Food / Cooking

Here’s How to Thaw Frozen Chicken Safely

Here’s How to Thaw Frozen Chicken Safely

Abbey Sharp, RD, blogger and author of the Mindful Glow Cookbook, tells SELF that she prefers this method because it “requires the least amount of fussing and attention” and “helps maintain the texture and integrity without the chicken meat getting waterlogged.”The USDA and Dr. Tierno also agree that this method is safest says because it eliminates the risk of your chicken entering the Danger Zone. That also means it’s the slowest, though, so you’ve got to think ahead a little. While the exact length of time required depends on things like the temperature your fridge is set to, where in the fridge you put the chicken, and the size of the chicken breasts, you can generally expect to budget at least one day if not two, according to the USDA. (So if you want to make chicken for dinner on Tuesday night, for instance, you’ll want to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge on Sunday night or Monday.)You do have some leeway with the timing, though. Once thawed, the chicken will stay good in the fridge for a day or two before cooking, per the USDA. And if dinner plans change in that time period, it’s totally safe to put the chicken back in the freezer without cooking it. (More on that in a bit.)How can you thaw frozen chicken fast?If you’re wondering how to thaw chicken fast, though, that’s a slightly different story. Obviously, planning a day ahead isn’t always feasible. If you find yourself in a poultry pinch, consider treating your chicken like an Olympic athlete and embrace the cold water soak. Fair warning, though: The cold water method requires “a lot of babysitting,” which is why Sharp says she only uses it sparingly.Here’s what you do, as the USDA lays it out: First, either leave the chicken in the airtight packaging it came in, or put it in a leak-proof plastic bag. This prevents bacteria from the surrounding air or water from getting into the meat. (And yes, that also means you shouldn’t be washing chicken either.) Then, submerge it in cold tap water, which you need to change out every 30 minutes or so as the chicken thaws and the water warms up. Set a timer on your phone if you know you’re likely to forget what you were doing.How long the whole water bath thing takes depends on the water temperature and the amount of chicken. A pound of chicken breast might take just an hour or less, while a three or four pound whole chicken will take two or three hours, the USDA says. Cook it right away once it’s thawed. Can you defrost chicken in the microwave?People often look to the microwave when wondering how to defrost chicken the quickest way possible. But the microwave method barely makes the cut, because although it is speedy, it can also be risky if not done right.

How to Make Homemade Pancakes That Are Fluffy and Delicious

How to Make Homemade Pancakes That Are Fluffy and Delicious

Flipping is an essential (if not the most important) step in every pancake recipe, so you want to make sure you have the right vehicle to make this as seamless as possible. Flipping in a small or curved pan can prove difficult, which is why Neil Kleinberg, chef and owner of beloved NYC pancake spot Clinton St. Baking Co., swears by a flat, non-stick griddle for the job instead.But if you don’t have a griddle and don’t feel like investing in one to satisfy your pancake cravings, you don’t have to. Feel free to use a large skillet or pan with a surface area big enough to flip your pancakes on. A nonstick surface will help ensure a smooth flip, though you’ll still want to grease your pan either way. When it comes to which oil is best for cooking pancakes, butter or plant-based butter alternatives win by a longshot. “I prefer it because it adds a better flavor and more browning to my pancakes,” Jenny McCoy, pastry chef at Buck Russell’s Bakery & Sandwich Shop in Chicago, tells SELF. “ I usually melt a small bowl and brush it lightly on my pan with a pastry brush so I can control how much I’m using because you really only need a very thin layer,” she explains. Audrey Bruno / Thomas BringoldCopyright 2019. All rights reserved.2. Find the perfect ratio for your DIY pancake batter recipe.Kleinberg says the best pancake recipes generally follow a ratio of 1 cup of wet ingredients to 1 cup of dry ingredients. What you choose for them, though, can vary.Wet ingredients can include things like eggs, dairy products like milk, cream, melted butter, or yogurt, and nondairy alternatives like oat milk, almond milk, or soymilk, Kleinberg says. Dry ingredients include flour, salt, baking powder, and any spices you want to include. And you should always use 2 teaspoons of baking powder for every cup of flour to ensure your pancakes rise properly. (Pro tip: Make homemade pancake mix from the recipe below ahead of time and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use. Because none of the ingredients included perish quickly, you’ll be able to use it for months.)  

