Saturday, April 5, 2014

how to cook braised pork tongue Chinese style

Pork Tongue! It's what's for dinner.. 

By: Chef Cristian Feher

This recipe is for those of you that can appreciate the finer cuts in life - the finer cuts meaning: organ meats.  Those of us who have ventured to eat the "nasty bits" have been rewarded for our bravery with something much finer and more complex than your average steak.

This recipe goes back to one my most cherished of Chinese-Canadian foods - braised pork tongue on steamed rice with bok-choi. Easily found at most Chinese BBQ shops. For decades, this dish (along with crispy roast pork belly) has been one of my staples.

The best way to enjoy this dish was having the meat piled high on a take-out container of steamed white rice, drenched in braising liquid, accompanied by parboiled bok-choi greens, and - although any Chinese person will tell you that it's only for chicken - I love pouring ginger scallion oil over top (recipe included in video).

Typical Chinese BBQ restaurant in Toronto, specializing in BBQ duck, pork, chicken, and braised organ meats.

Now that I live in Tampa Bay (and good Chinese food is non-existent here) I make this dish for myself whenever I come across pork tongues at the restaurant supply store.

I will provide a list of ingredients below, but for instructions, you are best off watching the video above. So, enjoy! Or as they say in Chinese, Xiǎngshòu!

 Ingredients for braised tongue:
- Pork Tongue
- 1 inch of Ginger
- 3 Star Anise pods
- 1/2 tsp White pepper
- 1/4 cup White Sugar
- 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 4 tbsp Chinese Dark Soy Sauce (mushroom flavored if possible)
- 4 cups +- Beef Stock (mixed from bullion)
- 1/2 tbsp salt

Ingredients for Ginger Scallion Oil
- Ginger
- Scallions
- Salt
- Peanut oil

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

how to stir-fry foods properly as in Chinese techniques

The Proper Way to Stir-Fry
By: Chef Cristian Feher

 © The Modernist Cuisine - A hot wok.
How many times have you tried stir-frying a bunch of vegetables only to find that it tastes nothing like it does when you get it from a Chinese restaurant? If you're reading this article, I think you know what I mean... Why can't you get it right? Why does it turn out soggy? And, what are you missing?

In this article, I will demystify stir-frying, and get you on the path of hot, crunchy righteousness that will have you stir-frying like an Asian chef.

Lost in Translation

In the world of food, there are generally two schools of cooking - Asian and European. The French and Spaniards evolved, codified, and standardized, what is today commonplace "cooking" in the Americas: Pots, pans, stoves, ovens, and chef knives. Your kitchen at home, along with all the cooking stuff you're used to, most likely, can be classified as the European school. In fact, some of you may not realize that any other type of kitchen or cooking style exists.

The Asian school, however, is different. Their pots are different, their stoves are different, they don't normally use ovens, they don't all have fridges (they buy their food fresh every day), their knives are different, their tools are different, you get the idea. It's a totally different way of looking at and preparing foods. If you're from Asia, parts of the Middle East, or parts of Africa, the Asian way of doing things is probably what you're used to.

Stir-frying is an Asian method. And when someone tries to do it in a European kitchen, the finished product can end up, well... lost in translation! Vegetables that are supposed to be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, end up soggy. Meats that are supposed to be tender and thin, end up chunky and tough. And sauces that are supposed to be silky and delicate, end up watery and overly-flavored.

Is it possible to make a proper Asian stir-fry in a European kitchen? The answer is yes, but only if you understand how an Asian chef does it.

Fire, Lots of Fire!

The first element to a proper stir-fry is the heat. Lots of heat! Foods are stir-fried over a very hot fire, thus the outside of the food sears, traps in the moisture - which steams the inside of the food. That's how you end up with a crunchy outside and steamed inside. And that's also why you have to constantly stir the food while it's cooking - as in "stir-fry" - otherwise it will burn!

Asians cook over large fires at very high temperatures. Even poor Asian homes, more often than not, have gas or wood burning stoves which get much hotter than electric stoves. Electric stoves are a North American gadget. They were built in order to take advantage of America's power grid, and because, well,  people buy them! They're not better than gas. I often tell my customers, that even the cheapest gas stove, is still better than an electric stove in terms of heat output and pleasure to cook with.

