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  • Healthy grilling: pump up the flavor in your food using fire, not fat

    No longer relegated to the summer months, grilling has become a year-round affair-in fact, Chicagoans, who are known for their grilling prowess, often battle wind and snow to get to the barbecue. And whether you're fixing meats or veggies, fruits, or even cakes, grilling is a surefire way to impart bold flavor without a lot of added fat and calories. So, push aside the hot dogs and make room for some of our favorite lighter grilled sides, mains, and sweets.

    How to Boost Flavor

    Since the intense heat of the grill brings out food's natural flavors, there's no need to cook with a lot of calorie- and fat-laden oil or butter. Instead, use lower-calorie spice- or citrus-based marinades, sauces, and rubs to add flavor. If some fat is necessary to prevent things from sticking, keep your marinades heart-healthy by choosing monounsaturated oils such as olive.

    Caution About High Heat

    Using high-heat methods, such as grilling and broiling, to cook meat to a char has been found

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  • Top 5 beers for the barbecue

    Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel
    ( Germany , $3 per 500 ml bottle)

    German lager and grilled pork are natural companions; neither overwhelms the flavor or taste of the other. This dark lager goes especially well with grilled pork. Expect a faintly roasty, lightly sweet-but still crisp-character with hints of coffee and cooked caramel and an off-dry (slightly sweet) finish.

    Meaty Recipe Pairing:
    Grilled Pork Chops With Classic Barbecue Sauce
    Add the vaguely smoky effects of the grill, matched by the beer's softly roasted character, and the partnership only improves.

    Meatless Recipe Pairing:
    Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
    The natural sugars in the vegetables make the beer taste sweeter than it is; the soft sugars of grilled vegetables actually enhance the malt sugars of a beer.

    Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier
    ( Germany , $5 per 500 ml bottle)

    Arguably the ultimate in barbecue brews (at least in Germany ), this thirst-quenching lager is brewed

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  • Chile Head Alert: Limited-Edition Tabasco Sauce

    All you hot sauce collectors out there might want to consider heading over to for a bottle of limited-edition Avery Island Reserve Tabasco, named after the island in south Louisiana where the sauce was created by Edmund McIlhenny and is still made. To celebrate its 140th anniversary, the family-owned McIlhenny Company released 2,500 5-ounce bottles of the fiery stuff.

    What makes it so special? "Avery Island Reserve is aged and processed the same as original Tabasco Sauce," says Paul McIlhenny, president and CEO of McIlhenny Company. "The difference is that it's made from just the finest Avery Island peppers that are hand-selected by McIlhenny family members. Because these peppers are at their peak ripeness - fiery in color and heat - the Reserve is noticeably brighter in color and heat."

    Gimmicky? Yes. But also delicious. To me, the special brew tastes like a hotter, smokier, more concentrated version of regular Tabasco. I checked in with Gretchen VanEsselstyn,

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  • America's favorite pies

    Apparently, the results of a nationwide poll by Schwan's Consumer Brands North America (the makers of Mrs. Smith's) surprised even them. When asked what their three favorite pies were, people chose apple pies a whopping 72 percent of the time (47 percent for plain apple pie, and 25 percent for apple-crumb pie). Second place may be even more of a shock.

    That's because the silver medal went to pumpkin pie, with 37 percent of the vote. Chocolate-cream pie came in third with 32 percent, and cherry came in last of the top scorers, with a surprisingly middling 27 percent.

    The exact results:

    1. Apple, 47 percent
    2. Pumpkin, 37 percent
    3. Chocolate creme, 32 percent
    4. Cherry, 27 percent
    5. Apple crumb, 25 percent
    6. Pecan, 24 percent
    7. Lemon Meringue, 24 percent
    8. Blueberry, 21 percent
    9. Key lime, 18 percent
    10. Peach, 16 percent

    That's right. No strawberry-rhubarb, no banana cream, no shoo-fly. Key lime and peach pies found

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  • The 20 essential cookbooks

    Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the James Beard Foundation, and to honor the occasion, the institution's book-awards committee worked feverishly to distill a list of 20 essential cookbooks still in print that could serve as the dependable core of any kitchen library.

    As the committee chairwoman, Kathleen Purvis, puts it: "We tried to make the list both broad and deep by including various types of cooking, major international cuisines, and reference. We've included several general cookbooks, too, which could be considered 'the core of the core.' That group of books contains answers and inspiration for just about any cook, any day, in any kitchen."

    (You may recall a complementary Top 10 foodie books list, not including cookbooks, right here on Epi-Log.)

    Want to see the James Beard list?

    First, a little more discussion.

