Guides – Chowhound Recipes, cooking tips, resources, and stories for people who love food Sat, 22 Feb 2020 03:24:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 Ways to Keep Your Energy Up Without Caffeine Thu, 20 Feb 2020 16:00:45 +0000 0 A Nutritionist’s Favorite Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s Thu, 20 Feb 2020 13:15:22 +0000 0 9 Things Any Margarita Drinker Should Have on Hand Thu, 20 Feb 2020 11:56:45 +0000 0 How to Navigate Cheap Wine and Score the Perfect Bottle Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:25:28 +0000 0 Try One New Wine Every Month in 2020 Tue, 18 Feb 2020 13:52:29 +0000 0 A Bite Size Guide to Austin, Texas Sat, 15 Feb 2020 16:00:43 +0000 0 A Beginner’s Guide to Fine Dining Fri, 14 Feb 2020 17:05:25 +0000 0 A Beginner’s Guide to French Pastries Fri, 14 Feb 2020 16:25:22 +0000 0 A Guide to Appreciating Oysters Fri, 14 Feb 2020 15:38:17 +0000

Oysters are synonymous with romance—hailed as an aphrodisiac and allegedly enjoyed 50 at a time by Casanova himself (for breakfast, yet)—but they’re hard for some people to love. What’s not to adore about a salty, slippery, soft-bodied invertebrate surrounded by two calcareous valves joined together by a resilient ligament? Well. “[A]n oyster, like a lover, first captures you by bewitching your mind,” writes Rowan Jacobsen in his 2007 book, “A Geography of Oysters.” So maybe some of our favorite stories about and recipes for oysters will, if not bewitch, at least interest—and inform, and let you experience their charms vicariously.

The Taste of an Oyster

guide to different types of oysters


Is it like the sea? Like a cucumber or a melon? Like copper or smoke? The taste of an oyster depends on a variety of factors, and can be hard to pin down, but it’s delightful to try. Learn about what influences oyster flavors, and how best to describe them.

A Dozen Oysters You Should Know

what do oysters taste lie?


Get acquainted with these 12 types of oysters and their particular appeal.

How to Shuck an Oyster

how to shuck an oyster

Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you want to get straight to the meat of the matter, here’s your guide to shucking oysters.

How New England’s Cult-Favorite Oyster Bar Came to Fenway

New England oyster bar Eventide Oyster Co

Eventide Oyster Co.

Pay a virtual visit to Maine’s famed Eventide Oyster Co. and learn how they made a second home in Boston.

The History of Oysters Rockefeller (and How to Make Them at Home)

everything you need to know about oysters (a guide to enjoying oysters)


If you prefer your oysters cooked, this classically rich preparation is perfect, and historic.

Oyster Recipes

Some of our favorite ways to enjoy oysters (other than straight-up and fresh from the shell, that is):

Zyliss Oyster Tool, $14.95 at Sur la Table

However you enjoy your oysters, you'll have to open them up first. This duo makes it easy.
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Community Discussions

See what other Chowhounds have had to say (and ask) about oysters over the years.

Good Advice

Don’t Eat Every Oyster

5 Things Julia Child Taught Us About Valentine’s Day Wed, 12 Feb 2020 16:00:09 +0000 0 How to Choose a Live Lobster Wed, 12 Feb 2020 15:14:11 +0000 /?p=144341

When it comes to shellfish, lobster is synonymous with luxury and usually priced to match, but cooking it at home takes a lot of the sting out of the price tag. That said, it can be challenging to prepare, even before you get the bugs into your kitchen. To start, how do you pick a good lobster from the tank? And is there a difference between male and female lobsters? How about hard shells versus soft? Is Maine lobster really better? Herein, we consult the wisdom of the crowd to help answer your questions and ensure you choose the best live lobster.

Look for Lively Lobsters

You should absolutely never, ever buy a dead lobster (well, unless it’s frozen…), and when choosing a fresh lobster from the tank, one thing most sources agree on is that you should go with a fairly feisty one. You can’t necessarily judge its verve by observing it in the water, but when it’s lifted out, it should move its claws and legs and even curl its tail; if it hangs limply in the air, reject it.

