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in: Food & Drink, Lifestyle, Living, Podcast

• Last updated: July 5, 2022

Podcast #812: Chef-Vetted Answers to Your Cooking FAQs

In your quest to become a better home chef, you probably find yourself wondering things like: What potato should I use in this recipe? How much salt should I put in this dish? Am I even making spaghetti right? But then you forget to Google the answer to your question, or if you do, you feel overwhelmed by the number of opinions out there.

Well, my guest will cut through that noise and answer some of your cooking FAQs once and for all. His name is Daniel Holzman and he’s a chef and the co-author, along with Matt Rodbard, of Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answers, and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts. Today on the show, Daniel will offer his advice on whether the kind of onion and potato you use in a recipe matters, and whether it’s okay to use frozen vegetables. He explains why you should be less worried about getting foodborne illnesses from meat, and the type of food that’s more likely to make you sick. Daniel offers the lowdown on salt, including how to figure out exactly how much you need in a dish; when to use the convection bake function on your oven; his recommendations for the best frying pan and chef’s knife; the secrets to making perfect spaghetti, scrambled eggs, and steak; and plenty of other tips as well.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. In your quest to become a better home chef you probably find yourself wondering things like, what potato should I use in this recipe? How much salt should I put in this dish? Am I even making spaghetti right? But then you forget to Google the answer to your question, or if you do you feel overwhelmed by the number of opinions out there. Well, my guest today will cut through that noise and answer some of your cooking FAQs once and for all. His name is Daniel Holzman, he’s a chef, and the co-author, along with Matt Rodbard of Food IQ; 100 Questions, Answers and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts.

Today on the show, Daniel offers advice on whether the kind of onion and potato you use in a recipe matters and whether it’s okay to use frozen vegetables, he explains why you should be less worried about getting food borne illness from meat and the type of food that’s more likely to make you sick. Daniel offers the lowdown on salt, including how to figure out exactly how much you need in a dish, when to use the convection bake function on your oven, his recommendation for the best frying pan and chef’s knife, the secrets to making perfect spaghetti, scrambled eggs and steak, and plenty of other tips as well. After the show is over, check out our show notes at

Daniel Holzman, welcome to the show.

Daniel Holzman: Thanks for having me.

Brett McKay: So you are a chef, and you got a book out called Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answers and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts. This book was just… It was a fantastic read, super informative, a lot of fun and you answer a lot of questions that people had about cooking, but didn’t know who to ask. We’re gonna talk about some of the stuff, but before we do, talk about your career, how did you end up doing what you do? What kind of chef are you and what were you trying to do with this book, Food IQ?

Daniel Holzman: I grew up in New York City, my mom worked nights, and so I found myself alone and part of… I don’t know, my mom helped me get a job in a restaurant because it was kind of the only place I could get a job as a young kid to keep me company and keep me out of trouble, I guess. So when I was 13, 14 years old, I was delivering pizzas and working at the local Mexican restaurant and found my way into the kitchen because I guess I was just attracted to the little like… You know everybody told everybody in the kitchen, yes sir and they had tattoos and there was fire in the kitchen, and they were kinda… It seemed like the place to be.

Brett McKay: Well, I worked as a waiter and everyone feared the cooks.

Daniel Holzman: Yeah, they get the power. They don’t get the money, the glory or the fame, but they get that, they get the power. So if you have a shoddy complex, the kitchen is a great place to exercise your will, I guess.

Brett McKay: And so what are you doing now?

Daniel Holzman: So working in kitchens my whole life, I started working in fancier restaurants, and at some point I realized that I like cooking food that my friends and my family can afford, and that everyday food wasn’t getting the level of respect that it deserved. You know great cooks wanna cook with the finest ingredients, and they wanna push their limits, and that makes sense, but a delicious hamburger or a piece of fried chicken or a meatball or a slice of pizza should deserve the same level of respect. And so I started a meatball restaurant with my partner, Michael in New York, and we made these meatball shop, we had these kind of a more humble approach to the food.

And then I recently moved out to Los Angeles where I started a pizzeria, I’ve been making pizza by the slice downtown LA at a restaurant called Danny Boy’s Famous Original Pizza, which is a throwback to the great Barry’s Famous Original Pizzerias from my childhood in New York. So that’s what I do for a living. Right now, I throw pies in the air, I’m learning how to throw pies in the air, it’s very fun.

Brett McKay: And so with this book, what was the impetus behind this book, Food IQ?

Daniel Holzman: I think as a chef, I’ve had this writing partner, Matt Rodbard, for 10 years we’ve been working together. He’s one of my dear friends, it started out as kind of a eating adventures in Queens, and then we started writing a column together about our time, looking for great interesting off the path food finds. And as a chef and as a food writer, you’re constantly getting questions from people, “How do I cook this piece of salmon? What’s the difference between these two different types of salt? Or why are there all these different types of olive oils? What frying pan should I buy?” And it was over and over and over, and the thing about these questions are, they’re really not like Google-able questions as much as it seems like, they require research.

And so we started a column that was called 100 Questions For My Friend The Chef, and it was really popular and we were writing it every week, and ultimately it morphed into, “Hey, we should start to… ” Like we expanded on it, and that was kind of the idea of Food IQ, that as a home cook, there’s a lot of intimidation around cooking, but it shouldn’t be. The whole point is, it should be fun you feed yourself, you feed your family, it should be less expensive, more fun, less stressful, and so we’re trying to cut through some of the murk and give a clearer vision for folks.

