What Does Alton Say About ... ?

In early July, 2000, Food Network began it's "Forums" section allowing fans of its various shows to talk amongst themselves. Alton Brown decided to interact with his fans. Here's what he had to say...
(FN removed this type of forum and all past entries and replaced it with a new one.
Since the following can no longer be found, I hope it's safe to post these again.)

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Aioli and Remoulade Sauce Question:
Hi, I'm wondering what is the difference between a Remoulade sauce and an Aioli sauce, please? (Post 398)

Aioli is a mayo flavored with garlic while remoulade is a mayonnaise based sauce containing chopped gherkins, capers as well as mustard and (sometimes) anchovies. (Post 398.1)

Alton's interaction with his fans Statement:
... Too bad the other FoodTV boards don't have their stars go online once in awhile. Might give them a clearer touch to the outside world, that tends to get more insulated the bigger you get! You're my hero! (Post 75)

Thanks for your support. As for chefs posting messages, you've got to remember that I'm not trying to run a restaurant day in day out the way most of those folks are. Chefing is an extremely labor and time intensive task. Besides, if they weren't doing that 12-18 hours a day, they wouldn't be able to share all their collective knowledge with their viewers. (Post 75.1)

Altitude and Cooking Question:
I'm originally from S.C. and now live in Nevada. I'm having great difficulty making biscuits, cakes, etc. In S.C. I was only a few hundred feet above sea level, but here in Reno, NV I'm at 5500 ft. and nothing cooks the same!!!! :-( Could really use your advise. (Post 78)

You're problem is of course: less sky. In SC you had a certain amount of sky pushing down on your baked goods and now that you're practically living in outer space, there's not nearly as much sky. When it comes to moist cooking methods you can usually compensate for the lower boiling point by adding time, but baked goods face the added challenge of leavening. Since they're lifting less weight (because of the lower atmospheric pressure) your old recipes are probably jumping out of the pan and either drying out or collapsing before the flour can set. Although you'll have to do some experimenting, here are some general premises to work with:

• Reduce the amount of baking powder called for by a quarter.
• If baking soda is used, cut it by a quarter as well and add a
   little bit of non-acidic liquid to the liquid the recipe calls for.
• Decrease sugar by 2 tablespoons a cup
• Increase liquid by 2 tablespoons per cup (see above)

I know this is frustrating for you. You're in a new place, a long way from home and you want to put a little south in your mouth. Don't despair, just experiment and keep a record of each change you try. You'll get there. (Post 78.1)

Alton on Emeril Statement:
What's all this talk of Emeril? He is getting too big for his britches and something needs to bring him down a notch. So tired of him! Alton rules! (Post 171)

One's Reaction:
Is it really necessary to put down Emeril in order to express your appreciation for Alton? I enjoy both men's programs immensely, and I've learned a lot of great stuff from both. What people should remember is that, despite their differing approaches (Alton through VERY dry wit; Emeril through, shall we say, abundant con brio), both Alton and Emeril are ultimately about the same thing: the joy of food. And in that department, I don't think there's any need to break off into factions (or should that be "denominations?") :) (Post 171.1)

I gotta tell you, I'm deeply honored to even be in the same sentence with Emeril. As far as I'm concerned he built the playground I'm playing on. (Post 171.1.1)

Alton on Bobby & Emeril Statement:
... Let's have more Alton Brown and less Bobby Flay and Emeril. (Post 173)

... And by the way, I watch Bobby and Emeril, so be cool. (Post 173.1)

Alton on Bobby and Florence Statement:
PS: FoodTV, Please dump Bobby Flay and that other jerk on the 911 show. (Post 368)

... I have to say that not only does Chef Flay do some mighty fine work, Tyler Florence is anything but a jerk. I know them both and can speak from experience. (Post 368.1)

Aluminum Foil AB:
Just wanted to say that a viewer recently e-mailed me concerning a statement I made about heavy duty aluminum foil in "Who Loves Ya Baby Back". New research has come to light which appears to refute information I received from a source inside the aluminum industry regarding the shiny-side-inside-or-outside debate. Turns out it matters not. So feel free to finally flip your foil.

I stand...corrected. (Post 234)

American Pickle Episode Statement:
We've had a little discussion going on over at the Yahoo club and are wondering when your Kitchen Aid mixer will show up on ebay, or possibly at a local Atlanta pawn shop. I'm guessing BA needs some extra cash for a new tattoo, a hot rod or bail money. Maybe you should consider keeping the more expensive appliances in the kitchen. Just a suggestion. (Post 507)

My brother was simply taking back the mixer he leant me while mine was in the shop. What I'm more concerned about is the fact that my car is up on blocks. I've left BA several messages concerning my missing tires but his girlfriend says he's gone to Mexico.

Family...whatcha gonna do? (Post 507.1)

Apple Storage Question:
I recently went apple-picking and have forgotten how to properly store apples. Can someone share this with me or tell me where to go to find this information? (Post 505)

Air deprivation and cold (but not too cold) are your best allies in apple preservation. I keep mine in a heavy plastic bag in the "crisper" drawer. Of course if you've got a frozen river or lake at your disposal, you can seal your apples in a barrel and sink 'em for the winter. Come spring, they won't taste one day older. (Post 505.1)

Arrowroot Question:
My Grandma ordered spices from FoodTV.com, and gave a bunch of them to my mom. She doesn't know what arrowroot is used for. Can you help? (Post 218)

Arrowroot is not only a thickener, it's far superior to corn starch because besides being utterly tasteless (like some of the jokes on Good Eats) it leaves no chalky residue. To use, mix thoroughly with cold water and add to the gravy to be before it comes to a simmer. (Post 218.2)

Baby Food Question:
Now that my daughter is nearly 9 months old, she's craving more in terms of taste than what Gerber can give her. Have you tried making baby food for your little one (if she's old enough)?  Can you offer some guidelines or recipes, given that you not only cook but also understand food science better than the average person? (Post 508)

Boy are we with you on this one. Our daughter (also 9 months) is starting to call for take out. The problem is that infant Nutrition is a tricky thing. Although I'm hoping to do a show all about baby food in the near future, my advice for now is to talk with your pediatrician and check out a few books like "What To Expect In The First Year."  I can tell you that if you don't own a mini-food processor, you should. (Post 508.1)

Baking Powder Question:
In my quickbread recipes, such as tea biscuits and corn muffins, a lot of times there is a strange aftertaste which I can only describe as bitter. Can too much baking powder in the recipe cause this? The double acting baking powder always causes this problem, but even the regular kind can still cause a problem. Am I on the right track, should I reduce the baking powder? (Post 135)

You're one of the many people who are sensitive to the "baking powder taste". The problem is indeed the "double acting" portion of the equation. You can make your own "single-acting" baking powder by replacing each teaspoon of baking powder with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and three quarters of a teaspoon of cream of tartar. However, if your recipe was formulated for double acting powder your results won't be the same. In the case of baked goods containing acidic ingredients like buttermilk, you can play with replacing all the baking powder with baking soda and simply increasing the amount of acid. You'll have to experiment a little, but eventually you can work that pesky powder right out of the recipe. (Post 135.1)

Banana Leaves Question:
... I'm doing fish wrapped in a banana leaf. That being said, I was only able to buy banana leaves in about a 4 pound pack, and I know I'm going to have a lot left over. Does anyone (even Alton) know how long they'll keep or if I can freeze them for an extended period of time? (Post 287)

Mark, I've got one word for you: compost.

Or, cook more fish. (Post 287.2)

Being Alton Statement:
Any plans to make your shows available to purchase on video or DVD?  If not, can you give me email addresses of the people who could make that happen so I can contact them and politely twist their arm?

Thanks for being so you. (Post 558)

You are without a doubt the first person to ever thank me for being me. Hey, it's the least I can do...actually, the very least.

As for your video request, you don't have to write anyone because the powers-that-be check this forum often. If you say it here, they know about it. (Post 558.1)

Blueberry Pancakes Statement:
two program suggestions: non-alcoholic home brews and blueberry pancakes. (not together, of course.) (Post 533)

Oddly enough, blueberry pancakes will be coming your way soon in a show called "Flap, Jack Do It Again."