Catered Cravings Lobster Feast Supply Kit, $24.97 on Amazon

Get enough lobster bibs, meat extractors, moist towelettes, and lemon juice filter nets for 8 people (or 8 solo lobster feasts).
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Beware of Short Antennae

This one comes with a caveat: Short (or missing) antennae can mean that the lobsters have been hanging out too long in the tank—long enough, in fact, to start nibbling on each other. But it’s also possible for lobsters to lose antenna at any point along the way, so if it’s just a matter of one or two missing feelers, it might not be an issue.

Does Size Matter?

Most lobsters you see for sale will be anywhere between one and a half to three pounds, but you can find bigger specimens—over three pounds and they’re considered jumbo, but technically, there’s no natural limit to how large a lobster could get. The question is, is it worth shelling out for larger lobsters? While there’s an enduring belief that impressive, Pinchy-size lobsters are better, actual consensus/personal anecdata varies and often points to that not being true. The meat from any lobster should be tender and delicious as long as you cook it properly—and that can be harder to do with larger lobsters, so erring on the modest end may be wiser.

Basic Steamed Lobster recipe


Soft vs Hard Shells

Unless you’re in Maine (or close by) during the months of mid-May through November, this is probably a moot point, as you won’t actually be able to find fresh soft-shell lobsters (also known as shedders). Many people proclaim that these are sweeter and more tender—not to mention easier to crack into—than hard-shell lobsters. They will certainly cost more per pound of actual meat, as much of their weight is due to excess water in their roomy shells; J. Kenji López-Alt broke it all down back in 2013. As with so much in life, it’s largely a matter of personal taste (and bankroll).

Male vs Female

Taste-wise, there’s no difference between guys and gals—except when you consider the female lobster’s roe, if indeed it’s present. Unsurprisingly, it tastes salty and…lobstery…and is a delicacy to some and an automatic discard to others. It’s greenish-black when raw (so don’t be alarmed if you find some in your uncooked lobster), and turns red when cooked (hence its nickname, “coral”). The lobster meat itself tastes the same whether from a male or female, though.

Sniff Test

Lobsters shouldn’t really smell like anything before they’re cooked. If you catch any whiff of ammonia around the tank, better pass on by. (Good advice for all seafood, honestly. A little salinity is fine, but any sharp or chemical odors are a bad sign.)

seafood for Thanksgiving


Maine Lobster (What’s In a Name?)

Maine lobsters are generally regarded as the best, but did you know that Canadian lobsters are the exact same thing? will even tell you so, but we like the way Chowhound user MGZ put it: “the term ‘Maine Lobsters’ refers to the species Homarus americanus that lives, and is caught, in the waters between Canada and North Carolina. There are no passports on the bottom of the Atlantic and bugs don’t have pockets. If you want good, go local.”

Great advice—the best option for almost any food is to get what was made or harvested closest to home, whenever possible. Obviously, if you’re landlocked, your lobster has traveled some distance to meet its date with destiny (i.e. your stock pot), but looking for a lively specimen from a reputable source is the best common sense advice to keep in mind. If you don’t trust any of your local stores and you have the budget for it, you can order live lobsters online.

Related Reading: 7 Rules for the Best Lobster Roll Ever

Frozen Lobster Tails


If you don’t want to go to the trouble of killing and cooking a live lobster, there’s always the option of frozen tails. These are usually more expensive per pound, and many people consider the tail meat inferior to claw and leg meat, even before you factor in the potential for freezer burn. Some people claim frozen lobster meat can be bland, stringy, and tough, but others find it fine; even Marcella Hazen calls for frozen lobster in three recipes in her “Marcella Says…” cookbook. If you’re after Maine lobster, be aware that frozen lobster tails are often from spiny lobsters harvested in warmer waters; you can tell by the white spots on their shells if they’re not otherwise obviously labeled.

Related Reading: 7 Costco Splurges That Are So Worth It

Substitute for Lobster

If you’re still unsure about cooking live lobster, or if you can’t find any that meet muster, perhaps some Argentinian pink shrimp could be a good compromise? They’re often marketed as being similar to lobster (firm and sweet)—and are available frozen at Trader Joe’s. You don’t have the pleasure of digging into a meaty tail or cracking a claw, but maybe that’s a plus for you! And if all this has put you off the mere idea of eating an actual lobster, word from FoodRepublic is, you can make a legit vegan lobster roll with hearts of palm.

