13 Afternoon Tea Recipes to Enjoy as You Watch Bridgerton Season 3

The social season is upon us and Lady Whistledown has returned—and so has our appetite for scandal and sumptuous fare. The new season of Netflix’s Bridgerton drops on Thursday, May 16. Make one of these recipes for scones, cream puffs, biscuits, tea sandwiches, and more to eat while you watch.

A Hong Kong custard tart on a flowered plate with two cups of tea
Credit: Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon; Tim Chin

Gentle Reader,

When one asks a friend or suitor for tea, it is never JUST for tea. It is an opportunity to present oneself in the highest regard in the most elegant settings available in the light of day. And when one has a tea party expectations are even higher. One’s dress should be elegant yet appropriate for the occasion. And comportment must be refined at all times. But no shrinking violets here—you must be prepared to sparkle with wit and charm throughout the conversation.

And, yes, even though you have invited your guests for tea, additional refreshments must be served. For eating, yes, but more for dazzling your guests with the thoughtfulness and planning you put into the event. You must not be outshone by the latest fete of the season; always start with a showstopper.

Croquembouche

Crouquemboche
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Once your guests have arrived, bring out the pièce-de-résistance. A croquembouche relies on puffs―a lot of them―made from pâte à choux, piled sky-high and held together with strands of shiny caramel. A mountain of sugar indeed.

Genoise Sponge

A two-tier Genoise sponge cake
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Lighter-than-air genoise sponge cake is not just a nice-to-have; it is expected at a proper gathering. Possibly the most elegant of sponge cakes, it relies solely on air to rise (not unlike certain gentlemen). It requires more than sophistication to pull off; technique is everything.

Giant Eclair Cake

Overhead view of Eclair Paris brest slices
Serious Eats / Jen Causey

Could you make regular éclairs? Certainly. But that would not provide the wow-factor of this magnificent éclair cake. Light and airy choux is baked in a large ring and then filled with vanilla crème mousseline topped with a glossy chocolate glaze. Truly a feast for the eyes.

Japanese Fruit Sando

Side view of stacked fruit sandos
Serious Eats / Debbie Wee

Fruit is an edible way to add color to your tablescape. Studded with strawberries, kiwis, or mangoes, these sandos are dainty yet lavish thanks to a velvety-smooth, mascarpone-enhanced whipped cream. A lady with this in hand will appear as colorful and cool as these sandwiches themselves.

Shortbread Cookies

Overheav view of shortbread cookies with coffee
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Leave shortbread off your menu, and a certain author will certainly think it was an oversight. The Scots have truly made their mark with this treat. Each bite is rich and buttery, with a tender, crumbly texture that melts in your mouth. Make sure you have a handkerchief at the ready to remove any lingering evidence of your satisfaction from your chin.

Cucumber Sandwiches

Overhead view of cucumber sandwiches on a green plate
Serious Eats / Victor Protasio

Cool as a cucumber may not be how your guests will feel if certain royals arrive, but at least they’ll have these sandwiches for refreshment. Don’t forget to salt your cucumbers—no one wants to soil their gloves with a soggy sandwich.

Bakery-Style Cream Scones With Milk Chocolate Recipe

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

No tea is complete without scones and cream. Since plain scones are so last season, opt for ones speckled with dark chocolate instead. The more cacao, the better. And instead of jam and clotted cream, surprise your guests with, gasp, fruit-flavored whipped cream instead.

Onde-Onde (Malaysian Sweet Palm-Sugar Dumplings)

Overhead view of two plates of onde-onde with two drinks
Serious Eats / Michelle Yip

A favorite teatime treat in Malaysia, onde-onde is a fluffy, chewy green ball flavored with aromatic pandan filled with melted palm sugar and covered with coconut. Small bites are a must, as etiquette dictates that you be dainty and not open your mouth too wide when eating—wise advice for any social occasion.

​​Smoked Salmon and Dill Tea Sandwiches

Side view of tea sandwiches
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In a room filled with confections, do not make the mistake of forgetting to add a savory bite to the menu. Smoked salmon and cream cheese brightened with lemon and dill provide a much-needed respite from sugary tea treats. Remember to remove the crust or risk your guests'  judging looks.

Daan Tat (Hong Kong-Style Egg Tart)

Three Hong Kong egg custard tarts on a plate net to a cup of tea and a tea pot.
Serious Eats / Tim Chin

Sweet egg custard and crisp and tender puff pastry is a match made in heaven. In my opinion, far superior to the British egg custard tart (which often uses custard powder), these Hong Kong-style egg tarts include custard made the old fashioned way.

Choux au Craquelin

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Serious Eats / Debbie Wee

One choux is simply never enough. Choux au craquelin are the true diamonds of the season. They appear humble on the outside with their sweet, crackled crust, but on the inside, they reveal their true nature as luscious, creamy, and positively delectable.

Chocolate-Covered Digestive Biscuits

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Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

True, no one comes to tea just for the biscuits, but these aren’t just any old biscuits, they’re quite close to a shop favorite, McVitie's. We don’t use words like knock-off or copycat here. How base. These are, in fact, better than the original. Dare your guests to say otherwise. 

L'Aventura Punch

A punch bowl with L'Aventura punch
Photography copyright: Kelly Puleio © 2019

Finally, the marriage mart can be intimidating, especially for those new to society. A crowd-pleasing punch is in order. Vodka-based and flavored with mint tea syrup, amaro, and a full-bodied blanc vermouth, this drink provides just the right balance to set your guests slightly off-balance.

Ok, enough. If you’re as excited as I am about Bridgerton returning for another season, you’ll want to host a tea, but not just any tea. For this afternoon tea,  break out all your very best and most elaborate cakes, sandwiches, and scones to accompany your very fancy tea (or just your favorite). And yes, you even have a cocktail or glass of bubbly to wash it all down and celebrate, maybe not Regency (because well, yeah, problematic), but the glitz, the glamour, and yes, the drama that only the Shonda Rhimes can deliver. So to that I say, pinkies up!

I Grated 13 Frozen Foods to Test TikTok’s Jalapeño Dust Trick—Here’s How It Went

TikTok wants you to shave clouds of frozen jalapeño, but there are better foods to grate.

A sheet pan with frozen fruits and vegetables
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

So I'm back, back again, with another bizarre TikTok trend. This one is spicy. Is it me, or does everything seem fiery lately? Honestly, I won't mind when the flamin' hot era of the internet is over. This time, TikTokers are bringing the heat with an oldy-but-goody: jalapeños. This time, influencers are freezing jalapeños and using rasp graters to coat their food in what they call “jalapeño dust.” 

Testing Jalapeño Dust

Most of the videos showcase this green powder being shaved atop savory, carby things like pizza, potatoes, or mac and cheese, but others shave it and eat it as is—as in with a spoon. Do not ask me why. This trend got me thinking. Firstly, is this good? No one (or very few people) on social media ever says what they've made is subpar. Everything is fire or so good. I don't believe anyone. So, as a born skeptic, I decided to try it for myself.

I froze a few jalapeños, grabbed a rasp-style grater (aka Microplane), and got myself something carby to grate them on. I opted to grate my jalapeño on tomato focaccia instead of pizza because I cannot abide pizza that's not piping hot and I knew my testing vehicles would potentially be sitting around the test kitchen for a few hours. Focaccia typically tastes great at room temperature or hot, making it perfect for this test.

