Eat This List: 6 kitchen skills I have yet to master
January 24th, 2013
09:00 PM ET
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This is the sixth installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.

I'm a good cook. I'd go so far as to say I'm a damn good cook - not fussy or haute, but you could tell me that a James Beard-nominated chef was coming over to eat and I wouldn't panic. (They have, and I didn't.)

I also write about food for a living, which leads a lot of of people to infer that I've mastered a lot more in the kitchen than I actually have. I'm adventurous and fearless, but I still have a lot to learn. So, in the spirit of honesty (and letting the rest of you feel like Alton Brown in comparison), here's a handful of common cooking tasks on which I'd grade myself a C-minus or worse.

1. Poaching eggs
Yes, we ran a tutorial on egg poaching a while back and yes, I've gone through a few cartons and half a dozen methods in pursuit of egg-cellence. I still can't manage more than one credible specimen in a batch.

Perhaps the rest of humanity poaches weekday eggs as easily as I stand at the counter eating cold cereal. In my world, poached eggs signal a fancy weekend breakfast for two or more hungry humans, and I doubt they'd all care to divvy up the single one that doesn't look as if it came from behind a hatch on the "Alien" ship. For now, I'll stick with scrambling.

2. Deboning poultry
I can quickly and competently butcher a chicken or duck into serveable parts, and in theory, that's good enough. But in my rich, inner fantasy life, I'm able to whip out a sassy ballotine or turducken to my guests and be all, "Oh, this? No big deal..."

In reality, I end up with orphan flecks of pink flesh on the bone, the knife and wherever else it happened to land, and if there is one thing I hate more than feeling clumsy, it's wasting food. This one could likely be mastered with an abundance of practice, but first, I'll need to break the news to my husband that we'll be having chicken for dinner every night until the end of the fiscal quarter.

3. Making pancakes
I have no excuse here. The first one is greasy, the second one or two competent, and the rest scorched and entirely unlovely. I take this as a sign that the universe wants me to go out for brunch.

4. Keeping herbs fresh
I grow herbs. I use herbs. I have at some point written or edited an article on how to store herbs. Somehow, I always end up with sprigs of dried thyme hanging out by the cutting boards or moldy. brown rosemary in the door of the fridge. Perhaps one of these days I'll have a crisper stacked with moist, meticulously-rolled paper towels or bundles of fragrant cilantro propped up cunningly in water-filled mason jars and my kitchen will look like Pinterest sneezed all over it. That day is not today. I don't know why.

5. Decorating cakes
I have some complicated emotional issues around cake. On one hand, I earned a BFA in painting, inspired in large part by my obsession with Wayne Thiebaud's cake works. On the other, I always end up feeling like a jerk the second I stick my fork in and ruin a perfectly piped icing rosette or wreck my friend's face on one of those creepy photo cakes.

Perhaps this issue would best be addressed with my therapist, but I feel really strange about devoting a great deal of time to the appearance of an item that's just going to end up in my stomach. Or maybe I'm just trying to find an excuse for the fact that my cakes tend to look as if they were frosted by a five year old who's wildly overshot her naptime.

6. Rolling pie crusts
My pie crusts taste delicious. My pie crusts look like patchy, wonky hell. I've sat down with books, spoken with pros, plunged my hands in bowls of ice water and thrown down so much flour it looked like Scarface had partied in my kitchen. Still, they rip.

Perhaps my dear, departed Grandma Kinsman is taking me to task for not having spent enough time learning the craft at her side. I'd regret that even if my pie crusts looked like Martha herself had borne them from pin to plate. For her, (Grandma, not Martha), I'll keep on rolling until I get it right.

What's the kitchen task you haven't mastered and want to admit to aloud? Or, tell me what I'm doing wrong with any of my half-dozen blunders. Either way, I'd love for you to weigh in below.

Previously - Failure is totally an option and Eat This List: 4 ways to combat food waste at home (and save a little cash while you're at it)

soundoff (181 Responses)
  1. josara

    Problematic pancakes? My new best friend is my non-stick coated electric skillet. Set the heat between 325 and 350 and you'll get perfect cakes. Blueberry cakes are achieved by dropping them in one by one after pouring the batter. The skillet cost less than $40.

    January 28, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • flip

      Use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, heated over medium-low heat. Also, get this cookbook:

      January 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  2. Cooks alot

    YORKSHIRE PUDDING!!! I have been a chef at a well respected seafood restaurant and am now a professional Cake decorator but Yorkshire Pudding are my nemesis!!! I have tried everything and they always stick to the pan...EVERYTIME!!!!

    January 28, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • David

      The right amount of fat/shortening melted in a glass baking dish until extremely hot (but not smoking). Yorkshire pudding has been one of my favorites (with rich beef gravy) since I was a kid. My wife doesn't see the appeal = more for me.

      January 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  3. recreational cook

    An easy way to roll out a pie crust and transfer it to a pie plate intact is to roll it between 2 layers of plastic wrap (obviously, it will really be 2 pieces on each side of the crust, because the plastic wrap is narrower than your crust). This not only prevents sticking to the counter and rolling pin, and an excessive amount of flour being added during rolling out, but also becomes a handy support layer for picking up the crust, inverting, and peeling off the plastic. ;-)

    January 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
  4. Melissa

    lol. I am NOT a cook. I can bake just fine (cookies, pies, cakes, even fresh bread), but cooking? Not a clue. I can nuke hot dogs, and make spaghetti. I do have to say that there is one thing that I'm very good at and I've considered even opening a business for it but wouldn't know where to start. Making grilled cheese. I'm very good at it.

    January 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
  5. Doug Morgan

    I'm surprised that a person who claims to be a "damn good cook" hasn't mastered these basic skills.

