The Washington Post Food section staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I am having family over for dinner tomorrow night. Can I mix up the pie crust tonight to roll out tomorrow night for turkey pot pie? Should I wait until the morning? How far ahead can I do a pie crust and let it sit in the fridge? I am making the “filling” tonight and would like to do the crust too.
A: Absolutely! I’d say up to a day in the fridge is fine once it’s been rolled. Just pop it in the pie dish, cover it and you’ll be good to go.
I’ve even had it in the fridge for up to 3 days! But I’m also someone who makes a large batch of pie dough, divvies it up, and freezes it individually wrapped, so I can have pie whenever the fancy strikes (and 24 hour notice to defrost the dough in the fridge).
Q: Do woks need to be washed in soapy water or only wiped out with paper towels? Same question for cast iron pans and any other pots and pans I might be able to get out of scrubbing.
A: I’ve done it whichever way. It depends on how well-seasoned your wok/cast iron is. When it’s really well-seasoned, then you can basically wash as you see fit (soap or no, but always a good practice to dry immediately). If something isn’t particularly well-seasoned, you can dry over medium heat, and then lightly rub with a neutral oil after.
Q: How come we do not need to worry about washing woks or cast iron with hot, soapy water to kill any bacteria, etc. But we do worry with other dishes?
A: Is it killing bacteria or just having clean dishes/pans that is really at the core? I never thought of it as killing bacteria, but just in terms of cleanliness. With cast iron/wok, you want to remove traces of food, so that your next meal tastes like its own thing.
Q: We’re moving overseas and throwing a going-away party this weekend. In addition to water, sodas, and beer, I want to have some sort of cocktail. I want to empty out my liquor cabinet, not buy new bottles (which I’ll need to give away). Right now we still have a small-batch huckleberry vodka, Grand Marnier and Linie Aquavit. I’m happy to buy mixers. Any suggestions?
A: I would try out some combinations there and see what tastes are working together. Aquavit can be a little tricky depending on which of its botanicals are coming forward and some flavored vodkas are quite sweet, but would suggest you try using the vodka for the base, modifying with minimal Grand Marnier, and then balancing it out with lemon/lime, tonic and soda, and other fruits. Some Angostura bitters would likely help here too. Start with small blends of the ingredients and see where you get before you scale up.
Q: When making a baked good recipe that calls for salt, is it better to use table salt or kosher salt?
A: I tend to work with kosher salt (Diamond Crystal, which has a different texture than, say, Morton’s) and feel like more recipes are professionally developed/tested with DC kosher salt than table salt. Often you’ll see something like “fine sea salt,” which is closer to texture/granule size to table salt. One teaspoon of DC kosher salt will have less salt than 1 teaspoon of table salt. And in my mind, you can always add more salt to something, whereas if you add too much, it’s basically impossible to remove. Sorry for such a convoluted answer, but my vote is for Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which is kind of a go-to of test kitchens and restaurants.
Q: Is there general guidance about what constitutes a small/medium/large pan (or bowl or pot) in recipes? For example, when a recipe says to heat a medium sized saucepan over low heat, is that my 10-inch skillet? Will things go sideways if I grab the 8-inch or 12-inch pan instead?
A: Usually I think of small/medium/large in terms of pots or saucepans. Small would be more like 2 or 3 quarts, medium 4 quarts or so and large like 5 to 6. Skillets are described more in inches.
Whether things go sideways might depend on the recipe, but a lot of times it’s no problem. Just think about pan surface area and depth — is something going to cook faster or slower? Maybe you need a bit more fat to account for a wider pan? That type of thing.