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Welcome. You just found copycat recipes for all your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home for less money than eating out. Todd's recipes are easy to follow and fun to make. New recipes are posted each week.

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    For years, I’ve been hearing about a delicious seafood dipping sauce at Japanese steakhouses called "shrimp sauce" or "yum yum sauce." Research revealed many independent Japanese steakhouses with "the best sauce," but it was the name of an 11-unit chain called Kobe Ichiban in Central Florida that came up most often.

    When I next found myself in Orlando, Florida presenting some cooking demos at a home show, I dropped in on Kobe Ichiban for dinner and there it was: the light orange creamy dipping sauce that everyone was raving about. It was sweet and sour and salty and creamy, and it tasted amazing on the shrimp—as well as on everything else.

    I poured some into some small plastic storage bags I had with me (always come prepared!), then popped them into a cooler for the long trip back to Las Vegas, where, in the underground lab, a clone for this much-requested delicious dipping sauce was finally completed.

    Find more of my copycat recipes for famous sauces here.  

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Chipotle’s popular limited offering is a good example of how straightforward and flavorful carne asada can be. It’s not overly mysterious since Chipotle is transparent about the ingredients used for the restaurant's entire menu—53 ingredients in all—but identifying those is only the beginning of the process. There was still plenty of work to do in establishing ratios and settling on an ideal preparation method.

    Carne asada is almost always made with flank steak or skirt steak. A server at Chipotle told me they use skirt steak, which is surprising since that is the tougher of the two cuts. Perhaps she was wrong about that? Flank steak also has a better flavor than skirt steak, so I'm recommending flank here. Just be sure not to marinate it for more than 2 days or the acid in the marinade may toughen your steak and you certainly don't want that.

    After you grill it, slice your carne asada across the grain and use it in burritos, tacos, bowls, or as a Southwest-style salad topper.

    Click here for more of my Chipotle copycat recipes. 

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    Researchers at University of Florida’s College of Medicine developed Gatorade in 1965 when the head coach of the Florida Gators football team requested a specially designed drink that could replace lost fluids during hot weather games. With players pounding the new sports drink, the Gators went on to take their first Orange Bowl victory in 1967 against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. When the head coach of the Yellow Jackets was asked why his team lost, he said, “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.” Later that year, Gatorade became the official drink of the NFL.

    The secret to making Gatorade at home is not just about getting the flavor right but also about locating a simple source of the drink’s important supplemental ingredients, potassium and dextrose. Potassium (along with salt) replaces electrolytes that are lost when you sweat to ensure proper functioning of your brain and organs. I discovered that a good source of potassium is Morton’s salt substitute, which is made with potassium chloride. Most supermarkets should have it stocked near the salt.

    Dextrose, on the other hand, is a natural sugar that absorbs quickly into your body to restore glycogen in muscles lost during physical activity. Bodybuilders and athletes use it during and after games and workouts to speed up recovery and stimulate muscle growth. Luckily, I was able to find the perfect product that added just the right amount of dextrose to 64 ounces of water and that also came in the perfect orange flavor: Willy Wonka Pixy Stix. Find the large 1-ounce size in the giant plastic straw, and grab two. I found them online for 50 cents each.

    Dump everything here into a 64-ounce pitcher of water, stir to dissolve, and in just a few minutes you’ll have the same taste and energy benefits of one of the two original flavors of Gatorade, but at about half the price.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur.

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    If you like pizza, and you like chicken tacos, you’re going to love this. Domino’s figured out how to combine grilled chicken, three kinds of cheese, green pepper, onion, and tomato onto a hand-tossed crust brushed with a secret seasoning blend so that each bite tastes like a taco.

    The secret seasoning is a big part of the secret so that hack is here, along with the cheese blend, and how to make a chewy pizza chain-style crust, including the garlic spread that gets brushed on at the end.

    The dough recipe is based on the Domino’s Cheese Pizza hack that I revealed on Top Secret Recipe and in Step-by-Step. It includes high-gluten flour for extra bite, but if you can’t find that you can increase the bread flour to 25 ounces (4½ cups), and your pizzas will still come out great.

    Domino's is creating killer new appetizers. Check out my clone recipes here

     

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    Milo Carlton opened the first Milo’s Hamburger Shop in Brirmingham, Alabama in 1946 serving hamburgers, pies and freshly brewed iced tea which customers would sweeten from a bowl of sugar on each table. But because of a sugar ration caused by the war, Milo was forced to do something no one had tried before: he took all the sugar bowls off of the tables and pre-sweetened the tea. When customers realized the tea was better than they could make themselves Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea became as popular as the food.

    In the late 80’s, Milo’s began selling the Famous Sweet Tea in gallon jugs in grocery stores in the Birmingham area, and it has been a growing successful product ever since, recently becoming a national brand.

    To duplicate a Southern sweet tea like this, you absolutely must start with Southern tea bags, and that means Luzianne. This New Orleans tea company crafts its tea blend especially for iced tea. You will get the best clone of Southern-style sweet tea with this brand. If you can’t find Luzianne, you can still make great tea with Lipton Iced Tea Bags.

    Check out more of my recipes for famous drinks here. 

