10
Jan

Cooking Tools And Equipment

Cooking Tools And Equipment

If you are just starting to equip your kitchen, it makes sense to start small and add to your collection as your interest, skill level, and need dictate. A simple selection of cooking vessels, utensils, and appliances is the best place to begin.

Must-have kitchen tools

The variety and selection of cooking vessels available for purchase today is vast and it is not uncommon to purchase far more than you can ever possibly use. The best plan is to start out with just a few and buy more if the need presents itself.

Sauté pans

Sauté pans, or frying pans, are distinguished by size, what they are made of, and the angle of the sides of the pan. The most practical pan is one that has a large, flat bottom and sides that angle outward. Most cooks can get along fine with 3 sizes of pans–an 8″, 10″, and 12″.

  • Copper pans are at the top of the list as far as quality and consistent heating goes, but they are also the most expensive to purchase.
  • Stainless steel pans are a good choice because they conduct heat well and are durable, but they too can be quite expensive.
  • Aluminum pans are a good choice because they are less expensive than stainless steel and do an acceptable job with heat distribution; their downfall is that they have a tendency to warp and dent easily and can sometimes react with certain ingredients, which gives an off taste to your food.
  • Cast iron is a wonderful cooking medium and offers a sturdy, consistent heating source. Cast iron pans are comparatively inexpensive and if treated right can last indefinitely. They are, however, much heavier to lift than other pans and can react in a negative way when cooking acidic foods.

It’s always useful to have one non-stick pan in the house, but generally speaking, these pans do not last long, their surfaces are easily scratched, and they can not be used at high temperatures. Regardless of which pans you purchase, you should be sure to buy pans with riveted metal handles and appropriate sized lids.

Saucepans and pots

The numerous options available for sauté pans are also available for saucepans and pots. Copper is the top of the line, but also the most expensive. Stainless steel is your best bet and aluminum follows as a more affordable second choice. As for size, three smaller pots–1 1/2, 3, and 5 quarts–can be used for basic needs. You should also have one very large pot–10 quarts–for cooking pasta, braising meats, and making large batches of soup. Tight fitting lids are important as well.

If you are someone who finds themselves making meal decisions at the last minute, a pressure cooker might be a worthwhile investment. Available in many sizes and price ranges, these pots function by cooking food under intense pressure which causes the boiling point to increase and allows foods to cook in a fraction of the time. With a pressure cooker, you can cook a beef stew in about 20 minutes and other dishes, like soups and chicken, are ready in far less time than that. If you are an organized person who has little time to cook at the end of the day, a slow cooker might be a better investment. Ingredients for a slow cooked meal can be placed in the pot in the morning and at day’s end you can have a complete meal waiting for you.

Baking or roasting pans

Baking or roasting pans are an important component of every kitchen. Purchase a metal 9×13″ pan and a 9×9″ square pan and you should be set. You might find that a rectangular, glass 9×13″ pan can come in quite handy as well. If you intend on doing any type of baking you should have two 9″ round cake pans, a 12 cup muffin tin, a loaf pan and a 9″ or 10″ glass pie plate. You should have at least three or four baking sheets as well. Restaurant supply stores often sell these as half sheet pans, which fit into standard sized ovens and are thicker and sturdier than most store bought cookie sheets.

Mixing bowls

Mixing bowls are indispensable and you will find numerous uses for them that you never previously considered. Stainless steel bowls are preferable because they are durable, multi functional, and relatively inexpensive. A set of five or six nesting stainless steel bowls in varying sizes is all you should need. It is also handy to have a set of four or six very small bowls, or ramekins to hold salt and small quantities of other things such as chopped herbs.

Utensils and gadgets

So many different utensils and gadgets are available that just thinking about it is daunting. Put the following on the short list of basic utensils that are really vital to a well supplied kitchen:

  • Wooden and slotted spoons
  • Rubber and metal spatulas
  • Ladle
  • Whisk
  • Sturdy set of tongs
  • Rolling pin
  • Wine and bottle opener
  • Can opener
  • Grater, zester, and peeler
  • Colander and a fine meshed strainer
  • Timer
  • Meat thermometer
  • Pastry brushes
  • Citrus reamer
  • Kitchen shears
  • Funnel
  • Measuring spoons
  • Clear measuring cup for liquids and a set of metal measuring cups for solids
  • Two cutting boards–one you use only for raw chicken and one for everything else. Plastic and wooden cutting boards are equally good and which one you buy is really a matter of preference.

