The Washington Post Food section staff recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: If you don’t have a stone or cast-iron pan in which to bake the pizza, can a cookie sheet be used and should it be greased?
A: I would not grease a baking sheet, but make sure you’ve used cornmeal, flour or semolina under the dough. I’d recommend preheating the overturned baking sheet in the oven so you can at least begin to harness some heat and then using a second sheet to slide the dough onto the one in the oven.
Q: I love pizza, and I’ve owned a Big Green Egg for a couple of years. People tell me I can cook a pizza on my Egg, but they recommend something called a “pizza stone.” What is this madness? Why can’t I put it directly on the grill? I’m sure the “pizza stone” costs a small fortune. But if I need to make that financial sacrifice for some Big Green Egg pizza, I might have to do that, even at the ghastly cost of $110 for the pizza stone! Sadly, I probably won’t be making pizza from scratch at home but will be heating a Costco pizza instead.
A: You absolutely can do pizza on the grill grates. Pizza put directly on the grates is going to be a bit more crispy than chewy. Great, if you like that! With a stone, you’re getting a bit closer to replicating more of what you’d get in a super-hot oven. Not all stones are grill-approved, so if you go that route, just be mindful.
Q: I just discovered a never-opened 5-pound bag of raisins in a fridge drawer. (I prefer them cold so they’re more on the hard/chewy side.) It’s probably been there years. Do raisins last more or less forever?
A: Refrigerated raisins are supposedly good for a year; after that, their moisture and nutritional content decrease and the risk of mold increases. If you had frozen them right from the start and kept them well-packaged, they might stand a better chance at “forever.”
Bonnie S. Benwick
Q: I am cleaning out and reorganizing my pantry. I have two spice boxes that each hold about 30 spice bottles, or more if they’re the little ones. I have a lot of herbs and spices. I’m debating alphabetical vs. savory in one, and sweet/baking in the other. Any other useful options? Or does it matter, and I’ll just always have to rummage til I find what I need?
A: We have an alphabetical system at The Washington Post, which I like a lot. So many spices can be used in sweet or savory dishes that I’m not sure it would be helpful to separate by category.
Here we have drawers and each jar has a label on the top of what spice it is, and the same label right underneath it on the bottom of the drawer. That way, you don’t have to reach your hand back in a cabinet and rummage around (re: knock everything over), and if you have multiple items out at one time, you can see at a glance where to put them back.
We also have a couple boxes of miscellaneous or refill spices, which we just categorize by “salt/pepper, herbs, spice blends, spices a-p, spices q-z.” Since we don’t need those as often, those are tucked away and we don’t label them/sort them with any more detail.
Q: I have more cilantro than I know what to do with right now and I was thinking about making a huge batch of thai green curry paste to save for later. Would it hold up okay in the freezer? Would it get weird defrosted?
A: Your curry paste would do just fine in the freezer, for up to three months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, stir well before using.
Q: Why does my pineapple upside down cake stick to the pan? It’s melted in the oven, so no direct stove heat. Lovely cake batter, turn out immediately, half of the pineapple slices stick.
A: The easiest solution would be to just line the pan with (greased) parchment paper. You also need to let the cake cool ever so slightly, to ensure the topping starts to adhere to the cake. So next time try waiting a few minutes rather than turning it out immediately. And once you invert, try not to be too rough. Let gravity do its thing so that the topping can release on its own terms. Also, don’t fret if you just need to stick those recalcitrant pineapple slices back on! No big deal, I’d say.