Honey bees are a vital part of our world and our very existence. They’re pollinators, facilitating the transfer of pollen grains that allows plants to grow seeds and fruits, and they’re so good at it, the USDA has estimated that every 1 in 3 bites we eat is pollinated by bees. On top of all that, of course, honey bees also produce honey—a sweet, delicious treat and a powerhouse ingredient for Maillard browning. Is there anything these hard-working insects can’t do?
The Sweet, Sticky Science of Honey
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Honey: The Shortcut to Beautiful Browning
After a honeybee gathers nectar from a flower, it deposits the contents into its honey sac. The sac starts the transformation of nectar to honey before it even gets back to the hive by secreting an enzyme called invertase. Invertase breaks down sucrose, a disaccharide (or sugar made of two molecules), into glucose and fructose, which are monosaccharides.
These smaller sugars actually mean big things when it comes to the Maillard reactions, those beautiful browning reactions that give us the delicious sear on a steak and the brown crust on a loaf of bread. In the Maillard reactions, heat breaks down large proteins into their amino-acid building blocks, and carbohydrates and big sugars into small sugars, like glucose and fructose. So, if you start with those small sugars, you can get faster and better Maillard browning. All this to say, if you’re trying to quickly bronze a protein, reach for your honey.
The Best Way to Eat Honey
While honey is a great compliment to ultra-savory proteins, its sweetness comes to the forefront in dessert applications. Our favorite? Struffoli, a classic Neopolitan dessert. A true honey lover’s dish, struffoli consists of fried dough balls bathed in honey and decorated with multicolored nonpareils and sometimes confectioners’ sugar, nuts, dried or candied fruit. It’s perfect for Easter, Christmas, or anytime you want to make something fun, beautiful, and snackable.
Struffoli (Neapolitan Honey Balls)Tiny fried dough balls coated in honey and colorful sprinkles, struffoli will make you want to gather round with the ones you love.
To see how struffoli is made, and to learn plenty more about where honey comes from, the different types of honey, and the mind-blowing way honey bees communicate (hint: it includes dancing), watch the full episode of What’s Eating Dan below.
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Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.
Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!
John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.