Everything You Need to Know About Hearts of Palm Noodles

Everything You Need to Know About Hearts of Palm Noodles

Once upon a time, zoodles were all the rage in the world of pasta alternatives. These days, there’s a new kid on the block: hearts of palm noodles. These pasta-like, plant-based strands are making waves in the world of grain-free veggie noodles. If they’ve popped up on your radar recently—perhaps you’ve seen them on the shelves at the grocery store or getting a shout-out on your favorite food blogger’s Instagram feed—you may be wondering what the deal is, and if they’re worth all the fuss.There are a lot of reasons that heart of palm pasta is rising in popularity—as we’ll explore—from its pleasant taste and al dente texture, to how easy it is to make, to its impressive fiber content.Plus, these unusual noodles cater well to lots of different dietary needs and preferences. “Hearts of palms can be enjoyed on various eating patterns, from plant-based to low-carb,” Rhyan Geiger, RDN, owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, tells SELF. They’re good for people who eat a vegan diet and individuals who have celiac disease (as well as a wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity) and want some more good gluten-free pastas in their life.This unique ingredient is also as well adapted to different flavor profiles as it is to different kinds of eating. These babies are versatile, especially compared to some of their predecessors, like zucchini or sweet potato noodles. (The former can easily become mushy if cooked too long, and the latter can’t be eaten raw, while hearts of palm noodles can.) From low-carb dinners with plenty of heft to refreshing, crunchy salads for all your summer barbecues, there’s almost no way you can’t cook with this ingredient.Are you convinced to give hearts of palm pasta a try yet? Read on for everything you need to know about these trendy, tasty noodles.What are hearts of palm pasta made from?Hearts of palm noodles are typically made from just one main ingredient: Hearts of palm, the core (or “heart”) of certain palm tree varieties.This vegetable is derived from the inner part of particular palm tree varieties that are native to South and Central America, according to the Michelin Guide. It’s long and cylindrical, and often sold canned or jarred and sometimes sliced into rings. More recently, it’s been more broadly available in pre-cut noodle form, from linguini to angel hair to lasagna noodles.In many cases, hearts of palm will be the only ingredient, but sometimes there are small amounts of other ingredients too. “Depending on the brand, hearts of palm noodles may have salt added, as well as water,” Geiger explains. Some brands add citric acid as a preservative, too.If you’re trying to cut down on sodium—say, if you have high blood pressure, for instance, and your doctor recommended limiting it as part of a heart-healthy diet—Geiger recommends seeking out select brands that make their noodles with only hearts of palm (like Trader Joe’s). Alternatively, you can rinse the noodles to remove as much salt as possible before cooking to ensure that neither the flavor nor sodium levels of your final dish are affected, Rachel Naar, RD, CDN, owner of Rachel Naar Nutrition LLC, tells SELF.Is hearts of palm pasta the same as Palmini?Yes. Palmini is one of the better known brands of hearts of palm pasta and helped popularize the product early on. So much so that people sometimes say “Palmini noodles” to refer to generic hearts of palm pasta.What do hearts of palm noodles taste like?Hearts of palm noodles have a mostly neutral flavor with citrusy notes that are similar to that of an artichoke heart, Olivia Roszkowski, a health-supportive culinary arts chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, tells SELF.

