Welcome to the Feedbag, where all the dumb questions about food, drink, cooking, eating, and accidental finger removal you've been embarrassed to ask can finally receive the berating they goddamn deserve. Also: answers. Send all your even-vaguely-food-related questions to email@example.com with the subject "Feedbag." All of them.
I made some ribs last night (in the oven, like you said. Some of us live in apartments.) and they were okay. They were pretty tough, but that's probably just because I was hungover and didn't put them in the oven until 2. By 8 PM I was kind of drunk and very hungry, so I just ate them sons of bitches.
Anyway, I also made some barbeque sauce, which turned out really well. One of the ingredients was something called Liquid Smoke, which I'd never heard of before, but it's glorious. I'm inclined to use it some more, but I'm not really sure what else it would be good in or on or around. Any suggestions?
Liquid smoke, for the unacquainted, is a flavoring product sometimes produced by condensing wood smoke and mixing it with water, and sometimes produced by mixing spooky industrial byproducts in a sterile lab full of pallid men in spacesuits. You see it in little bottles in the barbecue sauce aisle of your local supermarket and you go, "Liquid smoke? Such things they got!" And then you assume that it must be friggin' tincture of ass-cancer, because, liquid smoke? What?
Brett, you'll find that this stuff's pretty divisive among the types of people who don't have anything better to do than have opinions about liquid smoke. Broadly, this is a three-way argument: You've got the people who find liquid smoke a handy, convenient way to get some smoky flavor into their food without the effort and time-consumption and tedium of smoking things; you've got the barbecue purists pretending to have a principled objection to cheap smokiness shortcuts, when what they're really angry about is that there are people out there who have other things going on in their lives that are more exciting and diverting than standing next to a dumb smoker forever; and then, finally, you've got the people who are good-looking and smart and whose wild sexual charisma causes nearly as many problems as it solves, and who correctly recognize that liquid smoke tastes like a tire-fire and is awful.
Still, among the wrong, liquid smoke has its uses. As you've discovered, it's most commonly found in barbecue sauces, but you can also add it to brines, or marinades, or condiments, or salad dressings, or wherever, if you want to add the flavor of a billion smoldering band-aids to your food for some stupid reason. Be careful with it. Even if you are a Cyclops and enjoy the stuff, you shouldn't need to add more than few scant droplets to impart some nasty badness to, say, a pot of chili that you're making for someone you hate.
My wife and I own a rice cooker because we like rice but don't want to actually spend the necessary time preparing it when you can just set it and forget it. No matter what we do, rice burns to the bottom of the rice cooker. We've tried putting oil in, putting more water, putting less water, stirring sporadically throughout the process, and even stopping it from cooking before BIG RICE COOKER told us to do so. All that last one got us was undercooked crappy rice. How are we screwing up this supposed foolproof endeavor?
Mat, let's take a moment to appreciate the rice cooker. Rice isn't really all that annoying to cook in a regular old saucepot, but the rice cooker moves the action off the stovetop (freeing your burners for cooking other stuff), controls the temperature all on its own, lets you know when it's done, and then keeps the rice nice and warm and cozy if it finishes cooking before you're ready to eat it. It does all of this without asking for a break or a paycheck or a meal of its own, and then you just clean the removable bowl and the lid and sock the whole thing away in a cupboard and forget about it. The rice cooker, Mat, is a wonderful invention.
But, yeah, it's gonna get crusty rice on the bottom. There's probably some ludicrous Hints-From-Heloise way to prevent that—I wrap the rice in a vinegar-soaked dishtowel and store it in the freezer for a month, then parboil each grain individually before putting it in the rice cooker! Works every time, and it only takes six years to make dinner!—but, c'mon. It's a little bit of crusty rice. Stick the removable bowl under a warm tap for 10 seconds, then let it soak for a half-hour while you go watch bad television, and the crusty rice will come right off with the thoroughly halfassed application of a kitchen sponge. That's a pretty minor trade-off for a little countertop R2D2 that cooks tasty rice for you all on its own.
Think of it this way: Someday, Mathew, you may have children, if you do not already. For some number of months they will be comparable in size to your rice cooker, and similarly immobile. You will put foodstuffs into them, and they will not output anything nearly as unobjectionable as freshly-cooked rice in return. You will clean them anyway, unless you are a total monster, because that is just the cost of having them around, that plus the hundreds of thousands of dollars you will spend on raising them, as well as all the hair on your head and your ability to ever have a moment of peaceful solitude or a night of spontaneous fun with your spouse or a fucking shower, dear God just one fucking uninterrupted shower, why can I not just have this one fucking thing, why why why. Think of the crusty rice in your rice cooker as a rehearsal. For thinking about how much less of a drag parenthood would be if your kids shat rice.
What’s the best way to store food in containers without the food getting a plastic taste upon reheating? I use plastic containers from a major brand – which I won’t name to spare you any passive-aggressive responses from them – and every single one of those containers gives my food a plastic-ish taste that was not there before. Regardless of whether or not I put the containers in a fridge or a microwave, that taste is always present in the food. I also have this problem with sandwiches and cookies when I put them in a zippable plastic bag. I want to get new containers but I worry this problem is because of plastic itself.
Let the food cool all the way to room temperature before your pack it into a container, and—when packing non-liquid stuff like sandwiches and cookies, anyway—line the container or plastic bag with a paper towel before you stick the food into it. Holy shit that was the most boring thing anyone ever wrote.
How do I live without an oven.
Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home, or in shorter form on Twitter @albertburneko. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
Image by Sam Woolley.