Knives

Purchasing knives can be an overwhelming task because there are so many makes, sizes, and styles to choose from. Most cooks are perfectly supplied with three basic knives:

  • 8″ or 9″ chef’s knife
  • Serrated knife
  • 3″ or 4″ paring knife

Look for knives made from high carbon steel because they don’t stain or discolor easily. Most knives come with plastic or wooden handles and come in a range of prices. Your best choice is the knife that feels most comfortable in your hand and is easy for you to work with. Buy a honing steel at the same time so that you can clean up the edge on your knife in between sharpenings.

To learn more about the different types of cooking knives, see our Knife Resource Guide.

Electrical appliances

A few electric appliances will enable you to perform just about any task you desire.

  • Food processors have an infinite number of functions and are at the top of the list when it comes to practicality and usefulness. You should purchase one with a large volume capacity and a powerful motor that can hold up to extended use.
  • Standing mixers are invaluable if you spend any time baking bread or making desserts. If you are not going to be kneading dough, you might want to opt for a hand mixer that costs much less still performs many of the same functions as a standing mixture.
  • Blenders are handy for making beverages, vinaigrettes, and for blending soups and sauces.
  • Toaster ovens, particularly those with convection options, are great for cooking and heating smaller quantities of foods.

If you’re someone who really enjoys cooking then an ice cream maker, a panini press, and an immersion blender might all be worthwhile purchases as well.

About the Author

After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.

10
Jan

Culinary Knives Resource Guide

Culinary Knives Resource Guide

The right culinary knives can make or break your time in the kitchen, whether you are a professional chef or a beginner. Poorly constructed knives can be unwieldly and unpleasant to use. Instead of going the cheap route, it may be a good idea to invest in quality knives that will ease your chopping, slicing and dicing needs. Knife fundamentals to keep in mind include:

  • Solid construction
  • Quality materials (such as stainless steel)
  • Blade and cutting edge style
  • Knife handles

However, it’s not enough to simply have one good knife. To excel in cooking of all kinds, you need a collection of essential tools including a variety of chef’s knives. In addition to excellent all-purpose blades, every chef’s knife set should include specialty knives for a wide variety of food preparation.

Types of chef’s knives

There are many different types of culinary knives. The chart below can help you get to know the basics and determine which knives deserve a place in your kitchen.

Knife Type

Description

When to Use It

Chef’s Knife

chef-knife

8- to 10-inch blade with the widest part closest to the handle

All-purpose knife that is the go-to blade for many professionals

Bird’s Beak or Tournee Knife

birds-beak-knife

2- to 3-inch blade with a curved edge

Make decorative cuts in fruits and vegetables

Boning Knife

boning-knife

5- to 7-inch blade, very thin with a short point

Remove bones from meat, poultry and fish

Fillet Knife

fillet knife

Similar to a boning knife but slightly longer

Slice fillets off fish

Bread Knife

bread-knife

9-inch blade with a serrated edge

Slice bread

Cheese Knife

cheese-knife

Traditionally a 5- to 7-inch blade with perforations on the edge and holes in the center of the blade

Slice hard and soft cheeses

Deli Knife

deli-knife

8- to 9-inch blade with a scalloped edge designed to cut sandwiches without compressing them

Cut sandwiches and sandwich ingredients

Grapefruit Knife

grapefruit-knife

Short blade with a blunt end and serrations on both sides, usually slightly curved

Cut and remove segments from grapefruit and other citrus fruit

Mincing Knife

mincing-knife

Curved blade, usually with two handles or a bar running the length of the blade

Mince vegetables, fruits, meat and other foods

Clam or Oyster Knife

oyster-knife

2- to 3-inch blade, dull on the sides but with a point

Open fresh shellfish

Paring Knife

paring-knife

Small utility knife, often with a 3-inch blade

Peeling fruits and vegetables and other tasks for which a chef’s knife would be too large

Santoku Knife

santoku-knife

7-inch blade with a wide body, sometimes referred to as a Japanese Chef’s Knife

All-purpose knife suitable for chopping, dicing and mincing

The next step

Culinary knives are among a chef’s most important tools so finding a great set is worth the investment, both in terms of time and money. Great knives are not always cheap — quality and longevity carry a price — but they could help to elevate your kitchen skills.

