Ultimate Tutorials: How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

Melissa Clark of The New York Times shows how to cut up a whole chicken. Why do it yourself when you can buy cut-up chickens? Three reasons: 1) It’s cheaper; 2) You can cut it the way you want it; 3) You get the backbone (which usually doesn’t come with cut-up chicken) to make stock. At the end, Clark explains how to make stock.


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Ultimate Tutorials: Make a Solar Oven

Follow along as Bill Becker perfects his backyard solar oven.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

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Sample Excerpts:


Here it is in all its painted glory. Today I will not cook, but will simply see how hot the empty oven will get.

10:45. The sun is normal to the empty oven, and the oven is at 462 degrees. Air temperature in the shade: 98 degrees. (A bit on the cool side, actually. Again, I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, at Latitude 36-28.)

13:15, just after the sun’s peak elevation. I should have taken a picture of the thermometer at 10:45. A high layer of cirrus clouds has covered the sun and reduced the temperature to just over 375 degrees.

Ultimate Tutorials: How to Grow Magic Mushrooms

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Magic mushrooms, which contain a psychedelic compound called psilocybin, have probably been ingested by people for thousands of years for a variety of reasons, including spiritual rituals and recreation. This 2009 article written by “Ganjaglutin” presents a step-by-step guide “for people who have never grown magic mushrooms before because it is a very reliable way to grow magic mushrooms.”

(Before you decide to grow magic mushrooms, check the legal status of Psilocybe cubensis in your locality. Wikipedia has an list of magic mushroom laws for different countries, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy.)

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Sample Excerpts:

A quick description of the procedure

A substrate consisting of brown rice flour, vermiculite, and water that will feed and supply water to our magic mushrooms is sealed in ½ pint jars and sterilized in a pressure cooker, or boiling water. This is to kill anything that might endanger the mushrooms.

After the mushroom substrate has been sterilized and has cooled, mushroom spores are added to the substrate using a syringe full of spore solution. The spores germinate and colonize the entire jar full of substrate.

They are germinated at about 75-85 degrees F, in a dark place. The resulting ‘cakes’ are removed from the jars when fully colonized, and placed in a terrarium with temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees until mushrooms begin to grow from the cakes.

Ultimate Tutorials: How to build a $30 photography softbox

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If you want to take nice photos of objects that you’re selling on eBay or Etsy, of if you want to show off your art or other creation, consider making a softbox, which provides a soft light source that smooths out shadows and specular highlights. In this tutorial, Steve Hoefer (a frequent contributor to MAKE) shows how to make one for around $30.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Sample Excerpts:

A soft box is a must if you want to take nice subject photos without relying on fickle natural light. They soften shadows and provide a soft even light. They can hide blemishes and generally make things look more appealing. The different between a soft light and regular lamps is the difference between these two un-retouched photos. Left is not soft, right is with two soft boxes.


Left: Three bare bulbs with reflectors. Right: Two soft boxes.

Now the one on the left is not that bad of photo. (I’m not going to stage a bad one just for comparison.) The lighting is much more even on the right, bringing out the details in places that are murky at the left, like under the bed. The shadows at the left are much more noticeable. They’re big and hard, despite using more lights than the photo on the right. Probably the biggest difference is the background appears much smoother because the broader lighting smooths out shadows of the small wrinkles. (It also does the same to skin.)