Unfortunately, even warm, the focaccia with the frozen jalapeño dust was not a revelation like every video implied, but it wasn't bad. The contrast of cold and icy yet spicy on the bread was definitely unlike anything I've ever experienced. While my reaction to the jalapeño dust was an enthusiastic meh, Serious Eats editorial director Daniel Gritzer was decidedly not a fan of its flavor or texture.

Ultimately, the entire Serious Eats culinary team questioned why you would do this. When a jalapeño (or anything) is grated so finely, it defrosts pretty quickly. While I know that freezing a high-moisture food will make it grate more efficiently and actually seemed to prevent the jalapeño from causing my eyes to water, I can't think of a time when I would go out of my way to use this technique. It just tasted like cold, concentrated, jalapeño flavoring. Why would you want that? And when the focaccia was heated, the jalapeño dust disintegrated into mush. I understand that there are committed spice stans out there who are always looking for their next spice fix, but jalapeños aren't even that spicy.

Grated Frozen Fruits Sprinkled Over Containers of Yogurt
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Case for—and Against—Grating Other Frozen Foods

While we ultimately gave the grated jalapeño a failing grade, we knew that this cheffy technique of grating frozen food had some reasonable and well established applications, especially in fine dining circles. (Think a flurry of foie gras grated atop your dish tableside.) So, we figured: Why not try freezing a grating a bunch of foods to see if you should whip out your Microplane for your next dinner party or snack?

I tested a wide variety of savory foods and various fruits, grating them atop either the focaccia or Greek yogurt. The yogurt's mild, savory base complemented the sweet shavings, allowing the vibrant flavors of the fresh fruit to shine without being overshadowed by additional sweeteners.

Foods That Are Worth Freezing and Shaving

Salami

After the jalapeño, I tried shaving frozen salami atop the focaccia, using Nostrano pink peppercorn salami. Grating frozen cured sausage was a recommendation from Daniel, who’s done it in the past to bring a punch of sausage flavor to various dishes. The salami required a lot more muscle to grate than the jalapeño, but it was well worth the effort. The glorious meat shavings dusted a piece of plain focaccia like a deconstructed charcuterie plate. I was wowed by my first bite—there was only a light dusting but the meaty, peppery flavor was robust. It was as if shaving the meat concentrated the flavor. If cold salami sounds gross to you, you should know that by the time it hit my lips, I could hardly tell the meat had been frozen—it was just cool to the touch. The next time you want to liven up your plain piece of hearty bread, pizza, pasta, or focaccia, I highly recommend a dusting of salami.

Mozzarella

We already know grated cheese tastes wonderful on top of bread, but frozen grated mozzarella has even more salty, umami flavor than mozzarella eaten right out of the fridge, and a small dusting of frozen mozzarella seriously punched up my focaccia. (Sticking a ball of mozz in the freezer briefly is also a good way to make it easier to grate with a regular grater.) 

Bananas

I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t eat bananas, ever really. There’s something about the smell that doesn’t sit well with me. Luckily, frozen bananas do not have a smell! When shaved, they have a sweet, fluffy consistency, like, dare I say, ice cream? Not quite, but it makes a nice shaved ice, and a small amount of banana dust sweetened my yogurt nicely. 

Apple

For this test, I chose bright red Macintosh apples, and I loved watching the red and white flecks fall atop my yogurt when I grated it. The apples' texture changed quite a bit after being frozen—it was much smoother than I expected. The taste was bright and fresh, like biting into a fresh off-the-vine apple. I was into it.

Pear

Despite its less-than-ripe state, the pear I froze and grated offered a unique sweet-tart flavor that was both concentrated and juicy. However, it turned mushy and brown quite quickly, which was unappealing, so eat this immediately if you do try it.

Taste Pretty Good, but Don’t Bother

Mushrooms

After the success of the frozen salami, I tried shaving another savory ingredient onto my focaccia: a frozen baby bella mushroom. I’m not usually a fan of raw mushrooms but this light dusting of fluffy, earthy mushrooms was compelling. I enjoyed the concentrated mushroom flavor that was released by the fine grating, but unfortunately the mushroom shavings very quickly melted and got mushy. Perhaps a cold application would work best here, such as in a salad. But after brainstorming various uses for grated frozen mushrooms in the test kitchen, we were really at a loss as to when this technique would make more sense than more traditionally prepared mushrooms.

Mango

I had low hopes for the mango since the fruit I was able to find for testing was not at peak ripeness, so I was pleasantly surprised by how grating concentrated its fruity flavor. It was juicy and bright and lightened up an otherwise flavorless yogurt. Still, grating a whole frozen mango is highly annoying since you have to peel or cut it before freezing it to avoid grating through the thick skin. I wouldn't do it again since pre-frozen mango cubes are readily available, and I could easily grate those instead.

Lime

The lime wasn't nearly as bitter as the lemon I tested (more on that below), likely because of the lower pith-to-pulp ratio, and freezing the lime seemed to slightly intensify the flavor, so I might consider doing this again if I didn’t have enough lime for a recipe and needed to stretch the flavor. Otherwise, if I need lime zest, I’ll just use a fresh, unfrozen lime. 

No. Stop. Don’t Ever Try This.

Avocado

Among the savory things I grated was an avocado, which tasted very much like nothing. Finely grating avocado is basically the same as mashing it, only much more difficult. Hard fail.

Tomato

Offseason tomatoes are truly sad, and even the ones labeled heirloom were watery red vessels that tasted like ghosts of their summer selves. Would you want your Italian ice to taste like tomato juice? No. I do not recommend this.

Lemon 

I was hoping that freezing a lemon and grating just past the pith would deliver a concentrated flavor, similar to the previously-tested fruits. I was wrong. It was more bitter than any lemon you have ever tasted. Do yourself a favor and stick to fresh (non-frozen) lemon zest or juice.

Peach

In my opinion, out-of-season fruit should just be discontinued. I regret even attempting this with peaches in the spring in the Northeast; it was as if the peach was frost-bitten. I will try this again once peaches are in season because I know in my heart that frozen peaches are good.

Bottom Line

I hate to admit it, given my initial suspicions, but I enjoyed the vast majority of the foods that I froze and shaved, especially the salami and pretty much all the fruits. However, I could not imagine manually grating even one whole piece of fruit, and if I tried it would be melted into mush by the time I finished. They make shaved ice machines for a reason.

Should You Skewer Your Asparagus for Better Grilling?

A TikTok hack in which multiple stalks of asparagus are skewered through each end to for an asparagus raft is going viral. The goal of this trick is to prevent them from falling through the grate as they grill. Spoiler alert: This hack is very annoying to execute.

Skewered asparagus
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon, Amanda Suarez

When I finally shake off the winter doldrums each spring, one of the first things I do is fire up the grill. Truthfully, I'm not opposed to using the grill any time of year—there may even be a photo of me shoveling a pathway on my dad's deck from the door to the grill and nowhere else—but my commitment to grilling kicks into high gear, when I have access to all the seasonal green veggies: ramps, garlic scapes, and, of course, asparagus.

The only problem with these spring grill-ables is that they all have a not-so-nifty habit of falling right through the grate. Sure you could save your asparagus by cooking them on a grill griddle if you have one, but what if you don't want to occupy the grate real estate? A grilling basket is another option, but it comes with its own downsides (more on that below). So, I decided to try out a hack that’s been going around TikTok in which multiple stalks of asparagus are skewered through each end to for an asparagus raft. The goal of this trick is to prevent them from falling through the grate as they grill. Spoiler alert: This hack is very annoying to execute.

