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Cooking Tips

Perfecting The Potato Salad

Potato salad is a delicious side dish, but we all know one misstep can ruin the entire batch. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure you make the best potato salad.

Potatoes
Choosing the right potato for your salad is all about your personal preference. If you prefer a creamy potato salad sans the gobs of mayo, go for russet (baking) potatoes. When boiled, they break down a bit and their starch adds to the overall texture of the finished dish. They also absorb dressing more easily.

For a firmer potato with creamy dressing, moderately waxy potatoes like Yukon gold or red potatoes hole their shape and don’t break down as quickly. This will provide a great contrast of textures.

Pieces
You want to maintain uniformity in potato pieces to ensure even cooking. If you have pieces that vary drastically in sizes, you will have some undercooked and some overcooked pieces.

Don’t Overcook
With that said, do not overcook your potatoes, unless you want to make mashed potatoes. You want to heat the water and potatoes to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and keep an eye on the pot. When the pieces are just tender, drain the water from the pot. The residual heat will keep the pieces cooking a bit longer.

Don’t Undercook
The crunchy element of your potato salad should come from the celery or pickles you mix in, not from undercooked potatoes. Undercooked potatoes are often a result of adding potato pieces to boiling water instead of warming them up in cold water. By doing so you run the risk of having only the outsides cooked before the insides are done all the way through.

Seasonings
When foods come straight from the fridge, the flavors are often muted. To combat this, cook potatoes in well-salted water and make sure that you use a boldly flavored dressing.

After you’ve mastered prepping your potatoes, you can experiment with different flavor combinations. Here are a few ideas:

  • Seasoned Rice Vinegar / Toasted Sesame Oil / Green Onion / Red Pepper / Jalapeno
  • Bacon / Mayo / Spicy Brown Mustard / Dill Pickles / Garlic / Celery / Green Onions
  • Sour Cream / White Wine Vinegar / Fresh Dill / Pickles / Shallots / Smoked Salmon
  • Cider Vinegar / Pickled Jalapenos / Cilantro / Corn / Green Onions
  • Horseradish / Mayo / Bacon / Chives / Radish Slices

What’s your go-to potato salad recipe? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Add our delicious Potato Salad, made fresh in house, to your favorite signature sandwich today! Order online, visit in store, or get our food delivered via DoorDash or UberEATS.

Summer Food Safety

With Memorial Day weekend nearly upon us, most of us are anticipating a fun-filled summer. Days spent outside enjoying picnics and barbecues under the warm summer sun. Despite the carefree nature of it all, food safety becomes a top priority, as cooking and eating outdoors can pose many potential risks. Because warm weather tends to speed up bacterial growth, and proper cooling and washing facilities are not as readily available outside, instances of food borne illnesses tend to increase over the summer.

To keep your risk of food poisoning low, here are some helpful food safety tips for outdoor cooking.

Planning & Packing

  • Only take the amount of food you will actually use.
  • Refrigerated foods should be packed into a cooler immediately before leaving home.
  • Non-cooler items include: whole fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, trail mix, canned meat spreads and peanut butter and jelly (once canned items are opened, store in cooler).
  • Don’t have an insulated cooler?
  • Freezing sandwiches (sans lettuce and tomatoes) beforehand.
  • Fill clean empty milk cartons or bottles with water and freeze to make ice, or freeze gel-packs.
  • Freeze any boxed drinks you may be bringing to supplement as freezer packs.

The Time Out Rule

  • Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (90°F and up), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers.
  • Do NOT thaw frozen items outside the refrigerator or without being submerged in cold water.
  • It’s best to cook meat, poultry, etc. completely at the picnic site, rather than partially or precooking ahead of time.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served (140°F or warmer). Keep food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
  • Plan to keep hot foods hot with a thermos or insulated dish.
  • Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler.
  • Keep these foods cold: raw meat, poultry, and seafood, deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches, summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood), cut up fruit and vegetables, and perishable dairy products.

Keep It Clean

  • When transporting raw meat or poultry, double wrap and place the packages in plastic bags to prevent juices from the raw product dripping on other foods. Always avoid raw meat juices touching other foods to avoid cross contamination.
  • Store food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • If there’s no source of clean water, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.
  • Don’t forget to pack paper towels.

Keep It Cool

  • Pack foods in reverse order. First foods packed should be the last foods used.

Exception: Pack raw meat or poultry below ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination (as you would in your refrigerator).

