Q: If a recipe does not explicitly say to use sifted flour, is it a good idea to sift anyway? I typically bake from American recipes, so I’m measuring based on volume, not weight. I think sifting expands volume, though I’ve never actually tested that. Thanks!
A: Funny, I was just talking about this to my desk neighbor. Personally, I don’t care for sifting, except in rare cases. However, what I always do is aerate the flour with a whisk to loosen it up. I am not 100%, but I think sifting might be more important if you’re a really infrequent baker and the flour really settles and compacts. Lastly, I want to implore every home baker to bite the bullet and buy a kitchen scale. I promise you it’ll be the best $25 you’ll spend — if for no other reason but having way fewer dishes to wash than if you were relying on volume measure. OK, sermon over. — Olga Massov
Q: I have a slab of frozen salmon too large for a couple and have not had an occasion to cook for others, but I will have guests at a beach house in a couple of weeks. Provided the fish is kept is a well packed cooler (I even put a temp gauge in the cooler the first time I made this trek), would it be OK to transport it for six hours? And upon arrival, should I put it in the fridge (for how many days) or can I put it back in the freezer? thanks so much for any advice! I’ll leave it at home and wait to cook it if it is not prudent, but I know my family would enjoy it — and I would like to free up the freezer space!
A: We always get a little clammy when it comes to food safety questions because we never want anyone to get sick, but I do think you can safely do this. Some takeaways from the USDA:
■ Use a good cooler
■ Fill it up all the way with ice, ice packs or other frozen items (water in milk jugs etc.)
■ Don’t open the cooler more than you have to
■ You can either put it in the fridge to thaw when you get there or pop it back in the freezer
Hope that helps! — Becky Krystal
Q: I have a fine instant-read thermometer that I use for roasts and things. What kind of thermometer do you use for checking hot frying oil?
A: I typically use my Thermapen. We also were given an infrared thermometer for the Food Lab, which I used when I was testing sweet and sour chicken. Worked great and nothing got dirty in the process! — Becky Krystal
Q: It’s more work, but I mince jalapenos before freezing so I can grab a little or a lot, depending on what I’m cooking.
A: Smart! — Becky Krystal
Q: I saw a sign in grocery store that said dry ice lasts longer and is better for cooler transport. I have no idea what dry ice is. Is that true?
A: I think so, yes. That’s why food is so often shipped on dry ice. It is really cold, though, so you have to be very careful when handling it. I would shy away from it for typical cooler packing for that reason. We used dry ice when shooting my ice cream project earlier this summer. Kept everything rock solid all day and would have done it longer. — Becky Krystal
Note: Dry ice off-gases carbon monoxide, so you should never, ever carry it in a closed car. A marine cooler is recommended, preferably on a trailer or on the roof.
Q: I have an old, much-loved blueberry muffin recipe handed down from my mom. The muffins are great the first day, but start to get dried out by the second day, even though I store them in airtight containers. I know muffins are usually best the day they are made, but I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to keep them fresh a day or two longer. The recipe calls for 1¼ cups sugar, 4 eggs, 1 cup of margarine or shortening (I use butter), 4½ cups flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder and 1 cup of milk, plus 3 cups blueberries. Any thoughts? Thank you!
A: Using some oil (or applesauce) instead of some of the butter might help keep them moister a bit longer. You can also freeze the muffins to keep them at their prime and reheat as you want to eat them. — Becky Krystal
Q: What’s the best way to freeze hummus in small amounts (1-2 tablespoons)? Could I scoop it into ice cube trays, then pop out and store in freezer bags (like I do with stock or tomato paste)? I get that it might be less creamy when defrosted, but I’m OK with that.
A: That might work. Although what I like to do with scoopable things is place the mounds on a lined baking sheet and freeze that way, then put in the freezer bags. No unmolding required. — Becky Krystal