Skewered asparagus.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Why the Raft Is a Technique That Sinks

The skewers do not easily slide through the asparagus, especially the thick asparagus that work best for grilling. Plus, keeping everything lined up while skewering both sides of each stalk is tricky. When I created my rafts, I found it difficult to keep the spears aligned. You also run the risk of poking yourself when trying to wrangle two skewers at the same time. Additionally, when you’re ready to serve your lovely charred asparagus, you’ll have to deal with removing the skewers. Maybe you were using fancy metal skewers and this is easy peasy, but if you were using wooden skewers and they got charred, then this part will be very annoying.

Is it Better to Just Use a Grill Basket?

Possibly, but I had a few issues with the tool. When I put my asparagus inside the basket, everything appeared secure, but as they cooked, they shrunk a bit, and when I moved the grate from the grill, a few stranglers fell right through the holes of the basket and almost plummeted through the grates. It's not the end of the world, but it kind of defeats the purpose. A basket with smaller holes would solve this problem, but do you really need another grilling contraption? Plus, a basket crowds the asparagus, which can inhibit even browning.

Asparagus in a grill basket.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

There Must Be a Better Way to Skewer

Why yes, there is a better way, the Japanese way—yakitori-style. Proper yakitori—Japanese-style grilled chicken skewers—requires a specialized setup, not your standard grill, but the skewering technique works perfectly for asparagus. Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and slide them perpendicularly onto pre-soaked skewers, instead of creating one giant raft. Individual skewers take a little longer to assemble but are so much easier to serve. No need to remove the skewers before plating, and you can eat your food right off the skewers. 

Yakitori-skewered meat and asparagus.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

For my skewers, I cut asparagus, portobello mushrooms, scallions, and pork belly into half-inch pieces. Then I threaded them all onto the soaked skewers (don’t forget to soak to prevent fires!), alternating meat and veggies in a different order on each skewer. I fired up the grill to high and placed the skewers on the oiled grates. Little flare-ups gave the skewers a nice char as the fat rendered from the pork.

Yakitori-skewered meat and asparagus.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Even with the addition of the pork belly, it took less than four minutes on each side for the skewers to cook. The smell was barbecue bliss—smoky and sweet. The asparagus was charred on the outside and tender on the inside, and the pork was tender, mingling well with the sweet scallions and umami-forward mushrooms. Now you could make your own teriyaki sauce or even a more complicated tare, like in this tsukune recipe, but I went with something. A squeeze of Bachan’s Japanese-style miso barbecue sauce after cooking hit just right for me. The bottom line—skip the asparagus raft and grill up some yakitori-style asparagus.

How to Elevate Boxed Pancake Mix So It Tastes Homemade

I tested nearly 20 different additions to boxed pancake mix and found quite a few I’d recommend, plus some I’d definitely advise skipping.

A stack of pancakes with butter on top and fruit on the side
Serious Eats / Liz Volt

I grew up in a semi-homemade household. For example, we amped up canned tomato sauce with fresh veggies and aromatics, stirred pudding mix into boxed cake mix before baking for a richer cake, and added chocolate chips to boxed pancake mix for a special treat.  My dad was the cook in our family, but weekends were my mom's time to tie on an apron, and she loved making pancakes and waffles for breakfast. Even though she quickly whipped them up from the box, it still felt special.


Today, as much as I enjoy preparing a from-scratch batch of pancakes (it's not that hard), I still have a soft spot for the convenience offered by boxed mixes. Sometimes adding little more than water to an otherwise ready-to-go dry ingredient blend is the ease I need to get some fluffy pancakes on the table. And yet I and many of you are tinkerers at heart—can I add just one more ingredient to make this boxed mix even more special, or at least…different?


It's a fair question, and one many publications have tried to answer, though in many cases they offer their suggestions without having actually tried the modifications first. I wanted to do one better by making literally dozens of different types of pancakes, all from a boxed mix but with alterations, to see which were worth the trouble and which weren't.


With the help of my dad's trusty electric griddle, I now offer a list of boxed pancake mix upgrades and modifications that are tried and tested—they worked for me and I'm confident they'll work for you too.

A sheet tray with measuring cups and spoons and a box of pancake mix
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

How I Tested

I chose to run this test using Bisquick, a widely available mass-market brand, which calls for a cup of milk and two whole eggs per two cups of pancake mix (which I weighed as 246g).

Before cooking a single pancake,I learned quite a bit by reading our prior boxed cake mix testing, which shares many similarities with pancakes. Some of the results from those tests, like adding coffee, mayonnaise, and jam, were bad enough that I didn't bother testing those tricks this time.


For these pancake tests, I first made a control group of pancakes by following the instructions on the box. Keep in mind that the Bisquick box's recipe used 2 cups of pancake mix to produce about 14 pancakes that were about five inches across each, and all my tests were scaled to that batch size.


Then I tried a series of changes to the base recipe, comparing the results to see how those alterations changed the pancakes in taste, fluffiness, and texture, noting whether I thought each addition produced a positive, neutral, or negative change. The results are therefore grouped below based on whether they are recommended, neutral, or not recommended.

Pancake on a black plate
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Recommended: Go for It, the Below Make Great Pancakes!

Oat Milk

While I did not test every alternative milk out there (there are just too many these days), I can confirm that oat milk is a worthy substitution for dairy milk. These pancakes tasted slightly sweeter and browned a little faster but were otherwise not distinguishable from the standard cow's milk pancakes. I assume other non-dairy milk would have a similar result as long as it's unsweetened.

Buttermilk

The buttermilk I got from my local grocery was very thick, about the consistency of conventional yogurt. This made the batter less spreadable and closer to a cake batter but with a fermented dairy smell; most buttermilk is thinner than the product I bought. Because the buttermilk thickened the batter, and because buttermilk is acidic (creating a stronger reaction with the alkaline leaveners in the pancake mix), the pancakes cooked up much thicker, continuing to grow taller as they cooked. The result was a super fluffy pancake twice as thick as the control batch with a slightly tart note from the buttermilk. I liked these pancakes quite a bit, though if you wanted slightly less tall ones, you could thin the batter by eye with additional buttermilk or regular milk.

Sour Cream & Greek Yogurt

Since sour cream and Greek yogurt are both dense, a one-to-one substitution for whole milk would be too thick. I replaced half of the whole milk with sour cream or yogurt. Both batters had a consistency similar to the buttermilk, which was very thick; as above, one could change the ratio of fermented dairy to the milk or add more milk to thin the batter, if desired. As with the buttermilk, the sour cream and yogurt boosted the leaveners in the pancake mix and made super thick and slightly tangy pancakes. The sour cream pancakes were maybe slightly more acidic than the yogurt pancakes, but both were pretty subtle and very delicious. I think I still prefer the buttermilk pancakes, but I’m more likely to have Greek yogurt in my fridge, so I will definitely make yogurt pancakes again.

Freeze-Dried Fruit

Inspired by Stella Parks' double strawberry cake, I took some freeze-dried blueberries and pulverized them in the food processor, then measured 1 ounce (28g) for a batch of pancake batter. The blueberry powder made the batter a lovely lavender color with little dark flecks of ground blueberry. If you’re a real fruit lover, you may want to add more, but I would say no more than 1.5 ounces per batch (when I used 2 ounces the pancakes browned too quickly). The color faded as it cooked, but the pancake had a pleasant fruity flavor reminiscent of a blueberry muffin.