Brett McKay: Well, so earlier like I said, I love this book because you do just what you said you were trying to do, answer these questions that aren’t very Google-able. Google-able, I guess is the… That’s…

Daniel Holzman: Google-able.

Brett McKay: Google-able. So I want to give people a taste of some of things you talk about in this book. Let’s talk about picking out ingredients when you’re shopping for a meal. This raises a lot of questions, one that I’ve constantly had when I’ve had a recipe that’s called for one union. And I would go to the produce section, and then there’s white onions, yellow onions and red onions, and I’m like, “Well, which onion do I get if it says one onion?” So what’s the difference between the onions and when would you use one over the other?

Daniel Holzman: I think this is where folks get stuck and when you go to the supermarket, you see all this kind of cornucopia, there’s all these different choices, and the truth is you can use any onion and it’ll all be just fine. If you wanna dork out and really get specific individual onions have qualities, the Maui sweet onions that say Maui sweet or onions aren’t necessarily sweeter than the other onion, they don’t necessarily have more sugar in them. They might have a little less sulfur, so they’re a little less bite if you’re eating them raw, but when you cook them down, it’s hard to really tell the difference between the different onions. If you go with the yellow onion, it’s always… The yellow onion is kind of the workhorse, the yellow Spanish onion, you can kind of use that for everything. And then you choose by color, you say, “I want a salad, it will look good with some red onions or I’m pickling these onions and I don’t wanna have any color, I’ll use a white onion.” And you can get deeper into it obviously, and then that’s where you go from being a cook to being a chef or whatever it is, but ultimately the onions are interchangeable. Don’t don’t waste time in the onion aisle.

Brett McKay: Yeah. The one takeaway though I got, as far as presentation, now when I make burgers, I get red onions, it just looks pretty.

Daniel Holzman: Yeah. I mean, I’ve worked in restaurants where the chef is like, “We’re only using red onions, ’cause they’re sweeter,” and then that’s… It works. And then, it’s kind of easy… It’s really easy to claim something when all the answers are right.

Brett McKay: Alright. Well, and then another tip you gave too about avoiding crying when you’re cutting onions, use a sharp knife.

Daniel Holzman: Yeah. I mean, you could definitely wear those ski goggles or put bread in your mouth or guggle upside down with water, whatever the old wives tales are, that are out there. But ultimately, you cry because you crush the onion and there’s kind of an acid in there that gets mixed in with your eyes and makes it burn and if you use a sharp knife, you don’t crush the cells, less of the acid is released and voila as they say, across the pond.

Brett McKay: All right. Potatoes, another one you go and it says, you need potatoes and then you go to the potatoes section and there’s like four different kinds of potatoes. What’s the difference between the different types of potatoes and when would you use one over the other or does it matter?

Daniel Holzman: Unfortunately, this one matters a bit more.

Brett McKay: Okay.

Daniel Holzman: Some potatoes are quite starchy, like a russet or Kennebec potato. The baking potato, potato you use for French frying, it’s a little drier and a little more starchy. And then if you get into the red bliss potatoes or fingerling potatoes are a little bit more waxy. And so if you think about that, like for mashed potatoes a dry starchy potato like the Kennebec potato is really, really great or a rusted potato or an Idaho potato, I think they call them baking potatoes, big dogs. And then some of the smaller potatoes, when they’re more waxy, they tend, if you try to mash them to get a little gummy, almost gummy in texture, so they’re better roasted. Again, it not like it’s not gonna ruin Christmas if you use the wrong type of potato, it’ll be delicious. I love a Yukon Gold potatoes because they’re kind of right in between, they’re medium starch potato, and they have a really thin skin. So you can kind of do everything with them and you don’t have to peel them if you’re making mashed potatoes, the peel just kind of disintegrates and gives it a nice texture.

Brett McKay: Okay. So the russet potatoes, the more starchy potato, that’s when you’d want to add fats to it, to make it… Like a cream or a butter, it makes it a little less flaky, I guess, is the…

Daniel Holzman: Yeah, it absorbs more. Like if you were making Yoki, for instance, you wouldn’t necessarily want to use a waxy potato, because it’ll have a gummy texture, almost like a pasta that’s cooked in cold water or undercooked or something. But if you’re… If the russet potatoes, the starcher potatoes, they do absorb more fat. So if you were making mashed potatoes, you want them really buttery, really creamy. When I’m making… I think people get shocked when I’m making mashed potatoes, I’m putting a ton of butter, a ton of cream. And then if anybody’s ever made this mistake, I’m sure we have, you make your mashed potatoes, you think they’re perfect texture, you put them out on the table, and then when you go to scoop them, it’s like a brick because the starch in those potatoes just continues to absorb the moisture and hydrate. So if you want to be able to add maximum flavor, that’s the way to go, starch your potato for sure.

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about vegetables. So I’ve had instances where I haven’t been able to get to the grocery store to get fresh produce, fresh vegetables, but I have some frozen stuff, is using the frozen stuff okay?