    January 27, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • farmnteeth

      I think most "damn good cooks" would admit that they haven't mastered all the basic skills. I feel I am a 'damned good cook" and I think really that cooking a lot, and well, is a way people would describe me. But, I have several basic skills I am not proud of my success in... Eggs over easy, chicken noodle soup, jello salads come to mind

      January 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
      • Doug Morgan

        I don't possess the temerity to call myself a "damn good cook", but, I can certainly perform these tasks.

        January 28, 2013 at 8:18 am |
      • Chris

        No experience with jello salads bodes in your favor.

        January 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  6. ModSquad

    When it comes to poached eggs, I practiced and practiced one method after another and never found one that was perfectly consistent. In frustration, I went out and purchased 2 silicone egg pods after researching poachers on the internet. Best kitchen purchase I've made in the last several years. They are about as foolproof and easy to clean as anything you'll try. I cannot recommend them enough.

    January 27, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  7. Mike

    I've followed a lot of threads like this and this is the first one I've seen that was good – polite, informative, amusing and relevant. No crazy people at all! (Well maybe one.) Maybe cooks are more rational than non-cooks.
    In any event, I find this very refreshing.

    My Achilles Heel of cooking is pie crusts – they never do what I want them to do. My mother uses lard an her crust are perfectly flaky and tasty. Perhaps I should try that but it just seems like butter should be better.

    Thank you all for an informative and polite discussioon.

    January 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Kathleen

      aii – you're starting in the expert class. Pie dough made with butter is fragile. If you can't bring yourself to use lard, try old fashioned low-brow Crisco. The results will be almost as good as lard and the dough will be just as easy to handle. I know it's not as authentic as lard or butter or oil, but it's just pie! As in "easy as pie." It's not supposed to be hard or fancy or even good for you.

      January 28, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  8. Willow

    I don't bake pies or cakes since I live by myself and don't want the extra food temptation. Plus it's January and people are still doing their New Year's diets, so I would only get dirty looks bringing treats into the office. (But they would still sneak pieces when they think no one is looking, as usual.) So no, I don't have the baking pies or cakes skill. I also don't make pancakes because, again, it's a bit silly to make a batch of pancakes when it's only you.

    I took up gourmet cooking as a hobby after watching Julie and Julia, so I have poached eggs, cut up poultry, and used fresh herbs. My favorite recipe of Julia Child's is ratatouille, which is technically vegan since it uses olive oil instead of butter, and is quite good for you.

    January 26, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  9. IrishStubborn

    Gravy. I don't know why, but gravy hates me. I've tried every roux technique, the old mix in the slurry, and still....lumps, bumps, and disaster.

    January 26, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • VicC

      Me too! Nana and Mom made wonderful gravy. I watched. I've read recipes and looked at tutorials. My gravy is pathetic and I still don't know why. It hates me.

      January 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
      • TomP

        The food processor and blender are your friends......

        January 27, 2013 at 7:02 am |
        • Kathy

          Or one of this stick blenders. Mine does okay if I don't rush it, adding my liquids a little at a time, and constantly whisking, whisking, whisking. Good luck!

          January 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • gusto

      I get my grease/oil really hot and add the flour about a tablespoon at a time; and I whisk it in or stir with a fork. After my flour has browned (I add enough flour whereas my mixture almost doughs up in the pan), I add water/chicken stock to my desired amount (i add onion too - they break up and thicken as well)...TIP: If it gets too salty, you can put flour and water in a mason jar/dressing jar and shake it , then strain it into you existing gravy. Thickens it and dilutes the salt. Or you a potato as some do. be careful as Russet Potatoes will disintegrate..Gravy is basically liquid bread. Yummy.

      January 27, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Rick Pachuto

      I was embarassed to write "gravy" because it seems so basic. Yet, I am glad to see I am not the only one.

      January 28, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Shannon

      My ex- MIL shared Wondra with me. It's a lifesaver for gravies! It's a finely milled blend of flour and cornstrach. It truly is a wonder! Happy gravy making

      January 28, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • JFS

      Gravy is a bit of a "black art", one that i seem to have picked up from my father... One rule he uses is "starch goes into hot fat or cold liquid"... Whisk the flour in slowly into the drippings or throroughly into the cold liquid.

      The other tricks we use are a bit of ketchup for dark gravies or dijon for lighter ones (pork or beef). Both of those seem to "round out" the flavors a little, yet you don't taste the condiment itself. That an a splash of wine, red for dark, white for light. Sometimes i'll squeeze a lemon half into the pan to "lighten up" the taste. There's no other way to explain how lemon works, so try it sometime and just taste the difference it makes.

      Have fun adn good luck!

      January 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
      • Kat Kinsman

        "Gravy is a bit of a 'black art'" is pretty much the best sentence I've read all day.

        January 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  10. fOb

    The pancake thing is simple–your pan is too thick. You aren't waiting long enough for it to get hot, and you are turning the flame up too high. The first one isn't cooking through (because the pan isn't hot enough yet), the next couple cook correctly because the pan finally gets hot enough, and the others burn because your flame is set too high.

    Try using a skillet with a controllable thermostat which will light up when the proper temperature is reached. If that resolves your problem–then it is the pan (get one that will heat up more quickly) and the flame (set it lower). You are having trouble regulating the temperature of your pan.

    January 26, 2013 at 2:09 am |
  11. edwin

    For me it's the technique that I have problems with. I am a painfully slow chopper. I still can't wrap my head around how TV cooks can chop things so quickly and effortlessly! I have a decent set of knives along with a sharpening steel, so the sharpness is definitley not a factor. Maybe i'll figure it out someday!