How to Make a Perfect Pot of Rice Without a Rice Cooker

How to Make a Perfect Pot of Rice Without a Rice Cooker

Like hard-boiling eggs and basic knife tricks, knowing how to cook rice is one of the fundamental building blocks of successful home cooking. After all, satisfyingly starchy meals are never far away with this essential skill in your back pocket. But how do you make sure your rice is cooked to perfection every time?Sure, you could use a handy digital rice cooker to help simplify the process. But the truth is that you definitely don’t need one to prepare this seminal grain to perfection. In fact, you probably already have all the necessary tools to make beautifully fluffy rice on your stovetop—all you really need is a lidded pot, salt, tap water, and, of course, a big bag of rice. Plus some rice-cooking know-how, of course—which we’ll get to in a minute.The fact that you don’t need any special equipment to make great rice is just one of many reasons why people love this cornerstone grain, which features in a wide variety of cuisines around the world. (You probably can’t say the same for cauliflower rice, can you?) Along with being an inexpensive, shelf-stable pantry staple, rice is also extremely versatile in the kitchen, as well as ideal for meal prep. Whether you’re preparing a batch of rice in advance for grain bowls, making a simple side, or turning it into the main event (think: stunning dishes like Persian tahdig or Spanish paella), there’s almost no way to go wrong with rice.Though knowing how to make rice is a basic skill, that doesn’t mean that every technical aspect of cooking rice properly is so simple. That’s why we’ve got expert-approved tips and answers to common questions like “how long does rice take to cook?” that will make the process easy every time, no matter what variety of rice you’re using. Expect a bit of trial and error in the beginning as you become familiar with the sights and smells of a well-cooked pot of rice. But once you have a bit of experience under your belt, you’ll be able to make a delicious, freshly cooked pot of rice with your eyes closed.What are the most common rice varieties?Jasmine, basmati, and brown rice are among the most common varieties of rice at the store, but they’re by no means the only ones. There’s also wild, black, red, sushi, and arborio rice—along with countless sub-varieties of white rice from many regions around the globe.There are three umbrella categories of rice, distinguished by the length of the grain: short-grain, medium-grain and long-grain rice. They’ve got different textures and therefore lend themselves well to different types of dishes. Shorter rice varieties, like Calrose and arborio, are used for sushi and risotto-style dishes because they produce creamy, stickier, starchier final products. Long-grain rice varieties are dry and better at fluffing and crisping, so they’re more ideal for both crunchy fried rice dishes and delicate, steamed rice recipes. And medium-grain rice is somewhere in the middle.Should you rinse rice?Although rinsing rice isn’t an absolute must, it is highly recommended. Rinsing your rice before cooking is a good idea because it washes away grime and starch that may otherwise make your rice sticky or gloopy when it should be fluffy, Maxine Yeung, R.D., trained chef and owner of The Wellness Whisk, tells SELF. It’s also fast and easy to do.How do you rinse rice?There are a couple of simple methods to quickly rinse rice in your kitchen sink. You can fill a large pot with rice and water, swirl things around to loosen up the excess gunk, and then pour out the dirty water, or you can simply run water directly over a sieve full of rice.

Here’s How to Actually Cook Asparagus

Here’s How to Actually Cook Asparagus

First you saw those beautiful, bright green asparagus spears at the market, and absolutely had to buy them because… SPRING! Now, you’re frantically Googling how to cook asparagus because they turned out soggy and weird the last time you tried to make them. What went wrong, you wonder? What cooking method should you try this time? And how can you make asparagus that actually tastes amazing?First of all, rest assured: You absolutely made the right move snatching up fresh asparagus while it’s in season—this is one of those seasonal veggie treasures that really shines when the weather gets warmer. “While asparagus is available year-round, it’s best bought in season in the springtime,” Alexis deBoschnek, a Catskills-based cooking pro and author of To the Last Bite, tells SELF. During asparagus season, you’re more likely to find stalks that are more fresh, flavorful, and tender, as opposed to tough and woody.Something else to know about the bounty of asparagus you just brought home: Your body will thank you for it. While you’re probably buying asparagus mostly because you’re trying to cook up some bomb-tasting in-season veggies, there are also other notable asparagus benefits worth briefly touching on—like the fact that it’s, like, extremely good for you.Along with micronutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, one cup of raw asparagus contains nearly three grams of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s packed with a kind of fiber called prebiotics—naturally occurring fibers that help promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut and are linked to good digestive health, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.OK, but enough talk about asparagus nutrition! It’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of how to cook asparagus so you can make the most of your haul. Here are all the asparagus cooking tips you need to make the most of this veg—and make it official that spring has sprung in the most delicious way, baby.How do you pick the best asparagus?It helps when cooking asparagus to bring home the freshest asparagus in the first place, of course, so look for stalks whose tips are tightly packed and not at all soft or wet. These are good indicators of freshness, deBoschnek says—so you’ll not only get the best flavor and texture, you’ll also get a longer shelf life before you need to cook it.By the way, as for whether to select a bundle of thinner or thicker spears, there are a lot of opinions out there—and it’s largely a matter of preference. Slimmer asparagus stalks have a more delicate texture and quicker cooking time, while thicker stalks take longer to cook and have a meatier, heartier texture (and medium-thick spears are somewhere in the middle). You might also find that it depends on the dish you’re making. “The medium is my favorite when I want it to be the star of the show,” Kristina Ramos, chief chef educator at the New York sustainability nonprofit Chefs for Impact, tells SELF. Meanwhile, “A thicker asparagus cut into smaller rounds is great for a salad or pasta-type dish,” Ramos explains, “and thinner spears are great as a side dish or on its own.”Do you refrigerate asparagus?Asparagus is perishable, so unless you plan on eating it ASAP after bringing it home, you definitely want to refrigerate it. “After a few days, it can get soft and have an unpleasant odor,” Karishma Pradhan, a recipe developer, cooking instructor, and founder of the Home Cooking Collective based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, tells SELF.

