The 17 Most-Read Food Stories of 2018

The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Gold, the continuing reverberations of the #MeToo movement throughout the restaurant world, comfort foods both savory and sweet — these were the subjects that drew the most readers to New York Times Food in 2018.

17. Indian Cooks Embrace the Instant Pot

Melissa Clark revisits a favorite kitchen appliance.

Cooks in India have long used pressure cookers, so it is no surprise that they have embraced electric pressure cookers. Nearly a dozen Indian cookbooks geared toward the kitchen tool have appeared in the last year. There are more electric-pressure-cooker cookbooks for Indian food than for any other cuisine — or for keto, paleo and vegan cooking.

“I grew up in India, and the pressure cooker whistles — they remind of home, warmth, delicious food lovingly prepared and served. I would miss that sweet whistle if I didn't hear it in my own kitchen. To this day, to me the whistle at the end of a long day means the comfort of good food.” Ani Annamalai, New Haven

Recipes: Pressure Cooker Shrimp Biryani | Pressure Cooker Punjabi Rajma | Pressure Cooker Chicken Korma

16. Butter Tarts, Canada’s Humble Favorite, Have Much to Love

The best dessert you’ve likely never tasted is hiding out up north.

There may be no more perfectly satisfying treat than a Canadian butter tart. It is small and sweet, bracingly so, with hints of butterscotch and caramel. And each bite delivers three textures: flaky crust, chewy top, gooey center.

“These are, hands down, the most divine thing I make. I am a professional baker; my repertoire is quite large, but these little tarts, made exactly as this recipe states, are one of my most requested items. Part of their charm is that they look in real life just as they look in the picture. People are definitely hesitant at first; what is this, is it pecan pie, I don’t think I’m gonna like it. But once they taste it, they devour the whole thing and reach for another. Absolute delicious.” Aviva

Recipes: Butter Tarts | Butter Tart Squares

15. Ranch Nation

You don’t have to travel to Hidden Valley for America’s favorite salad dressing.

Invented in the 1950s, ranch dressing has inspired fandom beyond food: Sightings include bottles of ranch-flavored soda, ranch fountains at parties, ranch tattoos and memes, even ranch-and-pizza earring sets. And then there are the ranch superfans, who pour it on uni, instant ramen, ice cream and more.

“I never thought I'd read a 2,000-word story on ranch dressing to the end, but this was fascinating. Chicken wings with a ranch powder dry rub is one of the most popular items at our local pub — served with ranch dressing, of course.” Michael Regan, New Hampshire

Recipes: Classic Ranch Dressing | Ranch Dressing With Fresh Herbs | Double Ranch Mozzarella Sticks

14. Why Work When You Can Procrastibake?

You’re not the only one who whips up a tray of brownies when a deadline approaches.

Procrastibaking — the practice of baking something completely unnecessary, with the intention of avoiding “real” work — is a surprisingly common habit that has only recently acquired a name. Almost anyone who works at home and has a cookie sheet in the cupboard can try it: medical students, romance writers and freelance web designers alike.

“This is absolutely brilliant, borders on the philosophical, who knew I had a peer group. But today I resisted the temptation to procrastibake bread. I remained at the computer and procrasti-YouTubed videos about blockchain. It's coming all right. Tomorrow it's back to kitchen or laundry room for some other procrasti-tangible activity.” tancredi, Italy

Recipes: Juicy Orange Cake | Kitchen Sink Cookies

13. The Ice Cream Sundae Must Be Stopped

Pete Wells does not want the cherry on top at the end of a meal.

“Dessert was put on this planet in order to surprise us,” our restaurant critic wrote. “When did it become so numbingly predictable? It is as if every chef in town had decided that the only appetizer left standing would be the iceberg wedge.”

“To paraphrase Samuel Johnson: When a man is tired of ice cream, he is tired of life.” ARG, NYC

12. The Rise and Fall of Turkey Brining

The wet-brined bird has fallen out of favor.

In many homes the act of brining remains a sacred Thanksgiving ritual. Pulling out the cooler and mixing up the brine, with its precise, unchangeable list of aromatics, is as much a part of the holiday as a game of front-yard football. But that is changing.

“LOL. I didn’t realize people had been brining turkeys for 20 years. I was still thinking about giving it a try, but never got around to it. I guess procrastination helped me avoid a useless fad.” Laurie D., Okemos, Mich.

Recipe: Pulled Turkey With Jus

11. The Secret to Perfect Popcorn Is Already in Your Cupboard

A simple trick from Jessica Koslow of Sqirl leads to crunchier kernels.

More oil and dry seasonings guide Melissa Clark to a better bowl of popcorn: extra crunchy and supremely rich.

Recipes: Spicy Pimentón Popcorn | Vegan “Cheesy” Popcorn | Coconut Sugar Caramel Corn

10. The Single Best Thing to Cook With Chicken Breasts

We must all thank Rochester for chicken francese, a.k.a. chicken French.

Chicken and lemon are a classic combination that almost every meat-eater likes. And chicken francese is one of those rare restaurant dishes that is truly easy to make at home.