Two pancakes on plates: One labeled
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Dutch Process Cocoa

I used Dutch process cocoa due to its neutral pH (the acidity of standard cocoa powder might react with the leavener in the pancake mix, so I decided not to introduce that variable). I used 1 ounce (28g) of the cocoa per batch of pancakes. It made a very chocolatey-looking batter, and a much darker and evenly browned pancake. The smell was delicious, reminding me of a rich chocolate cake baking in the oven. I liked the taste initially, but was then put off by a slightly bitter aftertaste. I repeated the test but added an extra teaspoon of sugar to balance the cocoa's bitterness and loved the results.

Malted Milk Powder

Another idea comes courtesy of Stella Parks, who called malted milk powder the "umami bomb for desserts." I really loved this addition. I started with one ounce of malted milk powder, but found upping it to two was even better. It made a thicker batter that smelled sweet and earthy. The pancake had a toasted, creamy flavor and tasted just as good as any restaurant pancakes I’ve ever had. (Malted milk powder is also a key ingredient in Genevieve Yam’s easy hot chocolate, by the way.)

Citrus Zests

No need to limit yourself to lemon or orange zest; I had a clementine and a pomelo in my fridge, and each added an interesting floral flair to their respective pancake batters. However, be mindful of how much you add; a lightly packed teaspoon of zest from a lemon or orange should do the trick; add too much and the pancakes will grow bitter. If you choose a fruit known to be especially bitter, like grapefruit or pomelo, aim for less.

Spices & Extracts

It goes without saying that your go-to baking spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are great additions to a pancake batter, but there's no harm in reaching for a pre-mixed blend or thinking beyond the basics. Cardamom or ginger make great flavorings, and some spices pair particularly well with fruit—coriander and blueberries enhance each other's natural flavors, and a few drops of rose water are a lovely match for strawberries.

Versatile extracts like vanilla or almond add a welcome flavor to pancakes but less common extracts can also be great (hazelnut and apricot extract were both tasty in my tests). Just be mindful of how much you use; start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per batch before adding more.

Other Mix-Ins: Fruit, Nuts & Chocolate

The sky's the limit when it comes to mix-ins, but the key is ensuring that the pieces are small enough to be evenly dispersed throughout each pancake. Anything larger than a blueberry or a chocolate chip should be chopped or cut into small pieces.

Chewy dried fruit should be softened in a warm liquid, like juice, rum, or even just water, and then drained before being mixed in (I prefer to sprinkle mix-ins on each pancake once it's been ladled onto the griddle to control the exact quantity, but stirring them into the batter right before cooking will also work). Up to one cup total of fruit, nuts, or chocolate or a combination of any of the three per batch worked in my tests.

Neutral: Fine, but Not Really Worth the Effort

Chocolate Milk

The batter looked chocolatey and thick, with roughly the same brown color as the chocolate milk itself. As the pancake cooked, it emitted a chocolatey aroma, but did it taste chocolatey? Not really. It was sweeter, for sure, and a bit thicker, but the chocolate was faint. While this does create a tasty pancake, it's not worth wasting chocolate milk on it; if you want chocolatey pancakes, go with the Dutch process cocoa powder recommended above and/or stir in chocolate in chip or chopped form.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

There was no visible difference between this pancake and the control made with vegetable oil. I could just barely taste the grassy flavor of my olive oil, but it wasn't super noticeable. More importantly, though, it's not an improvement, so I would only use olive oil if you don't have vegetable oil on hand.

Butter

The difference between this pancake and those made with vegetable oil was subtle, but perhaps there was a slightly more detectable sweetness. Is it worth taking the extra step of melting butter? Not really. Browned butter, however, adds a more robust, nutty flavor that is a bonus. Am I likely to brown butter just for this, though? No.

Also, keep in mind that you can cook the pancakes themselves in butter and serve them with pats of butter on top, so there's no shortage of opportunity to add buttery flavor. Of all of them, melting butter into the batter is arguably the least impactful.

Adding an Extra Egg

When I added an additional egg to the batter, the result was a slightly darker, denser batter. The pancake browned faster, had a creamier texture, and tasted a bit eggy. That didn't offend me, but it's not necessarily what I'm looking for in a pancake, and surely not worth the egg unless you're desperately trying to get rid of yours.

Whipping the Egg Whites

For this batch, I separated the egg yolks from the egg whites, whipped the egg whites to stiff peaks, then folded the yolks and whipped whites into the batter separately. My hope was that this would result in something like a soufflé pancake but that didn't quite happen. While it made for a lighter, fluffier pancake, it was hardly lofty. This pancake was only slightly thicker and almost indistinguishable from the control. I don't think it's worth the additional effort for the minimal payoff, especially given the fact that you're probably reaching for the boxed mix to not have to do much work in the first place.

Baking Powder

To see what would happen if I supplemented the leaveners in the boxed mix, I added 1 teaspoon of baking powder per pancake batch. Once poured onto the griddle, the batter was a bit more bubbly, and the pancakes domed as they rose. The overall result was a slightly fluffier pancake that browned evenly; the baking powder did not have a noticeable impact on flavor. 

I'd say you're free to enhance your mix's rising ability with a dose of baking powder, just be careful you don't add too much or it'll start to ruin the flavor.

Negative: Do Not Try This At Home

Water/Seltzer

Why did I test water when there was a very low probability it would be an improvement over pancakes made with milk? Mostly necessity. What if you don't have milk—can water work in a pinch? At least with Bisquick pancake mix, not really. The pancake didn't brown well (milk contains sugars and proteins that brown during cooking, water doesn't). I also found the pancake texture less fluffy, and the flavor was lacking.

Seltzer was just as problematic, though its carbonation aerated the pancakes more, leading to a fluffier, if still insipid, result.

Baking Soda

Did this make for a fluffier pancake? Absolutely. But baking soda makes the pancakes unpleasantly salty and soapy in flavor. One extra teaspoon of baking soda per batch was too much, and even half a teaspoon of baking soda left a chemical aftertaste. By the time you reduce the baking soda to a level where you won't taste it, it won't make much of a difference anyway. Stick with baking powder from above if you want more leavened pancakes and avoid plain baking soda.

What to Do With All Those Leftover Easter Eggs—Beyond Deviled Eggs

Here are a half dozen clever ideas for making the most of your slew of boiled eggs, including grating them atop vegetables, stuffing them inside meatloaf, and more.

A composed image of colorful Easter eggs, egg salad, and asparagus with yogurt sauce and grated eggs
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon, Amanda Suarez

I grew up in a craft-filled household, where every holiday was worthy of homemade decorations. When Easter came around, plastic eggs were hanging from trees, the bunny flag flew, and we dyed baskets full of eggs. Coloring the eggs kept me and my cousins busy for hours and away from my grandmother in the kitchen, so she could focus on cooking and sharing the latest family drama. The only problem was that after the holiday, there were always far too many leftover hard-boiled eggs, which my relatives and I quickly got tired of eating.

So what do you do with all those boiled eggs? Deviled eggs are absolutely an option, but they are not the only worthy use for leftover cooked eggs (the same goes for you, egg salad). Here are more exciting hard-boiled egg ideas that go beyond the basics—yes, I’m calling hard-boiled eggs exciting and I’m sticking with that. 