If you're cooking vegetables under low heat, what ends up happening is all the water cooks out of the vegetables, pools into the bottom of the pot, does not evaporate fast enough, and you end up boiling them in a kind of soup. Hence, that limp, soggy, soy-sauce-flavored-stew you probably end up with. All because you don't have, or didn't use, enough heat. You gotta CRANK UP THE HEAT when you're stir-frying!

It's Not an Argentinian Steak House!

Another difference between the American/Euro people and the Asians, is how they eat and handle meats. And although I could write a whole, very interesting book, on how people eat based on an event that happened 10,000 years ago in the Indo European area of the world, I will keep this brief.

Much of Europe was forested, and thus Indo Europeans hunted and ate meat as their main diet. And meat continues to be a huge part of our diet. Whereas Asians did not have as many fertile forests, and came to rely on a diet high in grains and plants instead. Meat was, and still is, eaten in much smaller portions when compared to the American/European way of eating.  (And this is also why I think different body types are made to eat different foods in different quantities for optimum health... but that would be part of that book I was telling you about).

An Asian stir-fry consists of thinly sliced, small pieces of meat, many of which have been tenderized before frying (with cornstarch, egg white, and/or protein-busting enzymes like papain). Thus making the meats soft, plump and juicy. You will notice that Asian stir-fries have pieces of cheap meat, that would otherwise be tough. But because they have been chemically tenderized, and sliced really thin, end up being soft, juicy, and enjoyable. And there's not 50Lbs of meat on your plate! It's a small amount compared to the vegetables.

Now, let's look at the average American stir-fry. You buy a bunch of chicken breasts, steak, pork, whatever. You don't tenderize or marinade them, you cut them into huge chunks, and you boil them in your "veggie stir-fry soup" for like, 15 minutes (which ends up draining the meats of all their moisture and toughens them up like bricks). So you end up with dry chunks of protein leather with a side of limp, soupy vegetables...

Before stir-frying your meats you want to thinly slice them, and marinade them for 4 to 12 hours in either one of the following: 1. Corn starch. 2. A combo of cornstarch and egg whites with a tiny bit of soy sauce. 3. Sprinkle them with some meat tenderizing powder, like papain and add a little soy sauce. Under some hot fire, this will give you those thin, juicy, tender, flavorful pieces of meat you crave if you've ever had a good stir-fry!

The Ying and the Yang

Let's say the Ying is the gentle whisper, and the Yang is a blaring rock concert!

How come my stir-fry tastes nothing like it should? I notice that many people like to flavor their stir-fries with a bunch of soy sauce, so it's overly-salted and way overly-spiced (the Yang), or they make it so bland that there is no taste (the Ying). So, what's the deal? Is there an optimum amount of soy sauce? Is there a balance between the Ying and the Yang?

Well, what if I told you that soy sauce plays a very small role in stir-fries? In fact, that is what I'm telling you. The most crucial part of a good stir-fry is the sauce. And if you master a good stir-fry sauce, the rest is easy. So, what's in a good stir-fry sauce?

A good sauce is comprised of a base, flavor enhancers, and a thickener - yes, a thickener so it doesn't turn out like soup!

The Base - is usually a good tasting stock. Chicken stock or beef stock are good. Make them yourself out of bullion so that they taste nice. That liquid stock you buy at the store is garbage - it's so watered-down and weak that goldfish could swim in it. You want to start with a nice flavorful stock. For the average stir-fry for 4 people, let's say you start out with 1 to 2 cups of warm stock (not hot, warm. I'll tell you why in a sec.)

Flavor Enhancers - these are the little ingredients that flavor your stock. They can be all sorts of combinations, but this is my go-to Chinese combination: 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of white pepper, 1 to 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine or sherry, 1 tsp of vinegar, 1/2 tbsp of sugar or honey, 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil. These are all ingredients you should have on hand if you want to make basic Chinese dishes. Note that Chinese soy sauce and Japanese soy sauce are totally different and should be regarded as such. It's like the difference between Ketchup and BBQ sauce in our world - two different things. Use Chinese soy sauce for this recipe. And if you want to get nit-picky, use 1 tsbp of dark soy sauce and 1 tbsp of light soy sauce.

You will also want to start out any good stir-fry by frying minced garlic, or minced ginger, or both, in peanut oil. This gives it an additional layer of flavor.