How to Cook Lobster

If you do decide to take on a lobster in your own kitchen, check out our lobster recipes, from basic steamed lobster to a luxurious lobster risotto perfect for New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, or any other special occasion.

Le Creuset 8-Quart Enameled Stockpot, $94.95 at Sur La Table

Why not coordinate your lobster cooking pot with their bright, steamed shells?
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Related Video: How to Open a Bottle of Champagne to Go with Your Lobster 0
The Ultimate Guide to Salmon Wed, 12 Feb 2020 13:30:30 +0000

How many times have you heard nutritionists say, “Eat more salmon!”? Though this fish is a great source of protein, potassium, and vitamin B12, it is mainly known for its omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to healthy brain, heart, and joint functions.

With so many different kinds of salmon, it may be worth knowing which ones are better than others and how each one tastes. If eating healthier is one of your goals this year, then check out this ultimate guide to how to buy, store, and cook salmon.

Types of Salmon

Not all varieties of salmon look or taste the same.

Sockeye salmon is a Pacific variety recognizable by its deep red color, fatty texture, and strong smell (though it should never be too fishy). It can be purchased as steaks or fillets and is best enjoyed grilled or smoked.

Coho salmon, also known as silver salmon, is best for those who don’t like the bold flavor of sockeye salmon. A whole fish can weigh 23-24 pounds, so you can cook the entire thing on a grill or smoker. It is also found in the Pacific.

Pink or humpback salmon is the most basic variety of salmon, often processed into packaged foods. Light pink, mild tasting, and low in fat, it is recognizable by its distinctive humps when spawning.

Chum salmon is one of the smallest varieties, at around 8 pounds. It is mainly used for its large roe, available in jars or frozen, but you may see it in fillet form under the name keta salmon. It has less oil so is lighter in taste than sockeye.

Steelhead salmon is actually ocean trout that migrates upstream just like its cousin—actual salmon. It has a similar texture and flavor. (The fresh water analogue to steelhead trout is rainbow trout.)

Atlantic salmon is only farm raised, artificially colored, and available year-round. It is important to know how farmed Atlantic salmon was raised (type of feed, whether antibiotics were given) to make a call on whether or not it’s sustainable. Farm-raised salmon is typically fattier than wild-caught and has more calories, but is still very nutritious.

Related Reading: Diving Deeper Into Farmed vs Wild Fish

King salmon or Chinook salmon is the best salmon money can buy, though also one of the rarer species. It has more flavor, thicker meat, and more nutritional value. Available in shades of pink, orange, and marble, king salmon is typically found in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and parts of Asia.


Buying Salmon

When buying salmon from a store, look at its color—it should be light pink if farm raised, and dark pink if wild caught, and not have any gray or brown areas. You can also smell it to make sure it is mild, not fishy (a briny, oceanic scent is good), and it should be firm, but not slimy to touch.

Wild Alaskan Company Wild Salmon Box, $116.88/month

Wild-caught salmon sustainably harvested from Bristol Bay and fresh frozen so it arrives in pristine condition every month.
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Frozen wild salmon is also good, if it’s frozen fresh off the boat; most “fresh” fish at the supermarket has been previously frozen as well, so don’t assume buying from the freezer case is a lesser option. Look out for ice crystals and freezer burns when buying frozen fish.

Sitka Salmon Shares, $119/month

Another source for sustainable, wild Alaska salmon, including king, coho, kets, and sockeye. Use code CHOWHOUND10 at checkout for $25 off, except for the Taste of Summer share.
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For raw dishes like sushi and poke, buy the freshest farm raised raw salmon (previously frozen salmon eaten raw can cause foodborne illnesses).

salmon poke bowl recipe

Chowhound’s Salmon Poke

Amara Enciso, executive chef at The Jorgenson House in Juneau, Alaska catches 100-200 pounds of salmon for personal use throughout the salmon runs during summer. Commercially, she recommends only wild Alaskan salmon, preferably sourced from a local company that ensures quality, such as Shoreline Wild Salmon.

