Food chat: Wash the peel, even if you don’t eat it

Each Wednesday at noon, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Krystal answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers at live.washingtonpost.com. Aaron and Becky write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Washington Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence. Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat.

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Limes and avocados. PHOTO: Ela Dutt

Q: Should we wash avocados before cutting them, to get any yucky stuff off the peel or skin? Even if the skin won’t be eaten? Not bananas, which are perfectly designed, but mangoes, oranges and other fruits and vegetables like potatoes.

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A: Absolutely, you should be washing your produce, even if you’re not eating the outside. The issue is that when you cut into it, you may drag any contamination on the outside into the flesh. But all you need is cold running water and a bit of scrubbing. No soap! Then pat dry with a clean towel.

– Becky Krystal

Q: I’m hosting a party and making all the desserts for it. Is it better to freeze shortbread before or after I bake it?

A: I’ve done both. It really depends on when you want to front-load your work. Freshly baked cookies are always nice. But also shortbread bakes up really well from frozen since it will hold its shape beautifully. For only a few days in the freezer, I don’t think the baked cookies will suffer at all, either. And, frankly, if you’re just baking a few days in advance, the cookies would be fine at room temp. Shortbread keeps for a week or more because of all the butter.

– B.K.

Q: Any general tips for converting regular recipes that would use an oven to an air fryer? I’m trying to cut down on using my gas oven and my convection/toaster oven stopped working.

A: The advice is pretty similar to converting recipes for a regular convection oven (an air fryer is just a small convection oven): Lower the temperature by 25 degrees and check for doneness 25 percent sooner than the stated time. It may require some further tweaking, but that’s a good place to start.

– Aaron Hutcherson

Q: One of one of my biggest packaging frustrations: tahini. Most of the bottles I have purchased are generally tall with a narrow mouth. These have sat in my fridge mostly unused because it’s such a mess to stir the oil back into the thick paste. Any suggestions?

A: I wrote about tahini not too long ago, and our Food editor, Joe Yonan, uses an immersion blender to reincorporate it, after which he says it stays emulsified.

– A.H.

Q: I hate store-bought flour tortillas and would like to make my own. Is it possible to freeze the dough at some point, preferably already rolled out?

A: I’d actually be much more inclined to freeze the tortillas once they’re already made. Then you can simply toss them in a skillet or onto your gas burner to warm up or toast. When freezing, just be sure to separate the tortillas with parchment or wax paper so they don’t stick together. Then place in a bag or container.

– B.K.

Q: Produce freshness comes up often in your chat, but this one bears repeating given high costs: Eggs stay good FOREVER. I was cleaning out the fridge and realized that my carton, with one egg left in it, was dated March 16. I was sure it was bad, but wanted to check just how much, so I dropped it in a glass of water. It sunk like a stone to the bottom – it didn’t even bob a little bit. Just a reminder that for some foods, don’t be beholden to the date stamped on the package!

A: It’s true that foods often last beyond the expiration/best by date. But I would like to focus one thing you mention, which is the egg float test.

In “On Food and Cooking,” Harold McGee traces this test to English cookbook author Hannah Glasse in 1750. The background, according to McGee: Eggs lose moisture through the porous shell the older they get, so the air cell expands and the egg gets less dense. “An egg that actually floats is very old and should be discarded.”

The key there is “very old.” Cook’s Illustrated says the test isn’t that reliable because eggs in their experiments didn’t start floating until they were 4 to 6 months old. That’s older than I’d be comfortable using. But I agree that I’ve kept eggs for weeks beyond the date and been fine. But if anything looks or smells off, that’s definitely your cue to toss eggs.

– B.K.

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