As for your other suggestion, the only non-alcoholic brews that I know of are coffee and tea. How would one go about brewing an alcohol free beer?  Just curious. (Post 533.1)

Bread Falling Question:
Recently I have started baking bread again.... I follow the recipe...first scald milk, combine butter and sugar, proof yeast, combine and add flour. Then, knead 10 min and let rise 1 hour. After rising, I have a beautiful dough, which has doubled in bulk. Then, it gets punched down and rests for 5 min, kneaded for 2 more min, then divided into two loaf pans. HERE'S the problem. An hour into rising, I have two beautiful loaves, all ready for the oven, with high domes and a very nice shape. The problem is that as soon as the pans are touched (so I can get them in the oven), the loaves FALL so that they no longer have domes, and are flat level with the top of the bread pan. Please help! What am I doing wrong so that my wonderful bread (which still tastes great, BTW) falls so flat? (Post 182)

Most structural bread problems come not from inactive yeast but from dough structures that can't hold their gas...if you know what I mean. Before you abandon the recipe (and believe me there are some bad ones out there) try changing to a flour with a slightly higher protein content. If the recipe calls for all purpose, try substituting a third of it with bread flour. Also, you may need to do more kneading in order too develop more gluten. That's the stuff that makes dough both plastic and elastic. (Post 183)

Brine Container Question:
Over the 4th of July holiday, I did two turkeys in two different containers, one being a Stainless Steel Stock pot, then another one using an aluminum pot that I use for Crawfish boils. The one from the aluminum pot tasted " tinny " and a little off. My guess is that the brine reacted from the aluminum rather than the neutral Stainless. Both were of course outstanding, but you could definitely taste a difference. Any preference of yours or suggestions? (Post 139)

Caesar here. Do not, I repeat, do not brine anything in a reactive container. As we mentioned in the show, food grade plastic is the best way to go since most of us don't have stainless steel buckets laying around. Your hypothesis concerning the metallic flavor was correct! Good experiment but bad eats. So promise me, no more reactive vessels for brining! (Post 139.1)

Burger Sticking Question:
I make hamburgers pretty much the way you did on the show, on a cast iron griddle. The problem is not the burgers, which come out quite good but the pan, as the meat tends to get stuck on. I have seasoned the pan twice w/ shortening, so maybe its something else. I'm using an electric stove, and the ground beef is about 20% fat. (Post 360)

Until your skillet gets good and broken in, lube up your burgers just a bit with canola oil before it hits the metal. And speaking of metal, make sure it's thoroughly pre-heated. (Post 360.2)

Butter Cream Icing Question:
How can I make a true blue butter cream icing for cakes and cupcakes?  Every time I add the blue icing color to my scrumptious butter cream, it turns green (duh...the butter is yellow). Any suggestions or am I stuck with green cakes forever? (Post 214)

Although I haven't seen your recipe, I'd be willing to bet that the yellow is coming from egg yolks rather than the butter. It's a strong pigment to overcome which is why bakers often steer towards other frostings when they feel blue. That said, you can twist the color knob on your butter cream if you use a stronger pigment. That means using a paste or a powder available at many bakery or cake decorating shops. Remember too that most colorants intensify in color after they've sat a while.

On the other hand you could switch to an egg white butter cream... (Post 214.1)

Caesar Salad with No Fat Question:
I'm a 18 yr old cooking student with diabetes, asthma and now exceptionally high cholesterol.... I need some help finding lower fat recipes for some of my favorite foods, the big emergency is actually ... How do I make a lower fat, or NO Fat Caesar salad!  Help!
(Post 712)

Try replacing the egg yolks with tofu. You'll still need some extra virgin olive oil but that shouldn't cause you any troubles ... unless you eat a really big salad. You'll need a blender to pull it off but the right combination of tofu, parmesan, mustard, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce should do the trick.

Of course I'm not a Dietitian and if you're cholesterol is dangerously out of control, you should see one (or your doctor) asap. (Post 712.1)

Caramel/Custard and Reeses Cups Question:
On your Egg 2 show which covered flan, Quiche, etc. you had a bit with caramel and custard meeting in a accident. That reminded me of a commercial when I was younger about chocolate and peanut butter. I think it was for Reeses cups, but I don't remember. Am I right or is it a coincidence? (Post 716)

There are no coincidences. (Post 716.2)

Cast Iron and Washing Question:
I have a great cast iron stove top grill pan. I seasoned it properly, but it inadvertently got put in the dishwasher! What can I do? Is it ok? It looks rusty now, and I am sick. (Post 119)

Don't despair. Wash the pan thoroughly and use a light abrasive (green scrubby etc) to get the rust off. (If it's rusted so badly that there are pits...well cast iron pans are cheap.)  Recure the pan and the next time someone tries to put it in the dishwasher fake a heart attack. (Post 119.2)

Cast Iron and Washing #2 Question:
I've got a cast iron round griddle...found at grandmas house...was rusty. Have followed your advice on seasoning...Crisco/350 for 1 hour. Rust problem solved. But what is gonna give it that shiny black surface? Season again? Comes with use? Can you offer advice? (Post 577)

Did you actually get rid of the rust or did you just cover with oil? You really want to get all the rust off, or not only will your pan not take a cure but the rust will do some seriously nasty things to your food.

If you did get the rust off pre-cure, and assuming that you cured correctly and that you'll take proper care of the pan, it shouldn't take more than a few months of regular use for your pan to take on that stealth-bomber finish. (Post 577.1)

Cast Iron Prepping #1 Question:
I just recently bought my first cast-iron skillet, per your directions on your recent show. I rubbed it all over with peanut oil and stuck it in the oven for an hour, where it duly stunk up the house like I was frying something funky. Anyhoo, when I took it out of the oven and swabbed it dry with paper towels, its surface still looked like a topographical map, with obviously uneven sticking surfaces. Is that normal? Should I scrub it down to a smoother surface, or should I pitch it and wait for K-Mart's next sale? (Post 193)

The problem may be the oil. If you do have some stinkiness, try using a solid shortening. You'll have to let it melt in the hot pan before you can spread it around but since shortening is highly refined, it won't smell up the place.

On the other hand, your oven may be running hot. Run it down to 300 and leave the pan in ten minutes longer. (Post 193.2.2)

Cast Iron Prepping #2 Question:
My brother and I disagree on the kind of oil used for a hot cast iron skillet. I recall Alto saying sunflower oil or safflower oil for not burning. However my brother says it's peanut oil. We have a $1.00 bet on this. (Post 230)

You can go either way...so send me the dollar.

By the way, I have too confess that I've switched to shortening for my curing. It's cleaner. (Post 230.2)

Cast Iron w/ Enamel Question:
Watching your past show with cooking that rib eye in a cast iron pan, made me wonder something. Will a enamel coated cast iron pan like Le crueset do the same thing as a regular old cast iron pan? I really need to know because the le creuset is much prettier and more expensive but looks so much nicer than the old cast iron stuff. However if the meat will not be as tasty, I'll settle for the ugly pan. (Post 483)

Sorry but the enamel won't cut it. You've gotta be a purist here. Now as for aesthetics, I have to say that I find a well cured, midnight-black cast iron pan to be one of the most beautiful (not to mention functional) items in any kitchen. Don't you know that basic black is always in style? (Post 483.1)

Champagne Vinegar Statement:
I couldn't find champagne vinegar either, so I substituted rice wine vinegar, and it turned out just fine. (Post 503.1)

Be careful here. Although rice wine vinegar tastes dandy, it's a full percentage point lower in acidity so it's not...I repeat NOT interchangeable in recipes calling for standard wine vinegars. If you need a replacement for champagne vinegar go with white wine vinegar. (Post 503.1.1)

Cheesecake Removal Question:
I own a set of springform pans and I make my own cheesecakes....I was wondering if you can tell me if there is a way to remove the cheesecake from the (bottom) detachable portion without "breaking" the cake. (Post 217)

One Fan's Answer:
Hey Antoinette -- have you tried covering the bottom circle of your pan with waxed paper before you pack it with graham cracker crumbs?  Even better, try greasing the waxed paper after you've lined the pan. Voila! No muss, no fuss! (Post 217.1)

Parchment, not wax paper is the answer. And don't try cutting it into a circle. Cut it into a square and tuck the corners under and close the collar over the paper. That way you've got something to hold onto as you slide the cake off the round. (Post 217.2)

Chef Career Question:
... could [you] please ... give any information on what kind of plans a high school student should make for a future career as a chef. (Post 248)

My advice to you is to go to college...any college. Take business and communications. Luckily school will be during the day, so you can work in restaurants at night. Get a job in the best restaurant you can doing any job you can get. Arrive for work early every day and be the last to leave. Listen to everybody and watch everything. Then get up and go to class.

Culinary schools are a great way to go (I went to New England Culinary Institute and I'm very glad I did) to get a culinary education but I do not believe they can [replace] college. (Post 248.1)

Chicken Freezing Question:
... The problem is when I freeze my chicken legs, the veins pop and the chicken splits all over when I cook them, that sounds really nasty doesn't it. Please, why does this happen and what can I do to prevent it? (Post 384)

Yes, your chicken sounds pretty darned nasty. But not at all unusual. You see your home freezer isn't really that cold as far as freezers go so your bird legs freeze relatively slowly. That means that the moisture inside has time to grow into nice big (not to mention sharp) ice crystals, which gouge the meat cells like hundreds of those little metal star things they throw around in kung fu movies. You don't really notice this damage until the food is thawed. Cooking only makes things worse because the pressure of heat pushes on the juices which now have lots of neat little holes to ooze out of. If the heat is just right, the meat will literally fall apart. Hence the nastiness. To prevent this you can do a couple of things: buy frozen, purchase a blast freezer, cook then freeze...or don't freeze at all. (Post 384.1)

Cinnamon Question:
I have a question concerning cinnamon. I am allergic to it and a lot of my husbands favorite recipes call for a tsp. here and there. So i have 3 choices. A) eliminate it B) eat it, and puff up like a blowfish or C) find a substitute. What will give it a little "cinnamony" kick without the cinnamon? (Post 131)

My wife is also allergic to cinnamon so I've had to ponder this one in the past. Since cinnamon is often associated with other spices (mace, cloves & allspice) you might try any or all in combination. Although non are specifically "cinnamony", their pungent spiciness might do the trick...unless of course the name of the recipe actually has "cinnamon" in it. (Post 131.1)

Clam Question:
I have a question about clams. I live in RI and ever since I was a kid little neck clams/steamers were referred to as "clams", plain and simple. Now, on a lot of shows (and recipes) that call for clams, are actually looking for baby quahogs, or "cherrystones" as we use to call them as kids. What justifies a "baby quahog" in a recipe being called a "clam"?  Does this make any sense?  Can you substitute one for another? (Post 213)

Easter hard-shell clams or "quahogs" (Venus mercenaria ... doncha just love Latin?) have different market names depending on their size. Littlenecks are the smallest (usually under 2 inches across), Cherrystones are in the middle (over 2.5 inches across) and the big guys are referred to as "Chowder Clams" because quite frankly that's about all they're good for. So to answer your question (finally) you can use the cherrystones.