Daniel Holzman: This was… Matt Rodbard, food writer, Daniel Holzman chef, we’re pretty snooty about frozen food. It’s kind of like, you look down on folks that use frozen vegetables, sorry buddy. And so we were talking about it one day and we thought we have this strong opinion, but we’ve never really given it a go. So let’s buy some frozen vegetables. It was kind of like a snarky attempt to prove ourselves right and we were shocked. I mean, there’s amazing quality frozen vegetables and we were using asparagus that we thought would just be mushy and terrible and it turns out these are not your grandma’s frozen vegetables. A lot of technology has gone into it, a lot of technological advances have happened in the last a hundred years, we all know that, and those advances show themselves in places like the freezer section, where the cold chain isn’t broken. So that, a vegetable gets frozen out in the field and it makes it all way… Picked, cleaned, frozen at the height of freshness out in the field, makes it all the way to your freezer without ever having kind of like melted, which tends to get them a little bit mushy and they’re like snappy and crunchy and fresh and delicious. So if I had a farmer’s market next door, I don’t think I would be using the frozen asparagus in the spring, but they’re absolutely… You shouldn’t be ashamed of them and probably no one will know. So yes, feel good about the frozen vegetables.

Brett McKay: Okay, feel good about the frozen vegetables. ‘Cause there’s another issue I’ve had and you talk about is picking out avocados. I’ll spend minutes trying to figure out, find the right avocado for different situations. The problem I have with avocados is, if I’m making a meal two days out, I’m trying to go, “Well, is this avocado gonna be ready for that?” So any tips on picking an avocado for your meals?

Daniel Holzman: I feel like picking an avocado’s like buying a house, it’s a real investment.

Brett McKay: It is.

Daniel Holzman: You spend four bucks on one of those bad boys, and then you open it up and it’s got those brown streaks in it and it’s ruined, or it’s hard as a rock. My dad had an avocado tree in his backyard, avocados take like a month and a half to ripen up, and they only ripen off the tree. We didn’t realize that for the first couple years, we were like, “These things are good for playing baseball, it’s about it.” so we were just throwing ’em out. And then we figured out like, “Oh, these things take a month and a half to ripen.” So you can really buy an avocado for dinner in two days, and like two weeks later, it’s still rock hard. The trick is a gentle push, so you don’t ruin or mash whatever’s going on, you push on it a little bit, if your thumb just gently starts to push in, but the best trick I’ve found is you pull that little bolster, that little nub of a branch that’s still stuck in there out, and you look inside, and you want it to be just barely soft, but you want that to be bright green. If there’s any brown under the stem, it will mean that it could probably be a bit rotten over the edge.

Brett McKay: Over the edge. You wanna avoid over…

Daniel Holzman: Over the line of the [0:14:00.8] ____.

Brett McKay: [chuckle] All right. So I like that. I’m gonna use that tip, take off the nub, that’s a really cool one. Let’s talk about picking out meat. Let’s start with beef, do you think grass-fed beef is worth it?

Daniel Holzman: I think that contextually, all things are worth it, but it just depends upon what your goal is. America traditionally is not a grass-fed beef country. We make really… We have the best beef in the world, in my opinion, I’m a big America guy, why not? I love my country and I love a delicious juicy steak and when I think of that, I think of grain-fed meat. Grass-fed beef is leaner, it can be gamier, and it can be really, really delicious, but you don’t cook it the same way. So for those of us that were brought up, most of us here in America that were brought up on grain-fed beef, transitioning over, we think, “Well, we don’t love the way this tastes,” often, but usually that’s because we don’t really know how to cook it. Most of the countries where you find grass-fed beef, they either cut the meat quite thin, and serve it on the rare side, or it’s kind of really, really thinly cut and cooked on well-done. I like the flavor of grass-fed beef, and I’ve definitely had some amazing experiences with grass-fed beef, but generally, do I really think that grass-fed beef is super healthy for you, I think that if you really, really wanna be healthy, you should limit the amount of beef you eat. If there probably…

Brett McKay: And the one tip I really took away from when you’re picking out beef is where you go to get your beef or meat, whatever butcher, make sure the butcher knows the source of their meat. ‘Cause then they’re able to answer more questions that you have about the meat you’re buying.

Daniel Holzman: I think if you ask that one question to a butcher, like, “Hey, where did this meat come from?” And they can answer that, you know you are dealing with somebody who cares and knows a lot. And that is… It’s actually a really simple, but very, very complicated question to answer because the nature of the beef market in America is not so straightforward. Beef doesn’t get grown in one place, they tend to trade hands quite often. It’s a commodity, so they’ll travel all over the country, and they get farmed in one place, and finished in another, and butchered in another, so by the time it gets to you, it could have traded hands so many times. It’s very difficult to know exactly what’s going on there, especially with stuff like ground-beef, where you can have different cows from different places in the world, all kind of mixed in together in different steer. So, yeah, if you ask the butcher where the beef came from, and they can answer that question where the meat came from, they can answer that question, you’re going a long way, you’re cutting through a lot of it and you really get somebody that knows what they’re talking about, cares a lot. It’s pretty impressive.

Brett McKay: And you had this one section that I loved, ’cause it answered some questions that I’ve often had about food-borne illness from meat, and you guys made the case that you probably shouldn’t be too freaked out about food-borne illness from meat, why is that?

Daniel Holzman: I always laugh, I always used to say that I’ve got the stomach of Billy goat, an alley cat that can eat anything, and never gets sick. And my wife’s always… She’s like, you’re just constantly complaining that your stomach hurts. I know.