Related Reading: The Best Online Seafood Delivery Services for 2020

Some chefs do cook farm raised salmon, only when it’s sustainably and organically raised. Chef and restaurateur Tom Catherall at Barbacoa in Atlanta says, “You are what you eat. Farm raised salmon is sometimes fed a diet not unlike dog food. It doesn’t have the same nutritional value as wild.” Catherall prefers Scottish salmon sourced from cold waters, which is parasite free.

The organic salmon farm sites in parts of Ireland are highly sophisticated and regularly audited. “Efforts undertaken to guarantee a healthy environment for the salmon and the wildlife in the area, ensures that organic salmon is the next best thing to wild salmon. It is more sustainable and as good tasting as wild salmon. So eating organic salmon is a very good alternative to wild salmon,” says Birgitta Hedin Curtin, founder of the Burren Smokehouse in Co. Clare.

How to Store Salmon

Salmon can sit outside a refrigerator for up to 2 hours and in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Store your fish in the freezer for up to 3 months if you don’t plan to cook it right away. In each case, it is important to properly wrap the fish in plastic or place it in an air-tight container before storing.

Pay attention to the expiration date for store-bought smoked salmon. After opening, it will last in the refrigerator for a week.

smoked salmon flatbread

Chowhound’s Lox Flatbread

Cooking with Salmon

Before cooking, properly thaw and pat dry the salmon with paper towels. To quickly release excess water, lightly sprinkle the salmon portions with salt, and refrigerate for 5-8 minutes, then pat dry. Following this step will ensure you get a nice sear.

Fat and oil content determine how you should cook the salmon—grill, poach, sous-vide, sear, steam, smoke, or bake. Chum and pink salmon are generally used for canning or smoking because of their lower oil content. Coho and sockeye salmon are versatile to cook with, as they have a high fat content and hold up extremely well to searing, poaching, or baking. Chinook salmon is the highest in fat content of all salmon species, requiring no additional oil or butter, and lends itself well to any type of cooking technique.

Celebrity chef Johnny Hernandez recommends seasoning wild-caught Pacific or Alaskan salmon with a blend of fresh herbs, thinly sliced garlic, and olive oil. “Use a smoking hot pan and cook it to medium,” he says. To check if the meat is done, poke with a sharp knife and feel the meat beginning to flake. Overcooking will make the fish dry and chewy.

“I would recommend eating salmon in its purest form, that is with skin on. Salmon is commercially available to consumers, skinless and de-boned. However, if home chefs are able to obtain a whole salmon or fillets with skin intact, it is more flavorful and higher in omega-3’s, vitamins, and minerals,” adds Enciso.

See our salmon recipes for more ideas on how to serve it.

Related Video: How to Cut Your Own Salmon Steaks From a Whole Fish

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11 Surprising Foods to Dip in Chocolate Fondue Mon, 10 Feb 2020 15:17:09 +0000 /?p=134188

Chocolate fondue is a natural for Valentine’s Day, and for good reason: Dipping luxurious foods in molten chocolate is delicious and, let’s face it, pretty sensual. It’s fine to serve the usual fondue contenders—strawberries, bananas, cookies, graham crackers, cubes of angel food cake—but consider adding some more interesting options too, to hit that sweet-salty spot, provide some piquancy, or marry some interesting textural contrasts (opposites attract, after all). Here are some deliciously intriguing ideas for what to dip in chocolate fondue.

Cuisinart Cast-Iron Swiss Fondue Set, $49.95 on Amazon

This will serve nicely for a small group, or just a couple.
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Pro-Tip: If you don’t have a fondue pot, just make a batch of thin ganache and use it while it’s warm.

1. Bacon

how to make crisp bacon


Chocolate-covered bacon is a beautiful thing, but it takes a little time to make, what with the coating on all sides and the letting it set. Why not just cook it to crisp perfection, drain it, and dip it straight into a pot of molten chocolate? Sweet-salty seduction.

2. Rice Krispies Treats

Make ’em in any flavor your heart desires (infused with booze, even), then cut them into dainty little cubes for spearing on your fondue forks and dipping into your pool of chocolate…you really can’t go wrong. (And you can make them vegan and gluten-free too.) Try this fetchingly festive Berry Marshmallow Crispy Treats recipe.