    January 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • alr

      It's less important how quickly you chop things and more important that you don't chop your fingers off. As long as the veggies, etc get chopped, who cares how quickly it was done?

      January 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
      • edwin

        Good point. I've never had a cut bigger than what a papercut would be; maybe i'm slow because i'm being so careful? The speed thing really is just for the bragging rights!

        January 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • flip

        What do vegans do if the cut their finger and blood gets on their food?

        January 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Shawn

      Never let the tip of the knife leave the cutting board when chopping. Speeds up things and makes it much safer. Also, chopping is faster if you trim a bit to make round things flat.

      January 27, 2013 at 3:01 am |
  12. Marie

    Dear Kat – for a pie crust that doesn't look like patchwork, simply roll your dough in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Cut the end and bottom of the bag, unfold, lay it next to the pie plate, then lay the crust down in the pie plate from end to end slowly, then peel the ziploc off. Fill the pie, then do the same with the top, use the same bag, its already cut for you.

    January 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  13. BlitzKat

    I can cook just about anything I come across... except omelets. Omelets are my nemesis. I always just end up with scrambled eggs.

    January 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Benn

      That's an interesting way to commence to cook.

      January 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Jon

      use a good non-stick pan (omelet pan), medium heat. pour eggs in slowly push (dont stir) the eggs in the middle of the pan with plastic spatula. Tilt the pan around (roll your wrist) over the heat to coat the pan evenly, stop pushing once you notice your eggs setting up evenly. add your filling. cover the pan for a moment. this will create stem-Steaming allows for a fluffier omelet and then fold it over like an egg blanket covering all that tasty ham, cheese and peppers (denver omelet) Boom!

      January 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Sun

        Never use non stick, it is toxic! Get yourself a good stainless or cast iron pan and learn to use it. The food will taste better and your health will thank you.

        January 26, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Steve C

      use a carbon steel or cast iron pan with low sides, small dice a few table spoons of chilled butter, mix in with the eggs, heat pan until water dripped on GENTLY sizzles off, add butter to pan, coat, give another 30 seconds for the pan to get back up to temp, pour in eggs, swirl to coat pan, let it sit until it sets, and once it starts to look set, shake the pan gently to loosen the omelet. If you're uncomfortable flipping it, wait until the up side looks 3/4 set, slide onto a plate, put pan over plate, and flip it back into pan. Put in fillings and do a tri-fold. The burner on your over has to distribute heat really evenly to master this. Sometimes the coils on electric stoves have hot and cold spots, the kiss of death for omletes.

      January 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  14. alr

    I love reading everyone's responses! Makes me feel that I am not alone in my ineptitude. I'm pretty good at baking but cooking scares the bejesus out of me. I can make chili and spaghetti without incident but everything else is up for grabs. Raw poultry freaks me out but I can handle red meat where necessary. I noticed several people comment that they can't do gravy. The first time I made gravy for biscuits, it slid cleanly out of the skillet. Yes, I said Slid. It came out as one unit. Apparently, I failed to add a little water to thin it out. You could have tucked that gravy under the biscuit like a blanket. Thankfully, I have improved since then.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • DonellaW

      Thank goodness for quinoa because I STILL can't cook rice!

      January 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
      • Jon

        buy a rice cooker or bake your rice in the oven covered with foil. It provides even heat and you're less likely to distrub the rice

        January 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • Shawn

        I love my rice cooker. Remember, 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of rice in a rice cooker for perfect rice!

        January 27, 2013 at 3:03 am |
    • edwin

      Buy a rice cooker! I can cook rice just fine but I still felt fully justified buying a $120 rice cooker from Japan. Still don't regret it! Makes perfect rice every time.

      January 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • fOb

      Get some disposable gloves that are rated for food handling–put those on when handling the chicken and red meat (keep away from heat, obviously). Use tongs when you have to move the meat to something hot (use two tongs if necessary).

      January 26, 2013 at 2:12 am |
  15. xavi

    One-handed egg crack, I've decided is a waste of time, because you have to clean up the surface where you crack the egg. Maybe I just never mastered it. There are a lot of things I thought I perfected, but have to relearn them again. Practice makes perfect.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • AleeD®

      Many moons ago, I learned how to do that working in a fast food place. You're right practice made perfect. To this day, I crack the huevos on the side of the bowl and am shell free.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  16. RunningWater

    You named my list exactly and I'll add one more – making sunny side up eggs. I don't like them, so I never practice them.

    January 25, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  17. Ann

    I'm glad I don't like poached eggs.

    Pie crust is my downfall. I roll out the Pillsbury's.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Steve C

      For good piecrust, put your flour in a food processor, blitz in the chilled butter 1 tablespoon at a time, and after you added all the butter, blitz in cold water by the tablespoon until its the consistency you're looking for. Put on a well floured surface, form into a ball, flatten out a LITTLE, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to allow the gluten to relax. Take it out, put back on the well floured surface, flour the top, and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. For me, the tricky part was transferring to the pie plate. Lightly dust the top with more flour, and gently roll it onto the rolling pin, than you can transfer it pretty easily by rolling it out onto the pan.

      January 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
      • Shawn

        The best pie crusts use lard.

        January 27, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • Alex

      I use the Cook's Illustrated recipe for pie dough that substitutes half the water with Vodka. The ethanol limits gluten production and the wetter dough is easy to roll out.

      January 26, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
      • Lacey

        My nearly blind greatgrandmother had an old family recipe for hash browns that involved ice water. She grabbed my dad's vodka martini one day and a new (delicious!) family specialty was born! Thanks for making me think of that!