So I don’t know, maybe I don’t have the… I’m not the best person to take my advice. But realistically, when we get… There’s kind of a couple different, we get like a grumbling tummy, I ate too much, or maybe it was a little fatty, didn’t agree with me, too much acid, something like that, slept on the wrong side, that aside. When you really get food sick, it’s a really extreme and terrible experience one that few of us forget. And often it’ll be the last time we eat the thing that we associated with. Like you ate those oysters, you were riving in pain, thought you had to go to the hospital or maybe you should just end it and then you think I’m never eating an oyster again, that’s it, it ain’t worth it. But usually it wasn’t the oyster, it was the salad because salad is just way more vulnerable. A lot of food-borne illnesses die with heat. So when you cook something, it makes it innocuous or whatever, I don’t know whatever they call it, benevolent bacteria.

Yeah, it makes it safe to eat. So for all those things that we’re cooking and something like a steak, bacteria doesn’t find its way into the center of the steak, it’ll be on the outside. So if you grill it, even if it’s rare in the middle, it’s still cooked on the outside and if meat has gone bad to the point where it’s gonna get you sick, like you know it, a bad piece of meat is extraordinarily pungent and it’s just terrible. No one’s eating rotten chicken, you know what rotten chicken smells like.

Brett McKay: Smells gross.

Daniel Holzman: People are often like smelling, they’re like, “Is this chicken okay?” I’m like, “Trust me homie, if the chicken was not good, you wouldn’t be asking, you’d be throwing it away because it smells disgusting.” We are for a thousands of years programmed, we don’t really trust our instincts as human beings because we have these big old brains that supersede, but trust your instincts with the meat. If it smells bad, don’t eat it and if it smells fine, also you can rinse it off, because bacteria lives on the outside. Just like, when you smell bad, you don’t throw yourself out, you take a shower, so give your chicken a shower, it’s okay.

Brett McKay: What about… I think people like are… They’re okay eating a rare steak, if it’s just red in the middle. What about chicken? I know a lot of people freak out to, “Oh, there’s still pink in the middle.” Are you gonna get Salmonella?

Daniel Holzman: I think we’ve just been programmed to… We’ve just been programmed that like pork is scary, chicken is scary, beef is not. But it’s a bit arbitrary. And obviously, like Salmonella does exist and there are cases of folks that have gotten Salmonella but it’s really, really, really, really rare. You drive to work on the free-way, that’s super dangerous. Eating a piece of raw chicken is kinda like… Be like walking your dog on a Sunday afternoon, you could get hit by a car, but quite unlikely. So I don’t love… I’ve been… Like in Japan, they eat a lot of raw chicken, and I’ve been traveling around eating some raw chicken. It’s not my favorite texture in the world, I didn’t grow up with it, in my childhood, so maybe that’s why I associate it… It just doesn’t sit perfectly well with me. So I tend to cook my chicken, but I cook my chicken into medium.

If you follow the guidelines set up by the US… The USDA sets out these safe cooking temperature guidelines, and if anybody’s ever cooked a turkey till they are a little like the turkey is ready, then I think pops out and your turkey is just dry, like sand, crumbly and just terrible. Everybody hates turkey because they over-cook it. [0:20:45.9] ____ McKay’s turkey is terrible. And I’m a big proponent of cooking things until their most delicious temperature. Is it more risky? You’re not gonna… I’m still alive, I’m here talking to you. But I have… There’s other risky behaviors in my life. So I don’t know. Again, I wouldn’t take my advice and bring it to a lawyer.

But for maximum deliciousness, don’t over cook your chicken.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think if you’re gonna get sick from food, it’s probably gonna be from produce. I think back at all the times I’ve gotten sick from eating, produce has always been involved. The last time I got really sick, I ate these raw green beans, and that night I felt like I was gonna… I just… I thought I was gonna die. It was terrible. But so you say always wash your produce, use a salad spinner or whatever.

Daniel Holzman: Yeah, I think if you think about like… Lettuce grows on the ground and you get deer that jumped the fence and they’re walking through their own fecal matter and then… It’s kind of gross way to say it, but true.

And then treading on your lettuce and then that gets on the lettuce, and that’s where you get that E. Coli scare, where you hear… All of the romaine in the Northeast was recalled because that’s really dangerous, like you eat that and gets you very, very sick. Folks get hospitalized. If you’re younger, compromise can be devastating. So you don’t really hear a lot about the great beef recall, but we hear a lot about kale and lettuce getting recalled because people ate it raw and because it grows on the ground and yeah, that’s where it comes from.

Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from sponsors. And now back to the show.

Alright, let’s talk about salt. I’ve been to Whole Foods and there’s a whole aisle for salt now. There’s Himalayan, pink salt, rock salt. Is there a difference in all these salts and should you use one instance over another?

Daniel Holzman: I think that there are some… Look like there’s a lot of [0:22:43.6] ____ salesmen out there, so [laughter] there’s some weird claims like you use the salt and you’ll be healthy. It’s like, “Yeah, that’s not… ” Where it doesn’t really work that way. Salt is really good for us. Like electrolyte, water or whatever else we need it for human function, but the difference in the salt is really visual and textural and not flavor-driven. So I think you can throw the health claims out the window, first and foremost, but if you wanna be a weirdo and believe in that, that’s completely… I have all the respect in the world. You’re just scientifically not right. But maybe I’m wrong. So I just wanna throw that caveat out there. But from a textural perspective, there’s a big difference. So as a finishing salt, not dissolved on top of something, there’s those mold in salt to have a great kind of texture crunch. The sel gris, they have those textural crunch to them. The Pink Himalayan salt can look really, really beautiful as those like Black Volcanic Salt where you’re making some kind of dish with that, that on the outside will look really beautiful.

