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    At the 2018 Salvation Army National Doughnut Day World Doughnut Eating Contest, held every June 1st, competitive eater Joey Chestnut consumed 257 Hostess powdered Donettes in six minutes to take home the top prize. There was a big smile on Joey's powdered-sugar-and-crumb-coated face that day as he raised a trophy to celebrate another glorious gastronomic feat.  

    If you had to guess who makes the top-selling doughnuts in America, you’d probably say Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme, but you’d be wrong. According to Hostess, Donettes are the country’s most popular doughnuts—you rarely find a supermarket, corner market, or convenience store without at least a few packages on the shelf. Hostess Donettes come in several flavors, including chocolate, crumb and strawberry, but the one most people turn to, and the one I grew up on (they were called “Gems” back then), is coated with a thick layer of powdered sugar.    

    Cloning the Hostess powdered donuts recipe is not hard, once you know the secrets. You'll make a stiff cake dough, punch out 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter, pierce the dough with a straw or chopstick to make a hole, then fry the doughnuts for 2 minutes until golden brown. After you roll them in powdered sugar you'll have around 20 fresh home cloned miniature doughnuts that will make you feel like a kid again.

    And—just doing a little math here—it would take Joey Chestnut all of about 14 seconds to eat that entire plate of doughnuts you just made.

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    Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”

    This recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up, and she begged for more. Great, now I won’t have to eat it alone.

    Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat hack for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken filets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will knock their socks off.

    Try this dish paired with my recent free clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete O.G. Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

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    Hooters debuted a new flavor and style of their famous chicken wings in 2013 with the introduction of Daytona Beach Style Wings—naked wings (not breaded) that are fried, sauced and grilled. The new menu item was a sales success, eclipsing the famous buffalo style wings the chain had become known for, and making it imperative that we have a delicious and accurate copycat hack. And now we do.

    To build an identical home version you’ll first need to make a knock-off of the delicious Daytona sauce to brush over the wings. It’s a combination of barbecue sauce and the same cayenne sauce used to coat traditional Buffalo wings, plus a few other important ingredients that make the sauce special (and things you won’t find in other hacks), like Worcestershire sauce and minced jalapenos. The wings are coated, grilled for just a minute on each side, then sauced again for maximum flavor. Stack the napkins close by and get something tall to drink, because these messy wings are guaranteed to deliver a super spicy kick to your food hole.

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    Bob Evans built his first restaurant on a farm in Rio Grande, Ohio in 1962, primarily to sell his own brand of high-quality sausage. Business was good. Really good. There are now over 500 Bob Evan's Restaurants in 18 states, each one decorated in a country-living theme that reminds us of the original farm location. Customers seem to like it. They also seem to like the packaged baked goods sold at each of the restaurants under the Bob Evan's Farms brand, especially this top-selling, chewy, chocolate chunk cookie that can now be hacked in a snap by you.

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    First impressions are important, and after my first bite of Denny's new buttermilk pancakes, I couldn't stop thinking about waffle cones. Back in the lab I mashed a standard waffle cone recipe with one of mine for buttermilk pancakes and was able to come up with the perfect hack for Denny’s new improved flapjacks. And because of their unique waffle cone flavor, these pancakes taste just as great doused with maple syrup as they do topped with a big scoop of ice cream.

    The recipe makes 8 big 6-inch pancakes which you will form by measuring one-half cup of batter into your preheated griddle or skillet. If you have a large griddle pan you may be able to make a couple of these at a time. With smaller pans though you’ll have to make one at time, which will take a little longer. And that’s why they invented Mimosas.

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    Garlic mashed potatoes are a great side for many entrees, especially when the potatoes are as creamy and flavorful as those at Olive Garden. In our hack, the garlic gets boiled with the potatoes to soften it. When the potatoes get passed through a potato ricer (or mashed) the softened garlic goes along for the ride and gets mashed up too. This way you’re guaranteed to get plenty of garlic in every bite. I settled on cream as the dairy used here after my attempts using milk and half-and-half resulted in thin and runny potatoes. I found that cream adds the perfect thickness and smooth richness to the mashers, and it made the closest duplicate.

    This side goes great with our Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala copycat recipe.

