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The Best Coffee Grinders to Amp Up Your Morning Brew

The Best Coffee Grinders to Amp Up Your Morning Brew

Our list consists of mostly conical-burr grinders. In a conical grinder, coffee beans are ground between two rings of burrs that crush and grind up the beans. You get a finer, much more consistent grind than you’d get with a traditional blade grinder, even the nicest ones. 

Flat-burr grinders are similar, but they’re typically more expensive. In these, the burrs are laid on top of each other, and the beans pass through them as they grind. The grinder action pushes the grounds out of one end, instead of relying on gravity like a conical burr grinder, and the beans spend more time in contact with the burrs. This results in a more consistent grind, but for home brewers, conical-burr grinders are just as good—even if they require more maintenance and don’t result in consistent-down-to-the-micron-scale grounds. 

Blade grinders have a chopping blade that spins around like a food processor. But blades don’t produce even results. Some of your coffee will be fine powder at the bottom, and at the top you’ll have bits too large for even French press. The result is an inconsistent, unpredictable brew. These grinders are cheap, and yes, using fresh beans in a blade grinder is far better than buying ground coffee. (You can learn how to shake the beans to even your grind just a little. See world barista champion James Hoffmann’s video for some more blade grinder hacks.) 

If you can afford it, we highly recommend going with one of the burr grinder options we’ve listed. There’s a reason why they cost a little more than a budget burr grinder. The machinery in a high-quality burr grinder is a bit more complicated, and built to withstand greater wear and tear. Cheap burr grinders usually have burrs that will get blunt after regular usage, or a motor that isn’t quite powerful enough to keep up with daily use and may burn out in a matter of months. 

The Best Cookbooks of Summer 2022

The Best Cookbooks of Summer 2022

America’s Test Kitchen has a huge archive of excellent, tested recipes, and it frequently cherry-picks from them to make specialized cookbooks. Across the board, these books are smart and helpful, yet this one does something different. Yes, the answer is in its title, but the team at ATK being the team at ATK, the book formalizes their—and our—relationship with plant-based meat. The approach focuses on getting us to use it just like we might for ground beef or ground pork; the art on the front and back of the book features photos of meat-lover classics like a burger, chili, tacos, pizza, banh mi, and lettuce wraps.

Two things I appreciated were basics about plant-based meat that I hadn’t yet internalized: You should cook it less, especially for burgers, as the texture is best when it’s cooked to about 130-135 degrees (you’re on your own after that). And you can embellish it just like real ground meat. For example, I made a chorizo seasoning to mix into Impossible Burger for excellent tacos with potatoes and salsa verde. Change up the herbs and spices and create meatballs, breakfast sausage, and sweet Italian sausage. These aren’t groundbreaking recipes, but repertoire-builders that normalize an ingredient that’s relatively new to all of us. Can I get an amen? One note: You’ll want to experiment to find your favorite brand of meat. I find Impossible Burger—ATK’s favorite—solid across the board, but Beyond Beef—the runner-up—is not my thing, so shop, taste, and make sure you’re cooking with one you like.

(Bonus: For more earth-friendly barbecue, check out Argentine chef Francis Mallmann’s Green Fire.)

The Traeger Timberline Makes Smoking Ribs Easy

The Traeger Timberline Makes Smoking Ribs Easy

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not accustomed to perfectly smoking nearly 50 pounds of pork shoulder using a smartphone while lying in your bed. But there I was with the new Traeger Timberline, hitting the “super smoke” button and checking my temps at 6 am before my morning coffee, making enough meat to feed 100 people at my town’s annual backyard kegger.

I haven’t just been cooking massive amounts of pork on Traeger’s freshly redesigned premium smoker. In fact, this summer, it’s become rare for me to cook anything that isn’t in some way smoked. Chicken salad? Smoke that chicken first. Steak? Smoke it before you sear it on the built-in induction burner. A fresh juicy melon? Throw it on the Traeger for 30 mins for a perfectly caramelized desert.

This smart smoker and induction burner provides the perfect all-in-one outdoor kitchen. Minus a middling Wi-Fi connection (you’ll want to make sure your yard has solid coverage), the new Timberline delivers everything I’d want from a modern smoker and more: You can bake, sauté, and smoke in a single unit that’s power- and fuel-efficient. After about two months, I’ve barely used a bag and a half of wood pellets. The fly in the smoke-ringed ointment? It costs $3,500. That’s a lot of cash for any kitchen appliance.

A New Rig

The Timberline comes in a large orange box with clear instructions for setup, but you may want a partner to help you move some of the heavier bits. The heart of the system is a sizable insulated smoke box with room for six pork shoulders, or about the equivalent racks of ribs or chickens (the company also sells an XL version with roughly a third more space for an additional $300). Inside the smoke box, there are three tiers you can put everything on, with a vent for the smoke cut midway along the backside of the smoker so that it circulates fully to the top before venting.

There’s a drip tray and ash/grease catch in an easy-to-detach compartment in the cabinet below the smoker, which also serves as a great place to store extra pellets and metal liners for the drip tray. You’ll get a lot of use out of those metal drip liners before you need to replace one; the six pork shoulders only filled one up about halfway.