But if you dissolve the salt in water and then taste it, the human palate cannot detect the difference with all the different mineral claims. So there is no flavor difference. So ultimately, you’re spending money to throw it away. So I’m a Kosher salt guy, not just ’cause I’m Jewish, but because it’s… ‘Cause of my culture. But it’s the least expensive, most consistent. And the most important piece of the puzzle, I think, when it comes to using any salt is to be really consistent, because the one big difference is depending upon the size of the salt crystals, your pinch will be different. You can… If you get a digital scale, you can kind of weigh different pinch sizes of salt from different pinches of salt from different or even teaspoons of salt on a volumetric measurement of different types of salt, and you realize they weigh vastly different amounts because they stack differently. So by being consistent, you’ll be consistent with your seasoning. I moved from New York where Diamond Crystal was kinda like predominant, and then out here in LA, Morton’s Kosher salt is kinda like you bake it with so. I started using Morton’s and I started over-seasoning everything. Everything I made, people will be like, “Oh, it’s a little salty.” And it was because the Morton is saltier by volume than Diamond Crystal. And so it took some adjusting.

Brett McKay: Do you think people typically over or under salt their food?

Daniel Holzman: I think people under salt their food, criminally under salt their food. I think it’s a pandemic. It’s the number one issue with food. Home cooks are like, “Why does my food not taste good?” And you’re just like, “Because you didn’t… ” ‘Cause look, the reality is, you can always add more salt, so over-salting is devastating. It’s like lights out, curtains on the whole meal. There’s nothing you can do to fix it. It’s done. So I understand being afraid of that, but under salted food is terrible.

Brett McKay: Alright. So when it says Salt liberally, you should salt liberally more than you think you need to.

Daniel Holzman: And I think… Look, ultimately what you should really do is you should taste before you bring it out to the table, and then you should season it. Again, don’t be afraid to add more salt if you think it’s… Look, if you’re like, “Oh, what does it need?” Add more salt. ‘Cause what does it need means it’s not salty enough, period. Every time, seven days a week, twice on Sunday. We eat at… In Food IQ, Matt and I really tried to break down a few of these questions to help folks like… If you think about it, like 1% by weight of salt is pretty much the right amount. If that makes sense.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Daniel Holzman: In scenarios where all the salt is going to be served. So like, and a lot of times you salt something and not all the salt makes its wave to your mouth, right? Like you salt the water for the pasta, and then you cook the pasta. Not all that salt you put in the water is getting consumed, right? Just the stuff that got absorbed by the pasta. So you use a lot more salt so that the pasta will absorb the right amount and the rest gets kind of thrown away. But when it comes to salting something that you’re gonna eat, 1% by weight will get you there. So when in doubt, like use the metric system, weigh it, divide by a hundred, add that amount of salt, salting a chicken, for instance, that’s a really great way to do it. You salt it overnight and you know, it’s properly seasoned. It’ll… You’ll be a winner in the next chicken dinner.

Brett McKay: All right. Let’s talk tools of the trade. Is there one all purpose pan you think a home chef should have?

Daniel Holzman: I hate to like to hawk the expensive brand, but a 10 inch all clad saute pan frying pan, whatever it is, it’s a really great tool. And I’ve had the same one hanging in my kitchen and I use it almost every single day for like ever. It’s just a perfectly made piece of equipment. It’s perfectly designed. It’s durable, easy to clean, you can pretty much make almost anything you need in that pan. So yeah. I think that it’s worth and look it’s like yeah. Its like wow, it’s almost 150 bucks, 108 bucks. That is a ton of a dough. And I completely understand being like, wow, I could just buy… But I feel like people are like always buying a set of pans. If I had a choice of buying like the 47 piece set for $800, I’d rather spend the 800 bucks on four or three of the pieces. Great quality pieces that I need ’cause let’s face it. We actually don’t use all of those pans, folks don’t use all those pans.

Brett McKay: No. I think a lot of times people buy the set ’cause it looks good hanging up in their kitchen.

Daniel Holzman: I certainly have one of them hanging up in my kitchen. So.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Daniel Holzman: I can’t blame them for that. [chuckle]

Brett McKay: And so yeah. I’ll love how you also get into like the dolphin’s non stick stainless steel cast iron carbons. I mean, is there a big difference? And if there is like, when would you use one over the other or is it just a matter of preference?

Daniel Holzman: I feel like this is more like the potatoes than the onions. So there is a difference but like again, if you get a stainless steel all-clad pan, like it’ll work for almost for anything. Now, if you use a cast iron pan, the downside is that it can rust takes a little bit more care. It’s quite heavy. The upside is the weight of the cast iron pan. It holds a lot more heat. So there’s just more mass of metal and that metal holds more heat. So like, let’s say you take a piece of steak, cold steak, thick steak, and you think that steak is, you know, what temperature is it, 40 degrees? And it’s a pound of steak. You put that in a thinner frying pan and that cold steak will draw the heat out of the pan. And then that’s when you start to get like either maybe it starts to stick or it starts to kind of release its liquid and Simmer you get that grayish kind of color in that boiled flavor ’cause it’s kind of boiling the water, but you’re steaming the steak, whereas a cast iron pan’s got all of that heat mass and you put that cold steak in there. And even though it’s drawing the temperature out, there’s enough temperature to maintain so that it’s sears all the way through and it gets really nice and golden brown and it’s crispy all the… You know, the whole time.