        January 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  18. skainec

    I always get tripped up on fried chicken. I think I'm just impatient, and I end up burning it because the heat is too high. I have yet to make it without setting off the smoke alarm. Now I just do oven baked "fried" chicken. It's healthier anyway :)

    January 25, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  19. Samantha

    Sugar cookie dough and decorating. Always try this for the holidays and can never get the dough to roll out to a consistent thinkness. Cutters get stuck and the decorating is sloppy. Maybe because I am Jewish?

    January 25, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • skainec

      I'm not so good about getting the dough all the right thickness, but here are some tricks to try:
      – Make sure you chill your dough long enough, overnight is best. You can separate the dough into two or three discs and wrap in plastic wrap so they roll out easier and you aren't working with too much.
      – Powder your surface with flower or powdered sugar. Make sure you do a light coating of the powder on your dough as well.
      – After you roll out your dough, throw it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
      – Dip your cookie cutters in powdered sugar or flower before using them.
      – Cut out your shapes, then freeze again for ten minutes... this keeps the shapes from spreading out too much when cooking.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • skainec

        I know it sounds tedious (and it's probably why I only make cookies every couple years), but the results speak for themselves :)

        January 25, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • Bethany Claire

      For the dough thickness, you can buy bands that go on the ends of your rolling pin that will only allow you to roll to a certain interval (1/4 inch, 1/2 etc.). I think mine came with 4 sets of different thicknesses (color-coded to keep them organized); I got them at Bed, Bath & Beyond and they're very helpful in baking!

      January 25, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • trickygadgets

      There are rolling pins out there with little wheels you attach to either end, so your dough ends up perfectly even. Then, dip the cookie cutter in flour between each cut, peel up the dough around the cut-outs and use a thin metal spatula, also coated in flour, to transfer them to the cookie sheet.

      January 25, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  20. jessica

    Alfredo matter how many different recipes I try or how many times I try...It ALWAYS fails

    January 25, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • AleeD®

      Use jarred alfredo and add your own freshly shredded parm.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Shawn

      Just remember not to let alfredo sauce boil, it will cause everything to separate.

      January 27, 2013 at 3:05 am |
  21. Willa45

    Why poach eggs the old fashioned way? I say whatever works! I got tired of throwing away eggs until I purchased an egg poacher. They come in all different 'flavors' and sizes, but I chose a shallow saucepan and removable tray with four wells (depressions) and some perforations on the edge of the tray to allow steam to circulate. You pour about 1 1/2 " of water in the bottom of the saucepan and bring to boil. You grease the bottom of the well with a 1/4 tsp of butter and drop an egg inside. Place the tray inside the pot (sits above the water), and cover for five minutes. The eggs cook by steam and when coaxed with a spoon, will slip out quite easily. A few come with nonstick trays. Hope this helps.

    January 25, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • ORChuck

      Exactly the right answer.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  22. MashaSobaka

    I can't make a roux. It's my great kitchen shame.

    January 25, 2013 at 4:16 am |
    • Benn

      Do you rue your roux?

      January 25, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • JB

      Low and slow and never stop stirring. I used to scorch mine. I like Emeril's method. You should be able to drink two beers before your roux is done. I've learned to appreciate a nice four-beer roux though.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:14 am |
      • Dave

        heh – after 4 beers, everything comes out ok! ;)

        January 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
        • JB

          You haven't lived until you've had my 9-beer roux. It's a little crumbly and dark though...

          January 26, 2013 at 12:00 am |
    • Martyb

      I always bake my flour in the oven. It's very easy to do and you cut way down on the oil.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Kevin

      Have you tried a microwave method?

      Melt 2 T butter in pyrex liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle 2 T flour and salt and pepper over the melted butter. Turn on the microwave for about a minute and let the flour saute in the butter. Remove and whisk. Slowly add in a half a cup of milk, whisking all the time. Add in (more rapidly) another half cup to 1 cup of milk, depending on how thick or thin you want your roux. Put it in the microwave on high and let it go until it comes to a full rolling boil, removing and whisking every minuter or two.

      Can then add handfull of grated sharp cheddar cheese and 1 teaspoon yellow mustard and pour over cooked noodles for mac and cheese. I like this method because you do not have to stand and stir constantly and it does not get lumpy.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
  23. Duncan Holmes

    I too am a food writer—my last piece about testicles done during roundup on an open-range barbecue. I have deboned a quail, and regularly bake French loaves to feed the family. 2 tbsp. dry yeast, 1 tbsp salt, 3 cups water, 8 cups flour; and filled the freezer on many occasions with apple pies, with pastry to melt in the mouth. 2 cups flour, 1 cup lard, a beaten egg and a splash of vinegar, brought together with 2 or 3 tbsp. cold water. Don't be scared to add water if the mix is not coming together. And no need to let your pastry rest. Make your pie, then take the day off to play.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'd very much enjoy seeing that testicle article.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  24. CF

    You can all share the fact that you know basic skills in the kitchen... good for you. The real question is, "Why is the managing editor of Eatocracy incompetent at basic kitchen skills?"

    January 25, 2013 at 2:14 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm actually a very good cook. Some things just take more practice than I've given them. I think it's important for people to admit their challenges and shortcomings so other people feel they're not alone.

      I'll also note that while we do talk about cooking, this isn't exclusively a cooking blog. There's news, culture, opinion and more. A sportswriter doesn't need to be able to hit a grand slam or sink a hole in one to write about it. A political writer doesn't need to run a successful campaign to be qualified to cover it.