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    Not having ever lived in the southern US my experience with this dessert was about as minimal as it gets. The first buttermilk pie I tasted was at Cracker Barrel and I was immediately hooked on the sweetened vanilla custard with its distinct, but not overwhelming, tang from the buttermilk and lemon juice, balanced with a sweet garnish of strawberries and whipped cream. It’s a versatile dessert that is as well-suited for summertime get-togethers as it is for traditional southern winter holiday meals.

    Now I’ve tasted over a dozen variations of this decades-old favorite—all but one of them coming out of my own oven—on my quest to discover the best way to make Cracker Barrel’s popular dessert. And finally, I hacked it.

    The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity: you’ll need just a handful of common ingredients, a whisk, and an unbaked pie shell. You can make your own pie shell using your favorite recipe or buy a frozen unbaked crust at the supermarket to save time. My pie shell was made by Marie Callender’s and it was delicious.

    Whisk together the filling in stages as described here, pour it into your pie shell, and bake it starting on the lowest rack so that the bottom of the pie gets browned. If you have a convection oven, this is a good time to use it so you’re sure to get even browning on top.

    After about an hour your pie will be done, and when it cools, it's slicing time.

    Find more of my Cracker Barrel copycat recipes here

     

     

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    It’s not always on the menu at the huge Chinese take-out chain, but when this spicy special offering makes a limited-time-only appearance, I’m there. When it’s not on the menu, no problem. I’ll just grab some black bean paste at my local Asian market, and while I’m there I’ll get some dry Thai chilies to help perk things up.

    This dish owes its great flavor to black bean paste, which is full of umami savoriness, just like soy sauce, so it enhances the taste of everything around it. You'll have a good laugh when you notice most recipes attempt to hack this dish with canned black beans. That's ridiculous since black bean paste is a traditional Asian flavoring ingredient made with fermented soybeans, not with black beans like the kind you get in your burrito at Chipotle.

    Plan ahead to brine your chicken breast for a couple of hours so that it's moist and flavorful. This is an important step for a spot-on hack.

    Find more of my Panda Express copycat recipes here

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    Starbucks’ Frappuccino, the most famous blended coffee drink in the world, is actually a clone of this blended concoction invented at the California-based chain, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. In the mid-80s, a store manager at the Westwood, California location mixed diet drink powder with ice, milk, and coffee in a blender and was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. They tweaked the recipe to include the chain’s chocolate powder instead of the diet powder, and a new hit product was born.

    To make a clone of the popular vanilla version of the drink we must first make the secret flavoring powder that starts with a base of dry coffee creamer. I recommend using superfine sugar (Baker’s sugar) and superfine salt (popcorn salt) if you can find them. The fine crystals will dissolve better in the cold drink. You’ll also need vanilla extract powder, which can be found online.

    Once your secret powder is made, measure 1/3 cup of it into a blender with ice, cold espresso, and milk, and blend on high until smooth. In a matter of just a few minutes, you will have a 16-ounce re-creation of the original blended coffee drink now served at 1,200 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations in 30 countries.

    Craving something tasty to eat with this? Check out my hack for these copycat Starbucks petite vanilla scones

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    I imagine a chef at Domino's in the middle of the development kitchen, surrounded by all the toppings they use on pizza, experimenting with new combinations of these ingredients, trying to come up with something delicious that isn't pizza. And then this dish happens: crispy chicken topped with garlic-Parmesan sauce, Cheddar-mozzarella cheese, bacon, tomato, and baked until gooey.  

    Now, you can make your own appetizer masterpiece, and to make it easy you'll start with crispy chicken strips or popcorn chicken from the freezer section. 

    All the assembly instructions are here including an original, and simple, hack for the garlic-Parmesan sauce that gets drizzled over the chicken before adding all the other good stuff.

    Build your dish on a strip of parchment paper, just like the restaurant does, and bake it until the cheese is bubbly. Now you have a cool new thing to make with frozen crispy chicken strips.    

    You may also want to try the Domino's Pizza hack I created for my TV show in my book Top Secret Recipes: Step-by-Step  

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    Using his grandfather’s old recipes for sausage and smoked meats, Jack Link created his first kippered beef sticks in Wisconsin in 1986, and they quickly became a popular snack throughout the state. But that wasn’t enough for Jack, so he invested in a packaging machine to expand into other markets, and eventually—with the help of a successful Sasquatch-themed marketing campaign—Jack Link’s became the #1 jerky brand in the country.

    Beef jerky is usually made in a dehydrator designed to circulate air around the food at a low temperature. The temperature for drying beef jerky in a dehydrator is typically 130 to 140 degrees, which is a lower temperature than you can reach with a conventional home oven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use our home oven to make a perfectly acceptable beef jerky hack that tastes like Jack’s. And even though Jack uses a smoker for his beef jerky, you won’t need one to give your jerky a similar smoky flavor.

    The pineapple juice in the marinade is an important part of the taste, but its primary contribution is a unique enzyme that helps break down the proteins in the tough cut of meat to tenderize it. Soy sauce and beef bouillon contribute to the umami savoriness of the jerky, and liquid hickory smoke is used in this hack as a quick way to add the smoky flavor.

    The marinating takes 24 hours and the oven drying takes between 6 to 8 hours, so get the sliced beef into the bath in the morning and you’ll be munching on jerky by dinnertime the next day. And to help you out, I'm including step photos.

    Find more cool recipes for your favorite snacks here.

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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