betsydiver

                                                                                @betsydiver, try the seltzer trick - it does help. as does baking powder, but only add about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of matzo meal or you'll alter the flavor. also, add about 1 Tbsp more oil (or even better, schmaltz) than the recipe calls for, and *refrigerate* the formed matzo balls for 30 min to an hour before cooking.

                                                                                if you don't have hearty yet fluffy floaters after all that, blame it on altitude or atmospheric pressure ;)

                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                  If you want floaters, besides using seltzer or sparkling mineral water, be sure to add a little chicken fat. And most important, mix the egg yolks into the matzo meal mixture and beat the egg whites separately, until stiff. Fold the matzo meal mixture into the egg whites after all the other ingredients are well mixed. I always grate some raw onion and mash some cooked carrots into the matzo ball mixture, for flavor and coloring, but they also probably add to the lightness.

                                                                                  1. re: hmarano

                                                                                    i can't believe i forgot to mention whipping the egg whites separately! thanks for pointing that out...though i *did* suggest chicken fat, i just used the Yiddish word for it ;)

                                                                              3. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                I was raised in germany, and for new potatoes the recipe was always very simple -- parboil for 10 minutes or so, then fry/roast. It really helps keep the flesh creamy and moist, without overcooking the skin

                                                                              4. re: freia

                                                                                Most drip coffee pots just don't get hot enough for good coffee. I am the go to coffee person in my group of friends - here is my really simple method. Yes ,it's an extra step but completely makes a difference. It just seems like to much work for most people, I guess, but I only make coffee on the weekends.

                                                                                1) Put a kettle full of water on the stove and bring to boiling / whistling temperature
                                                                                2) While the water is heating, grind your beans
                                                                                3) Put the beans in the filter, and add about 1 cup or so of the boiling water to them, and stir with a chopstick as mentioned in Mr. Taster's comment for French Press.
                                                                                4) I put the rest of the water into my carafe, to heat it since I have a carafe style pot.
                                                                                5) After 3 to 5 mins, pour the rest of the water from the carafe to the water reservoir.

                                                                                You will get hot, flavorful coffee every time.

                                                                              5. most yeast breads elude me still. I have a very good pizza crust recipe that I love, and have a very good Bushman bread recipe (like outback/cheesecake factory's brown bread). but past that, rolls, buns, pretzels, loafs... never come out how i want them!

                                                                                I'm also about 50/50 on whether I will have a good gnocchi when I try. chicken and dumplins, fine, handmade fresh and dried pastas, fine. but gnocchi still gets me sometimes.

                                                                                as for pancakes, the secret to mine is vanilla greek yogurt subbed for part of the buttermilk! its delicious every time!