      Plus, I think it's fun to talk about screwing up. It makes us all more human, and I'm enjoying the conversation.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:32 am |
      • RichardHead

        Very Well Stated....Save The Liver. :))

        January 25, 2013 at 9:54 am |
      • leahk0615


        When I roll out pie crusts, I use 2 large sheets of parchment paper. I put flour on them, and a little on the pie dough. I smash the ball of dough a little, and roll it out with my rolling pin to the desired thickness. I then brush off the excess flour and flip the crust over (holding the edges of the parchment paper) into the dish. I brush off the excess flour on the other side too. If the crust breaks a little, its ok. I either patch up the crust as I'm shaping it into the dish with the broken parts, or they go to my dogs. I also put the pie dish with the crust into the freezer for a bit, so it holds its shape when baking (and I think it tates better that way). Happy baking!

        January 25, 2013 at 11:47 am |
        • Kat Kinsman

          Thank you! I know where my weekend is going...

          January 25, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
        • leahk0615

          Mine is going to making fond and my first attempt at decorating cupcakes using decorations made from fondant...wish me luck, I need it, lol!

          January 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
      • Steve C

        Kat, poaching eggs is kind of a misnomer. When we poach, say, a fish fillet, the goal is to get the court bullion to a temperature where you can stick your fingers in for a few seconds without burning them. With eggs, you want a sort of gentle boil. Crack them into little prep bowls so you can quickly put them into the water. Also, you almost HAVE to add an acid such as white vinegar to the water, as this helps the proteins in the whites to coagulate easier. Just keep the water at a gentle boil and add your acid. Also using a big pot helps. Poaching properly in say a saute pan takes a little more practice. The secret to pancakes is all about controlling the heat of your pan. Ill use cast iron and after every 2 pancakes, run it under water to cool it off before I put it back on the burner to get it back up to temp before proceeding. The biggest thing most home cooks have trouble with is mastering their heat source, something that comes from intuition from continuous practice. I can make an omelet on a stainless steel non Teflon pan with an even enough heat source. Once you learn this, all else will fall into place :)

        January 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • Kathleen

        Kat, here is the secret of rolling out pie dough: there is no law saying that pie crust has to be in one piece. I sort of jigsaw mine and it comes out looking fantastic. It can be overlapping circles, overlapping wedges/triangles, overlapping flowers or hearts or anything you have a cookie cutter for. Chill the cut dough before trying to pick up the pieces.
        I won "Grand Champion" at my county fair for my apple pie with a jigsaw-like crust. The judges thought it was the prettiest pie ever.

        January 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
        • Didi

          Thanks for a really cool idea. My pie crusts always fall apart on me, too. I make due by cutting them in half while they're still flat and wrapping them around the rolling pin to transfer them, but the jigsaw method sounds both easier and more visually interesting.

          January 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • JB

      I'd rather the editor of a food blog lack certain basic kitchen skills than the person who's preparing my next meal.

      Since we're sharing shame, I can make many many fancy things but have yet to properly cook a pot of rice that isn't instant.

      January 25, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • dragonwife1

        I always use 2X the amount of water as rice (slightly more if I want it moister). Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer (helps avoid those messy rice boil-overs) and cook for about 20 minutes, then remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and then re-cover and let sit for about another 5-10 minutes.

        January 25, 2013 at 11:20 am |
      • Karen

        The easiest wy to cook rice is to put the rice in an abundant amount of water. Cook unil tender and then strain out the excess water. Perfect every time!

        January 28, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
  25. m8pls

    woa mabe u guys just suck at makin food
    i sugest u stop cookin b4 u poison sumbodey

    January 25, 2013 at 2:14 am |
    • dragonwife1

      *sigh* There's always one in every comment crowd...

      January 25, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Kristi

      Hmm...maybe you suck at spelling and should never post again until you learn basic English skills.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  26. Campstove Jack

    Deboning poultry – One trick is by starting at the joints. Cut just enough skin to sever the joints with a thin knife, then cut the tendons and that muscle and flesh will easily slip off the bone. Don't worry about flecks and little bits of flesh, left on a bones, it's all going into the stock pot, right?

    January 25, 2013 at 2:08 am |
  27. Campstove Jack

    I can make a decent light tempura that's better than some I've had in eating out. I can make dang good fried chicken too. But I can't get the batter just right when I make fish 'n chips. It seems like the last batch of fish is always comes out the way I wish the first batch did. I will say I haven't spent much time reading batter recipes for this. I use a thermometer to set the oil temperature. I think letting your batter rest helps a lot. I just discovered that dropping a teaspoon or so in the hot oil is a great way to test the batter. And yes I make sure the fish is dry before dipping it in the batter.

    January 25, 2013 at 1:52 am |
    • popcorn lover

      Have you tried cornmeal in the fish fry batter? The recipe I use calls for the fish to be dipped in flour, then egg, then flour cornmeal mixture and we really like it.

      January 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  28. Ted Wu, Los Angeles

    I have yet to de-skin a clove of garlic cleanly like they show on TV.
    Either by peeling the skin bit by bit or by banging the clove with a cleaver. With the latter method the TV chef would watch the skin disengage from the clove like magic.
    By either method I end up with about half the skin still glued stubbornly to the clove.
    My experience makes me a firm believer that the banging method shown on TV is done by trick photography. Or a specially grown kind of garlic is being used.

    January 25, 2013 at 1:24 am |
    • Campstove Jack

      I watched a chef on t.v. put the cloves of garlic in a glass jar, put the lid on, shake it up and it comes out perfect. I still haven't got that trick to work for me no matter how I stick out my tongue.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:54 am |
    • MashaSobaka

      Slice off the bottom of the clove, cut the clove in half lengthwise, and peel off the skin. Works for me every single time.

      January 25, 2013 at 4:17 am |
    • Cookfidante

      My go-to method for removing garlic skin is...
      Peel off the easy bits of skin (break the garlic into smaller pieces if you like/can) then microwave the garlic for about 20 seconds. The garlic will just slide right out of the skin (but will also be a bit sticky).