Remember, words are complicated, cooking is simple. (Post 213.1)

Clams #2 Statement:
Do you know if all types of clams are edible? A stupid question, I know. Why I ask?! We were at the beach last weekend (ocean in RI) and it was low tide and walking out a distance and standing in the sand we could dig with our feet and we would dig up these fist size clams, I have seen little steamer clams before, but none this big. We decided to throw them back into the ocean because we figured, "when in doubt, throw it out."  What do you think? (Post 274)

Without seeing the bivalves in question, I could not say for sure. However, you could dig one up and take it to the local seafood shop. They'd be able to tell you.

And here's a rule to live by. Never, ever eat something that you cannot positively identify! No exceptions. (Post 274.2)

Be careful here. Even if they were Quahogs (and since Karen didn't mention a foot, I have my doubts) a digger would need to check with authorities regarding water safety before consuming. It is summer and red tides are common as well as are other bacterial blooms.

End of lecture. (Post 275.1.2)

Coffee Carafe Question:
Where do you find that coffee carafe that you had on the True Brews show. The one with the filter on top and carafe on the bottom. (Post 394)

That came straight from the good folks at Nissan Thermos at 800. 243.0754. Just tell them you want a filter cone and a carafe to go with it. (Post 394.1)

AB Update:
... I've checked with the good folks at thermos and they are still happy to take your order at 800.243.0745. They make two different cones, one for bottles (a regular thermos) and another for carafes, which is the one I use. If you'd like a set, ask for JMD500CC. That's the number for the new 17oz thermos with a matching cone. It's a good single serving maker. My own carafe is made by Nissan, but I do believe the parts will fit since the companies are owned by the same interest. (Post 486.2)

Convection Oven and Turkey Cooking Question:
I have a convection oven that I really like to roast in, would this work with the roast turkey?  How would I need to change the cooking times and temperatures? (Post 704)

Since you want to cover the turkey with foil once the skin is nice and crispy, you could stick with the same temperature and watch very closely, turning the bird every ten minutes or so, or you could lower the temp by about 25 degrees and turn it twice...which is what I'd do. The turning is important though since the side facing the fan will brown (and if unwatched, burn) faster than the down-wind side.

Also, when the time comes to add the breast plate, turn the neck cavity away from the fan.

In general, I'm not a fan of roasting in convection ovens, but if you're going to go for the gold just remember to keep an eye on it. (Post 704.1)

Can you elaborate on your aversion to roasting in convection ovens? I've heard great things about them. It'd be instructive to hear the other side of the story. (Post 704.1.1)

It's just a personal thing. I know great cooks that swear by them.
(Post 704.1.1.1)

Cookware Brands Statement:
I'm thinking about plunking a chunk of cash into cookware, I've got hard-anodized Calphlon cookware but DESPISE cleaning the stuff. I've been looking into All-Clad but want to know if the stainless steel is as difficult to clean as the Calphlon. AB-Won-Kenobi you (or "W.") are my only hope. (Post 627)

All I can tell you is that with the exception of non-stick skillets (I prefer the kind you find at restaurant supply stores for eggs) and a few large aluminum pots, everything I own is either Lodge cast iron or All-Clad. In both cases, the pieces are so well designed and constructed that I can actually get by with fewer pots and pans.

More money? sure. Smart money? Definitely.

I'd rather have one great pan than a cabinet full of crap. (Post 627.3)

Cool Whip Statement:
... P.S. Apologies to Alton for the mere mention of Cool Whip on a forum like this, but that fine blend of all those chemicals is just downright tasty! (Post

I just want to go on record as saying that I have no problems with Cool Whip. It is a miracle of modern science with myriad applications. However, I cannot condone the substitution of whipped cream by Cool Whip. That's just not right. (Post

Corn Cutting Knife Question:
I saw your corn show the other day and for the creamed corn, when you cut the corn off of the cob, what type of knife should you use? (Post 144)

You should use a sharp knife. But seriously, you want to use a non-serrated knife that's long enough so that you don't have to saw back and forth. An oriental style vegetable cleaver or an 8 inch chef's knife would be best. (Post 144.1)

Crab Meat Freezing Question:
What is the best way to freeze crab meat? I usually end up with soggy, useless waste. (Post 320)

You're not going to like this, but I'd say "don't". The problem isn't really freezing, it's your woefully underpowered freezer (don't feel bad, we've all got them). What happens is that as the water in the meat freezes, it turns into sharp little crystals which lacerate the meat. You don't see the damage because the moisture freezes. But when you thaw...nasty. Commercial blast freezers are so cold that the water freezes very quickly so the crystals are tiny, so there's less damage. In home freezers the process takes hours, so the crystals have time to grow into veritable kung fu throwing stars, which rip your precious crab to shreds.

So, eat that crab now. (Post 320.1)

Culinary School #1 Question:
... my Q. is this. What was the best thing about NECI?  And despite the cost, would you recommend NECI to others who are interested in the culinary arts? (Post 61)

Choosing a culinary school...heck, choosing to even go to culinary school is a very individual decision. I chose NECI because I was already in my thirties, had gone through one career and had been to college. That said, I was looking for an aggressive, serious school that catered to aggressive, serious students. In my case it was the right choice. I have to say though that culinary school is no replacement for college...repeat, not a replacement for college. There is nothing like a well rounded education.

To finally answer your question, yes I would recommend NECI, I think it's a great program run by great people. And no I don't get paid for saying that. (Post 61.1)

Culinary School #2 Question:
I have done months of research and decided that New England Culinary Institute is where I want continue my education. As an NECI graduate, I would just like to hear why you would recommend Montpelier, Vermont as the place for me. Any words or advice you have would be greatly appreciated and eagerly anticipated, thank you so much. (Post 104)

Truth is I don't know you so I can't recommend NECI to you. But I will say I think it's a great school for anyone who's already been to college and gotten their partying out of the way. NECI's a serious, not to mention expensive place, but if you're aggressive, you'll get every penny's worth. (Post 104.1)

Culinary School #3 Question:
... I recently changed jobs from working in a hospital to working in a resturant. My plan is to apply to NECI within the next year. How long do YOU recommend I wait before applying? (Post 253)

Why wait at all. If you've decided to do it...do it. (Post 253.1)

Cutting Board Care Question:
I have a very basic question. I recently got myself a really good cutting board. What is the best way to keep it in good shape? (Post 318)

Keep it clean, don't use it for...well...un-culinary cutting tasks, sand it if it becomes heavily grooved (once a year is a good idea) and when it looks/feels dry or begins to warp, rub it down with FOOD GRADE mineral oil (available at your local pharmacy). (Post 318.1)

Cutting Board Making Question:
I was wondering if you could help me in "making a cutting board". A large tree is going to be cut down and as it has sentimental value for my in-laws I thought I would try and make a nice board for my mother-in-law. I was thinking of somehow treating or sanding a cross section of the trunk. What do you think? (Post 328)

I hate to be persnickety, but what kind of tree are we talking about here. If it's a dense wood like hickory or cherry you might be in luck, but the wood will need to go through a very long curing process, or it will need to be dried in a special kind of kiln. (Post 328.3)

Doo-Dads Statement:
Also, my husband does not believe that the technical term for dripped sugar creations are Doo-dads... (Post 559)

As for your husband...tell him if he has a better name I'll be glad to adopt it. Until then, the darned things will remain: Doo-dads. (Post 559.1)

DVD Question:
Any chance that you can convince your producers to release the series on DVD? (Post 410)

I have to say I have lengthy day-dreams about Good Eats on DVD. I just recently added a DVD player to my baterie de media and I have to say I think it would be the perfect format. Alas, only the good folks at Food TV can make these things happen. Unfortunately there are only about 5 people out there (including you, me and my mom) who would actually pay for them and that's probably not enough to make business sense in the long run. (Post 410.2)

Egg & Flour Mixing Question:
Why do I not combine the eggs with the fruit and liquid before adding flour?  (Post 713)

It has to do with the integration of the liquid with the flour. Remember that eggs contain fat and fat is oil and oil doesn't like water based liquids. By integrating them after the batter has formed, you'll achieve better egg integration.

Ain't science cool? (Post 713.1)

Equipment Purchasing Question:
... Due to the quantity and variety of foods I prepare I think it might be a time to get some new cooking equipment. I noticed on your spaghetti show you went to a kitchen supply store in Atlanta. Where is it? Do you also have any other suggestions? Do they have pretty reasonable prices. Although I am on a college budget, I don't want to buy junk as I'm sure you understand (Post 177)

Like you I started to really get into cooking in college...it was the only way I could get dates...sad but oh well. Anyway, now that you've got their attention, you need some righteous tools. Believe me, whatever town you live in, there's probably a restaurant supply store, just look them up in the yellow pages. Most of them are open to the public and their wares are reasonably priced and above all: durable. The other thing you should do is check out yard sales. I found the best knife I own at a yard sale and picked it up for about the price of a movie ticket.