Thickener - that velvety, smooth and silky texture found in most Chinese sauces come from the addition of a starch (not a flour). Most often corn, or tapioca starch. These can be used the same. I use corn starch because that's what I have. Never mix corn starch into a hot liquid. Always into a cold or slightly warm liquid. That way it won't start to thicken until you actually start cooking it. Mix 1.5 tbsp of corn or tapioca starch into the sauce for the stir fry, and now you're ready for something good!

Wok or Pot?

Asians use curved woks, and we use cylindrical pots. And although stir-fries flow smoother in a wok, you can use a skillet - especially a non-stick skillet and still end up with a good stir-fry. I use a wok-shaped skillet with a handle for my stir-fries. It's the best of both worlds!

Remember that it's not so much the shape of the pot, it's mostly about how hot you can get it, and how much heat the pot will retain when you toss in the food. And I'm not going to get into the whole science of metals, alloys and materials here. Just make sure your cooking vessel gets smoking hot, and you put a lot of firepower under it before you start. Non-stick is a good idea!

The Order of Things

So, here's how you make a good stir-fry. Finally... I know! Follow this order, and you won't go wrong.

1. Prep all your ingredients and have them on hand BEFORE you start cooking. You should have: the sauce, mixed and ready to go, peanut oil on hand, a hot pot or wok, a little bowl of minced garlic or minced ginger (like 2 tbsp), your veggies all cleaned and chopped up ready to go, your meat separate from the vegetables, and marinated/tenderized. A wooden spoon.

2. Put your pot/wok/skillet over something hot (preferably a hot burner) and wait until it smokes. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. And from this point, commit, because there's no walking away!

3. Add the garlic and/or ginger and start stirring. You want to cook this for a few seconds in the hot oil to set the base flavor. DO NOT BURN IT. As soon as it gets a little golden colored, you go to step 4. If it gets dark brown or black, you burnt it. Toss it in the garbage and start again.

4. Add the meat, stir, fry, and cook it just long enough for the meat to cook through. It should only take a very short time because you sliced it very thin, right? Remove the meat, put in bowl, set aside. Add more oil, let it get smoking hot again.

5. Add the vegetables and stir-fry until they are crunchy on the outside and cooked on the inside. Keep stirring and tasting to figure out when they've reached that point. If your stuff is hot enough, you have steam coming off the veggies (not water pooling on the bottom), this shouldn't take longer than 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Once veggies are cooked, add the meat back in, stir, and add the sauce, stir-stir-stir! Once the sauce gets hot, it will thicken right away. Your job here is to coat all the ingredients in this wonderful sauce! Once that's accomplished, you serve the stir-fry on a platter and enjoy!

This may seem like a lot to take in, but like driving a car, once you understand all the rules, it's a smooth ride. Happy stir-frying!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to cook zucchini flowers with garlic

Garlic-Fried Zucchini Flowers

By: Chef Cristian Feher

 The other day I found a little treasure at the local farmers market - a basket of zucchini flowers they had set aside. I jumped on it like (I can't think of a politically correct way to finish that sentence). Needless to say, I bought the whole basket. Zucchini flowers may be available where you live, but here in Tampa they are a rarity.

I got these home and thought they would make a good episode on my online food channel, The Hot Skillet, so we shot a video right away using these beautiful, fresh flowers. I didn't want to do the usual - battering them and deep-frying, or stuffing them. That's been done to death! But I thought that stir-frying them Chinese-style with garlic would make a great dish, and I was right! They turned out fantastic! 

Here is the recipe.

  • Zucchini flowers
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup of peanut oil (or Coconut Oil)
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp of corn starch
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Wash and drain your zucchini flowers under cold water. Julienne (cut into thin strips) the carrot and peppers. Slice the garlic. Mix the sugar and corn starch well with luke-warm, or cold chicken stock (not hot).
  2. Pre-heat a non-stick wok pan or large skillet and get it nice and hot.
  3. Put oil in pan. When oil starts to smoke, add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Keep the garlic moving so it doesn’t burn.
  4. Add the vegetables. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken stock mixture, toss and stir until all vegetables are covered by the sauce and are glossy – about another 30 seconds to a minute.
  6. Serve, sprinkle salt and pepper, and enjoy!

Monday, January 27, 2014

how to make green chef salad recipe

How to make a salad bar at home
By: Chef Cristian Feher

My own personal salad bar!
Having your own personal salad bar at home has its perks - primarily, you'll actually eat salad!