    Because you should always know who came up with any Top Whatever list before you take it seriously, here's who came up with the James

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  • Top 10 food myths

    "Is that really not true?" asked an Epi editor upon seeing one of the food myths listed below. Emails flew back and forth here when folks realized that some old axioms might not stand up to close scrutiny in the kitchen.

    I'll admit I didn't scour Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen or Herve This' Molecular Gastronomy for comprehensive answers. So I'm curious if you, dear reader, have experience that can prove or disprove the myths below. I'll assume they are indeed false until I hear otherwise.

    1) Searing meats seals in the juices
    2) You have to refrigerate butter or it will spoil
    3) Oysters must be consumed during "r" months only
    4) Boiling veggies eliminates all vitamins and minerals
    5) Cold water boils faster than warm water
    6) A potato will absorb excess salt in any soup or stew
    7) Adding olive oil to boiling water keep spaghetti from sticking
    8) Alcohol burns off entirely when cooked
    9) Lobsters

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  • Top 10 food movies

    It was a weird time for food movies last year. Ratatouille was universally praised, No Reservations globally ignored, and now I hear about a Zen chef from fellow blogger Amy Sherman. Here are some of my favorites...and I'm assuming that wine movies like Sideways and Mondovino don't count.

    Top 10 Food Movies
    (in random order)

    1) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
    2) Delicatessen
    3) Like Water for Chocolate
    4) My Dinner with Andre
    5) Babette's Feast
    6) Tampopo
    7) The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover
    8) Big Night
    9) Chocolat
    10) Eat Drink Man Woman

    James Oliver Cury is the executive editor of He is a member of the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee and has been a judge at the Culinary Institute of America, the Jack Daniels World Barbecue Championship, and the Food Network's Iron Chef show. He's written for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, Playboy, Details, Entertainment Weekly, Maxim, Read More »from Top 10 food movies
  • Building a better bagel

    As anyone who's lived in New York City and then moved away can attest, it's pretty close to impossible to find a decent bagel outside of Gotham .

    The recipe, of course, is hardly a secret. After all, the bagel is legendarily the twin sibling of the croissant, both created by grateful bakers to commemorate the late-17th century victory over the Turks who'd been besieging Vienna . The bagel was supposedly formed to resemble a riding stirrup, horseriding being a favorite pastime of Jan Sobieski, the Polish king who swooped in with his cavalry and routed the Ottomans.

    So the formula for a perfect bagel's been around for a long time, yet you can't seem to get a good one unless you live in the area codes 212, 718, 646, 347 or 917. (Yes, every once in a while you'll meet someone with a 917 land line.) That's why Melissa Wagenberg Lasher's piece on Chowhound, "How to Make the Ultimate Bagel," must seem heavensent to New Yorkers-in-exile.

    Lasher runs down the three major sins of

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  • Pickle pops: the next big summer treats?

    Not long ago, on a particularly hot day in New York, in an attempt to quench my thirst, I reached into my mini-fridge and found the frozen pickle juice popsickles I'd been meaning to taste test. I'm the kind of guy who generally likes salty food more than sweet ones (bacon more than pancakes, pretzels more than cookies). So, naturally, I love pickles. And yes, these pickle sickles were pretty darn good.

    Like many ice treats, they beg to be slurped. You can really suck out the pickle juice from the ice. Once the solid part was gone, I drank down the remaining unfrozen fluid. It was plenty tart, sour, and salty, but refreshing nonetheless. They seem fairly healthy, too, with just three calories per two-ounce serving, 245mg of sodium, and no fat. There is a preservative (potassium sorbate), a dye (yellow #5), and an emulsifier (polysorbate 80), but somehow this doesn't sound nearly as unhealthy as, say, a Dove Bar. A box of 16 pops costs $17.95 including S&H at

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  • Five cool new bbq accessories

    I ventured into my garden for the first time the other day and stared longingly at my kettle grill. I even sniffed the air, breathing in the imaginary aromas of slightly sweet, hickory-smoked ribs. It's that time of year again, and I am psyched.

    Below are some new products that might get the steaks, I mean creative juices, flowing this season. (And if you need a new grill for your balcony or backyard, check out my previous post.)

    Barbecue Utensil Set

    This stainless steel set brings to mind the phrase "form follows function." Each piece is beautifully designed with a sleek aesthetic, and without compromising the intended function of the tool. They actually work and work well. Included in the set are gripper tongs, a turner, spearing tongs and small flipping tongs. It's a set that is perfect for the backyard aficionado with the double-wide Viking grill and outdoor kitchen ensemble. At $378 it's not a steal, but it'll sure have the neighbors envious.


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