“I first had this in New Jersey in a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant and it was so good. I tried for years to figure out what is was. Finally did and I love it. The chicken melts in your mouth. On occasion, I add capers or artichoke hearts.” jo

Recipe: Chicken Francese

9. What’s Cooking in That Egg Spoon? A Bite-Size Culture War

Let’s talk about Alice Waters and her tool for cooking breakfast.

In the great food culture wars of the 21st century, the egg-spoon skirmishes may one day be remembered as pivotal. Conflicts over this long-handled cooking tool have fostered a social-media meme, a front in the #MeToo movement and a handcrafted version that costs $250.

“Obviously no one has ever been camping.” Solamente Una Voz, Marco Island, Fla.

8. Annoyed by Restaurant Playlists, a Master Musician Made His Own

How Ryuichi Sakamoto assembled the soundtrack for Kajitsu, in Murray Hill.

The renowned musician and composer found the music at his local Japanese restaurant to be thoughtless, so he suggested to the chef that he could take over the job of choosing it, without pay, if only so he could feel more comfortable eating there.

“Like many of the readers commenting on this article, I wish that restaurants would do away with music all together. It’s not that I don’t love music — (I do) — but when dining out, I want to focus on my companions and our enjoyment of being together, which is a different activity and mind-set than listening to a concert.” Catherine Hicks, Marble Falls, Tex.

7. The Death of Jonathan Gold, the Food Critic for the Los Angeles Times

The critic won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2007 while with LA Weekly.

Jonathan Gold, the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic whose curious, far-ranging, relentless explorations of his native city helped his readers understand dozens of cuisines and the city to understand itself, died in July. The cause was pancreatic cancer. In November, the newspaper named two critics to fill his place: Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.

6. April Bloomfield Breaks Her Silence About Harassment at Her Restaurants

The former Spotted Pig chef spoke about her role in the sexual harassment scandal that enveloped her and her business partner, Ken Friedman.

In a New York Times article last December, more than two dozen people who had worked at her restaurants described a longstanding pattern of sexual harassment and verbal abuse by Mr. Friedman. Some said she had known about his behavior, which employees said included groping them and pressuring them for sex, and did nothing to prevent it. After months of requests from The Times, Ms. Bloomfield agreed to be interviewed because she wanted to add her voice to the narrative, and start to rebuild her reputation.

“I’m glad April is now at the point where’s able to process her past and attempt amends. Sadly, hers is not a story of redemption. It’s a cautionary tale — when naïvete and a desire to escape the trappings of a common life collide with greed, power, and unchecked influence.” Wendy

5. Disgraced by Scandal, Mario Batali Is Eyeing His Second Act

The chef and restaurateur weighed a possible return to a public role.

In April, before Mario Batali faced additional allegations of sexual misconduct in New York and Boston, the celebrity chef considered his business options. He is one of many prominent men brought down by the #MeToo movement.

“Instead of talking about the damage he has done to women, he is talking about the damage done to his career and reputation. Need I say more?” J House, New York

4. Anthony Bourdain Toxicology Report: No Narcotics in His System

French officials released details regarding the television host’s death.

When Anthony Bourdain died in June at a hotel in Comar, France. investigators ruled the death a suicide by hanging. From an investigative standpoint, the only question left was whether Mr. Bourdain, who had a history of drug use, had any such substances in his body.

“As I continue to read the article holding back my tears, I remember how remarkable human being he was. I did watch so many of his shows, although I never bought any of his books. I will go and buy some of his books, to continue through my reading admiring this amazingly accomplished person.” RBR, Santa Cruz, Calif.

3. Anthony Bourdain Was a Teller of Often Unappetizing Truths

Pete Wells examined the legacy of the chef turned writer and TV host.

“He identified with the grunts, portraying himself as a slinger of cheap steaks and French fries. The grunts, in turn, identified with him, not because of his contributions as a chef — who can name an Anthony Bourdain dish? — but because he told the world what the work was really like. And once he left kitchens behind for a career in travel television, he didn’t lead his camera crews on a tour of the world’s most luxurious resorts. He went to Detroit and the Bronx, Libya and Beirut.”

“Maybe Bourdain’s lasting legacy will be that more people will talk more openly about mental health." Flower

2. The One Item That Will Change Your Weeknight Cooking

Melissa Clark went all in for the quarter-sheet-pan dinner.

The quarter-sheet pan lets the home cook multitask. You may be able to fit four in your oven all at once, which makes them highly flexible when you want to cook several things at the same time.

“This has been my go-to dinner technique for months now … so easy. Often one pan gets asparagus (or another green), the other some protein and then we use the rice cooker. Easy dinner done in 30 minutes.” MJ Brooklyn, N.Y.

Recipes: Roasted Paprika Chicken With Potatoes and Turnips | Sausage Parmesan With Garlicky Broccoli | Cumin-Roasted Pork Chops and Brussels Sprouts

1. The Death of Anthony Bourdain

The television host killed himself in June.

Anthony Bourdain, whose darkly funny memoir about life in New York City restaurant kitchens made him a celebrity chef and touched off his second career as a journalist, food expert and social activist, was found dead in a hotel room.

“It’s desperately sad to realize that there are people in this world that outwardly seem to have it all, their life together, doing what they love, and yet inside they may be in turmoil with their mental health a fragile shell.” Mossbird

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