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Ask the Chef Archive

Carrot cake may be an old-fashioned dessert, but no one ever turns down a slice. Here are the secrets to make any carrot cake recipe taste better: Plump the Raisins. Dried fruits are dry, which means they need to be plumped up with hot liquid. Sure you could soak the raisins in hot water, but […]

The ingredients called for in recipes can sometimes be very confusing. Here are answers to frequently asked questions on recipe instructions: “What is a clove?” If a recipe calls for “2 cloves,” is that garlic or a spice? Clove has two definitions: 1. The individual pieces that make up a head of garlic; that is, […]

Kristin asked, “Do better ingredients make better cookies?” Yes! If you are spending the time to make holiday cookies, don’t scrimp on the quality of the ingredients. Here are some tips for baking better cookies:   The temperature of the butter determines the texture of the cookie. Melted butter yields a thin and crisp cookie; […]

A customer recently asked, “What does it mean when a recipe says to cream the butter?” Well, it does not mean to add cream — as he then asked, “the recipe doesn’t say how much cream to add.” To “cream” means more than just mixing together. To “mix” or to “stir” means to just blend […]

We have found it difficult to make bread at the same time as making a full dinner. We do not want to bake the bread ahead of time, as we want it to serve it hot. Is there a way that it can be made partially and refrigerated and then finished? After which step or […]

Recipe writers often repeat directions without considering whether that instruction is the best way to make the dish. Here are some common mistakes in recipes: Don’t flour the meat before browning. Many stew recipes call for tossing the meat in flour before browning in fat. But the flour easily burns and adds an off taste […]

Fresh, sweet corn is so delicious and versatile in cooking — soups, salads, sauces, side dishes, even desserts are irresistable when made with corn. But good corn can be difficult to find. Corn is usually sold naked in supermarkets. Ears of corn need their protective husks; removing the husk shortens the lifespan of the sugars […]

When preparing meat for cooking, the meat should be trimmed and inedible parts removed. Unfortunately, few butchers adequately trim the meat for cooking; home cooks must complete the trimming. Silverskin is the shiny, fibrous, inedible layer on tenderloins, in-between the meat and fat. Since tenderloin is so tender, the layer of fat is not necessary, […]

Jennifer asks, “When would I use parchment paper vs. greasing the pan? Are they interchangeable? Thanks!” Parchment paper is a wonderful tool for baking: food easily slides off the paper after baking. Parchment paper is not the same as wax paper, which should not be used in the oven. Parchment paper is available in a […]

The short answer is no. Most foods taste best when freshly made and served. But when preparing for a big meal, we get lots of questions: Can I freeze mashed potatoes? Can I freeze apple pie? I don’t have time to make everything on Wednesday and Thursday! Many foods change their texture after defrosting. The […]