5 Home Cooking Hacks Using Science

Our guest today is J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the managing culinary director of seriouseats.com and the author of the cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. In this book, Kenji applies chemistry and physics to show home cooks how they can achieve better results in the kitchen, from egg poaching to making mac and cheese with the perfect texture.

Kara Rota
2-minute read
Episode #95

Ever since his first Food Lab column on seriouseats.com about how to make the best hard boiled eggs, J. Kenji Lopez has been teaching his devoted audience about better home cooking through science. In his cookbook The Food Lab, he employs a lifelong curiosity about how things work to tackle some of the most classic kitchen dilemmas and queries. Here are some of Kenji's tips and tricks:

1) Use alcohol (vodka) in place of water in pastries and pie crusts. It limits gluten formation so your pie crusts come out more tender and crisp. This trick also works for tempura batter and beer batter, as the volatility in vodka makes for a lighter crust.

2) Adding fish sauce to your standard tomato sauce for pasta adds an extra umami kick, thanks to glutamic acid, which boosts savory flavors. Always use in small enough proportions that you won't overwhelm the flavor of other ingredients.

3) Everyone should have a good thermometer, especially when cooking meat. 

4) Kenji prefers a mortar and pestle to a spice grinder because it's easier to clean. When pounding aromatics for making curry paste, guacamole, or pesto, a mortar and pestle expresses more flavor from the ingredients than a food processor.

5) A bench scraper is the best tool for quickly cleaning your cutting board and transferring ingredients from your cutting board to a pot or pan—doing this with the edge of your knife will dull the knife. 

Listen to the full interview in the top right hand player, or on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify (simply search the mobile app!). Don't forget to sign up for the forthcoming Clever Cookstr newsletter, full of tips and tricks from the kitchens of the world's best chefs.

Author photo courtesy of Vicky Wasik.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.