Stick to your no junk policy always. You'd be better off going too an Army/Navy shop and buying one solid cast iron skillet than buying one of those "bargain" sets of pots and pans. (Post 177.1)

Equipment Quality Statement:
... I have come to the conclusion that Alton tends to use very good performing and efficient equipment in his cooking. Except for that remote thermometer gadget in the Turkey show ... I bought one and it reads about 10 degrees off from the other two thermometers I already have.

Here's my philosophy on any kind of tool, be it a hammer, a hard drive or a vegetable peeler: get the best tool you can for the job you intend to do. If you're going to bake muffins, do some research, find out what's out there, think about the kind of cook you are and buy accordingly. Personally, I'm not so big on muffins that I'd spend $60 on a tin, but I would spend $20 if it meant the difference between so-so muffins and great muffins.

Fish Cooking Question:
Any suggestions on how to cook fish at home? Everything I put in the oven gets ruined. I don't like undercooked fish. I would like to make a Chilean sea bass or a mahi mahi but I am nervous. (Post 140)

Fish can sense fear better than a Doberman Pincher, so if you want the upper hand, you've gotta be the boss. Slower, gentler methods like poaching give you more time to hit the temperature mark without turning char to charcoal. We've got a poaching episode called "Mission: Poachable" coming out in the fall, so stay tuned. (Post 140.1)

Flavored Coffee Question:
Does your method of making coffee work for the gourmet flavored coffee? (Post 382)

I don't do flavored coffee...period...but if I did, I'd use a gold filter rather than paper because it would allow more of the flavor sprayed on the beans to come through...if I drank flavored coffee...which I don't...period. (Post 382.1)

Flour Storage Question:
What is the best way to store flour? After keeping flour in 'air tight ' containers, I still find pantry moths. I'm wasting so much ! Can flour be kept in fridge or freezer without changing it's properties? Do you have any container preferences? (Post 347)

Believe it or not, the moths were probably in the flour when you bought it. A certain amount of "livestock" is inevitable, especially if you buy organic grains. I place unopened bags of flour in freezer bags and freeze for up to six months. As for the air tight container, it's still a good idea, because if your flour does harbor critters, you don't want to let them out. (Post 347.2)

Food Network Chat and iMac Question:
How do live chats work? Who was doing the actual typing and where were you when you did all this? I was also wondering who on the show made the decision to use the iMac in the show. Is Alton a fellow Mac Addict or was it just because it 'looks cool'? (Post 124)

I don't know beans about chat mechanics but I can tell you that I read your questions off my computer screen and gave my answers via phone to one incredibly fast typist.

The imac is mine. I do most of my work on an ibook (special edition graphite of course) though I've also got a hulking old 9600. I have never owned anything but Macs. (Post 124.1)

Fowl Cooking Question:
Why must fowl like chicken and turkey be cooked "well done", while fowl like capon and duck can be cooked medium or even medium rare? (Post 362)

Many fowl, such as ducks and quail spend a lot of time flying. This results in a musculature high in "slow twitch" muscles. This kind of meat cooks quite differently than a chicken or domestic turkey which are relatively grounded. Also, chickens and turkeys are processed quickly and in great numbers which can result in outbreaks of bacteria such as salmonella. (Post 362.1)

French Fry Making Question:
I saw something on "This Spud's for You" that I want and haven't been able to find. I have one of those el cheapo mandolins and it is fantastic for making a gratin, but it makes miniscule French Fries. Early in the show, you were looking at one of those adjustable mandolins. Any advice on purchasing one?  (Post 221)

The V-slicer I used on the "spuds" show is the actual "V-Slicer" and goes for about 15 bucks. It makes two different fry sizes including a nice fat diner style fry. If you saw our show "fry hard", you saw it in action. As for professional mandolins, they're great tools, but you've got to use it a lot to justify the investment. (Post 221.1)

Good Eats Kitchen Question:
That beautiful kitchen that you do your show in...is that your home or a just a kitchen studio to film in? (Post 247)

We shoot in a real kitchen in a real house. No studios for us. I do have to admit that it is not my kitchen. My kitchen is half that size and not nearly as nice...but I'm working on it. (Post 247.1)

Good Eats Meatloaf Question:
I am hoping to try your meat loaf posted yesterday, however I am confused on the ounces. My box of garlic croutons contains 5 1/2 ozs. but measuring it out in a cup comes out far less. Which one? (Post 482)

It's a weight thing, so just go with a box (a half ounce difference won't have an effect). (Post 482.1)

Grandmother Statement:
... loved it when your sister and Grandmother were on your show! (Post 55)

Just to clear up an ongoing mystery:  Ma Mae is my real grandmother, (currently recuperating from a heart attack) but Marsha is a figment of my slightly warped imagination. (Post 55.1)

Grilled Cheese Question:
... I've unsuccessfully tried the grilled cheese recipe several times. I thought this would be an easy one! I either end up with soggy under-cooked bread or incinerated toast. The cheese melts and runs out. My wife thinks I need to try a thicker crusty bread (instead of the pre-sliced Italian bread). I tried using various size/weight cast iron pans with no luck. Any idea where I might be going wrong? (Post 280)

Definitely try beefier (you know what I mean) bread. Also, apply a little more fat to the outside of the bread. I have to admit, I did burn one myself one time but soggy has never been a problem.

Hope those suggestions help you to grilled cheese Nirvana. (Post 280.1)

Hair Style Statement:
My name is Joey. I am 10 years old. You are cool. I want to be just like you when I grow up. How tall are you? I like your hair. (Post 433)

Don't be like me, be like you. There's nobody better to be than who you are. Oh, by the way, I'm 5' 11". (Post 433.2)

See?  I am NOT the only person who notices your cool hairstyle!  SO... I will ask you once again -- what products do you use?  Suave gel?  Dippity Do?  American Crew?  What?  What?  What? (Post 433.1)

Okay Bonnie, you've been patient...Aveda Self Control. (Post 433.1.1)

Herb Drying Question:
... What's your take on storing herbs?  I planted a small herb garden, and want to know how to best preserve them. Is it better to carefully dry them or to freeze them? (Post 205)

I've got to confess that I've never had much luck with freezing straight herbs. I usually convert my basil into pesto and freeze that. Everything else goes into flavored oils. Drying is fine if you've got the space to hang and can control your humidity. Personally, I'd rather have the best dried herbs possible so I order them from specialty houses.

Of course you could just eat those herbs while they're fresh! (Post 205.1)

Home Made Bread Question:
Do you have any ideas how to get my homemade bread to have more depth in flavor? I have tried dozens of recipes and can't seem to get the good bakery type taste. I have tried baking stones and spraying the inside of the oven with water. I use regular active dry yeast and regular unbleached AP flour. Do you also know a good source for bread recipes? (Post 493)

Try a slow rise. A lot of home bakers go for rapid rise yeasts these days because they produce copious amounts of gas in a short period. However, there is more to yeast than CO2 alone. Yeast creates flavor as well, but it takes time. Try using an instant rather than a rapid yeast and let the rise happen slowly in the refrigerator rather than in the typical "warm, draftless spot." (Post 493.5)

Home Made Fries Question:
I would love to make the homemade fries that you had on your show. But as the mother of two children under three, I have to use my time wisely. When I use store bought fries, they always seem to have ice crystals on them. This causes splatter when put into the hot oil and lowers the oil temperature so I do not get the crisp fries I love. How can I defrost the fries quickly and preserve the taste? (Post 327.1.1)

If I were you I wouldn't fry those frozen fries, I'd spread them on a cookie sheet and cook them in a 500 degree oven (550 if you've got it). You only have to fry when you're dealing with raw fries; I've never seen raw fries in the frozen section. (Post 327.1.1.1)

Ice Cream Question:
Love the ice cream! However, the texture of my ice cream comes out a bit strange. I can't quite describe it except we find that there is a thin, almost greasy layer that is always left on our spoons after we take a bite. I'm sure it must be something I am doing - but what? (Post 174)

As far as the ice cream goes, I must admit, "greasy" is a new one on me. I'm don't know what part of the country you live in but there's a chance that your dairy products contain a slightly higher percentage of milk fat. That said, try replacing one cup of the dairy mixture with whole milk. Also, be sure to use quality preserves. They really do make a huge difference. last but not least, make sure that your ice cream machine isn't leaking coolant. (Post 176)

Ice Tea Clouds Question:
Is there a trick to preventing home brewed iced tea with lemon from becoming cloudy overnight? (Post 555)

Cloudy iced tea is preventable, and easily understood if you know what's making it cloudy to begin with. The issue is, to quote Harold McGee's super-fine On Food And Cooking is " a combination of caffeine and pigment molecules." These compounds are readily soluble in boiling water, but they fall out of solution as the water cools, creating clouds. Oddly enough, this is often a sign of high quality tea. Still, who wants to drink mud right? The key is to not brew with boiling water. That way, the guilty parties are never invited to the party if you get my meaning. Also, if you're in the habit of brewing a tea concentrate which you then cut with fresh water, make sure that water is no cooler than room temperature as sudden changes in temperature increase a brews tendency to cloud.