My family's first choice of food at home is not salad - but put us in a restaurant with a salad bar, and watch us go to town! The difference? Variety. It's the spice of life, and it's a selling point to salad. So, I decided to make our own salad bar at home. And guess what? Everyone has been eating salad!

Try this at home and maybe your family will eat more salad too.

Before I get to the recipes and descriptions, I'm just going to give you a few pointers on making healthy salads, since the whole point of a salad is to provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients - not just sugar and water disguised in the shape of salad - you can watch this video here to see what I mean.  How to make a healthy salad video

  • Use dark greens like baby spinach, baby kale, and dark organic salad mix to maximize enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. 
  • Avoid light colored lettuces like iceberg, and romaine, which don't really have any nutritional value.
  • Avoid store-bought salad dressings that are filled with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and all sorts of crap that defeat the purpose of eating a salad in the first place.
  • Make your own salad dressing - it's easy! And it's healthy. 
  • Buy organic vegetables to avoid pesticides and chemicals. But conventional veggies are still MUCH better than not having a salad at all, if that's what you can afford.
  • Use different colored vegetables to liven up the salad visually (stimulating your appetite), and to pack it with nutrients. 
Alright, having said all that, here are the loose recipes from my personal salad bar. It may probably take you a couple of hours to prep. But you'll have fresh, interesting salads all week long! And if you replace at least one meal a day with a healthy green salad, you'll notice the difference in how your body feels right away.

Sour Cream Salad Dressing  This is one of my favorite salad dressings. For this one, you will need a food processor, or at least a hand-blender to mix all the ingredients together. Put the following ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth:
  • 8oz sour cream
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp of white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced Cucumbers will keep in a plastic container filled up with cold water and 3 tbsp of white vinegar. Shake off the excess water when you're ready to put on the salad.

Shredded Beets are a great way to add nutrition, natural carbohydrates and color. I used a spiral slicer to make beet strands. You can use a vegetable shredder or cheese grater if you don't have a spiral slicer.

Shredded Red Cabbage is easy to make with a food processor. Cut the cabbage into wedges that you can fit down the chute of the food processor. Put the shredding wheel on the processor and shred away! You can do it with a cheese grater, or you can just slice it really thin with a chef's knife if that's all you have.  Add a little salt, and a few splashes of vinegar to the mixture to keep longer, and to soften the cabbage.

Shredded Carrots are full of vitamins, minerals and low-glycemic carbohydrates. You can shred them with a cheese grater, or with the food processor like I did.

Pickled Radishes and Red Onions are really easy to make. I buy pre-shredded radishes, combine that with sliced onions in a container and add the brine. To make the brine, I used 1 cup of white vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of sugar. I warmed it on the stove just enough to melt the sugar into the liquid. You can then, pour the liquid into the container with the vegetables and refrigerate over night. The result is tangy, crispy, sweet radish and onion! And most of the sugar stays in the brine.

To make Soy Marinated Mushrooms, simply quarter about a dozen large white mushrooms, put them in a pot, splash them with 1/4 cup of Japanese soy sauce, 2 tbsp of Mirin (sweet rice wine), salt and pepper to taste and bring them to a boil. As soon as they boil, take them off the heat and leave them covered for 15 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a container and keep the "mushroom juice" in the pot for the next vegetables.

To make Soy Marinated Zucchini, simply slice the zucchini, put them in the pot with the mushroom juice, bring to a boil, take off the heat, cover pot and let them sit in there for 15 minutes. Remove them, put them in a plastic container and leave the "mushroom zucchini juice" in there for the next vegetable!

To make Soy Marinated Green Italian Beans, put fresh or frozen beans in the pot with the mushroom zucchini juice, bring to a boil, take off the heat, cover pot and let them sit in there for 15 minutes. Remove them, put them in a plastic container and you're done. With this leftover "mushroom, zucchini, green bean juice", you can even poach other vegetables if you wish. It will just keep on getting tastier with each new vegetable that you add in there.

To create even more variety and add protein, you can top your salads with:
  • Grilled meats like, chicken, beef steaks, pork, turkey, sausages.
  • Cold cuts of all kinds.
  • Sliced cheeses, and creamy cheeses like Boursin.
  • Steamed fish, salmon salad, tuna salad, grilled fish, shrimp, scallops.
  • Smoked almonds, nuts, and dried fruit.
  • Canned fish, and smoked meats are quick, easy and nutritious.