      January 25, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Kathleen

      There is a neat little gadget for peeling garlic–its a rubber tube or sheet (looks like a jar opener). Wrap it around your garlic, roll it back and forth on the counter a couple of times, and voila! the garlic comes out perfectly peeled.
      This made my life a lot better–I never did get a clove to peel with the whack-with-a-knife method.

      January 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Kristi

      I do the bang with a cleaver (or end of a can or whatever) method and it works well for me. It doesn't always pop off cleanly, but it makes it super simple to finish peeling.

      January 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  29. Ryan F.

    We all have kitchen mishaps, it's part of the process, but this article was A) very tongue and cheek and B) pretty useless. Thank you for teaching me nothing other than the fact that you are an insecure cook. Next time enlighten us all to something. Thanks!

    January 25, 2013 at 1:18 am |
    • Marmite

      The expression is "tongue IN cheek," and your comment helped anyone exactly zero.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'd say I'm a pretty secure cook. If I weren't, I'd have a much rougher time admitting my failures. I think it's actually pretty healthy for people to admit in public that they're not perfect at something. The important thing is that we never stop trying.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:27 am |
      • sockpuppet1984

        I think it's nice to admit incompetence in certain areas–a little humility goes a long way. Oh, and "Pinterest sneezed all over it" was brilliant.

        January 25, 2013 at 4:14 am |
      • Kristi

        Agreed – I enjoyed this article and most of the comments. Certainly not Ryan's snarky, mean-spirited babble. Oh, and the Pinterest comment made me LOL. I just might have to steal that. ;)

        January 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  30. Don

    I can't master hard boiled eggs that peel easily. I have collected 4 different methods that the donors swore by, and have tried them all several times, but on the rare occasion that I get one to peel easily, it seems to be an accident. I buy my eggs from the farmer, so they are fresh when I get them, but I always wait a week before hard boiling as I read read numerous times. doesn't seem to make a difference.

    January 25, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • eve

      start with adding eggs in cold salted water and bring to boil uncovered. Take off element. Cover and let it do it's magic for 12-14 minutes -I like my boiled eggs well done so it's 14 minutes- drain HOT wated and refill with COLD water. Let eggs hang out in the cold water for a good 10 minutes. When it's time to take the shell off, I do it under running water. Voila. Works everytime. Timer is a valuable tool here if you don't want eggs undercooked or overcooked and smelly.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:24 am |
      • Kristi

        I use Eve's method and it works great! I let mine sit for 10-12 minutes, though. Mine seem to be gray if I let them sit longer than that, but your experience may vary. :)

        January 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • jessica

      Baking soda...1tbsp. It's worked for me and some others who have tried it!

      January 25, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Rachel Joyner

      Make sure your eggs are not too fresh. Older eggs will peel much easier. Try this trick instead of peeling. Take a sharp knife and cut the egg in half, shell and all. Then use a spoon to scoop out the egg!

      January 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  31. Breakfast cook

    Pancakes: if your first ones are turning out great and the rest are miserable, you have a temperature issue on the griddle/pan. Do not get frustrated and turn up the temp because you want a faster pancake. Patience is key, although its hard to obtain when you are hungry in the morning. You do not need a fancy pan or any gadget. Best rule of thumb: if you put a drop of water on the heated pan, it should take one second to bubble off. Do not turn it up more if the pancake doesnt cook fast enough on the preheated rule, just wait longer. Pancakes are ready to turn when there is an even bubbling throughout the pancake, much like an even polka dot on a fabric. Once turned, you can see the sides rise evenly and then check the bottom for your desired brownness.

    PAM or oil before pouring is only used on non-oil recipes. If the recipes require oil, a hot clean non-greased pan is used.

    Hope this helps, it's saved my breakfast life.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      >> "Do not get frustrated and turn up the temp because you want a faster pancake."

      You have a camera in my kitchen, don't you?

      January 25, 2013 at 11:28 am |
      • Mike M.

        Look for one of the 'infrared, non contact' thermometers. You can find one at Harbor Freight on sale for as little as $29.95. Use it to determine the approximate temp of your pan when your pancakes are 'just right' and keep that temp for the rest of them. then next time, wait till the pan is hot enough before putting the first one in! I don't cook them at home, but dozens are prepared at a time when my (former) ARMY Mobile Kitchen Trailer is in operation. I've got two griddles, each 22" deep by 40" wide (they are aluminum, and weigh 60 pounds each), and they heat very evenly.

        January 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  32. Lola

    My pie crust always comes out good, gravy a disgusting nightmare. I cannot for the life of me make good gravy. Cookies, cakes, easy. Gravy, a lumpy salty mess. The harder I try, the worse it tastes.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • Don

      cool the drippings to let the fat rise, and skim it off. a concession to health. back into the pan. Wondra flour and a wire whisk. add the Wondra slowly at the lowest temp possible.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • dragonwife1

      Or if you don't have Wondra flour in your area (we don't here), mix the flour well with a little COLD water, just enough to make it into a thick but still pliable paste, before adding it to the drippings. Whisk it in a little at a time and don't add any salt until you're almost done. That way you can taste for saltiness, because sometimes the drippings themselves are salty enough, depending on the way you've seasoned the meat.