So a thicker, heavier pan will hold more heat, you know, cast iron again requires more care, can rust. So you really have some special kind of care that you need to take, a thinner pan heats up faster though. So that’s interesting in responds so use a cast iron pan if it’s too hot or it’s too cold, like it’s gonna take a few minutes to change that temperature. So it’s like, you’re not making adjustments on the fry and then nonstick pans they’re just, you know, because they’re really great and there’s… They’re really… They work so well. I feel like they become a crutch that we use them for everything. And that’s just, It’s a little bit lazy, so there’s nothing wrong with it, but ultimately they don’t last forever. So I have a nonstick pan. I love the watching Jacque Pepin and then trying to make a perfect omelet in a regular stainless steel pan. And I do it and I’m proud of myself when it works, but like if it was a competition or I had a really important guest, you reach for the nonstick pan ’cause it’s foolproof, it’s gonna work really, really well for those type of… For those like sticky situations.

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about knives. What’s your take on kitchen knives? Is there such a thing as the best kitchen knife?

Daniel Holzman: I think that the Wustof 10 inch or depending upon your eight to 10, depending upon how big of a hand and you know you have chef’s knife is kind of like that knife is really pretty bombproof it’s like the all clad pan it’s really amazing, but knives… I’d say part of knives are the… Any knife… You can get almost any piece of steel sharp if you sharpen your own knives, if you’re one of those types of people or if you send them out to get sharp, ultimately a sharper knife is a better knife, right? So like most folks, it doesn’t really matter what quality knife they’re using because their knives are just dull. So it’s like, you might as well just throw it away, not to be glib or rude about it, but like the sharpness of the knife is the most important piece of the puzzle. I love that my like 10 inch, I have a nine inch Wustof off chef’s knife that I’ve had forever. And the thing is just amazingly well crafted. It holds its edge. It sharpens easily. It’s weighted perfectly, but knives are more than just how well they perform. There’s also the kind of aesthetic and how they hold in your hand. And I’ve got some beautiful Japanese knives that I’m really, really proud of on my counter. I always have kind of fancy Japanese knives, but I’m a chef. So I’ve got like this knife collection of, you know, knives that are gifted or knives that I’ve bought over the years. So.

If you buy a Victorinox kind of plastic handled knife, the steel is great. They’re well crafted. They’re very, very comfortable. It’s what most butchers use, and they work great. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And they’re little less expensive, and you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about it, but again, you buy stuff for the way it looks and feels and how it makes you feel. And if you think having an expensive knife will make you a better cook, then I’m all for it.

Brett McKay: Okay. Let’s talk about the ovens. So I think everyone’s seen the convection bake button on their oven. What is that like? When would you use it? I’ve always wondered. When should I be using this?

Daniel Holzman: I feel like the technology in the kitchen just, it’s a shame. ‘Cause it’s like, it’s really, really helps a lot. There’s a lot of good it comes of it, but it’s intimidating again. And if you just have a fire, you can make a delicious meal. Like you don’t have to really feel like you need the convection oven. Most ovens, the fire’s on the bottom, it heats up. The natural convective kind of heat rises, keeps the heat bouncing around on the inside, the steel or whatever the ovens made of, heats up. And then, it radiates heat into your food. Radiant heat. Convection is like having a fan in there that blows the air. So you get a dryer heat. So it crisps stuff up. It browns it faster. If you are baking chocolate chip cookies, you don’t want to use it. You want radiant heat that’s slow and gentle. Convection when you’re baking chocolate chip cookies can be really detrimental. But if you wanna like crisp brussels sprouts, then I’d say convection is a great way to go. People think it’s faster because it’s… It’s not hotter, but energy wise it’s hotter. So it is adding more energy, more quickly, to the food.

Brett McKay: So, okay. I cook a prime rib every new year for my family. Should I be convection baking that thing when I’m roasting it the entire time, or just regular bake?

Daniel Holzman: You should be doing regular bake and not convection. When you’re thinking about prime rib, you’re thinking about big piece of meat and that fan will dry out and brown the outside before the inside is cooked. So if you think about it, it’s faster and harsher. So it’s great for browning on the outside, but you could burn it before it cooks all the way through. Whereas if you use a regular gentle heat, it’ll bake more evenly, same thing with that Thanksgiving turkey, we’ve all seen when the turkey skin gets burned before the inside’s cooked. It’s kind of like… It’s hard to come back from that one. So I’d say no convection.

Brett McKay: No convection bake. Let’s talk about, I thought that was interesting. You make the case that people should start weighing their ingredients instead of dulling them out and measuring spoons and cups. Why is that?

Daniel Holzman: I feel like… As a chef, I weigh everything. Every one of my recipes at the restaurants are, gram weight and look, a scale used to be an expensive kind of difficult thing to navigate. And it just isn’t that way anymore. You can go on Amazon and buy a scale for $25, and it’ll last forever, and it’s super, super accurate. It’s small and light and easy to use. And there’s no reason not to. When you weigh stuff, you get really, really accurate consistency. And when you keep track of stuff by weight, you start to help yourself under… Our grandma would’ve told us you add a pinch of salt, and we know what a pinch of salt is, or she certainly does, but my grandma’s fingers and my fingers were different sized. And my pinch of salt is a little bit different, and it’s very hard to communicate and remember. For her, it was easy, she knows, “I always use a handful of salt in that or pinch of salt in that.” Well, you’re training yourself to remember like 100g of salt for this or 50 for that.