You may think this is a lot of work, but you'll thank yourself after a couple of days of eating really good salads!  You may notice that you're not as tired as you used to be, that you can get more done, and you may even lose weight. But the point of this for us, was not weight loss (although it will likely happen), it was to add a tonne of nutrition to our diet. Add to this, our morning green smoothies, and we've been flying every day!

I love that I can add all sorts of grilled meats and seafood to this - being a guy, and a chef, a juicy rib eye steak, butter grilled chicken thigh, or bacon-wrapped scallop, really makes me look forward to eating a nice colorful salad for dinner.  And now that I have my GrillGrate grill grates, I've been grilling everything!

My wife and I work-out three to four days a week (since December), and I've noticed how much more energy I've had during our last two workouts - all due to the salads and clean proteins. Well, I'll stop trying to sell you on this personal salad buffet. But you know, me, when I find something I really enjoy, I like to share it with you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Best replacement grill grates for BBQ grill

Pimp My Grill!
By: Chef Cristian Feher

GrillGrate grill grates over existing cast iron grates.

Perfectly cooked chicken and ribs! Notice the fat held in the channels.
For many of us, the term "grilling out" brings a smile to our faces. What's better than fresh air, good food, and getting back to our primal way of cooking?  Well, for one, doing it with less flare-ups and less fuel.

Whether you are looking to replace your existing BBQ grill, or would like a way to "Soup it Up!", I have a great recommendation for you!

A few years ago, my wife got me a dual grill - one side charcoal, and the other side propane. I fell in love with this grill righ away. I even coined a name for it, I call it the mullet grill (business in the front, party in the back!) If I'm short on time, I use the propane portion of the grill, and if I have time, I can spend a few hours making a smokey and delicious BBQ using the charcoal side.

I noticed this winter that the grates (made of cast iron) had started to rust. And the replacement grates were priced too steep to make it a worthwhile replacement. So, in considering getting rid of this grill altogether, I happened to come across This company makes grill grates that fit over your existing grates. Not only can you use these to replace your existing grates, but you can also take these easily from grill to grill, ensuring that they will stay with you for a long time - I like products with this type of versatility. That was my first selling point.

The other selling points of these hard anodized aluminum grates were a claim that they amplify the heat source (turning your grill into an infrared grill), allow you to use less fuel to create the same heat, have a really long life, resist corrosion, and prevent flare-ups (something everyone has to deal with when grilling out).

I received the grates two days after ordering them online. Excited to try them, I rushed out to fill my propane tank which had been sitting idle for a few weeks - I just didn't want to use the rusty grates anymore, and although I had done my best to cure them, they still rusted. But, back to the new grates - I made a raspberry balsamic BBQ sauce, picked up chicken and baby back ribs, and put these grates to the test using the propane side of the grill.

The results were as advertised:
  • I grilled with all three burners on med-low (with the old grates, I used to light one burner on high, and grill the food over the two "off" burners to keep it from burning). I can now use the entire grill surface, at an even heat without burning a lot of fuel.
  • My favorite aspect of using these were ZERO FLARE-UPS! The fat from the ribs dripped down into the channels of the grates instead of the burners below. It was a pleasure to grill directly on the flame without flares!
  • Even heat distribution across the entire grill surface.
These grates will probably outlast my BBQ grill, and I look forward to using them on any future grill that I buy - I especially foresee using these on a Traeger wood pellet grill that I've had my eye on. But for now, they have not only allowed me to keep the "Mullet Grill", but have actually improved it from its original function. Grilling season has officially re-opened at the Feher household!

In conclusion, whether your grill grates are falling apart, or you want to have a more enjoyable and efficient grilling experience, I highly recommend the GrillGrate grill grates. I have no affiliation with GrillGrate and have received no compensation for writing this article. When I come across a good product, I like to tell people about it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