      January 25, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  33. shswatek

    Even though I'm a reasonably good cook I also had no success with poaching eggs. Okay I never even tried. But now I use the Chef's Choice 810 Gourmet Egg Cooker I found on Amazon and make poached eggs for my husband on a regular basis, couldn't be easier! Very useful since we're now on the Wheat Belly/Paleo diet.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:17 am |
  34. Steve - Dallas

    Poached eggs: use one of those pan things with the metal cups.
    Pie crust: Pillsbury ready-made
    Pancakes: I make waffles

    January 25, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  35. Max

    I understand that the secret to poaching good looking eggs is to gently swirl the water in the pan so it creates a whirlpool before adding the egg.

    January 24, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Shawn

      And a bit of vinegar in the water to help the eggs not spread out so much.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • Noodlehead

      The whirlpool spins the yolk about and leaves you with cooked white splattered in your water.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:29 am |
  36. Fiona

    Jeepers...I've mastered all those but one: boning poultry always grossed me out even when I ate the stuff (vegetarian now). I haven't poached an egg in more than a dozen years, but the secret was keeping the water moving slightly with the spatula. If you can't deal with the paper towel thing for herbs, why not freeze them? Or infuse them in oil and then freeze? Pie crusts: a couple whirs in the food processer nd minimal handling equals perfect crust.

    What I've never mastered is a really good carrot cake. They are just never right.

    January 24, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Shawn

      I have an awesome carrot cake recipe, works every time :)

      January 25, 2013 at 12:09 am |
    • Benn

      How can a woman bone poult ... oh ... you meant de-bone. Never mind.

      January 25, 2013 at 6:55 am |
  37. ethicalslutthebook

    I'm not great with pie crust either. Fortunately I really love good pie crust, so I just do the recipe times 1.5 and roll it extra-thick.

    I've promised that when we get marriage equality here in Oregon I will do my sister's wedding cake, but I'll have to take a couple of cake decorating classes first, because my cakes are very delicious and very funny-looking,

    January 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  38. Billie Colbourn

    Frying eggs – just can't do it without breaking yolks, burning the underside or having them end up like plastic.

    January 24, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • skainec

      To do sunny side up... if you can manage to get the egg in the pan without the yolk broken (I do that about half the time)

      – Heat the pan up to medium and butter the pan
      – Break your egg and let it cook for about 1 minute
      – Pull the pan off the burner and cover it. Let it sit for about 2 minutes or until all the clear white looks cooked. Don't let it set too long or else you'll over cook it.
      – You should now have a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg. :) If you want over easy though... I'm no help with that!

      January 25, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  39. Shawn

    Use a griddle for pancakes. Buttermilk pancakes are the only way to go, never make them from a box, it's wasteful. Much easier to make them from scratch. A couple eggs, buttermilk, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and oil. Simple to make, and nothing can beat a perfectly done pancake. Plus you can drop blueberries onto the top of the raw side of the pancakes for the perfect blueberry buttermilk pancakes.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Shawn

      In response to a lot of people here..

      The secret to pie filling is to make sure it's thick enough before you put into them. Cook your fruit down, as fruit releases water as it cooks, so cook your fruit, especially watery fruit like apples in a pot before adding them to your pie.

      Cake is so easy especially if you use a box mix. Hard to screw up a cake, just have the right cake pans, and if your problem is getting them out, oil and flour the pans well before pouring in the batter. The fun part is frosting the cake with your kid (Real frosting not from a can but im a cake snob)

      Pork should be marinated... and then not overly cooked. You don't need it to be grey and dry all the way through. The FDA changed their cooking temperature guidelines for pork years ago, and a little pink in the middle is fine, and it keeps the pork nice and juicy. 145 degrees now is the safe point for pork internal temperature.

      Chicken just takes time and practice to break down. Don't force it, have a sharp knife and follow the shape of the bird and learn where the joints are. Follow the bones!

      January 24, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  40. Failsatpie

    Pie crusts, I make some of the best tasting healthy low sugar low cal pie crusts according to my family and few friends, however they look like a disaster zone.
    They end up breaking apart so I fall back on the method I used in grade school to make those graham cracker pie crusts,
    Which translates to take pieces of dough and press them together and hope it works, even if it never ends up beautiful; then crying afterwords because the pie tastes great (with home made filling) but looks horrid.

    I also can't poach a egg, or consistently make the perfect pancake.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Shawn

      Pie crust is a skill I must admit. Have to make sure you keep the dough cold. The best pie crusts are made with lard. Rolling out the pie crust tends to be the hard part, just don't force it with the roller.To place on top of pie, allow the crust to fold over the rolling pin, so it drapes off, then drape it over the top.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  41. blondemomof4

    making gravy. I can not make gravy at all. So I buy the packets of it.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Lola

      I feel your pain., have tried for over 20 years to make a great gravy, year after year I fail. It's so frustrating.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:16 am |
      • eve

        My gravy seems to work everytime. Meat drippings + stock /wine + (mix of corn starch and water) + seasoning. It depends on the quantity and all, but after the sripping/stock/wine/seasoning tastes good, I make a mix with 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in a few tablespoon of water (needs to be disolved before adding it) and add it to the sauce. The sauce needs to boil for the corn starch mix to activate. then it becomes nice and gravyish mmm.

        January 25, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  42. blondemomof4

    I can not make gravy. I have to buy a mix to make it.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  43. notsopc


    January 24, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • blondemomof4

      you just have to be careful not to overwork the dough.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Biscuits – I can totally help you with that! Stay tuned...

      January 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Fiona

      My husband makes amazing biscuits! Buttermilk ones are to die for. Buttery drop biscuits, too. Hot tea. Jam. Ahhh.

      Like pie crust, the trick is minimal mixing and no extra handling. Gotta keep those bits of fat separate from the flour.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
      • sqeptiq

        if your biscuit dough actually looks like have over mixed it.

        January 25, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • Chanda Lear

      Have you tried a recipe for drop biscuits? If you follow the directions, it's almost impossible to overwork the dough.