10 Slow-Cooker Mistakes That Might Be Messing Up Your Meals

10 Slow-Cooker Mistakes That Might Be Messing Up Your Meals

Slow cooking seems simple, and it is to an extent. Throw your ingredients into a Crockpot, turn up the heat, and go to work. Eight hours later, you’ll find an aromatic dinner in your kitchen just waiting to be eaten. That’s damn easy. Especially when the alternative is sweating over a hot stovetop for hours.While one of the most obvious benefits of this cooking method is how one-and-done it is, there are a few things you should do—or avoid doing—before, during, and after to get the best, tastiest results possible. If you sometimes find yourself staring into your pot looking at something mushy, overly seasoned, completely flavorless, or straight up gross, you may be making one of these five mistakes.1. You aren’t searing your meat first.If you’re throwing raw meat straight into the crockpot, you’re doing it wrong. Alexis Davidson Kornblum, creator of the food blog Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, tells SELF that while, yes, you technically can slow-cook with raw meat, you shouldn’t. You’ll have better luck in the flavor department if you sear it first—the browning adds a caramelized depth to the dish.2. You over-salt at the start.If you add a bunch of salt to a dish at the very beginning (you know, when all the ingredients are still raw and you can’t actually taste it yet), Christopher M. Wilmoth, corporate chef at Hong Kong-based food company Lee Kum Kee, tells SELF you’re more likely to end up accidentally over-seasoning.“If too much stock, sauce, or seasonings are added to the slow-cooker before or during the cooking process, a dish that seemed properly seasoned may end up tasting too salty,” he explains. Your better bet? Season with a teeny bit of salt at the beginning, and do the heavy-duty salting at the finish.3. Or add fresh herbs and dairy at the get-go.Fresh herbs taste best, well, fresh. If you add a sprig of thyme or rosemary to your Crockpot at the very beginning, it will wilt, brown, and become nearly flavorless by the time your meal is ready. A better option? Add dried herbs in the beginning—so the different ingredients in your dish have time to meld—and finish it off with the fresh ones. That way, they’ll add a nice, bright refreshing punch to your dish.With dairy there’s more of a possible gross-out factor. If you toss it in with all your other ingredients right away, it’ll likely end up curdling. Ew. If you’re making a creamy stew, Kornblum recommends adding your dairy within the last 15 minutes of cooking.4. You’re cooking chicken with the skin on.Unlike chicken meat, no matter how long you cook chicken skin, it will never reach that delicious, fall-off-the-bone, slow-cooker state. Even if you do your due diligence and sear skin-on chicken before you put it in your slow-cooker, odds are it’s going to end up mushy and rubbery. If you really, really want to cook it with the skin on, what Kornblum recommends doing is broiling it for a few minutes after it’s done “to crisp it up.”5. You remove the lid to stir every once in a while.Peeking is tempting, but definitely don’t do it. Wilmoth explains that slow-cookers work by trapping heat. “Every time you remove the lid, the slow-cooker loses heat,” he tells SELF. If you absolutely must remove the lid before it’s done (we get it, we’re impatient, too) Kornblum says to get in and out as quickly as possible—30 seconds max. So, seriously, forget about it, let it do its thing, and be ready to dine in eight hours.You may also like: How To Make Healthy Four-Cheese Cauliflower Pasta