And again, when it comes to that, like chicken, it becomes a lot harder to figure out exactly how much salt I need. Whereas when I weigh stuff and I think, well, 1% it’s very, very easy for me to calculate the salt properly. And then the biggest one for me is, I love trying to perfect something. And I hear a lot of people like, “Oh man, I’ve been making this over and over. I’m really trying to perfect it.” When you weigh your ingredients, you really give yourself a great advantage because you know exactly how to adjust something, right? Like a little more salt, actually you can say, “Well, let’s go with 10% more.” And it’s really, really easy to remember that. I find it to be. If you’re serious and you really wanna make great food, it’ll be one of the steps you can take to step up your game, big time.

Brett McKay: Okay. And I think too, with baking, measuring by weighing you’ll get a better result if you do that. Instead of just trying to use the big measuring cups.

Daniel Holzman: Like the flour, if you weigh flour from one day to another, a given volume of flour will weigh a different amount because there’s more moisture, less moisture, the volume is just less accurate and less consistent. We talked about it with the salt on greens like… Think about a cup of chopped strawberries. Think of how much spinach, when they say like a cup of spinach, think about how much spinach you could jam into a cup, or if you lightly pack it, it’s like one leaf. It’s just really, really difficult to convey consistently. Think about the difference in the size of one onion. I’ve seen onions the size of my head, and then you see onions that are the size of a pebble it’s really difficult to maintain consistency without weight, which is… Weight is really, really definite.

Brett McKay: All right. Let’s talk about some basic kitchen staples that people mess up all the time. And one you start off with, was spaghetti. How do people mess up spaghetti? I mean, it just seems like you’re just putting dry pasta and boiling water. So how does this go wrong?

Daniel Holzman: I mean, I feel like [chuckle] How do people mess up spaghetti? That could be in my next book, 100 ways to mess up spaghetti.

Brett McKay: Yeah. [chuckle]

Daniel Holzman: I think that people don’t understand that that whole heat thing we were talking about with the frying pan, like a thicker, heavier frying pan will have more heat. Well, when you’re boiling spaghetti, you wanna cook it in rapidly boiling water, right? So anything less than that and the spaghetti can be quite gummy. So the trick is keeping the water boiling and the way to do that is using enough water that when you add the cold pasta to the boiling water, it doesn’t cool it down and stop it from boiling, and the way to do that is with lots of water. So like, I think the number one way people mess up pasta is they just cook it in too small of a pot. There’s no amount of water that’s too much, for me it’s a gallon a pound is the right kind of ratio. So if you’re using you should just… And you can’t put a gallon in a gallon pot, right? ‘Cause it’s gonna spill all over the place.

So like, if I’m doing a pound of pasta, I use an eight quart pot and I put four or five, six quarts of water in there. I bring it to a rapid boil with the cover on, you salt the water to season the pasta, otherwise your pasta isn’t gonna get seasoned at all. And you want that salt to… The pasta to be seasoned properly. And then obviously folks overcook their pasta. So you cook it one minute less than it says on the package, and then you finish it in whatever sauce you’re planning on serving it with so that it absorbs the flavor. That’s kind of the… That’s kind of restaurant method for making great pasta, but definitely a lot of very rapidly boiling water, otherwise you’re just never gonna come back from that.

Brett McKay: Is throwing spaghetti at the refrigerator, is that a good way to know if it’s ready?

Daniel Holzman: I like to toss my spaghetti. And my mom is a painter, so I like to just throw right at her paintings. [chuckle] I mean, you can’t, you should not. I have throw… I have done the spaghetti test and the reality is if you throw it at the wall and it sticks, it’s really overcooked, so if you’re going for mushy spaghetti… I think I made Honey Boo Boo child’s “Sketti” recipe with ketchup. And she suggests that… That was the only time I really tried it and it works, it works. If it sticks, it’s overcooked. So if it sticks, you start over.

Brett McKay: Okay, let’s talk about scrambled eggs. Seems like that’s an easy thing to do, put it in a pan, but how do people mess up scrambled eggs?

Daniel Holzman: Before we started recording you were like, “I think I’m gonna do that pasta with the garlic and recipe it seems pretty simple.” And I was like, “Wow, that’s the hardest one.”

And I’m like the simpler the recipe, the fewer the ingredients, the more masterful your technique needs to be because the more your… The flaws will show themselves, right? You can’t really hide… When you do something with a 100 steps and a 100 ingredients and you mess up a couple, you’re 98% there. When you only have three steps and three ingredients, each one is really… It’s imperative that you take it. So like scrambled eggs are a way that a chef can really show off. And scrambled eggs are fun and easy and quick, but a slow scramble is really where it’s at. You wanna really slowly cook those eggs with more butter than you ever thought you could possibly use in there mixing them the entire time until they just start to set. And then you can get something that’s really special. Scrambled eggs are like, it can be a utility food, right? So like, I need something to eat and I’m hungry and anybody can do it, and I can throw it together, like cheese and crackers, but they can also be really, really delicious and special if you take a little bit more time. And not much more time, but like three minutes instead of 30 seconds.

Brett McKay: Yeah. You… When I cook scrambled eggs in the morning, it’s 30 seconds. I’m just looking for… I just need the stuff to stick together. It’s like put in a tortilla and just eat as quickly as I can, so I gotta get out the door and do stuff. But, we did an article, I think it was last year, about how to make James Bond’s scrambled eggs. So apparently Ian Fleming, James Bond loved scrambled eggs. ‘Cause it was his favorite food, he’d eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then in one of the, I think The Living Daylights, it was a short story about Double O Seven 007. Ian Fleming, he loved scrambled eggs as well, and he gave his recipe that he thinks that he ate and that James Bond would probably eat. And the thing that surprised me about it was… He used so much butter, it was five to six ounces of fresh butter. It kind of became this like really rich creamy thing, it was… It was different, but it was good.