Besides the smoke box, on the right of the unit you’ll find a box where you can fill your wood pellets of choice (Traeger sent me an assortment of their own in-house pellets, but you can use other brands). There’s even a plastic bin and special trap door so you can drop one type of pellet out of the auger for storage and put another type in if you want to smoke something with, say, hickory before switching back to applewood.

The main control area for the Timberline is on the right side of the unit via a very comfortable push-button knob and a color LCD display. The best way to use it though is to connect your phone to the grill via the Traeger app. Once you have it connected to your Wi-Fi, you can control every aspect of the machine (including setting timers and temperature alerts) from your smartphone. It’s pretty damn nifty. You just want to make sure your router has enough range because I experienced a spotty connection on the Traeger now and then. 

The left side of the Timberline houses an induction burner, which pairs perfectly with cast iron pans for searing items you’ve just cooked to perfection on the smoker, or for cooking companion dishes while you wait for something to finish smoking. 

Accessory rails surround the front and sides of the smoker and give you a place to put things like a paper towel holder, a pop-up holding tray, and hooks for grill tools. Traeger sent me those accessories, which are nice and all, but not necessary, especially since they cost a lot. You’ll pay $120 for a front shelf, $60 for a bin to store utensils, and $120 for a stainless steel grill tray. Yikes. The one accessory you need—a grill cover—costs an astonishing $180. No, it’s not made of silk.

The Best Pizza Ovens to Make the Perfect Slice

The Best Pizza Ovens to Make the Perfect Slice

There’s a reason why pizza is the menu choice of picky preschoolers, hungry teenagers, and discerning foodies alike. With enough cheese, tomato sauce, and arugula, homemade pizzas are a complete meal. They’re irresistible, easy to make, and customizable for a wide range of dietary preferences. 

Until recently, an aspiring pizzaiolo had no choice but to crank up their kitchen oven to the standard 450 degrees. Now, the best portable pizza ovens can heat up as high as 900 degrees—the perfect temperature for making a crisp, Neapolitan-style pizza in minutes. For the past three years, I’ve memorized recipes, perfected my dough-tossing technique, and made hundreds of pizzas. You don’t have to limit yourself to pizza, either; I’ve seared steaks and pan-fried broccoli in ’em. Here are my—and my waistline’s—favorites. For those of you with limited access to outdoor spaces, I’ve included an indoor option and an oven that fits on a small deck, balcony, or patio. 

Be sure to check out our many other buying guides, including our Best Portable Grills and Best Camping Stoves guides.

Updated April 2022: We added a slide on accessories and updated pricing. 

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Don’t Dump Frying Oil Down the Drain. Turn It Into Jelly

Don’t Dump Frying Oil Down the Drain. Turn It Into Jelly

After speaking with Brown, I kept frying things: salt and pepper shrimp, smothered pork chops, even fish and chips. Slowly, I came up with a better plan for how to get rid of cooking oil in Seattle, and when I’d incorporate FryAway. For large quantities (up to 2 gallons), I’d continue to try to put it in labeled containers so it could be converted to biodiesel—no FryAway used, unless I didn’t have containers. For typical sauté quantities, I’d just wipe the pan out with a paper towel and put it in city compost without FryAway. For shallow-fry quantities, which are too much for paper towels and too little to put in a container, I’ll use FryAway and put the solidified oil in the city compost. Your solution will depend on where you live and what the local disposal options are. If I lived somewhere where the only option was to throw it in the trash, I’d likely use FryAway (or something like it) for anything but quantities I could wipe up with a paper towel.

The other thing I tried to do was cook with the oil more than once, or as Brown might say, more fully capture its value. After all, she said, “if you use it twice you need half as much.”

This made me think back to the years I lived in Barcelona, where, if I may generalize, they don’t do as much out-and-out fried food (like fries) as we do in the United States, but are more prone to cook a pound or two of sliced potatoes and onions in a couple cups of oil over medium heat for a Spanish tortilla. What surprised me was how people would have dinner, then pour the used cooking oil into a container near the stove to be used again and again. If that seems weird, think about the Fryalators at your favorite burger joint; it’s not like they’re changing the oil out after every batch of onion rings.

“We might use oil four or five times,” said my old friend and Barcelona native Carme Gasull, a food writer and screenwriter on a new cooking show called Menu(dos) Torres. “We’ll make fries, croquettes, tortillas …”

“How do you know how long to keep it?” I asked on a video call, and she gestured to her eyes and nose.

“With potatoes, the oil stays pretty clean, but with croquettes, it goes faster,” she says, referring to ingredients like bread crumbs, flour, and cheese in the latter which might flake off, fall to the bottom of the pan, and slowly crud up the oil. “If you use it too long, you can tell.”

The reuse of cooking oil is so ingrained into life in Barcelona that the city provides cooking-oil recycling containers, which can be filled up and swapped out for empty ones at recycling centers.

“Every Wednesday, a truck comes to our neighborhood for a few hours and we can bring stuff like used cooking oil, clothes, and electronics to it for recycling,” she says.

While I’m glad Seattle has different options for disposing of cooking oil, I really liked having FryAway around, particularly for midsize jobs that were too much for a paper-towel wipe up and not enough to stick in a gallon container. However, its usefulness will depend on what you cook and what the disposal options are where you live. We might not all have little trucks that show up in our neighborhood and cart our oil away, but at the very least, FryAway gives us one more reason not to pour oil down the drain. It may even help keep the banana peels off our roofs.