I also have a theory that adding sugar to the bags/leaves before pouring on the water helps to keep murkiness at bay but I have yet to garner enough support from the scientific community to rouse the attention of the Nobel committee. (Post 555.1)

Ingredients Addition Question:
... The ingredients are Yukon gold potatoes, radish leaves, onions, water and a dab of butter. It was BLAND. So I added salt, pepper and garlic. And I noticed no difference. I am also thinking of adding a little cream?  Maybe white wine? Maybe the radishes themselves?  Tobacco?  And, I am taste bud challenged ... for example, I can not taste something and say "viola ... this needs oregano". Any suggestions to liven up this soup would be greatly appreciated (any other tips too)! (Post 270)

From what you've told me I'd say you need to take a small shovel or trowel and go out into your back yard...right to the edge where your grass ends. Dig a narrow hole about four inches wide and twenty deep. Roll up the aforementioned recipe and insert it into the hole. Cover with dirt and go back to the house.

Seriously, radish leaves? I honestly cannot think of anything short of an earthquake that would shake that recipe up. I think it's time to move on.

Sorry...radish leaves? really? (Post 270.1)

The recipe came from Martha Stewart on Martha Stewart's kitchen. I saw the episode a couple of days ago and thought "hmmmm....I like radishes. I like potatoes. Why Not?" My daughter gagged, my son pretended to eat it and then they bolted from the table ... I am sure that my husband would have if he wasn't such a nice guy!  I shall make this recipe no more!!! (Post 271)

Ya know, I like radishes too. So let's think this through. Why not chop and sweat (cook in a little fat over low heat until soft) a few red radishes, then add cubed potatoes and enough veg broth to cover. Add some salt and simmer until the spuds are soft. Then blend the soup finishing it with sour cream, crème fraiche (or maybe yogurt?) and a complimentary herb like...chervil maybe.

I'm just thinkin' on paper here, but I bet you could work it out. (Post 271.)

Kitchen Tool Question:
What is your favorite appliance/tool in the kitchen--the one thing you couldn't live without, and why? (Post 495)

I'm going to assume you mean something beyond the norm, i.e. pots, pans and knives.

I'd have to say...my dough blade. Also referred to as a board scraper. It's a flat piece of metal with a handle across one end. I use it for scooping up minced ingredients, cleaning up after bread making. It's a veritable Swiss Army Knife. (Post 495.1)

Kosher Salt Conversion Question:
I would like to know-what is the ratio of regular table salt to kosher salt? For example-if a recipe calls for a tsp. of regular table salt-how much kosher salt would be used? (Post 263)

To find the correct volume of kosher salt, multiply the table salt amount by 1 1/2. (Post 263.1)

Lamb Leg Stink Question:
Recently I was able to purchase a leg of lamb in the market except it was pre-packaged in a bag (like what corned beef comes in) and boy , did it stink! funky, funky, funky! I was told to trim the fat in order to get rid of the odor. I did, I cooked it (the lamb , not the fat) and it tasted perfectly okay. My Question: what did they do to this piece of meat in order to preserve it that made the fat stink so badly? and how long could something like lamb sit in one of those heavy duty, sealed baggies? I've never seen raw, 'fresh' lamb packaged this way before. At first I was leery about eating it but as i said it tasted fine and none of us became ill. (Post 371)

Your BRT (boned, rolled, tied) Leg o' Lamb was cryo-sealed at the plant. This bag is hermetically sealed which allows it to last a good deal longer (up to 10 weeks if properly refrigerated). Often meats sealed this way ... especially lamb ... gets what I call the "cryo-funk". It's a darned funky smell that comes from being cooped up in that bag. Once removed and rinsed, the meat should smell just fine and there should be no funkiness once cooked. Judging from your well reported experience, you encountered "cryo-funk". Nothing to worry about. (Post 371.1)

Leftovers Question:
I don't like to have a lot of leftovers because they always end up being thrown away. Any suggestions (other than cutting recipes in half)? (Post 142)

Leftovers are a huge deal in this day and age and most of us throw out as much as we eat. (I don't have statistics for that mind you, just a gut feeling) We're working on a lot of basic dishes right now that utilize a lot of "refrigerator Velcro". So, in coming episodes you'll see a lot of dishes that are "second generation" dishes rather than from scratch. (Post 142.1)

Lieutenant Dan Statement:
The Lieutenant Dan homage was very, in the words of B.A., "suddle" (and very funny!) (Post 481)

Well that's two of us that got it. (Post 481.1)

Lewis Grizzard Question:
One question - since you live in the Atlanta area, were you a fan of the late great Lewis Grizzard?  Your style of humor reminds me of him. I loved reading his columns and have all of his books. (Post 195)

I consider L. G. as one of the great humorists of all time, so thanks for the compliment. (Post 195.1)

Lumpy Roux Question:
I make homemade mac and cheese for my daughter, and other sauces as well. Love to cook. I saw your sauce show awhile back, but am still having some problems. Usually, I'm not cooking the roux long enough, or when I add the milk (for the cheese sauce), it is lumpy from the flour and I can't get the lumps out, unless I put it in the food processor. Can you help me? (Post 708)

If your sauce is lumpy, one of two things is probably happening. One, you don't have enough fat in your roux. You've got to have an equal amount of flour and fat (by weight) or the flour particles won't be coated. Also, I add the liquid all at once while whisking furiously. Others like to dribble on, but I think the burst of steam helps. Either way, whisk like crazy (but carefully) for the first few seconds. Then as the roux tightens (thickens) you may want to switch to a spoon.
(Post 708.2)

Lye Question:
A friend of mine brought a delicious basket of pretzels to my son's birthday party this afternoon. She had mentioned these pretzels to me once before. She has an aunt who has been making them ever since my friend was a small child. She also told me the secret ingredient her aunt uses in them - LYE (yes, I said lye).... They were absolutely delicious. Is it safe to use such a chemical in making these pretzels?  Please tell me yes. I had a house full of people who ate them today and am hoping that no one gets sick from them. (Post 459)

Your friend's not wacky, just old fashioned. Lye, (extracted from wood ash) is a powerful alkali usually associated with soap making. However, lye also has a long history of food use. Native Americans used to treat corn with lye in order to soften it. (The process also made more of its proteins usable by the body). In the south, this type of corn is still called "hominy". As for your friend's pretzels, I'm betting the recipe calls for a tiny amount. That said, lye is basically Drano and since I've got an infant in the house, I'd rather keep lye out. So, you may choose not to cook with it, but you certainly should enjoy your friend's offering and the vanishing know-how that made them possible. (Post 459.1.1.1)

New Book Question:
I have a question for the esteemed Mr. Brown. Your bio says that you are working on a book. I'm really curious: Is it going to be at all like Good Eats?  Will you have all the Nifty Facts in there?  What I'm really looking for is a cookbook that is also a Good Read! (Post 51)

All I can say is that I hope there are a few more folks like you out there because that's exactly the kind of book I'm working on. (Post 51.1)

Maple Syrup & Sugar Question:
What is the correct conversion ratio for substituting Maple Syrup for Sugar. (Post 517)

I really don't think (just my opinion) that you can interchange the two at any ratio. However, there are several places on the www where you can find maple sugar which can be used 1:1 in place of the white stuff. (Post 517.1)

Mac & Cheese Question:
... My husband had taken the show's suggestion in adding cheese to the béchamel for Mac and Cheese and it just didn't turn out right. The consistency was very bland and pasty. Perhaps we missed something, but Mark was certain he followed the recipe ... maybe it was the cheese? (Post 41)

To make a truly righteous Mac & Cheese, you'll need a lot more cheese and you'll need extra sharp cheddar to cut through all the starchiness. I usually wake mine up with some hot sauce as well. And don't worry, that sauce can take just about all the cheese you can throw at it without breaking.... (Post 41.1)

Milk Scalding Question:
I have been reading Shirley Corriher's Cookwise. How do you scald milk for use in bread making? (Post 327.1.1)

... For scalding milk, simply heat it until tiny bubbles just start to break the surface, but don't let it come to a boil. (Post 327.1.1.1)

Metric System Statement:
Love your show, but note that when you were talking about metric temperatures the other day, you made (somewhat snide) reference to the "European visitors". Would like to point out that we use metric much closer...much, much closer. Try just up north here in Canada. (Post 258)

The remark was meant as a joke for the several Canadians who work on the show, eh? No offense intended I assure you. (Post 258.1)

Microware Purchase Question:
What should I look for in a new microwave? Ours does not appear to be long for this world. (Post 244)

I just purchased a new one myself and I have to say it wasn't a fun experience. So many gadgets, so many buttons I'd never use. In the end I went for power, size and buttons that I understood. No sensors, no funny business just a keyboard and a beverage button...I'm loath to mention individual brands, but I have to say that Consumer Reports is always a good source for these kind of passionless decisions. (Post 244.1)

Multicolored Spoons Question:
Okay folks, I've gone back through the list of the bulletin board and I'm trying to find Alton's colored measuring spoons. I've looked in the obvious places, (Williams-Sonoma, Sure la Table) to no reward. Alton can you shed some light or does someone else know? (Post 243)

Are you kidding?  If I could find a steady source for those darned spoons, I'd be a millionaire. Unfortunately, I seem to have the only set on the planet. And I'm willing to sell them for only one million dollars. (Post 243.2)

Old Bay Seasoning Question:
I cannot find Old Bay seasoning ANYWHERE!!! I can find that jalapeño seasoning everywhere, but NO OLD BAY!! So if anyone out there has a recipe for a good substitute, please help me and my friend Craig out! (Post 325.1)

Old Bay is a venerable crab boil seasoning from Maryland. If your market doesn't stock the bright yellow rectangular cans, then substitute any "crab boil" or seafood seasoning.