Bowls with colorful Easter eggs
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Boiling and Dyeing the Eggs

First and foremost, to have leftover Easter eggs, you need to have dyed some hard-boiled eggs. Take a peek at our egg guide to learn how to make perfectly boiled eggs that are also easy to peel, then dye them using a store-bought kit or with homemade Easter egg dye. Both can have beautiful results. For the Easter eggs pictured here, I mixed my own colors using gel food coloring and vinegar. No matter which path you choose, you may notice that a little bit of color bleeds through the shell and onto a few (or most) of your eggs. I say this bit of color  adds some character. So resist the urge to boil more eggs, get to peeling those leftover Easter eggs, and try one of these ideas.

6 Clever Ideas for the Eggs

After years of repurposing leftover Easter Eggs (and cooking with hard-boiled eggs year-round), I’ve learned a few fun tricks. 

A hard-boiled egg set over a baking rack with a bowl of cubed eggs
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Quickly Cube Eggs for Salads, Sandwiches, and More Using a Baking Rack

To quickly and uniformly cube eggs for salads, sandwiches, and garnishes, I skip dicing with a knife and use a baking rack to cube my eggs instead.  Set yourself up with a large bowl and rack with a cross-wire weave. A 10-inch square or a quarter sheet size is easier to work with than a half-sheet rack, but use any size you have as long as it sits nicely atop your bowl. Push your peeled, hard-boiled eggs right through the grate and you’ll have eggs prepped for appetizers, salads, and sandwiches in no time. (This trick works wonders for mashing avocados for guacamole as well.)

A plate of asparagus with yogurt sauce and egg grated on top
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Use a Cheese Grater to Make Egg Shavings to Use As a Garnish

If you only have a single boiled egg (or even a half) to spare, consider using it as an elegant garnish on your salad, on top of sauced vegetables, or even pasta. Break out your cheese grater or microplane and dust your dish with the faintest hint of egg. The finely grated egg complements  springtime vegetables like kale or asparagus (I particularly like it on freshly steamed asparagus with garlicky yogurt sauce).

Add Eggs to Your Breakfast Board

Until it became a Tiktok trend most people didn’t associate charcuterie boards with breakfast, but boards can be enjoyed at any hour, even first thing in the morning. Waffles or pancakes, ham or bacon, hash browns or home fries—your breakfast board can include all your favorite breakfast items, including some of your sliced or halved hard-boiled eggs. 

Cut and plated embutido on a white and tan plate with sauce in a small bowl next to it and a serving of rice.
Serious Eats / Rezel Kealoha

Add an Eggy Surprise to Your Meatloaf

Start with a classic meatloaf, but add your boiled eggs to the interior for an extra treat that makes for a beautiful slice of meat. Follow your recipe, but when it’s time to add the meat mixture to your loaf pan, add half of the mixture, then place a row of five whole peeled, boiled eggs inside before adding the rest of the meat mixture, and bake as usual. Or make embutido (pictured above), a Filipino-style pork meatloaf filled with hard-boiled eggs and Chinese sausage.

Easter eggs in various bright colors on a wooden table
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Pickle Your Eggs

If you’re a pickle lover (like I am), and you’ve just finished off a jar of your favorite, don’t toss out the brine. Instead, do like I did and use the leftover pickle juice to pickle your hard-boiled eggs. (You can also make some pickle rice—yes, seriously.) Transfer the pickle juice to a small pot, heat until it comes to a boil, then take it off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, peel and place your hard-boiled eggs in a mason jar (or right back into the empty pickle jar). Pour the brine over your boiled eggs. Seal tightly, and transfer to the fridge for at least eight hours to allow the pickle juice to permeate the eggs. You can also level up this hack using homemade or store-bought pickled beets to make bright red beet eggs.

Make Colorful Easter Bread

If you’re really proud of the beautiful eggs you’ve dyed (I was pretty proud of how mine turned out), why not show them off a little longer by baking a festive Easter bread that makes them part of your table’s centerpieces? Start by making a sweet, yeasted dough like brioche or choreg, an Armenian Easter bread. Instead of rolling it out as directed, braid the dough into a wreath, and nestle your prettiest four or five eggs evenly spaced around the ring. Adding sprinkles is optional. Either way, your colorful eggs take center stage.

Here’s Why Sweet, Green Pistachio Cream Has Replaced Nutella in My Kitchen

Pistachio cream is a sweet, green spread made from pistachios, sugar, and oils. You can use it on desserts, spread it on toast, dollop it on oatmeal, or simply eat it right out of the jar like I do.

Doughnuts with pistachio cream and pistachios on top on a tan plate.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

My love affair with sweet, nutty spreads began in high school when my foreign exchange partner from Perugia, Italy, brought me a bag full of gianduia products, including mini jars of Italian Nutella and a gilded jar of Caffarel gianduia spread. (I was particularly smitten with the Italian version of Nutella and joined the chorus proclaiming how much better it is than the American version—like one of those people who proselytize about the superiority of Mexican Coke.) And along with my passion for chocolate-hazelnut spread came the beginning of my ongoing hunt for the next sweet spread to give me that same satisfaction. I embraced speculoos and ube hayala, and even had a moment with chocolate tahini. Each makes a guest appearance in my cupboard from time to time, but none are lead characters. My latest love: pistachio cream.

What Is Pistachio Cream? And Where Do I Find It?

Pistachio cream is a sweet, green goo made from pistachios, sugar, and oils, all processed until spreadable. Don’t confuse pistachio cream with pistachio butter (aka pistachio paste), which—like other nut butters—is made by grinding nuts into a spread and is typically unsweetened. Pistachio cream is also different from pistachio pesto, which is salty and savory and is a nice alternative to basil pesto on pasta.

Pistachio cream can be used as a sweet breakfast spread, in desserts, and more (I’ll get into my favorite uses below). It's easy to use right out of the jar; sometimes, I eat it directly off a spoon if I'm craving something sweet and have nothing to spread it on. Much like your favorite nut butter, you can find this pistachio cream in creamy or crunchy varieties. Every brand is a little different, with varying ratios of pistachios, sugar, and oil. Some brands also have milk powder and additional flavor enhancers.

Oatmeal topped with pistachio cream and pistachios in a dark bowl with a spoon
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Most pistachio cream brands you’ll find in US stores are from Italy, and many of the most expensive jars are from Bronte, Sicily. Bronte pistachios, sometimes marketed as "green gold," have a reputation for being top quality. Growers take great pride in their pistachios and even have a Sagra del Pistacchio (Pistachio Festival), which happens every year in Bronte.

Despite the burgeoning popularity of pistachio cream—Google searches have increased for it in the United States and worldwide in the past year and I’m seeing it pop up in more recipes online—you may not be able to find pistachio cream on your local grocery store shelves. If you do, it will likely be near the Nutella or the nut butters. TikTokers have been obsessed with Pisti pistachio cream since its arrival at Costco warehouses in the UK and Canada. You may have better luck in the US at a specialty foods store or higher-end grocery store like Whole Foods. If all else fails, there are plenty of brands available on Amazon and online. I've tried several brands and especially enjoyed the crema di pistacchio from Marullo and Campo d'Oro pistachio butter. I have yet to try Giannetti Artisans’ pistachio spread or Pistacchiosa—both have rave reviews online but have a higher price point. I'll try them eventually, or when my current jar is empty, maybe I'll use Stella's pistachio paste recipe to make my own.

I Got It. I Love It. Now What?