Once you have the right types of cooking knives, you need to know how to use them. If you want to try to ratchet your knife skills upward from faux to pro (and maybe even pursue a new career), your next step may be to research culinary programs near you.

Sources:

  • Bird’s Beak Knife, RecipeTips.com, 2014, http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-term/t — 37970/birds-beak-knife.asp
  • Ceramic Kitchen Knives, 2014, http://www.ceramickitchenknives.net/
  • Cheese Knife Reviews and Buying Guide, Galt Home Buying Guides, September 5, 2014, http://www.galttech.com/research/household-DIY-tools/best-cheese-knife.php
  • Fillet Knife Buyer’s Guide, Bass Pro Shops, Justin Hoffman, May 9, 2013, http://www.basspro1source.com/index.php/component/k2/238-fishing-tackle/783-fillet-knife-buyers-guide
  • “How to Choose Kitchen Knives,” March 25, 2014, http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/articles/kkchoser/kksteelp2.shtml
  • Kitchen Knifes Blade Styles and Uses, Accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.kniveskitchen.com/blades.html
  • “On Oyster Knives,” Oysters.US, John McCabe, accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.oysters.us/oyster-knives.html
  • “Paring Knife: Essential Knife for Every Kitchen,” Cooking.com, Chef Knife Guru Guide, 2012, http://knives.cooking.com/guide/paring-knife-essential-knife-for-every-kitchen/#.VAoFIGPt9DJ
  • “What is a Grapefruit Knife?,” wisegeek.com, 2014, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-grapefruit-knife.htm
  • “What is a Mincing Knife?,” wisegeek.com, 2014, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-mincing-knife.htm#comments
  • “What Kind of Knife is Best for Slicing Bread,” About.com, Mariette Mifflin, 2014, http://housewares.about.com/od/cutleryknives/f/breadknives.htm
10
Jan

Food And Drink Pairings

Food And Drink Pairings

There is no surer way to take a meal from excellent to outstanding than to add the right drink. While food and beverage pairings can be highly personal, some foods lend themselves well to particular drinks. Traditionally, wine and food pairings have been the topic of much discussion but with the explosion of craft breweries in recent years, beer and food pairings are also getting attention. Of course, your taste will dictate which pairings are right for you but keep reading for some suggestions to get you started.

Wine and food pairings

When deciding how to pair food and wines, acidity and strength both play key factors. Ideally you’d want the level of acid in both the meal and the drink to be comparable. Neither one should overpower the other. The chart below reviews some common pairings that are traditional favorites.

Beverage Ideal Food Pairs Why They Pair Well
Champagne

champagne

Salty foods

oysters

The light and slightly sweet taste of champagne balances out the salt.
Pinot Grigio

pinot-grigio

Light fish dishes

light-fish

The flavor of this light white wine complements, rather than overwhelms, fish.
Chardonnay

chardonnay

Pasta and cream sauces

pasta

The crisp, clean taste of Chardonnay lends itself well to practically any pairing.

 

Pinot Noir

pinot-noir

Earthy dishes

earthy-food

Pinot Noir is a light red which goes well with robust flavors.
Merlot

merlot

Beef and lamb

steak

This deep red wine has a complex flavor that works well with rich meats.
Cabernet Sauvignon

cabernet sauvignon

Wild game

wild-game

As a full-bodied red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon works well with richly flavored foods.

Beer and food pairings

Like wine and food pairings, the common practice is to match the strength of a dish with the strength of a beer. However, you still want to have some contrast in both elements. For example, a beer with some bitterness will nicely offset a sweet dish.

Beverage Ideal Food Pairs Why They Pair Well
Stout/Porter

stout

Smoked and barbecued foods

smoked-barbecue

Stouts and porters are heavy beers that work best with rich and bold flavors.
Lager

lager

Mexican food

mexican-food

The light, clean flavor of a lager cuts through the spice of many Mexican dishes.
IPA

IPA

Pork

pulled-pork

The hoppy flavor of an IPA balances nicely with the fat in pork.
Pale Ale

pale-ale

Burgers

burgers

Pale ales have a robust flavor and medium weight that pairs well with grilled foods.
Hefeweizen

hefeweizen

Soups and salads

soup-and-salad

Wheat beer has the right body and flavor to complement light meals and vegetarian dishes.
Red Ale

red-ale

Stews

stew

Red ales have a strong flavor that is best paired with hearty foods.

