We take it back! 5 food tips we regret giving

Crispy bacon

This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

In the spirit of positivity that fills the spring air, let’s pledge to throw off the shackles of grilling superstition and delete some bad ideas we can hold with no longer. I will go first, and apologize for some food advice from the past that—like career-killing Facebook posts—all of us at the Cottage Life Cooking Convivium have come to regret.

That time we soaked steak

Back in our 1990s grunge period, CL pushed marinades of industrial potency and advised overlong times for meat to bathe in salt and acid. We’re sorry. Strong marinades don’t make tough meat tender—they only turn its surface to mush. Mix a marinade so that the acid and salt levels are consistent with a salad dressing. A few hours are all you need to flavour meat. If you must leave it overnight, make a milder marinade.

Apologies for boiling ribs

I know the magazine ran a recipe once, in 2004, that advised steaming back ribs, but let’s forget that happened, okay? Please don’t boil or steam ribs (unless you are making weird pork stock). By all means, cook ribs low and slow on a grill or in a smoker. For an indoor option, season them with a good rub, and bake in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 2–3 hours until tender. Finish with a quick blast under the broiler or on the grill, and sauce them up.

Briquettes treated badly

I once claimed that lump charcoal was superior to charcoal briquettes. Today, I’m not so sure. Lump is still fine, but many bags are mostly tiny bits and dust, quite useless for grilling. Do charcoal briquettes contain chemicals that allow them to burn evenly? Yes. Have I ever noticed an off-taste in the food I cook? To be honest, never. So I use both. My 2005 advice against “match-light briquettes,” however, still stands. Doctored with something akin to lighter fluid, these briquettes will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

We’ve overdone bacon

For about 15 years, any recipe in this magazine that contained bacon specifically called for “crispy bacon.” Whether for breakfast, on a burger, in a salad or a stew, there was an unwritten dictum that all bacon must be crisp. I do not like crisp bacon. Nor do many other reasonable people. So let’s put an end to the crispiracy.

Sorry for the corn picks

I’m not the only one here who has regrets about the past. Sometimes editors and art directors need to be saved from themselves. Like the time when one at this magazine asked me if rosemary stems would make good kebab skewers. Or when another suggested lashing bunches of thyme into a basting brush. Two ways to waste perfectly good herbs. The same people still insist that baked beans must be presented in blue enamelled steel dishes, chuckwagon-style. It’s spring, right? Time for change and renewal. Can we finally just admit that corn picks are dumb?