Or of course, you can tell your grocery manager to stock Old Bay. (And no I don't get a kickback...I just like the stuff.) (Post 325.1.1)

Pasta Maker Question:
I have a small kitchen hardly any counter space. I can't make pasta, I would like to make a good lasagna with homemade pasta but I'm a failure. Is there a ready made pasta that I can easily find that is up to your standards? (Post 396)

I've got counter space and a pasta maker and I still don't make pasta. For lasagna I use wanton wrappers which are available in most markets (usually in the produce section). Just layer them as you would any other flat noodle. (Post 396.1)

Hey Alton, where can I get some wanton wrappers?  The wrappers I usually buy are so staid and uptight. (Post 396.1.1)

I buy mine at Publix. They're in the produce department. (Post 396.1.1.1)

Peach addition to Ice Cream Question:
Alton, in your "BURNED PEACH ICE CREAM" recipe, why do you add the peaches on Day 2, rather than Day 1? I would think (?) that adding the peaches on Day 1, and allowing them to infuse overnight, would result in a more intense peach flavor. (Post 622)

You're right sir! More peach flavor would be extracted into the mixture...but let's consider the ramifications. Obviously, since it contains a good deal more sugar than the peach pieces, the ice cream mixture will extract a great deal of the peach's juice which will disrupt the aging process of the mixture. Equally disturbing is the fact that if all the peach flavor is now in the mixture, what's left in the peaches? You might as well strain them out. For my money, I'd rather have a lightly flavored ice cream containing highly flavorful pieces of fruit.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (Post 622.1)

Pepper Mills Question:
On TV shows and in fancy restaurants you don't hardly see the pepper grounds when one is using a pepper mill. It makes a difference if its white pepper but even black is hard to see. When we use our pepper mill the grounds are large and chunky. Not something you'd want to use on mashers. Unless you like to crunch on peppercorns. is It a thing of the speed your grinding at? Or is it the size of the peppercorn that counts? I just cant figure it out. How do you and the other shows have what appear to be almost invisible pepper grounds? (Post 352)

Restaurants that grind at table usually use high quality grinders that have very fine mechanisms. Most home grinders don't. My favorite "fine" grinder is a Zassenhaus from Penzeys Spices. (Post 352.2)

Pickle Crock Question:
Just finished watching your "Pickle Show". I love that stoneware pickle crock with the bale handle you had on at the beginning of the show. Please let me know where I can get one just like it. (Post 471)

Bad news I'm afraid. The crock is nineteenth century French. I picked mine up at a small antique shop in San Francisco while I was shooting "Art of Darkness". (Post 471.1)

Pickle Jar Substitute Question:
Can I reuse a pickle jar I get from the store, like what I get my whole kosher dills in, instead of buying a spring-top model as called for in the recipes? (Post 527)

I don't like those jars because they never really seal tight again. A screw top mayo jar would be okay however...but only for refrigerator pickles. No preserving! (Post 527.2)

Pickle Vinegar Substitute Question:
After scavenging the poorly stocked stores in my area I found all the necessary ingredients for the B&B's (by the way very tasty indeed!!). Unfortunately I could not secure the ever elusive champagne vinegar, so I am thwarted in my culinary endeavor to create the Kinda Sorta Sours. Is there another vinegar that will do the trick or do I have to suffer in limbo until my bottle of new years bubbly comes of age?
(Post 629)

White wine vinegar will do just fine. (Post 629.2)

Pie Crust #1 Question:
I still can't manage to roll out a piecrust. What the heck am I doing wrong? It always falls apart on me...cracks all over the place. I am no stranger to baking. Yet, I can't get it right. Ahhh!! The only thing I can think of is that I am being too heavy handed when rolling it out? (Post 66)

For better or worse, pie crust is one of those things that just can't really be produced from a recipe...which is why I figure there are so many pie crust recipes...go figure. The reason pie crust is so elusive is that it is a very tactile thing, meaning only your fingers can really tell you when you've got things right. That said, there are some big points to remember. First the flour needs to be hydrated in order for the dough to be plastic, and the fat must be cold. The dichotomy is that you want to use as little moisture as possible. A wet dough makes nasty crust, so only use enough cold liquid to bring the mass together, then wrap and rest it in the fridge. This time is really crucial because it allows the flour to soak up the moisture. Skip this step and cracks will be nearly impossible to avoid. (Post 66.1)

Pie Crust #2 Question:
Oh, and I DID find the pie crust question and you answered it. Thanks. You know I followed your recipe to a tee last time with the pie crust and ruined it ... AGAIN. I think it's me. (Post 128)

So here's a pie crust suggestion: don't follow the recipe to a tee. Your flour may have a different moisture content than mine, your water may have been chilled to a different temp, your butter's composition may be different...there are so many factors. So if your dough is cracking, change the recipe. Try adding a little more water, then after it's had time to hydrate in the fridge take it out and let it warm a bit so that it's pliable. Whatever you do, don't give up: I promise you that the principles we laid out in "Crust Never Sleeps" are sound, but crust is one of those things that must be learned. So start with the moisture, (remember you can use apple or orange juice instead of water) and if your crust doesn't improve, we'll look to the fat.

And remember, just because it cracks doesn't mean it won't taste good. (Post 128.1)

Playing with your food Statement:
... Now, when it comes to baking, I am fairly confident that what I bake will be edible, but when it comes to cooking, I get a little scared. Have I seasoned enough?  Is this meat done?  I was wondering if you have any advice to give to someone that loves cooking but is also terrified of the end result. I would appreciate any advice you would give. (Post 57)

Here's my advice: Don't be afraid to play with your food. It's not like overcooking a flank steak will result in the collapse of the universe as we know it. A kitchen is a laboratory, use it. Experiment and learn from every single dish you cook. Do not fear failure. Failure is a necessary part of learning. (Post 57.1)

Pomegranate Vinegar Question:
I am curious what you would do with pomegranate vinegar. My husband is a big fan of the fruit, so when I found the vinegar I bought it now the problem is ..... what the heck should I do with it? (Post 175)

Play with it of course. Use it in a salad dressing, a marinade, or in mayonnaise. You could sprinkle some over grilled vegetables, season soups, macerate fruit...The possibilities are pretty darned endless so have fun with it. (Post 175.1)

Popularity #1 Question:
I'm very curious about how you feel about your new cult-icon status. How's it feel to have *fans*?  I guess I started wondering because I kinda thought I was the only Good Eats junkie. In retrospect you have to be making these shows for somebody but I guess it never occurred to me. Did you know it was popular? (Post 196)

Actually, we make Good Eats for two people: you and my mom. That's it. All these other notes are posted by my mom. She's really supportive and has a lot of spare time.

Mom, if you're reading this...sorry, I guess I spilled the beans huh?

Seriously Gloria, I'm what's called a minor-fringe celebrity ... which means I can get good tables in restaurants, but I have to wait twice as long for them. (Post 196.1)

Popularity #2 Question:
... What's it like to be a culinary Mel Gibson? (Post 201)

I'm afraid I've got more in common with Mel, the cook on "Alice" than with Mr. Gibson. (Post 201.1)

Pork Loin "Country Style" Leftovers Question:
We always purchase beef and pork from the ranchers so I tried the baby back ribs and they were great! Now I have a freezer left full of the pork loin "country style" ribs. Do you have any great ways of preparing them. (Post 181)

You can cook'em up exactly like the baby backs, but, you'll probably have to double the braise time because they've got a good bit of additional connective tissue. (Post 181.1)

Plastic Containers Question:
What I would love to know is where you get those plastic containers with the green lids that you used making your pickles and storing your rice. (Post 610)

Although the containers you mention are made by several companies, they are known in restaurant kitchens simply as "lexans." You can find them at any good restaurant supply store. They are rigid, won't warp, and can take a beating, thermally and otherwise. (Post 610.1)

Pork Preparation Question:
I'm an OK cook, I can not prepare a decent pork chop or roast. Always too dry and boring. Have any ideas? (Post 492)

The problem is that a couple of decades ago the American pork industry decided the' were going too breed a leaner product. And they did. Problem is some flavor was bred out as well, at least in the leaner cuts.

What you need is a brine. Besides adding flavor, it's a great way to increase the moisture level in the cooked meat. Here's my favorite pork brine. Give those chops a 2 to 4 hour soak (in the fridge of course).

After the soak, rinse and cook however you like. And watch the temperature. There's no reason for pork to be cooked beyond 150F so use that thermometer.


Wet Cure for Pork 2 Qts Water 1 1/2 Cups Kosher Salt 1/2 Cup Molasses 1 Tbls Juniper Berries 1 Tbls Black Peppercorns 10 Whole Cloves

Combine spices in a tea-ball or tie them securely into a paper coffee filter and place in pot with salt and molasses. Add water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before introducing to the meat. (Post 492.1)

Preferred Restaurants Question:
Alton, I realize that your show focuses on home cooking (and wonderfully so, I might add); however, being a fellow Atlanta-area resident, I'm led to wonder what restaurants in the area appeal to your particular palate?  ... My S.O. and I are constantly looking for new and interesting places to go, and since we don't get to the north side very often (it's bad enough we have to go to Cobb County to see Rocky Horror), I thought you might be able to provide some insight. (Post 202)

I live in Cobb county, and I know for a fact that the county fathers have outlawed Rocky Horror.