While wine and beer pairings are the most common, cocktail and food pairings are gaining attention. Some restaurants offer food pairings that have been designed to be eaten with high-end liquors such as whiskey or tequila, served on their own or over ice. What’s more, pairing non-alcoholic drinks is becoming more prominent as homemade sodas gain popularity.

If you’re ready to move beyond eating outstanding food and drink pairings and ready to start creating them, you may want to consider a career as a chef, bartender or restaurateur. To learn more, contact the schools below for information on their culinary programs.

Sources:

  • 15 Rules for Great Food and Wine Pairings, Food & Wine, http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/15-rules-for-great-wine-and-food-pairings
  • Wine pairings 101, Sunset, http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/wine-pairings/wine-pairing-101
  • Beer and food pairing, Epicurious, http://www.epicurious.com/archive/drinking/beer/beerpairings
  • Beer Styles, Craft Beer, http://www.craftbeer.com/styles/blonde-ale
10
Jan

How To Plate Food

How To Plate Food

They say we eat with our eyes, and that means plating food can be almost as important as your cooking technique when it comes to serving a successful dish. Fortunately, learning how to plate food doesn’t have to be difficult. While many culinary professionals may spend significant time perfecting their presentation, a few simple guidelines can be used to quickly improve the appearance of any meal.

Once you have mastered the basics, you can experiment and add your own personal twist. Great chefs often using plating to create a signature look for their food, and you can too.

Fundamentals of plating

There is no one way to plate a dish, but here are some guidelines that every chef should keep in mind.

Traditional Plating

Traditional Plating The most traditional dishes involve a main course, a starch and a vegetable. Imagine your plate as the face of a clock and add food so it is balanced across that face. A common practice is to place the protein on the bottom half of the plate, centered between the 3 and 9 if you were looking at a clock. On the top half of the plate, the starch side can be placed between the 9 and 11 and the vegetable side between the 11 and 3.

The Rule of Odds

Rule of Odds This is a rule used both in plating and photography among other places. For whatever reason, people are more attracted to the presentation of an odd number of objects than an even number. Whether you’re slicing steak or selecting how many shrimp to be arranged on a plate, stick to an odd number to increase your meal’s appeal.

Draw Attention with Color

Color While too many colors may look busy and overwhelming, a plate full of neutral colored foods looks bland and boring. Trying to have at least one side or component of the dish bring a pop of color.

Balance the Textures

Textures Texture is another important component of plating food. There is a reason fried chicken looks so good next to mashed potatoes. The crisp skin of the chicken and creamy texture of the potatoes make for an appealing balance. It doesn’t matter if you’re serving up comfort food or elegant fare, look for ways to contrast different textured ingredients.

Symmetry/Asymmetry

Asymmetry Symmetry and asymmetry can be used as a way to balance food. Symmetrical plating will have each half of a plate acting as a mirror image of the other half. It’s a very traditional way to plate. For a very basic example, think of a cheese ball circled by crackers. Asymmetrical plating is a more modern way to arrange food. It may have food occupying only one portion of the plate or result in the sides and protein being stacked.

Stacking

Stacking Another basic to master when it comes to plating food is stacking. As the name implies, stacking adds height to food by placing dish components on top of each other. It’s a common technique for smaller courses where there is less food but chefs want to make it look more abundant.

How to pick your plates

Your choice of plate adds to the overall presentation of your food, and it’s another opportunity for you to experiment with creating your own personal style. While there are no hard and fast rules on which plate you should use, you want to be sure your choice doesn’t detract from your food. Here are the factors to consider:

  • Size: Your plate needs to be appropriate for your dish. For example, you may want to use a deep plate with a rim for meats covered in sauce, and smaller courses look better on smaller plates.
  • Shape: Round plates are traditional and some chefs have strong opinions that any other shape diverts attention from the food, which should be the star of your meal. However, it’s really all about personal preference and you can use square, rectangular or other shaped plates to add interest and flair to your food if you’d like.
  • Color: White plates are traditional, and they remain a popular choice for good reason. They offer a bright background which contrasts well with almost any food. However, colored plates have their place. They can add a fun vibe or add interest to a largely neutral-colored dish. Just be careful with using dark colors with dark food that may blend into the background.

