47 Things I Wish My Mom Taught Me About Cooking
Growing up I loved to eat. My mom usually did all the cooking. I never watched her but she did make a mean marinara sauce. I then joined the food industry as a chef and general manager. There is so much information on food and cooking that I did not know before entering the food industry. I put together some points that would help you in your kitchen just to shed some light on various cooking terms and standards that can help you out. Here is part 1:
Different types of cooking techniques:
- To bake: This one is easy. Throw that roast, pie or casserole in that oven. This is the method of cooking with dry convected heat without any fat or liquid added.
- To Simmer: This is cooking of a liquid. The temperature is from 185 – 200 degrees. The advantage of cooking instead of boiling is less shrinking, less loss of liquid evaporation and less breakup of fragile, textured food such as fish.
- To Boil: The cooking at liquid at 212 degrees. Rapid convection takes place and loss of lots of liquid occurs. You do not have to boil many food products. Most common is eggs and pasta.
- To Poach: This is the cooking of liquid at a temperature range of 150 – 185 degrees. The food should barely be covered and is this method is used for tender foods such as fish. Many recipes use the liquid after the cooking process to create a sauce.
- To Blanch: In the food industry this is used often. This is a 2 stage method and usually gives your food product a bright and attractive color. You begin by boiling your product for a short period of time. An example is cooking broccoli and watching it turn bright green. You quickly take that broccoli out of the boiling water and dip it into an ice water bath until cooled. This stops the cooking process and gives you a fine looking product.
- To Steam: At 212 degrees water boils and creates steam. This is a great way to cook food because unlike boiling the nutrients, of lets say broccoli, are not washed away.
- To Saute: Food product is cooked in a shallow pan with minimum of fat or oil. We call this a high heat method. The oil is typically heated to near the smoking point. If you cook a product in oil that is to cold the food will absorb the oil. Think of wok cooking or at home making a stir fry. The way this works is the high heat seals the product and then the inside cooks slowly not allowing juices to escape.
- To Deep Fry: Food is cooked in heated oil or fat. The product is completely submersed. The temperature is usually 350 degrees. Many times batter is used on the product. Think of fried chicken.
- To Grill: The product is put out over radiant heat. Think of your outside hibachi or even a flat griddle in your house. This by far my favorite way during the summer.
- To Broil: Same as grilling but the radiant heat is over the product. This is a great way to melt cheese on your french onion soup. Yum!
- To Roast: This is the way to cook with dry convected heat in a closed environment. Think about your oven. The product you cook will be heated and produce steam. Since the steam remains in the oven, the atmosphere surrounding the food will be different then say cooking on a grill where the steam can escape.
- To Braise: Why she never told me this one….This a combination of cooking with dry and moist heat. You first seared the product with a saute method to produce a nice color and to sear in the juices. Then you place the product in a shallow pan with a liquid ( wine, stock or sauce. Not WATER) . You make sure the product is covered 3/4 to the top with your braising liquid. This process is very slow and generally is used on large pieces of meat. This method will produce a very flavorful item. This is by far one of the best ways to cook.
- What is Pilaf?: Pilaf is one part rice to one and one-half parts water or stock and is braised in the oven.
- How do you boil rice?: Boiled rice should be prepared with an average of one part rice to eight parts liquid to allow freedom of movement during cooking time. Many rice products out there are just a one to one procedure so you may want to read the cooking instructions. Most of those products have been boiled already then dehydrated.
- What is Risotto?: Why is it so expensive in a restaurant? It actually is a method of cooking rice. Its one part rice to three parts bouillon or stock is used instead of water. This way of cooking the rice is prepared on stove top.
- Cooking Pasta: Pasta should be cooked 1 part pasta to 10 parts water salted water.
- Salting the water: Salt should be added when the water is hot with an average of 1 ounce to 1 gallon of water
- Stirring the Pasta: You should stir the pasta as soon as it is immersed. This will keep it from sticking.
- What is al Dente?: The pasta is firm but tender to the bite. This is widely accepted as the proper method to cook the pasta.
- How do you store cooked pasta?: Put the pasta in a bowl toss it with oil, cover and refrigerate it.
- How do you reheat pasta?: Simple just like cooking the pasta reheat it in boiling salter water till hot and loose. Just like new!
Stocks and soup making:
- How do you make a stock?: I already covered this just click this and it will take you to this article: http://learnsomethingnewtoday.us/2007/10/15/how-to-make-a-good-stock-for-soups-and-sauces/
- Easier way to make a stock then from scratch?: In the food industry we use soup base. They have chicken base to ham base. But what do you use at home. Bouillon cubes suck! But I used a great product the other day to make a chicken soup. My suggestion is “Better then Bouillon”. I used it and it created a nice depth to my chicken soup. Big fan and thumbs up. Reminds me of the chicken bases in the food industry and less salty.