If you've decided to purchase this glorious green spread, there are many ways to use it. Pistachio cream is wonderful spread or drizzled on carby things like waffles, pastries, or oatmeal. You can also simply whip it with heavy cream for a creamy pistachio topping. But don't stop there. Here are a few more suggestions for what to do with this delectable spread:

Doughnuts covered with pistachio cream
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Glaze or Fill Doughnuts

After you've fried a batch of yeast-raised doughnuts, skip the glaze. Warm up pistachio cream on a small plate or bowl and dip the top of the doughnut in it. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired.

Bake a Cake

Try adding a few ounces of pistachio cream to your store-bought cake mix to give it an extra boost. If you add more than ½ cup (120 ml) per box of cake mix, you may need to reduce the amount of oil or butter. If you're ambitious, try making this pistachio cake from scratch.

Whip Up Pistachio-Mascarpone Cream

Start by whipping ½ cup of mascarpone cheese and ½ cup of pistachio cream using an immersion blender, food processor, or hand mixer. Then, separately whip 3/4 cup of whipped cream. Combine these two by folding them together in a small bowl. Substitute this cream for whipped cream or frosting to top desserts, use it to fill homemade cannoli, or top your hot chocolate with it instead of marshmallows.

Flavor Your Coffee

Instead of going to Starbucks to get a cup of pistachio coffee, make it at home. Add 1-2 tablespoons of pistachio cream to your hot milk before frothing and adding to your coffee or espresso. Just be aware that the oil in the spread will affect the mouthfeel of your coffee, which you may or may not like. (Check out our adventures with olive oil coffee to learn how it might impact your brew.)

Make Homemade Ice Cream or Gelato

Try using pistachio cream instead of roasted pistachios in this homemade ice cream recipe (just cut back on the sugar a bit). If homemade ice cream is too ambitious, try using pistachio cream as an ice cream topping instead.

Make Pistachio Buns

If you're a pistachio lover, go all-in on these pistachio buns for your next weekend project. They use pistachios three ways—in the filling, the creamy topping, and fresh pistachios as a topping.

The Best Smash Burger Taco Is Actually a Quesadilla

You’ve seen this viral Big Mac-inspired taco, but trust us, it’s better in a different form. The extra tortilla makes this shareable, dippable, and lovable.

Composed image with cooked smash burger quesadillas, a tray of raw burgers, and a tray of condiments
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon, Amanda Suarez

If you spend time scrolling through social media, the viral smashed burger taco has probably inundated your feed. It's a taco created by placing a tortilla on top of a ball of ground beef and smashing it on a smoking-hot griddle or pan. Instead of Tex-Mex-style taco seasonings, this taco-burger hybrid is seasoned and topped like a fast food burger. It has various iterations, but the current social media darling is the Big Mac Smash Taco—a smash taco topped with special sauce, lettuce, cheese (you know how the song goes), that seems to be tapping into a desire for novel takes on nostalgic foods. And who doesn't have fond Happy Meal memories?

I relished jumping onto this burger-taco bandwagon and making tons of smashed tacos to create my perfect version. First, I tackled the sauce. I started with a version of In-N-Out's spread; it's my preference, and since their burger is a smash burger (unlike Micky D's), it makes sense. By all means, riff. After a few bites, I added a little hot sauce. (I also tried a version using gochujang instead of ketchup in the sauce; it provides a nice balance of sweetness and heat but strayed from the classic flavor.) 

A tray with beef patties and a tray with smash burger quesadilla condiments, including cheese, onions, and flour tortillas
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Next, I tackled the meat. Initially, I used too much ground beef and cooked it in way too much oil—the splatter was unreal. I over-adjusted, and the beef shrinkage was extreme, only covering part of the tortilla once cooked and making for a very sad taco. While the smash tacos I made that replicated the ones I’d seen online hit all the right flavor notes, the meat wasn’t as pleasantly charred or crispy as it could be. Browning the meat on just one side was just not optimal. Charring both sides using the smashed burger method improved the outcome by providing a crispier texture and making the cheese melt almost instantly on contact.

I tried a few other less successful adjustments. I tried a corn tortilla because I usually prefer them over flour, and I attempted to swap out the classic American cheese with slices of cheddar because I usually avoid processed cheese like the plague (gasp). However, I was wrong on both accounts. This recipe worked best with the sturdier flour tortillas because the corn tortillas tended to get a bit soggy. Andno one likes half-melted cheddar, so I highly recommend sticking with the melty American cheese.

There was room to maneuver when it came to proportions. Do you need to use 5-inch tortillas for this dish? No, not at all. It's too small, and the whole creation was just too sloppy (My pickle slipped out and fell on the floor after my first bite). Using five-ounce balls of ground beef was perfect for an eight-inch tortilla. However, it was difficult to fold over after adding the meat, cheese, onions, and pickles. Even when I didn't overcook the tortilla, it cracked. The solution was not to fold the tortilla over but to add a second one. I no longer needed to worry about a torn tortilla with the filling falling out. The extra tortilla provided the additional real estate needed for all the crispy meat, melty cheese, and crunchy toppings. And thus our smash burger taco graduated into a quesadilla, which proved to be a smashing success.

A smashed burger quesadilla sliced into six pieces with special sauce on the side
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Keys to Smash Quesadilla Success

  • You don't have to grind your own meat (unless you want to), but make sure you're getting the right blend. Fat is your friend, so aim for a ground beef with at least a 20% fat to lean ratio. Chuck is an excellent option because it's affordable and has a good balance of fat and meat, so it will stay juicy even when seared past medium as is the case here.
  • Whether you're using cast iron, a stainless steel skillet, or even a griddle, it is absolutely essential to get your vessel smoking hot to get a good sear on the meat. Turn on the fan and open the windows if you need to. 
  • Forget what you know about cooking regular burgers; smash burgers are a different breed. It’s the brown, crispy bits produced by the Maillard reaction that make them taste incredible. Familiarize yourself with the smashed burgers technique, as it’s employed in my smash burger quesadilla. 

For the Special Sauce: In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles or relish, sugar, and vinegar. Set aside or refrigerate if using later.

Special sauce in a small ramekin with a spoon
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

For the Quesadillas: Portion the ground beef into four 5-ounce balls, pressing together just until the meat holds its shape without falling apart.

Ball of ground beef on a kitchen scale
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Add oil to a 12-inch stainless-steel, carbon steel, or cast iron skillet and heat until smoking. Add one of the meatballs to the skillet and, using a wide, stiff metal spatula, press down on it until it is roughly the diameter of the tortilla. It helps to use something hefty (like a second stiff spatula, tongs, or other sturdy tool) to apply pressure on the spatula to get a good smash. Season with salt and pepper.

A ground beef patty in a skillet being smashed with a spatula
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Cook undisturbed until a dark brown crust forms, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip the patty over, using the edge of the spatula to scrape up all the browned bits.

Top patty with 2 cheese slices and cook for 30 seconds, then add 5-6 pickles and 1-2 tablespoons of onion.  Add a tortilla and press down firmly using the spatula to make sure the cheese adheres.

Using your spatula, flip the patty over again, adding 2 more slices of cheese, and place the second tortilla on top. Press to adhere. Flip once more and cook briefly to allow the extra cheese to melt, about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan and repeat the process with the remaining balls of meat, tortillas, and toppings. 

 Slice each quesadilla into 6 equal triangles. Top with shredded lettuce, if using, and drizzle with special sauce or serve it on the side for dipping.

A smashed burger quesadilla sliced into six pieces with special sauce on the side
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Special Equipment

A stainless steel, carbon steel, or cast iron skillet or griddle and a large, firm flexible metal spatula.