Cooking With a Cast-Iron Skillet: Here's Everything You Need to Know

Cooking With a Cast-Iron Skillet: Here's Everything You Need to Know

What about soap? Both VanTrece and McLellan say to skip it, since harsh soap can cause the pan’s seasoning to break down. Besides, if you follow McLellan’s method of putting your pan in a 500-degree oven after cooking, “that will kill anything on it,” he says.What can you not put on a cast-iron skillet?Acidic foods like tomatoes are generally a no-go for cast iron, especially in the beginning. You might want to think twice about foods that can leave aggressive lingering flavors too.“Acidic sauces like tomato sauces loosen the seasoned bond that give your skillet its non-stick qualities,” VanTrece says. Cooking highly acidic foods for a while in a young pan may also cause tiny amounts of iron to leach into your food, giving it a weird metallic taste. (The amount of iron is so small that it’s very unlikely to be harmful to your health, however.) The better seasoned the pan, the less both of these concerns should be an issue—but you’ll still want to avoid simmering a tomato sauce in cast iron, for instance.Foods with a super assertive taste or smell, like fish, can potentially be problematic too. “Each time the skillet is heated, the pores at the surface open up and allow fat and flavors to enter in,” Baron explains. Sear something like salmon for dinner, for instance, and you might notice a lingering seafood taste when you use your pan to make a chocolate chip skillet cookie the next day. That doesn’t mean you can’t cook stuff like fish in cast iron though. It just might be worth investing in a separate skillet that you use only for seafood, Baron adds.When it comes to cooking utensils to steer clear of, you might be wondering, can you use metal on cast iron? Despite what you may have heard, the answer is yes. Cast iron is a very durable metal, and proper seasoning protects the pan’s surface from scratches. Feel free to use spoons and spatulas made of any material.Why does everything stick to my cast-iron skillet?If you’re dealing with a crusty, stuck-on mess every time you cook with a cast iron skillet, that’s a sure sign it doesn’t have enough seasoning on it.No need for intense troubleshooting here, thankfully. Sometimes the sticking issue means a pan wasn’t properly seasoned from the start. In that case, McLellan recommends reseasoning it and continuing to cook with it, adding a little bit of oil when you cook to keep the food from sticking.The solution is the same if your pan was non-stick and isn’t performing as well now. Chances are it lost some of its seasoning in a too-heavy cleaning session, so just season it again.How do I make my cast-iron skillet better?The quality of cast iron increases over time with regular cooking and proper maintenance. Use your pan to cook on the regular, clean it properly after each use, reseason it at least two or three times a year, and be patient.“Cast-iron skillets get so much better with age,” says McLellan. The more you cook with and season them, the more the seasoning layer builds up, and the better they perform. (You don’t necessarily have to use your pan every single day, but try to make it your go-to at least a couple times a week.)Again, when it comes to helping your cast iron live its best life, time and repetition are key. “Keep using it, keep seasoning it, and it will get better,” says McLellan.Related:

This Is the Easiest, Fastest, and Cleanest Way to Pit Cherries

This Is the Easiest, Fastest, and Cleanest Way to Pit Cherries

Nothing will stop me from baking with cherries. Nothing! But that tiny pit inside, turns out, stops plenty of people, including the editor of this story who revealed to me that he’d never pitted a cherry, ever. Too much hassle, he said.And you know what? Whether you’re pitting with a paperclip, a chopstick, a patented cherry pitter, or your own bare hands, it IS a hassle. It’s as annoying a task as: peeling apples, chopping onions, trimming green beans. And yet we do all of those with a lot less whining. Cherry pitting is a pain—until you look at it as meditative. A part of the process. Let the world slow down a bit. Pit!You have a few pitting options, but if you’re baking a recipe that calls for more than six cherries, just buy a pitter. You pew-pew-pew the pits into a bowl and toss your still intact, hollowed-out cherries in another. They cause cherry juice splatter, but it washes off easily. (Also, that’s what aprons are for.) My favorite single-pit pitter is OXO’s. I use it for olives, too. It’s not perfect—sometimes the pit is off-center and you need to take a few stabs at it. But it’s fast and efficient and stores away all winter, awaiting its moment.OXO Cherry PitterIt takes some people a lot of convincing to commit to buying a cherry pitter, though. So today I pitted a bag of sweet cherries three different ways to compare the differences. Pitting by hand was the absolute worst. I also tried a hack I had heard about in which you position a cherry at one end of a reusable plastic straw and use a chopstick to push the pit through it, and that method took a full minute longer than when I used the pitter. The cherries pitted with the straw/stick always meant I was constantly stabbing myself in the hand, and I ended up tearing or ripping or otherwise mangling all those cherries. PITTER ALL THE WAY.Do you love cherries as much as me and bake with them as long as the sun’s stretched into the late evening hours? OXO released a MEGA pitter this year. It does six cherries at once. By the time you carefully place every cherry in it before clamping it shut, it took about the same amount of time to pit as the single pitter. Again, I literally timed it. (36.5 seconds for 6 cherries.) However, this design creates NO SPLATTER WHATSOEVER. And it captures the pits in a little trap. Those details are nice, but I found it was more likely to miss a few pits, so I had to check every cherry or count the pits in the trap to make sure I got ‘em all.OXO Multi-Cherry PitterFor that reason, the single pitter is still my favorite. You get your cherry assembly line going, you can see every pit as it shoots out, and it stores easily in the drawer of kitchen tools not used very often, next to the crab crackers.Not baking with cherries and wondering if you need a pitter? Nah, you don’t. Spit the pits into the yard and get on with your summer.Once you’ve pitted a bunch, make this:This article originally appeared on Bon Appétit.Related:

The 10 Healthiest Cooking Oils, and How to Use Them

The 10 Healthiest Cooking Oils, and How to Use Them

Here’s the smoke point you want if you’re…

Frying: Opt for an oil with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point, which is typically one above 375 degrees F, because that’s the temperature you usually fry at. Oils with high smoke points include: canola oil, refined olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil.
Baking: Go for a neutral-tasting oil, like canola oil or vegetable oil—something that won’t have too much of an impact on the flavors you’re working with. (On the other hand, some baking recipes are centered around highlighting the flavor of a delicious oil, like olive oil cakes. It all depends on what you’re looking for.)
Sautéing and searing: Choose a more flavorful oil with a lower smoke point. Good options include: canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil.
Dressing: Here, the most flavorful stuff is always best, and the smoke point doesn’t matter—this is the time to reach for the fanciest extra-virgin olive oil you have.
With that in mind, here is a closer look at commonly used healthy cooking oils, plus suggestions for making the most out of their unique qualities.
1. Canola oil
Canola oil sometimes gets a bad rap because it is associated with fried food (deep-fried Oreos, anyone?), but that’s not exactly justified, Elizabeth Ann Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.P.T., adjunct professor of nutrition at Bastyr University, tells SELF. Canola oil’s high smoke point of 400 degrees F and neutral flavor indeed makes it an excellent vehicle for frying, but it can also be used for roasting, frying, and baking. Because it has a neutral taste that doesn’t do much for your food in the flavor department, cooks don’t usually recommend using it for sautéing.
Best for: Frying, roasting, and bakingNot recommended for: Sautéing and salad dressings
2. Extra-virgin olive oil
Lisa Sasson, M.S., R.D., clinical professor of nutrition and food studies at NYU Steinhardt, is obsessed with extra-virgin olive oil—like a lot of us. Cold-pressed and positively packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, a quality bottle can truly take you on a taste bud adventure. There’s just one catch with extra-virgin (or “first press”) olive oil versus regular olive oil: It has a relatively low smoke point (325 to 375 degrees F). Cooking a good EVOO at high temperatures can mess with both its flavor and nutrition, so save your fancy bottle for drizzling and finishing dishes. (Check out these tips on choosing the best olive oil.)