  • Keep your cooler full as it will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.
  • Limit the times the cooler is opened. Open and close the lid quickly. Consider packing drinks in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
  • For long trips take along two coolers – one for the days immediate food needs, such as lunch, drinks or snacks, and the other for perishable foods to be used later in the trip.
  • When camping or at a park, keep the cooler in a shady spot covered with a blanket, tarp or poncho (preferably one that is light in color to reflect heat). At the beach, partially bury the cooler in the sand, cover it with blankets, and shade it with a beach umbrella.
  • In a pinch, a heavy cardboard box lined with plastic bags and packed with frozen gel packs or ice will keep things cold.

Separate But Equal

  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables and bread.
  • Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
  • Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food.

Temperature Matters

  • Completely thaw meat, poultry and fish before grilling so it cooks more evenly.
  • Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.
  • Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature and clean it between uses.

Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures:

  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts, and ground poultry: 165°F
  • Ground meats: 160°F
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145°F and allow to rest at least 3 minutes
  • Reheat any leftover food to 165°F
  • Heat hot dogs to steaming hot

At Home

  • If using a cooler, leftover perishable food is safe only if the cooler still has ice or frozen packs in it and the food didn’t sit out longer than previously mentioned.
  • Discard unsafe leftover food or immediately store food deemed safe in the refrigerator.

We hope you find these food safety tips helpful. Feel free to share your own tips with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

We’ve got plenty of choices to please your taste buds so come on down to the Brick Your Neighborhood Deli for your yummy sandwich fix! Join us weekdays from 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm.

Cook The Perfect Steak

When a steak is seasoned and cooked perfectly to your liking, there’s nothing like it. If you think you can only get this from a fancy steakhouse, you’re wrong. If done properly, you can achieve the perfect steak at home. Whether you’re cooking on the grill, or on a pan inside, here are some smart steak cooking tips via the Pioneer Woman.

Let The Meat Rest (Twice)
Always let your steak rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Skipping this step results in an unevenly cooked steak because placing a chilled piece of meat in a pan or on the grill makes it hard for the heat to reach the center.

You also want to let your steaks rest after cooking. Take your steaks off the heat and let them rest for about 5-10 minutes to allow the juices redistribute and the fibers to relax. Try to avoid cutting into a steak as soon as it comes off the heat, as it will leave you with a tough, dry steak.

Seasoning
Salt is the most important ingredient when it comes to steaks. At the bare minimum, it is important to season your steaks with a generous amount of salt and cracked black pepper. You will want to do this before you let the steaks rest so that the seasoning has time to work its way deep into the meat.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try some bold spices like cumin, smoked paprika, sumac, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, or even cinnamon.

Sear HOT
No matter where you are cooking your steaks, always start with high heat. A hot cooking surface will caramelize the outside of the steak, sealing in the juices and flavor. You will find that this will also create a steak that’s crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.

Meat Thermometer
Chefs may have their own ways to determine the “doneness” of a steak, but using a meat thermometer will help prevent you from overcooking your steaks.

Press the probe into the center of one steak once you think they have reached the right temperature. Keep in mind that the internal temperature will continue to rise 3-5 degrees after you remove the steaks from the heat, so it might be wise to take the steaks off the heat just before you hit your mark.

Here’s a guide for the perfect internal temperatures:

  • Rare: 125°F
  • Medium-rare: 130-135°F
  • Medium: 140-145°F
  • Medium-well : 150°F

You want to avoid overcooking your meat as the flavor and juices will dissipate the longer you cook it. Err on the side of caution by taking it off the heat earlier than later. If it’s a bit underdone to your liking, you can always cook it more, but there’s no turning back when your steak is overcooked.

Please note that cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of your steaks and the temperature of your heat source. When searing on high, the Pioneer Woman advises cooking 1.5in steaks for about 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Toppings
Your perfectly cooked steaks will taste great as is, but you can also amp up the flavor with toppings.

Adding a chunk of butter sounds simple, but is one of the best toppings for your steak. The butter melts into the steak juices, creating an amazing sauce.

You can also try sautéed mushrooms, gremolata, fresh pesto, tabbouleh, or vegetable slaws to complement your steaks.

As you can see, attention to detail and great piece of meat can go a long way when you’re cooking at home. Follow these steps and you’re on your way to perfectly cooked steaks.

How do you prefer your steaks cooked? For the non-meat eaters, what’s your favorite meat alternative? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Visit the Brick Your Neighborhood Deli weekdays 7:00am-4:00pm and Saturdays 8:00am-4:30pm for breakfast or lunch! We’ve got great new breakfast items served until 10:30am, along with our made to order signature sandwiches, fresh salads, and a great selection of desserts.