Sauces and garnishes

A final factor to consider when plating food is the use of garnishes and sauces. Everything you add to your plate should be edible and meld with the other flavors in the dish. For example you shouldn’t pick a garnish simply for its color. Be sure to pick an ingredient that will complement the rest of the flavors on the plate. Here are some guidelines:

  • Thin sauces may be best either poured onto the plate to be used as a base to the main ingredient or spooned on top of the dish.
  • Thicker sauces can dot or line the plate as a way to add color and interest.
  • Be reserved when adding both garnishes and sauces. You don’t want them to dominate or overpower the dish.
  • Add garnishes and sauces immediately before serving.
  • Have a clean towel handy so you can wipe off any drops that may land on the edges or rim of your plate.

Plating food is a skill from which all cooks can benefit. If you want to learn advanced techniques about how to plate food, you can enroll in a culinary arts program for instruction from experienced chefs and instructors. Check the list of schools below to find classes in your area.

Sources:

  • 10 tips for plating, The Kitchenthusiast: A KitchenAid Blog, http://blog.kitchenaid.com/10-tips-plating-food-like-a-pro/
  • 5 basic elements of food plating, Unilever Food Solutions, http://www.unileverfoodsolutions.com.sg/our-services/your-menu/food-presentation
  • http://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/plate-food-like-pro-0161437/
  • http://startcooking.com/seven-ways-to-present-food-like-a-chef
10
Jan

Defining Menu Courses

Defining Menu Courses

While not every meal you create will include multiple stages, anyone with a serious interest in cooking should understand the basics of menu courses. Although the courses can be broken down in a variety of ways, here’s what a five course menu might look like.

Appetizers

  • Also called starters or hors d’oeurvres.
  • The first course of a meal and served in small portions.
  • Often used at parties to tide guests over until the main meal.
  • Fast Fact: Tapas, which are served in some restaurants as a main course, are actually Spanish appetizers.

Salad and Soup Course

  • Salad and soup may be served together or as separate meal courses.
  • Salads and soups are sometimes served as appetizers
  • The type of soup or salad served may depend upon the season and should complement the main course.
  • Fast Fact: In some European cultures, it’s traditional to eat the salad course after the entrée.

Main Course

  • Often referred to as the entrée or, more casually, as the main event.
  • Usually consists of the largest portion of food and features a protein.
  • Sometimes the main course may be broken up into multiple entrees, such as a fish dish followed by a meat dish.
  • Fast Fact: The word entrée first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1759 and was defined as a roasted ham.

Cheese or Dessert Course

  • If cheese is being served, it is usually done after the entree and before, or in lieu of, dessert.
  • A cheese course can be as simple as one piece of cheese or as elaborate as a sampling of numerous cheeses served with accompaniments such as bread, fruit, and nuts.
  • Desserts are traditionally sweet dishes served with a complementary beverage such as wine.
  • Fast Fact: Food&Wine Magazine lists carrot cake, Georgia peach pie and chocolate cupcakes among the most popular desserts in the country.

Mignardises

  • Mignardises are tiny, bite sized desserts like cookies, candies, or tarts.
  • Presented at the end of a meal as a final small treat and may be served along with coffee or tea.
  • The term petit-four is sometimes used interchangeable with mignardise.
  • Fast Fact: In anticipation of an upcoming movie, LA restaurant Faith & Flower began serving Star Wars-shaped mignardises.
10
Jan

How To Cook Shellfish

How To Cook Shellfish

Shellfish are often the final frontier for home cooks who have already mastered the basics of meat and fish preparation. While beef, pork and poultry use similar cooking methods, shellfish is often purchased alive, may have a shell and require special preparation.

For those who want to learn how to cook shellfish, the first step is to understand which cooking methods are traditionally used and then pair the right method with each type of seafood.

Common Cooking Methods

When it comes to how to cook shellfish, home cooks will likely use one of the methods below.