Best for: Sautéing and drizzlingNot recommended for: Frying or roasting above 375 degrees F
3. Pure olive oil
If you love frying things in olive oil (which, like, who doesn’t?) you’ll want to use the more refined stuff instead of EVOO—which is labeled pure olive oil, refined olive oil, or light olive oil. It has a smoke point of 465 degrees F, which stands up well to that heat. Unfortunately, some of its flavor has been filtered out, but that’s the tradeoff for being able to use it for heavy-duty cooking.
Best for: FryingNot recommended for: Salad dressings
4. Avocado oil
According to Sasson, “Avocado oil is the new kid on the block” for many home cooks in the U.S. It is packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (almost as much as olive oil) and has a high smoke point (375 to 400 degrees F) and neutral flavor. It’s a bit more expensive than those more processed oils like canola and vegetable, but if you want that high smoke point and don’t mind the splurge, then this is a great alternative.

This Vegan Parmesan Tastes Freakishly Like the Real Thing

This Vegan Parmesan Tastes Freakishly Like the Real Thing

One of the itty-bitty joys I’ve clung to real hard this year has been finding the best vegan Parmesan cheese. Everyone knows the hardest part about eating fewer animal products (or avoiding dairy due to an allergy or intolerance) is the lack of cheese. (Okay, the butter is a major issue too—so discovering the greatest vegan butter has been another 2020 highlight.) Like, I love cows—I do!—and the greenhouse gas emissions of these gentle creatures contribute a shocking amount to climate change. But CHEEEEEESE.
The most gaping cheese hole in my vegan-ish diet has definitely been the Parmesan-shaped one, since I used to put that stuff on everything—pasta, roasted veggies, salad, soup, popcorn. The hunt for a good plant-based substitute has been disappointing, to say the least. I love nutritional yeast, but it’s…nutritional yeast. As for store-bought options, it’s not that none of them taste good; they just taste nothing like Parmesan.

Enter the Violife Just Like Parmesan Wedge ($6, Instacart). What first caught my eye in the nondairy section was the fact that it’s an actual wedge—it immediately gives off artisanal, better-than-a-green-bottle-of-Kraft vibes. In your hand, it’s got the density and feel of a real wedge of hard cheese. But I didn’t fall in love until I put my first block to the test with a microplane grater over a bowl of spaghetti marinara.

Just Like Parmesan grates like a dream, sprinkling over your pasta finely and fluffily as a first snowfall. I’ve always been heavy-handed with my Parmesan—I like more of a mound than a dusting—so I was thrilled with how quickly this alternative yielded a generous pile, a distinctly Parm-y mellow aroma wafting off the plate. And the flavor profile! Slightly salty, slightly nutty, slightly fruity sweet, just like a good block of the real deal. I’d actually describe it as a quality Parmesan with just a touch of Gouda.

I don’t know nearly enough about food science to understand how the 100% vegan ingredients list translates into a successful simulacrum of actual cow cheese. Just Like Parmesan is made of sort of random stuff like potato starch, rice starch, coconut oil, olive extract, and salt, plus a slightly mysterious proprietary flavoring agent called Parmezan Flavor.
What I can tell you is this stuff is as versatile and reliable a flavor-enhancer as actual Parmesan cheese. I indeed use it on everything, a vegan-friendly return to the good ol’ dairy days. The act of topping a dish with freshly grated “cheese” is itself a pleasant ritual that makes me feel like a fancier, more effortful cook than I actually am. Just Like Parmesan slices beautifully too—it’s fantastic on a vegan cheese board alongside crackers, olives, fruit, and nuts, plus a glass of Tuscan red. If you’re looking to fill a hard Italian cheese void in your life, treat yourself to a wedge of the most deliciously convincing vegan Parmesan cheese out there.
Editor’s note: Instacart deliveries start at $3.99 for same-day orders over $35. Or get unlimited free deliveries on orders over $35 with an Instacart Express membership, which costs $99 a year but pays for itself if you use it at least twice a month. 

Violife Just Like Parmesan Wedge
This dairy-free Parmesan cheese substitute tastes and grates like the real thing. 

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