- Adding pasta or rice to soup: Read the directions on the box. Do not add the rice or the soup until just about to eat it. If you pasta says it will take 10 minutes to cook then add the pasta 10 minutes before you eat it. If you do it much earlier you will end up eating huge mushy globs of pasta or rice.
- What are mother sauces?: Cooks agree that there are 6 mother sauces where most french sauces are derived from. Once you know how to make these key sauces the sky is the limit. Here is a link to my article on mother sauces http://learnsomethingnewtoday.us/2007/11/01/what-are-the-mother-sauces/
- How do I make a glaze?: Glazes are intense flavors made from products you just have cooked. A glaze goes a long way since the intensity of it can overwhelm anything you can put it on. Think of how a chef puts a little glaze on a plate before it goes to the table for customers to eat. He does not put allot since he does not want to overwhelm the product he is serving them. Here is a ling to my article on glazes http://learnsomethingnewtoday.us/2007/10/29/how-to-make-a-culinary-glaze/
- What is Fumet and why do I need it?: A fumet is a seasoned, flavorful, concentrated liquid that is used to give additional body and richness to various sauces and stocks. They are made from vegetables, fowl, fish, game and even truffles. They are made by cooking these food items in stock and wine on low heat.
- What is Essences? If you watch Emeril Lagasse using his essences. What exactly are they? Essences are usually reduced liquids. Wine, stock, vegetable juices, water and so on with the addition of an accessory element are simmered until the strength of the accessory element dominates. The essence is then strained and used as needed. I know Emeril uses a dry essence which I am sure are a concentrated flavor of items to enhance cooking.
- How do you thicken soups and sauces: I have written a popular article on just that: http://learnsomethingnewtoday.us/?s=thickening+agent
Time and Temperature:
- How long does it take for bacteria to grow?: When I grew up I remember seeing that turkey dinner sitting on the counter from lunch time till dinner time. People picked at it all day and then we all ate turkey sandwiches for dinner. Here is the problem. The temperature danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees. If a food item is left between those temperatures bacteria starts to grow. If left between those temperatures for 4 hours the food must be thrown away. People say but what if i put that turkey in the refrigerator after 3 hours and take it out again are all the bacteria dead? Not necessarily and besides all that bacteria is creating toxins which are something else that will make you sick. Stick by these rules and you will not go wrong.
- What is the safe temperature I should cook my food to?:
- Meat, fish, lamb, liver, veal: 145 degrees
- Poultry: 165 degrees
- Pork, game, ground beef: 155 degrees
- Stuffed meats: 165 degrees
- Reheating of soups and chowders: 165 degrees
Types Of smoking meats:
- Fast: Fast or hot smoking the product is cooked at the same time as being smoked. This is the commercial method of smoking. Temperatures range from 140 – 225 degrees.
- Slow: Slow or cold is the best method. Temperatures are between 64 and 95 degrees.
- Liquid: Resin is taken from the sides of the smokehouse and transformed into a liquid to create liquid smoke. You can buy this in any supermarket. This is the easiest since most people have no smokers at home. If you do though I personally like the fast method. Oh I love them ribs!
- Allspice: Its a berry from the pimento tree. Its like a combination of spices like combining nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. This spice is from Jamaica and used in traditional Jamaican dishes.
- Anise Seed: I had this in my cabinet for years and never used it. Used in cooking with a very powerful odor. Mostly used in honey goods.
- Caraway Seed: from a plant in northern and central Europe and Asia. Used in soups and baking. it has an aromatic odor when crushed with an agreeable taste.
- Cardamom: Grown in India. This is an expensive spice used in baking.
- Cinnamon: The bark from a Cinnamon tree. Used in baking and mulling. My favorite spice by far.
- Cloves: Dried flower buds of an evergreen tree from the Molucca Islands. Used in baking and often on baked hams.
- Coriander: Fruit of the perennial plants native to south Europe and Asia. Used in sauces, marinaded and rubs.
- Ginger: Pungent and aromatic. Used in many Asian dishes.
- Mace: the shell enclosing the nutmeg. Flavor is similar to the nutmeg but cheaper.
- Nutmeg: The kernel of the seed of an evergreen tree that grows in the Molucca islands. Used in baking and drinks and is a symbol of the Holidays.
- Poppy Seed: Has an oily mild taste. Poppy seeds are usually in breads rolls and muffins.
- Sesame Seed: Small honey colored seed in Turkey, India and the Orient. When roasted it has a delicious roasted nut flavor. It is used in oriental cooking and extensive baking. It is also a source for sesame oil.