Steam

  • Not to be confused with boiling, steaming cooks shellfish in only a small amount of liquid.
  • Put a half inch of liquid at the bottom of a heavy pot. Broth, wine or water mixed with lemon juice are popular options.
  • Once the liquid boils, add shellfish, cover tightly and reduce heat.
  • Let simmer for up to 10 minutes, until shellfish is done.
  • As a bonus, you can use the leftover liquid from steaming as the base for a sauce.

Saute

  • Sauteing shellfish is a quick method to create flavorful meals.
  • Add oil or butter to a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Once oil or butter is hot, add shellfish and cook, stirring occasionally.

Grill

  • Prior to grilling shellfish, clean and oil grill grates.
  • Heat grill and add shellfish, turning once during cooking.
  • Brush with butter or another seasoning either before or during grilling.
  • Shells should be left on shrimp and other shellfish for best results. Ingredients that don’t have a shell, such as scallops, can be grilled if placed in a foil packet.

Poach

  • Poaching cooks food in a liquid and can be ideal for shellfish that may be tough or chewy, such as octopus.
  • Add enough liquid to a pot to cover the shellfish. While water can be used for poaching, broth or wine will add more flavor.
  • Heat liquid until it begins to boil. Add shellfish and reduce heat.
  • Simmer until the shellfish is done; some recommend as long as 13 minutes per pound to properly tenderize octopus.

Bake

  • Baking is a traditional way to prepare lobster, crab and other shellfish in New England.
  • Traditional recipes call for the shellfish to be baked in the ground although many modern recipes for New England bakes call for boiling or steaming the various elements of the recipe and then combining them.
  • To bake shellfish at home, place it in a roasting pan along with potatoes, corn or other vegetables. Brush with melted butter or add other seasonings. Cook at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until done.

Which Type of Shellfish is Best for Each Cooking Method?

Knowing the various ways of how to cook shellfish is only half the battle. You also have to know which method works best with which type of seafood. Here’s a closer look at how to make the shellfish most commonly found in home kitchens.

Lobster

  • Lobster is often sold alive although lobster tails are also commonly found in markets.
  • Although many people boil lobster, doing so may wash out the flavor.
  • Instead, try grilling, steaming or baking.
  • Serve alongside melted butter or another sauce for dipping.

Shrimp

  • Shrimp may be cooked either with or without their shells.
  • Shell-on shrimp can be grilled.
  • Shelled shrimp is often sautéed.
  • Although it can be served alone, shrimp also works nicely as part of a salad or tossed with pasta and a sauce.

Mollusks

  • Mollusks include clams, oysters and mussels.
  • Steaming is typically the preferred method of preparing mollusks.
  • Grilling and baking are also common ways to cook this type of seafood.

Octopus

  • Octopus may be purchased whole or in parts.
  • Regardless of how it is purchased, octopus needs to be tenderized.
  • Poaching is an ideal method for tenderizing octopus while cooking it. For best results, try poaching in wine.
  • Some recipes call for poaching first, followed by sautéing or searing.

Crab

  • Crab is similar to lobster in that it is often sold whole and alive. However, it can also be purchased frozen, either whole or as crab legs.
  • And like lobster, crab may be frequently boiled although there are better ways to bring out the flavor of this shellfish.
  • Try grilling, steaming or baking crab instead.

That covers the basics of how to cook shellfish. However, there is so much more to learn. To explore the subject more fully and master advanced techniques, check out the culinary schools below to find classes in your area.

Sources:

  • 3 Ways to Cook Clams & Mussels Like a Pro, Tipnut, http://tipnut.com/clams-mussels/
  • Seafood Preparation by Method, AboutSeafood, https://www.aboutseafood.com/cooking/seafood-preparation-method
  • A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Over Your Fear of Octopus, Bon Appetit, http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/guide-to-octopus
  • 6 Common Saltwater Fish and Shellfish, Cooking Light, http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/essential-ingredients/common-saltwater-fish/view-all
  • How to grill shrimp, lobster and other shellfish, TODAY, http://www.today.com/food/how-grill-shrimp-lobster-other-shellfish-t22361
10
Jan

How To Cook Fish

How To Cook Fish

For home cooks, fish often seems more challenging to prepare than meat. As a more delicate item, it cooks quickly and can easily fall apart or be overpowered by other elements of a dish. In addition, some of the techniques used for beef, pork and poultry simply do not work for fish.