Prime Rib Question:
how can I prepare prime rib at home to come out like it does in restaurants - tender and juicy? (Post 93)

When it comes to prime rib, the goal is to have a crispy/crunchy exterior with an interior that's bright and juicy all the way through. For that I go with two tiered cooking. Start with a half hour in an absolutely rippin' hot oven (crispy ext) then drop the temp way down, say 250 until an instant read or probe thermometer says 140. The lower heat allows for a more even range of temperatures inside. (Post 93.1)

Rib-Eye and Cast Iron Question:
I made the pan-seared ribeye the other night, though I was unable to use my cast iron skillet and was forced to use our Revereware pan, and I didn't put it the oven before heating over high heat on the electric stove. When seasoned and lightly oiled (canola, as suggested) steak met pan, my kitchen, and lo my entire apartment, began to fill with smoke to a thickness of two feet or more. I have no idea how hot "high" really is on our stove, but my guess is that even if I'd used the cast iron, heated in the oven to 500 degrees, I'd be exceeding the smoke point for most any oil out there, wouldn't I?  Is there a method of making steak in this yummy if dangerous way that will remove the danger portion?  Our kitchen lacks a decent fan (and my chemistry background almost made me call it a 'fume hood'), and also lacks a window, so I'm anxious to hear your answer. (Post 573.1)

The pan's the thing. When dealing with these kinds of temperature, Mr. Revere just doesn't cut it. It really is a cast iron moment. And why, might I ask, was your cast iron skillet unavailable anyway? I suspect you've either lost it or loaned it to a friend who has not returned it. Tell me I'm wrong!

Also, do you live in an apartment? If so, odds are good the hood that you have is only a shoddy charcoal filtration posing as a hood. If this is the case, I suggest that you buy yourself an electric skillet and cook your steaks outside.

And get that skillet back! (Post 573.1.1)

Rib Recipe Substitution #1 Question:
Hey, I want to make the rib recipe, but I don't know what to use as a substitution for the cup of white wine. (I want to make it non-alcoholic). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! (Post 19)

Hi Phil, AB here. You can basically use any flavorful liquid that has some acidity to it. Try ginger ale with a shot of vinegar. (Post 19.1)

Rib Recipe
Substitution #2
I'm not much of a wine drinker so would a dry vermouth make an acceptable substitution in the baby back rib recipe? (Post 63)

AB: Leave the vermouth, take the beer. (Post 63.1)

Rib Recipe Substitution #3 Question:
So, we're thinking of trying a modification of the rib recipe by substituting apple juice for the wine, and apple cider vinegar for the white wine vinegar in the braising liquid. My question is, would the apple juice be acidic enough to replace the wine 1:1, or would I have to sub some vinegar in there as well? (Post 203)

It would definitely be okay here in Cobb county, but down in Atlanta it might not be citified enough.

Seriously, it'll be great. (Post 203.1)

Rib Recipe Substitution #4 Question:
If I substitute beef ribs for the baby backs in your recipe, what adjustments might I have to make in braising time? (Post 244)

You'll have to extend the braising time probably by a factor of 2...depending on the ribs. I hate to sound like a chef, but you'll have to cook them until they're "done". (Post 244.1)

Rib Recipe
Jalapeno seasoning
I really want to try the ribs but all I've read is how bad they were. Has anyone tried them and loved them and where to you get jalapeno seasoning. (Post 40)

... we did make a mistake on the web version of the recipe that may have misled some folks. However, we've completely reworked the recipe so that confusion should be...dare I say "impossible". So, please recheck the web recipe and give rib love a chance. Just remember, a rub should be sprinkled on not packed, and you should have plenty left over for later use. If you use all the rub at once you will create something akin to a pork salt lick. Go easy and success is a sure thing. We at Good Eats work really hard on these recipes. We even feed them to our film crew. And believe me, if these ribs weren't great they'd tear us limb from limb....By the way, Jalapeno seasoning is a mixture that's available at many markets across the U.S. If you can't find it, use half of the called for amount of ground jalapeno. (Post 40.1)

Rib Recipe Question:
Just tried the ribs - so tender and good! However, the rub makes the meat quite salty. Also, my glaze didn't really thicken so in the end I had tender, salty and almost too spicy ribs -- not sweet as we had anticipated. I caught the mistake in the printed recipe in the rub so I don't think that's the problem. Any suggestions? (Post 174)

Here are two things about the ribs: try using less rub. If the rub is too salty salty for your taste (a highly subjective thing), try going easy on it. Or make your rub with less salt, and more sugar. Nothing bad will happen. You've tried it my way, now discover your own way. Just make sure you write down your experiments. (Post 176)

Do you have any suggestions as to why my glaze didn't thicken? What can I do if this happens again? Would it be a mistake to try to whisk in some corn starch? (Post 176.1)

Sorry Heidi, guess I glazed over the glaze part of your post. Believe me, if you follow the recipe and cook it down enough, you will have a glaze...If you're in a hurry, add a little honey or brown sugar to it. Cornstarch would definitely thicken, but the glaze would be more like what you see on ribs at a Chinese buffet...not that there's anything wrong with that! Corn starch will thicken, but your ribs will not be finger lickin' good. (Post 176.1.1)

Rotisserie Turkey Question:
I intend on making the brined bird for turkey day ... however, my wife recently got a rotisserie and wants to cook it in there ... any thoughts?  Input? (Post 710)

Go ahead and brine before you take your turkey for a spin.
(Post 710.2)

Savory Question:
Just wondering, my husband and I have this herb that is called "savory". What would the best way be to use this? (Post 126)

What you do with savory depends on whether it's fresh or dry. A highly aromatic herb of Mediterranean origins, savory was historically used as a flavoring for vinegar and cheese. Fresh or dry savory can be added to legumes (lentils are my favorite) and soups. Fresh savory is great in salads (in small amounts) and you can even make a tea out of it.

By the way, the Romans considered savory to be an aphrodisiac. (Post 126.1)

Script Writing Question:
How in the world do you come up with your scripts and how many cups of coffee do you drink a day? (Post 327)

I have no idea how I come up with my scripts...they just sorta...come. As for the coffee, I've cut back to 2 big cups in the morning. That's it. I used to drink it all day, but I got to where I vibrated like a bad set of motel "magic fingers". (Post 327.1)

Seafood Freshness Question:
I was wanting to know, since I live in the Midwest is it better to buy seafood frozen? Or what the stores are calling "fresh". (Post 127)

There's nothing wrong with purchasing frozen seafood as long as you're sure that it hasn't been mishandled (partially thawed and refrozen). (Post 127.1)

Sea Salt vs. Kosher Salt Question:
Would sea salt be an acceptable substitute for kosher salt? In the steak episode, you said that you don't use sea salt because it was too pricey. Here in Hawaii, though, it's quite affordable. (Post 317)

You are "go" for the sea salt. Just remember that unless it's a course grind, odds are it will take up less space in a measuring spoon than kosher, so cut it's amount by a third. (Post 317.1)

Shallots Question:
Not to sound stupid, but what exactly is a shallot? (Post 388)

You don't sound stupid. Shallots (Allium ascalonicum) are members of the lily family just like onions and garlic and they look like they could be the afore mentioned couple's love child. The flavor however is (to my taste) sweeter than any garlic, but stronger than most onions...but not in a tear-jerking way. I like them because they provide a more sophisticated, less easy to pin down flavor. (Post 388.3)

Show Production Question:
About how long does it take to film a Good Eats episode? (130)

For economic reasons, we shoot Good Eats "out of sequence" like a motion picture. That means that on any given day we may shoot scenes from 5 or 6 shows. But if you were to average it out, I'd say each show takes 2.5 to 3 days to shoot and another 2-3 days to edit (that includes sound, music, graphics and all that other fun stuff). (Post 130.1)

Show Style Question:
... It scares me that so many of the people who post here don't seem to get that your series is essentially a comedy "edu-tainment show".... I've learned and remembered SO much since I've started watching your show because of the skewed way you present cooking info, but I know the common denominator we are dealing with. (Post 52)

I've always believed that the best way to teach is to entertain, and that's what we try to do with Good Eats. (Post 52.1)

Shrimp Allergies Question:
What gives with shrimp? I handle raw shrimp and promptly welt out. On the other hand (pun intended) cooked shrimp are benign. Rumor says iodine is the culprit, my science training suggests protein allergen. Got the straight story? (Post 561)

Shellfish, particularly crab and shrimp top the list of foods that folks are most allergic to. And you're right, proteins are probably to blame. I can't find a single case of a seafood allergy that points to iodine. Go figure.

The fact that your particular allergy is topical and only precipitated by raw shrimp does not make it a trivial matter. Sure, cooking seems to neutralize the offending allergens now, but allergies often intensify with cumulative contact. One day you may cross that "one shrimp too many line" and suddenly your tongue will look like a blow-fish. Guess how you breath with a blow-fish in your mouth...you don't.

In other words: get thee to an allergist and lay off the shrimp till you do.

I mean it.

Don't fool around with this stuff.