So I’ve Been Cooking My Rice in Pickle Juice for a Week…

I tried this unexpected use for pickle juice, plus the bine of capers, peppers, and olives, and was pleasantly surprised by the delicious results. Here’s my case unlocking the potential of your favorite jarred condiments.

basmati rice in a bowl with a silver spoon accompanied by jars of brined vegetables
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon, Amanda Suarez

We've been stanning pickles for so long now, we're running out of ideas for what else to do with them. The other day, I found myself in the dustiest corner of the internet, looking for a new way to use my leftover jars of pickles and olives. There are endless uses for your leftover pickle juice, including salad dressing, sauces, martinis, marinades, and cheffy tricks, like making gelées. I hate tossing out perfectly good pickle juice, and rice seemed like the right blank canvas for absorbing all that briny flavor. So, where I ultimately landed was the incredibly simple trick of adding pickle juice and other brines to the cooking water for rice. 

As questionable of an idea as it may seem, using pickles in and on rice isn't entirely new. Southeast Indian dishes like Achari Pulao include pickled vegetables or mango to add flavor to the rice while it’s cooking, and of course, pickled vegetables are a fabulous addition to rice bowls and kimbap, but the idea of using leftover pickle brine as a cooking liquid for rice was new to me. So I gave the method a try with the liquid from a jar of basic grocery store dill pickles, as well as with olive, caper, and sweet red pepper brine. Every condiment was suspended in a brine primarily composed of water, vinegar, and salt and there were no lacto-fermented pickles in my tests.

My Methodology

For each of the four tests, I cooked a small batch of basmati rice using my mini 2-cup rice cooker. For each test, I used 100g of rice, 50g of brine, and 100g of water for this test, but to try this at home, just make a standard pot of rice, replacing the water with a 2:1, water-to-brine ratio. Initially, I thought about replacing all the water with brine, but I did not want to risk making the rice overly salty.

Bring on the Brines

Jars of kosher dill spears, capers, roasted red peppers, and green olives
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

B&G Kosher Dill Pickle Spears

When I opened the jar of pickles, I was reminded of walking into a deli—these spears floating in yellow brine have the briny pickle smell and flavor I grew up with. Given the strong smell of the pickles, I expected the rice to taste more vinegary, but itonly had a faint taste of pickle and slightly salty-sour aftertaste that I started to notice after a few bites. This was not my favorite rice—the sour taste was one-note, and lacked complexity. 

Divina Organic Castelvetrano Olives

There are far too many types of olives to choose from, so I just selected my favorite—Castelvetrano. The rice took on the mild, buttery flavor of the olives almost as if the slightest bit of olive oil or butter was added to the pot. I expected it to taste like a dirty martini, but it was far more subtle. This was the saltiest rice—not overly so, but noticeably. I enjoyed it, and would eat this rice with delicately cooked white fish or shrimp

Roland Capote Capers 

When I opened the jar, these capers had such a briny aroma I thought it would completely overpower the rice, but it didn’t. The caper-flavored rice tasted well-seasoned and not overly acidic or salty. As someone who doesn’t usually go for capers, I was pleasantly surprised by this rice. I would serve it with baked salmon, add it to stuffed vegetables, or serve it with another dish that needs a little punch of vinegar.

Hellenic Farms Greek Roasted Red Peppers

There were only a few options of peppers packed in a vinegar-based brine instead of oil. I wanted the brine to be comparable to the other preserved condiments, so I selected this jar of roasted red peppers. This rice was subtly sweet and had a mild pepper taste to match its slightly orange-tinged hue. After a few bites, I could pick up on the charred flavor from the roasting of the peppers, a welcome complexity. This rice is versatile enough to serve with all sorts of dishes, but it would pair particularly well with roasted chicken or grilled steak.

Yes, Try This at Home!

By the end of this test, I had so much pickle brine that I started to feel pickled myself. Oddly, in this head-to-head pickled rice test, the rice using dill pickle brine was actually the worst. Perhaps that was due to my choice of pickle. Maybe a garlicky brined pickle  would lead to a pot of tasty garlic rice? I enjoyed the roasted pepper rice so much that I plan to add it to my side-dish rotation. I may even punch it up further with some bits of diced roasted pepper as well. As I looked at the half-eaten jars of pickled this or that in the back of my fridge, I eyed some banana peppers and artichokes. This experiment will absolutely be continued.

You Want Crispy Eggs With Runny Yolks? Separate ‘Em First.

We tested the viral theory that a foolproof method of achieving those crisp, bronzed edges is to cooking your egg whites first. And wouldn’t you know it!

Crispy eggs fried in a pan.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon, Amanda Suarez

Full disclosure: I'm a relatively new egg convert. The only eggs I love are fried. I won’t touch a scramble, I don't enjoy frittatas, and I have only occasionally been enticed by poached or jammy soft-boiled eggs. Dining out, I've only had the perfect fried egg a handful of times: whites with crispy, golden brown edges and a runny yolk nestled in the center. I consider myself lucky if I order an egg sunny-side up and it actually arrives at the table with fully set whites. And if the professionals are struggling to do it, well…maybe it’s the method that’s the problem. 

Before you come at me, I've tried Kenji's recipe for crispy fried eggs and have gotten great results. Still, his method requires the whites and yolk to cook together, and if you aren’t careful, the egg is over before you know it. And when I saw a viral-ish hack circulating recently that claimed a foolproof method of achieving those crisp, bronzed edges was cooking the whites first? I knew I had to try it.

A vibrant egg nearly done frying in a pan.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

What You Need For the Crispiest Eggs

  • Eggs: You probably don’t need our egg taste test to tell you this, but fresh is best. As eggs age, they become thinner in texture. If you fry an egg and notice the egg whites are spreading more than usual, the egg is probably old. You don’t have to travel to the nearest farm for your eggs, but if that carton has been sitting in the back of your fridge for a while, it’s probably time to get some new ones. 
  • Oil: A neutral oil that can withstand high heat cooking (Kenji recommends olive oil). Contrary to popular belief, using olive oil during high heat cooking isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is. I use Graza's Sizzle EVOO, which gives the eggs a slightly peppery, grassy flavor. 
  • A frying pan: Cast iron or carbon steel are the best options here. Both are excellent at retaining heat, and when properly seasoned, they have a protective, nonstick coating, making them an ideal choice for eggs, pancakes, and the like. If I'm only cooking one egg, I like using my 6-inch cast iron skillet because it's perfectly egg-sized. The small diameter allows the eggs to reach the edges of the pan, ensuring crackly edges and a circular shape. In a pinch, nonstick will work, but the edges won’t crisp up as quickly.
  • Basting spoon: You could use any large spoon you have on hand, but I like going for something more sizable: a stainless steel plating spoon I've had since culinary school. It’s bigger than a soup spoon but smaller than a serving spoon, making it the ideal size—and your best friend—for basting. 
  • A spatula or slotted spoon: We’re using a lot of oil here, and it’s best to use a heat-proof spatula or slotted spoon to help any excess drip off when you remove the eggs.
A separated egg, some olive oil, and some salt rest on a marbled countertop.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

...How You Achieve the Crispiest Eggs

I'm so glad you asked!