3. Marshmallows

chocolate stout fondue recipe with homemade lambic beer marshmallow recipe

Melissa Cole

Alternatively, skip the rice cereal and just go straight for pillowy-soft, chewy marshmallows—which maybe aren’t that much of a novelty when it comes to dunking in chocolate, but can be if you opt for different flavors, like matcha marshmallows, bourbon marshmallows, or salted caramel marshmallows. Or put a boozy twist on both parts of the equation and make the Lambic Marshmallows with Chocolate Stout Fondue recipe pictured above.

Rose Gold Rose Marshmallows, 12 for $19.95 on Etsy

Made with pink wine and topped with edible glitter, these are also pretty perfect for V-Day.
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4. Potato Chips

potato chips chocolate fondue


Same basic principle as bacon, but suitable for vegetarians too—and less work all around (well, unless you make your own, but any nice, thick, kettle-style chip from the store will do just fine).?Salted pretzels are an equally excellent choice.

Sanders Dark Chocolate-Covered Potato Chips with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, $8.53 on Amazon

No fondue pot? Try these chocolate-covered chips.
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5. Grissini

While not so salty, another savory and super-crunchy option is grissini, those long, thin Italian bread sticks often sprinkled with sesame seeds; the pairing of them with fondue hearkens back to the traditional Catalan pairing of dark chocolate with olive oil and toast. Get the Thin and Crispy Sesame Seed Breadsticks recipe.

6. Hurricane Jelly Shots

hurricane jello shot recipe


With two boozy layers (representing both white and dark rum), plus chopped maraschino cherries and passion fruit juice, these are bursting with flavors that would complement dark chocolate, and they’d provide an interesting texture and temperature contrast too. For something simpler and non-alcoholic, try coffee gelatin, or various fruit flavors like raspberry or strawberry. Get all our Grown-Up Jelly Shot recipes.

Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries, 2 jars for $29.94 on Amazon

Upgrade from the neon-red maraschinos you'd fish from a well drink to these lush, dark, Italian imports.
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7. Cake Balls

Basically, you’re making cake pops, but instead of coating them all in chocolate at once and letting them set (let alone impaling them on their own individual sticks), you’re leaving them naked and dipping each one as you eat it. The Chowhound community is fond of this no-bake rum balls recipe made with Oreo cookies, and we wouldn’t turn ’em down either, that’s for sure. But to minimize the risk of getting crumbs in your fondue pot, make sure your cake balls are nice and firm—the initial crumbled cake and frosting mixture should hold together well, and then you should chill them for at least a couple hours. Chocolate on chocolate is always a good option, but red velvet cake is also especially appropriate for the occasion. (Or you could dip energy balls, for a relatively healthier option!) Get the Red Velvet Cake Balls recipe.

8. Candied Citrus

Chewy, bright, and sweet-tart, candied citrus is a way more exiting fondue partner than pound cake and strawberries. You can just use the peels (like in our Candied Grapefruit Zest recipe), or do whole slices; try oranges, tangerines, or Meyer lemons. (For a similar, fresher option, try whole kumquats too, the sweet-outside, bitter-and-tart-within fruity gems that provide juicy pops of flavor.) Candied citrus often has a sandy sugar coating that can come off in your fondue, so you may want to go with a recipe like the one pictured above, where the fruit is cooked in a sugar syrup that dries into a smooth glaze. Get the Candied Citrus recipe.

9. Candied Ginger

candied ginger chocolate fondue


Similar to candied citrus, but for those who like things a little spicy. Fresh crystallized ginger should have a nice soft chew, more gumdrop than taffy. Look for it in the bulk section of your grocery store, where you can often find it in larger cubes and slivers ideal for dipping.

10. Dried Fruit

Dried fruit options like mango slices, apricots, pineapples, regular apples, and papaya can make interesting additions to your array of fondue dippers, though some are harder to spear than others. Get the Simple Homemade Dried Fruit recipe.

11. Halvah

what is halvah?


This tahini-based confection has a deep, complex flavor that is dynamite with chocolate, and the slightly crumbly, fudge-like texture against the silky-smooth fondue…well, um, is it getting hot in here? You can buy halvah ready-made, or try your hand at a Homemade Halvah recipe.

Russ & Daughters Marble Halvah, $10/pound on Goldbelly

Get this dark chocolate-marbled halvah delivered to you straight from one of New York's best delis.
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Related Video: How to Make a Valentine’s Day Cocktail with Kombucha 0
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