Daniel Holzman: I feel like… The recipe in our book has a lot of butter in it and advocates using really good butter for something like scrambled egg where it’s one of the main ingredients. So I’m on Ian Fleming… I’m on his side, I’m on his side. I’m with him.

Brett McKay: Lots of butter. All right. Let’s talk about steak. What’s your take on grilling of a nice juicy steak?

Daniel Holzman: I feel like, man. So the number one I’ve been… I find this a lot and it’s kind of a shame, once you learn how important seasoning ahead of time really is, the thicker the piece of meat, the more in advance you need to season it for the flavor of salt to absorb. So like, once you learn that it’s really hard to come back from, ’cause you’re like, “Man, I don’t wanna cook anything that I don’t have 24 hours to cook.” Can be really unfortunate to like… I would never, I will not roast a chicken if I can’t salt it the day before, it’s just not worth it, ’cause… It’s just not worth it. The flavor is so much better and the cooking becomes better, it stays moist. So salting in advance, I salt a steak an hour in advance. I leave it out on my… Now depending, it… I will often leave it out on the counter and let it come up to room temperature if it’s really thick, that’ll help me to get a more consistent cook, right? You don’t love that bullseye steak where you get dark brown, gray, and then raw in the middle? That happens because often it’s not rested long enough. That’s probably the number one mistake folks make is the resting period, we can get to that.

But the thicker the piece of meat, the warmer you kind of wanna cook it. So if I’m cooking a really thin steak, I wanna keep it rare. I keep it in the fridge until I throw it in the pan and that’ll keep the center a little cooler while the outside has a time to kind of crisp up, that kind of makes sense? So the temperature control, and then understanding that if you start from the fridge or start from on the countertop, that temperature difference will make a big difference in your cook time, so be aware of that. Three minutes on each side from the fridge might be right, might be blood rare, but it might be medium if you’re going from room temperature. So keep that in mind. But the rest period after I cook a steak is equally as important.

So, if you cook a steak and then… But cut into it right away, basically when you cut into your steak and you see that juice kind of bleeding out onto your cutting board, that means your steak was not rested long enough, any piece of meat needs to rest. And it’s really like… I’ll rest a Thanksgiving turkey for an hour, right? Really, it needs 30 to 40 minutes minimum rest time, for the temperature to equalize between the center and the outside. The temperature continues to travel towards the center, and the outside cools, the juices redistribute and reabsorb in it, gets really moist and delicious. So a steak is only a maybe an inch thicker, it might only take 10 minutes but that rest period is just as important as the cooking time. So give it the time to rest after you’re done cooking, you’ll be really thankful.

Brett McKay: Okay, so rest time on a steak that’s 10 minutes if it’s about an inch thick, and a little less if it’s thinner?

Daniel Holzman: Let’s just say that a steak that’s half inch to one inch thick should be five to 10 minutes, five minutes on a thinner steak and 10 minutes on a thicker steak.

Brett McKay: That’s good to know. I typically don’t rest a steak, I just go right into, ’cause like I don’t… Usually when you’re cooking steak, I’m like, “Okay, we’re gonna have it for Tuesday night dinner.” And sort of last minute. So this is good to know. I’m gonna take a little bit more time.

Daniel Holzman: But like, if you organize yourself a little bit, you’re like, “Oh, well”, just you should think about it, you’re like, “Well, the steak’s gonna take eight minutes to cook, so I’ll start at eight minutes before I’m gonna start.” That air traffic control of how I organize my meal prep. If you just think about it in terms of eight plus five to rest and so, start at 13 minutes early and then you throw the asparagus in it after the steak instead of before and it all kind of makes sense.

Brett McKay: Daniel, this has been a great conversation. Is there some place people can go to learn more about the book and your work?

Daniel Holzman: If you go to, you can see my partner, Matt Rodbard’s beautiful face. And he’s a really amazing writer, I’m very lucky. He’s a great journalist, I’ve been very lucky to get to work with him from tons of years and he’s a fun, good friend. And you can read the recipes to download and stuff to play with him. If you stop by, Danny Boy’s Pizza in LA, you’ll see me there and you can say, “Hello.” I’ll feed you a slice.

Brett McKay: Sounds good. Well, Daniel Holzman, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Daniel Holzman: Thanks so much for your support, for having us. It has been my pleasure.

Brett McKay: My guest today was Daniel Holzman. He’s the co-author of the book, Food IQ, it’s available on and bookstores everywhere. Check out,, where you can learn more about him and what he does. Also, check out our show notes at, where you find links to resources and we delve deeper into this topic.

Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM podcast. Make sure to check out our website at, where you find our podcast archives as well as thousands of articles read over the years about pretty much anything you think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad free episodes of the AOM podcasts, you can do so on Stitcher premium. Head over to, sign up, use code “manliness” at checkout for a free three month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS, you can start enjoying ad free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you have it done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review in on Apple podcasts or Spotify, it helps us that a lot. If you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member, who you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until the next time, it’s Brett McKay, reminds y’all listening to the AOM podcast to put what you’ve heard into action.

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