End of lecture. (Post 561.1)

Shrimp Block Frozen Statement:
... I have them order me a 5 pound block of 16/20 ct shrimp. Granted it costs a bit, but, it COMES frozen and all I have to do is stick one end in some cool water for 10 minutes, the ice on that area melts and I usually come up with about 1 pound of shrimp. The rest goes back (tightly wrapped) in to the freezer. I find this "buying in bulk" quite handy. (Post 277.1.1)

You're right about five pound blocks. It's the only way I buy shrimp unless I'm a shell's throw from the ocean. The only reason we didn't deal with block shrimp on the show is that it's still tough for some people to find. I would like to suggest you try a different thawing technique: place the entire block in cold water until you can harvest off enough for your meal, then replace in the freezer. That way a new glaze of ice can form on the block. If you place only one end in the water you'll lose the glaze on that end which could result in freezer burn. (Post

Shrimp Straightening Question:
... How do I get the shrimp to "fry straight"? Since I will be rolling it, I don't want it to curl up.... (Post 228)

I definitely don't want to come between you and your cravings, but this is something I'd have to show you...it just doesn't translate into words. Since I don't have a doodle pad here let me suggest that you go to your favorite sushi bar and ask the guy with the knife to show you how to do it. It's a snap when you see it. (Post 228.2)

Stainless Steel Bowls Question:
Please tell me where i might find those great stainless steel bowls that you were melting chocolate in. They looked like a great brand, and had the ever elusive lip that most stainless bowls are missing. I really do need this. (Post 80)

The set we use on the show came from Restoration Hardware, but you can also get a set almost the same (a hair lighter and a lot cheaper) at Target. I'm not to proud to admit to using the Target models at home. (Post 80.1)

Steak Brining Question:
I marinated my chicken breasts in a salt/sugar brine before I grilled and it made a big improvement in texture and juiciness. Can you tell me if brining a steak would have a similar effect - like a tenderloin? (Post 401)

My general rule is that brines are for light colored meats and that marinades are better for red meat...meaning: beef. The salt in brines tends to cover a lot of beef's natural flavor whereas the acid in a good marinade elevates it. But hey, that's just me. (Post 401.1)

Steak Cooking Question:
How does one cook a steak well done at home?  Whether the steak is a porterhouse or one of the thin flatter steaks the outside always burns and the inside is pink. I do it in a pan on the top of the stove. Can you help this steak lover out. (Post 207)

I trust that you haven't seen the first episode of Good Eats titled "Steak Your Claim." In that show we cooked a steak in a pan first on the stove then in the oven, and though our destination was medium rare, you can use the same method to get where you want to go. (Why you want to cook a steak to well-done is a subject for later conversation.)

Sear your steak in a very...and I do mean very hot pan for thirty seconds on each side then park it in a 500 degree oven for three minutes. Flip for another three. That should be about as done as done can get, but it won't be burned...and that's the most important thing. (Post 207.1)

Stir-Fry and Heat Question:
Also, any plans for a stir-frying episode? Every time I try to stir-fry anything, it winds up either greasy and over-sauced or dry and burnt, and always no better than half-eaten. (Post 147)

The problem with stir-frying in America is heat. Our ranges and cooktops just don't deliver the BTUs necessary for the job. I do my stir-fries outdoors on a big outdoor propane burner (from one of those semi-ridiculous turkey frying contraptions). Not only does this burner deliver enough thrust to get a big ole wok F-16 hot, but my kitchen doesn't get all hot and bothered. (Post 147.2)

Sunflower Oil Question:
I found a new (at least to me) oil in the grocery store last night. Sunflower seed oil--no not safflower, sunflower. Now my question is this: what type of oil is it and what would a good use be? Salad dressing comes to mind or maybe mayo. Any idea on the smoke point? Sounds like a delicate oil-but then so does Grape seed. (Post 305)

Sunflower oil is just that: oil squeezed out of sunflower seeds. It's an interesting fat because it's very hi in polyunsaturates so it's relatively body-friendly. Although it's pretty wonderful in salad dressings, it has a very low smoke point (well under 400 degrees) so I'd keep it out of the pan if I were you. (Post 305.1)

The Blade Smith Question:
Anyway, I wanted to ask you how to get in touch with Jeff Edges, the Blade Smith , who sharpened your knives in the red sauce show. (Post 125)

Geoff's number is 770.938.6324. And no I don't get kickbacks. (Post 125.1)

Thomas Dolby Statement:
I don't know who this Alton Brown is that you are all talking about, but there is a great cooking show on the Food Network called Good Eats and it is hosted by Thomas Dolby. You remember him don't you, the electronic musician from the 80's? Even the theme music for the show is classic Thomas Dolby. It's a great show and Mr. Dolby is very funny and informative. Who knew he could cook as well as he made music. My favorite episode is the one called "She Blinded Me With Pasta". Keep up the good work Mr. Dolby. (Post 439)

One day I hope that Mr. Dolby and myself we be lucky enough to be in the same place at the same time. Then you will all believe! (Post 439.3)

Tomato Soup Question:
I made tomato soup tonight, the same tomato soup I've made for years, but for some reason tonight's concoction turned a really funky reddish-brownish color when I added the milk at the end. What happened? (Post 89)

Any time you cook with acids, there's a potential for interesting results. So much of what happened did happen because of the particular tomatoes you used. You'd have to tell me a little more about the recipe for me to guess. What kind of milk was it anyway? (Post 89.1)

Tomato Storage Question:
Have a minor problem. I'm all tomatoed out....I don't have a dehydrator to save all my wonderful tomatoes....How can I dry all these tomatoes. Don't want to can since I've heard of botulism in home-canned tomato. Any suggestions. Tried toaster oven and ended up cooking them instead. (Post 714)

A Reply:
Tomatoes are one of the easier products to can, as the pH level is so low that most bacteria cannot grow. (Post 714.2)

Be careful here. New government data show that very ripe tomatoes can indeed cross the pH line into the pressure canning realm. Unless you've got a very reliable pH meter, I'd treat fresh tomatoes as a low acid food. (Post 714.3.1)

Nice problem you've got there. I'd oven dry if I were you. Simply halve small (Romas) and quarter large (beefsteak) tomatoes and arrange on a baking sheet with a rack or a broiling pan. Sprinkle with olive oil and a little sugar, salt and pepper. Turn your oven to its lowest setting (mine runs down to 170) and dry the toms for at least 12 hours. (The time will vary depending on the juice content of the fruits). The resulting jewels will be sweet and luscious and will keep for several months if sealed and refrigerated.

Now get to drying! (Post 714.4)

Turkey, Deep-Fry Question:
Okay, can anyone think of a reason why you could NOT Cajun Deep Fry a brined turkey?  Something with the salt, or perhaps a change in the skin's molecular structure?  Most fry kits come with flavor marinades that use butter, and believe me, I'll be getting enough butter in other dishes. (Post 711)

I have to tell you that I'm not a fan of this method for one simple reason: it's dangerous. Other than that, there shouldn't be a problem culinarily speaking. But seriously, I do not advocate the whole turkey frying thing. (Post 711.1)

Turkey Stuffing/Dressing Question:
Last year I tried your turkey recipe, brined and not basted .... I served it with a delicious pilaf, which I enjoyed, but found that my guests were longing for stuffing (cretins!). Are you completely anti-stuffing?  Or can you suggest a stuffing-like alternative to the turkey?... (Post 45)

Dressing good, stuffing evil. (Post 45.1)

Turkey Freezing Question:
Do you know (or does anyone else for that matter) if one can freeze cooked turkey? If not, how long can I expect that it will last in the fridge? I have it wrapped in foil and then sealed in baggies. (Post 455)

Removed from the bone, sealed and properly refrigerated, you can expect to keep that turkey around a week at the outside. It freezes well but is vulnerable to freezer burn so wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a freezer bag and add a layer of foil to that, freeze and use within three months. (Post 455.3)

Video / Film Question:
I caught the show tonight...first time I've seen "This Spud's For You". I noticed that this episode was done in "film" rather than "video". Is that because it was one of your earlier shows for another network? ... However, I like Good Eats in video rather than film. What medium do you prefer to work with for the show? (Post 50)

The first two episodes were produced before the show had a home. Since most of us had film backgrounds it seemed like the thing to do. However, we quickly evolved to video and despite our film-snobbery, couldn't be happier with it. (Post 50.1)

Vinaigrette  Binder Question:
I make a very quick cranberry vinaigrette (frozen cranberry concentrate, white wine vinegar, olive oil) but have nothing to bind it (separates after an hour in the fridge but I can still whisk it out when needed). Would like to see it stay together a little longer... any thoughts that wouldn't spoil the light fruity flavor? (Post 266)

Try just a pinch of dry mustard (Coleman's is my choice). No one will know it's there, but it's emulsifying powers will grant your dressing some hang time. (Post 266.1)

W #1 Question:
My question is ... Is "W" a real person working at Bed, Bath & Beyond, or is she an actress for the part of "Kitchen Equipment Expert". Love the interaction between you both, bring her back more often! (129)

... As for "W", she's a figment of my imagination...twisted though it is. The folks at Bed, Bath & Beyond would never be that snippy. (Post 129.1)

W #2 Question:
Who exactly is "W"? (Post 362)

As for "W", she's a result of my having watched a lot of 007 movies as a kid. She's 100 percent fictitious. And no, the actress that plays her is not married to moi. (Post 362.1)

Wine Substitute Question:
I want to make my wife a Shrimp Scampi for her birthday. However, all the recipes I can find call for white wine, and we don't drink or cook with wine. Do you have a substitute for the wine, or a recipe that leaves out the alcohol (Virgin Scampi)? (Post 496)

Try 3 parts water with 1 part champagne vinegar which has had all its alcohol converted to acetic acid by bacteria.

You could also use diluted lemon juice. Either way, you should have success, even if the the flavor isn't quite the same. (Post 496.1)

Woody Mushrooms Question:
I remember watching the mushroom show and was confused. Lemme get it straight: woody mushroom-no sauté or yes sauté?

No woody stems.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010