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    I’m not sure when it happened, but it appears that Taco Bell changed its seasoned beef recipe. I hacked the recipe several years ago for the book Step-by-Step, and I recall the recipe had much more oat filler, so that’s how I cloned it. Taco Bell came under fire in 2011 for the significant amount of oats in the recipe that the chain was listing as “spices.” And after that, Taco Bell was more transparent about ingredients. But somewhere along the way it appears the company tweaked the recipe to include less filler and more flavor, so a new Top Secret Recipe had to be created.

    This recipe makes a duplicate of the beef currently served at Taco Bell. If you want to turn it into a Chalupa—which the restaurant makes by deep frying the flatbread used for Gorditas—the instructions are here. But you can also use this new, improved beef hack for anything you’re copying, whether it's tacos, burritos, Enchiritos, Mexican Pizzas, or a big pile of nachos.

    The secret ingredient in our hack is Knorr tomato bouillon. This flavor powder adds many ingredients found in the original recipe and provides the umami savoriness that’s required for a spot-on clone of the famous seasoned ground beef. To get the right flavor, you need to find "Knorr Tomato Buoillon with Chicken Flavor" powder. Not the bouillon cubes.

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    To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

    As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

    On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

    I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipesbut recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world. 

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    Three things make Costco muffins special: they’re huge, they’re moist, and berries are bursting out of the top of each one. Now your home muffins can be just as special using a similar recipe and freshly unlocked tricks from our favorite big box store.

    Obviously, you get huge muffins by using a huge muffin pan, so you’ll need a jumbo or “Texas-size” muffin pan if you want your muffins the same size as the originals. You can certainly make standard muffins with this batter in a standard size muffin pan, but in this case, bigger is definitely better.

    To get muffins that are moist you’ll need oil. I noticed many muffin recipes use butter, but I found it made the muffins taste more like butter cake or pound cake than true muffins. Looking at the ingredients listed on the package of Kirkland muffins, you won’t find any butter in there. Just oil. For this hack, some of that oil comes from margarine (for a mild butter flavor and thicker batter), and the rest is vegetable oil.

    As for the blueberries, if you add them straight into the batter the juice frozen on the outside of the berries will streak your batter blue, so be sure to rinse the berries before you add them. And to make your muffins look as irresistible as those at Costco, we’ll use another one of their tasty tricks: press 4 blueberries into each cup of batter just before the pan goes into the oven so that every baked muffin is sure to have several tantalizing berries popping out of the top. 

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    The health concerns regarding microwave popcorn are a result of the way it’s packaged. For the corn to pop, the kernels are submerged in boiling fat inside the bag until a buildup of steam in the kernels causes them to burst. To prevent the liquid fat from seeping through, the bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, which, unfortunately for microwave popcorn lovers, has been linked to cancer and other nasty things.

    I set out on a mission to make better homemade microwave popcorn with only natural ingredients, and without using costly popping gadgets. I also wanted to avoid using plastic, tape, or metal, such as staples. My solution, like many others I researched, utilizes paper lunch bags, but with a new method for prepping the kernels. I was dismayed to find some discussions about the potential for problems using brown paper bags in your microwave oven, such as fire, but I had absolutely no issues any of the many times I did it. No smoke, no sparks, nothing looking at all dangerous was going on inside my magic cooking box. The USDA states that using paper bags in your microwave, “may cause a fire, and may emit toxic fumes,” yet the internet is full of microwave popcorn recipes calling for paper bags. So, I decided I will still share my recipe and technique, but ultimately leave it up to you to determine if it’s a hack recipe you feel safe using. 

    My hack starts with clarifying butter so that it’s pure fat, without any milk solids or water. Butter is about 16 percent water and if any of that stays in the mix, your popcorn will be on a fast trip to Soggytown. Once the butter is clarified, we’ll combine it with popcorn and salt and freeze it into pucks that can be saved for weeks, until you are ready to make quick popcorn.

    When it’s popcorn time, a puck goes into a small bowl, which goes inside two interlocking paper bags. After a warming session, you hit the “popcorn” button on your microwave oven and the popcorn will pop just like the store product (you may have to add another 30 seconds or so of cooking time). The first bag will soak up the excess butter that splashes around inside as the popcorn pops, and the second bag will keep the butter from messing up your oven.

    To serve, pull the bags apart over a big bowl, and you’ll have a fresh batch of hot microwave popcorn coated perfectly with real butter and salt.             

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