7 tips for roasting meats

Roasting Tips
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Perfectly Roasted Beef
For the carnivore, there is nothing more satisfying and sought after than a perfectly executed roast. Whether it's beef, lamb, pork, or poultry, doing it right, makes it taste-tastic! Here are seven tips to help you make better roasts.
  1. Always season your roast with salt and pepper. This can be done before, during, or after roasting. But for the most flavor, letting the salt dissolve into the meat before roasting, will yield more flavor.
  2. Roast your meat on a rack. If your meat is fatty, place it fat-side-up. That way the fat melts and runs over, and through the meat, basting it in its own juices. And the fat that is left over, falls to the bottom of the pan below your meat. This way the bottom of your roast is not 'boiling' in the drippings, but roasting uniformly on the rack.
  3. Do not sear. Yes, many chefs sear their roasts before roasting, believing that this will somehow transform the outside of the roast into a water-proof bladder. Searing does not keep in the juices. Your roast will be nicely browned without searing it.
  4. Do not add water. If you roast your meat at a constant temperature, the drippings should not burn. If your temperature cannot be kept constant, you may want to add a little water to the drippings.
  5. Do not cover a roast. Technically, if you cover the pot, your meat will steam, thus you will be making a "pot roast".
  6. Turn a boneless roast once or twice during the roasting process to ensure a more even roast.
  7. Roasting low and slow (325 to 350) will reduce shrinkage and increase flavor, juiciness and tenderness. And, isn't that what roasting is all about?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How to brew a perfect cup of coffee

What you need to know about coffee
By: Chef Cristian Feher

To many people, coffee is the essence of life. Whether you drink it to start your day, to beat that afternoon bout of narcolepsy, or to finish a great meal, coffee is a part of our lives. But what is coffee, and what do you need to know about coffee? What makes good and bad coffee? Here's what you need to know.

Coffee is a stimulant - actually, the caffeine inside coffee is a stimulant. "Yeah? Tell me something I don't know!" You might say.

Well, I mention it because of this fact: Most drugs work the same way (caffeine is a drug). A little bit of drug X has a stimulating effect, but a little more of that same drug X has the effect of a tranquilizer, and an even larger doze of drug X can even kill you. But we're talking about caffeine, so let's just focus on it as an upper and a downer - you're not going to die from drinking coffee.

A little coffee [caffeine] will act as an "upper". It will add itself to your endocrine system and speed you up! But, if you drink too much of it, you will get to a point where that caffeine will actually start acting as a "downer". It will make you even more tired than you were before you started drinking coffee. The amount will vary by your body size and tolerance for caffeine, but it will act this way.

So, that's the first thing you should know. Too much coffee will tranquilize you.

Equipment is important. What you brew your coffee with can be the deciding factor between a good cup, and a bad cup of coffee. You also need to know about time, temperature, and water.

You have to use a CLEAN COFFEE POT. You see, every batch of coffee you make, leaves a layer of oil in the coffee pot. If you don't properly clean out this oil with a degreaser (dish soap), your next batch of coffee will suck. The rancid oil left behind will ruin your next batch. Even a little spot of oily coffee residue can ruin your entire next batch. This is why an instant coffee machine, like a Keurig, is better than a traditional coffee pot. (I am not paid by Keurig and have no promotional relationship with them).

Use fresh coffee. Ground coffee has a limited shelf-life as soon as it's introduced to oxygen. It will only last 2 to 3 weeks before the oils start to go rancid - and that's when it's kept in a cold, dry place with a tight lid. So, either, buy small batches, or grind your own coffee. Again, K-cups (as in Keurig cups) are vacuum sealed to keep the ground coffee fresh right up until you brew it. Your local coffee shop also (probably) grinds their coffee daily.

Use filtered, bottled water. Tap water contains a cocktail of chemicals, resins, bacteria, and even metals that will affect the taste of the coffee. Only a neutral water from a bottle or filter will let your coffee shine through.

Temperature makes the difference. Coffee should be brewed between 195 and 203 degrees F. Above that, and you burn the coffee, making it bitter. Below that, you don't extract the essentials of the bean, and it turns out watery and bland. Again, a Keurig machine, and other high-end coffee makers keep this constant temperature for you while brewing. Or, you can do this yourself with a thermometer and a French-press.

Brewing time should not exceed 8 minutes - after this, you burn your coffee. Letting your coffee sit on a warming plate (as in most office coffee machines) burns the coffee and gives it a nasty taste. You should throw coffee out that is older than an hour - or make iced coffee drinks with it (as McDonalds and other fast food places do).

In keeping all these things in mind, you can now brew a perfect cup of coffee! What you put in it at this point is up to you. Milk, sugar, cream, flavoring agents - these are all good and will vary person-to-person. But the main point is that you know what makes good and bad coffee, and how much of it serves your purpose.