Learning how to cook fish isn’t an involved process. Most fish taste best with minimal preparation, usually some light seasoning, breading or a sauce is all it takes for a flavorful meal. Keep reading to learn all the basics about how to cook fish.

Common Cooking Methods

As with meat, fish can be cooked in a number of different ways. Here’s an overview of each method.

Fry

  • Fish can be pan-fried or deep-fried.
  • In either method, fish is often dredged in a batter of seasoning and flour or corn meal first.
  • For pan-fried fish, butter or oil is placed in a skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, fish can be cooked 3-4 minutes on each side until done.
  • For deep-fried fish, fill a heavy pot or deep fryer with oil, filling no more than two-thirds of the pot. Once the oil is hot, add the fish and cook for 3-4 minutes until done. Remove with a slotted spoon and blot off excess oil with a paper towel.

Sear

  • Searing is similar to pan frying and is used to create a crispy exterior to fish that has skin.
  • Heat two tablespoons of oil in a skillet over high heat.
  • Season fish and place skin side down in hot skillet.
  • If fish begins to curl while cooking, use a spatula to press it flat as needed.
  • Let fish cook 5-7 minutes (or longer for thicker fillets).
  • When skin is browned and crisp, flip and cook for 2-3 minutes longer until fully done.

Poach

  • Poaching involves gently cooking fish in a liquid such as water or broth.
  • This method works best for delicate fillets.
  • For best flavor, heat broth along with herbs, vegetables or other aromatics to a temperature of 150 degrees.
  • Add fish and cook until done.

Grill

  • Whole fish or hearty fillets, such as those from salmon or tuna, can be grilled directly. Other types of fish may be placed in foil packets to be grilled.
  • To grill directly, first clean and oil the grill. Then heat.
  • Season the fish and add to the grill. Cook 2-3 minutes.
  • When it is it time to flip, fish should release from grill easily. If it doesn’t, cook for another minute before trying again.
  • Remove from the grill about a minute before fish is fully done. It will continue to cook on the way to the table.
  • Alternately, you can soak wood planks and grill on those rather than placing fish directly on the grill grates.
  • To make fish packets, place seasoned fish, herbs and vegetables on aluminum foil. Fold over two sides of the foil and then bring the other two sides of the foil up until they meet. Roll down together to make a packet. Place on a pre-heated grill and cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until done.

Stew

  • Use heartier types of fish for stew.
  • Recipes vary, but may stews call for fish to first be sautéed in oil or a small amount of liquid.
  • Once browned, vegetables, broth and herbs are added.
  • Cook for about 10 minutes until fish is done.

Bake

  • Baked fish can be plain or dredged in breading first.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees for fillets and steaks or 350 degrees for whole fish.
  • Season or coat fish and place in backing dish.
  • Fillets may be done in as little as 4-6 minutes while whole fish could take up to 10 minutes per half pound.

Raw

  • Having the highest quality and freshest fish possible is essential to safely enjoy raw fish.
  • There are a number of ways to prepare raw fish, called variously crudo, carpaccio, and tartare.
  • Carpaccio refers to very thin slices, crudo to thicker pieces, and tartara to small bits.
  • All three preparations are traditionally dressed with a few quality ingredients: olive oil, an acid (lemon juice or a vinegar), and salt.
  • Fresh herbs and spices may also be added prior to serving.

Which Type of Fish is Best for Each Cooking Method?

Now that you know the basics, you need to match the right cooking method to the right type of fish. While chefs are continually experimenting and innovating new ways of cooking, these recommendations can be helpful for those who are just learning how to cook fish.

Salmon

  • Salmon is a thicker, sturdier fish and holds up to a variety of cooking methods.
  • Grilling or pan frying are popular ways to prepare salmon.
  • Baking and poaching also work well with salmon.
  • Raw salmon can be used in preparations for sushi, and lox is uncooked, brined salmon.

Tuna

  • Like salmon, tuna steaks are thick and lend themselves well to more intense cooking methods.
  • Try grilling or pan-frying tuna steaks.
  • Tuna is also a popular fish to serve raw or nearly raw.

Tilapia

  • As an affordable fish, tilapia is white, lean and flakey.
  • Pan-frying can add flavor to tilapia.
  • Poaching and grilling in foil packets are also popular methods of cooking tilapia.