      January 25, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • A.Rae

      Me took, I can cook almost anything but my scratch biscuits always come out like ships' biscuits... hard as rocks. And I know it's because I overwork the dough, but it doesn't help! I'd always rather cook than bake, it's just not my strong suit...

      January 25, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • pbjulie

      Me too! They always turn out like hockey pucks.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:36 am |
  44. Joe Gratzel

    Pancakes are all about the temperature of the pan or griddle – if all else fails, buy a name brand electric griddle or frying pan that has a thermostat and set it to 350 for perfect pancakes every time

    January 24, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Liz C

      Another key part is not mixing wet with dry too far in advance and not over mixing. I also use buttermilk in mine. They always come out fluffy and light. I cook them slow as well, cooking them too fast too hot will make the outside scorch or look done but the inside is still somewhat runny.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:33 am |
      • Fiona

        Rice is supposed to clump together. Asians think the American obsession with loose rice is weird. I agree.

        In general, the better the brand or grade of rice, the better the result. Wash and drain it before cooking to get rid of the starch coating.

        January 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
  45. EetEet

    Check out this months issue of Cooks Illustrated for a way to make the perfect poached egg. The trick is steaming them rather than boiling. I did a batch and every one came out perfect. 6 min was about the perfect time for me.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Rob

      Cooks Illustrated recipe is for soft cooked eggs rather than poached eggs.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
      • ethicalslutthebook

        Yes (and it works unbelievably well), but they did the same thing for poached eggs a couple of years ago. The main trick to poached eggs is a goodly glop of vinegar in the water – keeps 'em from spreading. (I have to run my vent fan on high or there are affronted shrieks from my spouse, who hates vinegar,) I believe the CI formula was four minutes in barely simmering water with the cover on, but you should check me on that.

        January 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
  46. Jessica

    3. Making pancakes, The first one is supposed to be the grease soaker upper, should be a small one and you should always toss it. For the rest turn the heat down a little bit so they don't get scorched.

    January 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Jenny

      Or try getting away from the stove and use a non-stick electric griddle. No grease and you can make them 6-8 at a time depending on how big you want them.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm |

      The griddle should never be greased.
      The secret to moist soft pancakes that don't stick is melted butter whisked in after folding in the dry ingredients.
      & for fluffier, lighter ones, separate the eggs, whisk the yolks in with the milk. Beat the whites to soft peak & fold into combined batter.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Campstove Jack

      Yes the first pancake or crepe is always an offering to the kitchen spirits and the rest come out great. For the pancakes I use a well seasoned iron skillet or griddle as easily as with a Teflon pan, in all cases I start by wiping the pan at the start only with lightly oiled paper towel; after that you shouldn't much, if any, more.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • sweetmomma

      That's why we always call the first pancake, "the dog's pancake"!

      January 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  47. Mark

    On internet skill I suck at.

    Giving a crap about stupid articles...

    January 24, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Mark


      January 24, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  48. keckler

    1. Carving poultry

    2. Not making pork as dry as humanly possibly

    3. Keeping Fresh Herbs: TOTALLY

    4. Not knowing when to stop buying jam (I seriously have about 8 opened jars in my fridge).

    5. Making any kind of cake: as a mom, I feel like my time is short on this one but there are great stores out there and I just suck so much at it.

    6. Pie innards that don't run: my crusts have been perfect, the fillings? Not so much.

    January 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Cecilia Gray

      Ditto on the jam. Turns out jam expires. Oops.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • bill

      Well...don't try to carve poultry on the bone...remove the breast, and cut cross grain.

      And for the pork, don't be afraid of MEDIUM RARE...pork does not need to be cooked until it resembles lava rock. Medium rare, or, dare I say it... rare pork is delicious. Unfortunately all of the flavor (fat) has been bred out of pork in this country, so don't be afraid of stopping the cooking at 140-145, really, it won't kill anyone. I have almost stopped eating pork unless I can get it from a local farm and I see that it has decent marbling.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Don

      LIGHTLY coat the pork for chops or roast or whatever with a little flour/bread crumb mixture. it will hold the moisture in.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • leahk0615

      I always add an extra tbs of flour to the filling if I'm making a fruit pie, and I make sure the filling is at room temp before I make the pie. Also make sure you drain your fruit really well (especially if it was frozen before) before you bake the pie, to get rid of the excess liquid. The pie (especially if you have some kind of berry filling) needs time to chill before you slice into it. I let mine cool down completely on the counter and I give them a few hours in the fridge before I cut into them (as hard as that can be sometimes, lol).

      January 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • leahk0615

      Oh, and baking fruit pies on the topmost part of the oven always seems to make them turn out better for some reason...this seems to help the filling turn out thick and not runny for some reason.

      January 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  49. Krissy @ Make it Naked

    #2 and #4. Totally. And I'll add chopping onions. Any sort of knife skill I thought I had goes out the window. It's just embarrassing.

    January 24, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • noodle21

      I have to agree about the onions. Except my problem is that I cannot chop an onion without completely tearing up, and as a result my onions are always a mess. I even tried swimming goggles. I am thinking about using a food processor from now on (and swimming goggles) to avoid looking like a mess.

      January 27, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  50. Cecilia Gray

    Poaching eggs? I can't even CRACK an egg without getting that little bit of shell floating around in the goopy white and then having to fish it back out. AHHHH!

    January 24, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • urbansailfish

      I could never crack eggs without the floating bit of shell either. The trick for me was to start cracking them on a flat surface instead of the edge of a bowl, now I don't have any problems.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
      • hawkechik

        Same here. I only recently started doing that and the difference is amazing.

        January 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
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