  1. Crack an egg and separate the whites from the yolk into ramekins and set it aside. There’s really no mess-free way to go about it, but here are two methods I’d recommend: You could crack the egg into a bowl and use clean, dry hands to gently pick up and transfer the yolk to another bowl. Alternatively, you could crack an egg, let the whites drip into a bowl underneath while transferring the yolk back and forth until all the whites have fallen below. Heat your pan over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil and heat until shimmering and almost smoking. 
  2. Add your egg whites. Tilt the pan towards you once the eggs start to set, letting the oil pool, and use your spoon to baste until the edges of the egg whites begin to bubble and crisp. Continue until you reach your desired crispness. 
  3. Place the egg yolk in the middle of your whites and baste around the yolk for a few more seconds to ensure you're cooking any whites that may be attached. 
  4. Using a spatula or slotted spoon, gently lift out your beautifully fried egg, letting the excess oil drain off, and season to taste—I'm all for the flaky sea salt here!

That’s all there is to it! Once you try it, you may feel bold enough to host brunch this weekend—even for self-proclaimed egg haters.

Why Is Cottage Cheese So Bad Sometimes?

We taste-tested 8 batches of cottage cheese (and spoke to a fermentation science expert) to find out.

Cottage cheese in a spoon.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon, Amanda Suarez

Cottage cheese may seem like a blast from the past, but we never stopped eating it. Not before it was trendy again, not while it was just trendy again, and not after it kinda-sorta faded out again earlier this year. The Serious Eats team is simply a group of people who will always ride hard for cottage cheese. This year, however, amidst our continued cottage cheese conquests, we've opened new containers to find a lot of water, a lot of sourness, and a lot of chunky...chunkiness. But we kept coming back because sometimes, it was also just creamy and well-chunked and great. Eventually, we had no choice but to ask: What is HAPPENING here?

I spoke with Dr. Keely O'Brien, an assistant professor in the Fermentation Science Program at Middle Tennessee State University, to see if she had any thoughts on what's going on in the land of cottage cheese. She previously worked for Big Dairy and has spent years making her own cottage cheese with milk from her dairy cows: Lady, Liberty, and Apple Butter.

How the Cheese Actually Gets Made

To contextualize some of these inconsistencies, Dr. O'Brien began by detailing the process of making cottage cheese. TL;DR: It involves adding bacteria cultures to curdle the milk, fermentation, curd cutting, cooking, and adding flavoring—all processes with immense wiggle room and variables across different producers.

  1. Curdling/Fermentation: Acidic substances like bacteria cultures (e.g., Lactobacillus) are added to pasteurized cow's milk, converting the lactose into lactic acid and causing the curds to separate from the whey. Eventually, it becomes a solid mass; Dr. O'Brien typically adds rennet to aid the process, but it's not required. The choice and quantity of culture and/or acid is brand-specific and impacts how tangy the final product tastes.
  2. Cutting & Cooking: The curds are sliced into large or small pieces with a curd cutter and then gently heated to a specific temperature to remove more whey. She cooks her curds until they shrink to pea-size and the consistency of clay. The curds provide the texture and mouthfeel of the cottage cheese; a uniform curd size is ideal.
  3. Draining/Rinsing: Cutting the curds releases more whey, so the remaining liquid needs to be drained off. Some brands will even rinse the curds to remove some of the acidity before draining. Generally, a longer drain results in drier and firmer cottage cheese. 
  4. Dressing/Flavoring: Acidified milk is added to the curds with salt and other additives to create the final product. Every brand has its own "secret sauce" comprised of cream, half-and-half, or even buttermilk to produce the desired creaminess. Varying quantities of sodium and other preservatives are added for flavor and determine how long the cottage cheese lasts on shelves.

Why the Inconsistencies, Though?

Between the above and the fact that cottage cheese comes in different fat percentages (like milk (skim, 2%, 4%, etc.) and small and large curd sizes), of course Dr. O'Brien wasn't surprised to hear our team had experienced inconsistencies with regularity, nor was she shocked that these big brands occasionally deliver inconsistent products. Unlike her homemade cottage cheese, the mass-produced batches "have pretty long shelf lives," she said: "You're talking 60 days, plus." A lot can happen in that time (at the store and at home) and cottage cheese should be stored at 40°F (4°C), or lactose in the milk can continue to produce lactic acid and more sourness. And just because it should be stored that way, doesn't mean it always is!

For the best-tasting cottage cheese, she warned, "don't let it sit too long." While I couldn't tell if any of my cheese had been sitting out before it got to me, I could check the expiration dates. They were all at least two weeks away! In fact, Breakstone's sell-by date was more than seven weeks away. Seems like a long time, doesn't it? Time seems like the most likely culprit for the varying QA results. Some additional notes from Dr. O'Brien: "If your cottage cheese is looking too watery, just toss it." She also doesn't think you should rely solely on expiration dates. "When in doubt, use your senses," she told me. "You're a very sensitive instrument."

Side-by-Side Cottage Cheese Comparisons

Over the course of this cottage cheese investigation, I taste-tested eight name-brand varieties labeled small curd with 4% milk fat. I noted how the two samples looked and tasted compared to each other and noted any differences in curd size, amount of dressing, acidity, etc. And wouldn't you know it? There were plenty of differences across pairs of identical products.

Four batches of cottage cheese laid out for taste-testing.
Serious Eats / Kelli Solomon

Brand 1: Organic Valley Cottage Cheese

Sample A definitely had more tang and noticeably more liquid sitting on the top. Sample B was creamy, and slightly acidic with a few stray larger curds. These two containers have the same expiration date but seem like different batches.

Brand 2: Breakstone's 4% Small Curd Cottage Cheese 

This brand came in mini 4-ounce containers in a snack pack situation. It’s fair to say that samples A and B seemed likely to come from the same batch. The curds looked very small and there was only a little dressing floating on top. Slightly sour, and slightly sweet, but I would say this one’s pretty consistent, which makes sense because they were in the same four-pack.

Brand 3: Good Culture Organic Cottage Cheese, Classic

This one has the highest calorie count per serving taking a look at it it’s pretty liquidy/has a fair amount of dressing. It's only slightly sour and has a tang to it. Sample A and sample B look pretty similar, the only real difference was a stray curd or two that were slightly larger in size.  

Brand 4: Lactaid Milk Fat Cottage Cheese

Both samples have bubbles on the surface and the curds look pretty big considering it’s supposed to be “small curd.” The consistency almost looks like lumpy and homogenous store-bought potato salad. There was no noticeable difference between samples A and B, but they were sweeter than the other brands and lacked acidity. 

Brand 5: Daisy Pure and Natural Cottage Cheese, 4%

Sample A was slightly sour and had fairly consistent curds. Sample B had noticeably more acidity, a few stray larger curds, and more liquid on top. I was not a fan of the dressing; it was just too tangy.

Brand 6: Trader Joe’s Small Curd Cottage Cheese, 4%

Both samples looked similar, an almost solid-looking mass of curds with very little dressing. The flavor was the mildest of all the brands, with medium-sized curds. Sample B had some more bubbles on the surface and the slightest hint of tang, but I doubt I would have noticed a difference if I hadn’t done this comparison.

Brand 7: Friendship Dairies Cottage Cheese, Small Curd, 4% Milkfat, California Style

This brand had the most cheese-like flavor and the mildest taste, the bigger curds were reminiscent of mozzarella. Sample A had virtually no dressing at all, but Sample B had enough dressing that I could see some liquid on my spoon.

Brand 8: Hood Country Style Small Curd Cottage Cheese

Both of these samples were swimming in dressing. Sample A had a smaller and more consistent curd size, seasoned with a very acidic liquid that was a bit watery. Sample B was not quite as tangy and had a creamier dressing overall.