Flounder

  • Flounder is a flat fish, as is halibut and sole.
  • Traditionally, flounder has been fried in the south.
  • It can also be seared or baked.

Cod

  • Cod is another inexpensive white fish with a mild flavor.
  • To enhance its taste, try grilling cod in foil packets containing herbs.
  • Battered cod can be deep fried and used in traditional fish ‘n chips recipes.
  • Poaching and baking are also popular ways to prepare cod.

Trout

  • As another sturdy fish, trout can be cooked whole or as fillets.
  • Skin-on trout fillets benefit from searing to create a crisp, flavorful crust.
  • Both whole trout and fillets can be grilled.
  • Trout also stands up well to baking, frying and stewing.

Catfish

  • Catfish is often prepared as fillets or nuggets.
  • Deep frying catfish is popular in the south
  • Pan-frying also results in excellent catfish.

With so many other fish available in stores and markets today, this guide merely scratches the surface of all the different ways of how to cook fish. Want to learn more? Check out the culinary schools below to look for classes that can help you expand your repertoire of fish-cooking skills.

Sources:

  • How to pan-fry fish, Southern Living, http://www.southernliving.com/food/how-to/how-to-pan-fry-fish/how-to-pan-fry-fish_3
  • Perfect Seared Fish, Hunter.Angler.Gardener.Cook, http://honest-food.net/2012/06/02/perfect-seared-fish/
  • How to Poach Fish, Cooking Light, http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/how-to-poach-fish
  • How to Grill Skinless Fish Fillets or Steaks, Serious Eats, http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/07/how-to-grill-fish.html
  • Stew Fish, Simply Trini Cooking, http://www.simplytrinicooking.com/stew-fish/#axzz3smvAztsP
  • How to Bake Fish, Better Homes and Gardens, http://www.bhg.com/recipes/fish/basics/how-to-bake-fish/
  • Types of Fish, Cooking Light, http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/essential-ingredients/types-fish
  • Salmon Cooking Methods, The Wild Salmon Co., http://www.thewildsalmonco.com/salmon-cooking-methods.html
  • The Best Way to Cook Tuna Steak, Men’s Health, http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/best-way-cook-tuna-steak
  • The Best Way to Cook Tilapia, Serious Eats, http://www.seriouseats.com/talk/2008/07/the-best-way-to-cook-tilapia-is.html
  • What is the Best Way to Cook Flounder? Quora, https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-way-to-cook-flounder-Are-there-any-tricks
  • How to Cook Cod, Great British Chefs, http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/how-to-cook/how-to-cook-cod
  • Trout Cooking Tips, World Fishing Network, http://www.worldfishingnetwork.com/recipes/post/trout-cooking-tips
10
Jan

Beginner’s Guide To Cooking Meat

Beginner’s Guide To Cooking Meat

Learning how to cook meat isn’t hard, but it also isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Different cuts of meat require different cooking methods. But before you can start cooking, you need to go shopping.

Start by looking for the highest quality meat you can afford. For beef, that means selecting USDA Prime meat if possible. If you’d rather not splurge on prime cuts, USDA Choice and USDA Select are the next two grades in terms of quality. The higher the grade, the more marbling the meat has, something that can increase its flavor. Some cooks prefer to buy their meat locally or use grass-fed beef. Both can be good options but be aware grass-fed meat is typically leaner than that which comes from grain-fed animals.

Cuts of meat

Cuts of Meat

Regardless of how an animal was raised or what it was fed, its meat will fall into two categories: lean cuts and tougher cuts. Here’s what you should know about each.

  • Lean cuts: These are steaks, tenderloins and other tender cuts of meat. They don’t require much preparation, and since they don’t have much fat, they should be quickly cooked to keep them juicy and flavorful. Grilling and sautéing are good choices for lean cuts.
  • Tougher cuts: Tougher cuts of meat can be just as delicious as lean cuts, but you have to prepare them right. These cuts comes from the muscular areas of an animal, such as the shoulder or rump. You’ll want to slow cook, stew or braise these meats to break down the muscle and bring out the flavor.

Marinades

Marinades

Using a marinade is one way to help break down the collagen found in tougher cuts and tenderize the meat. They can also be used to add flavor to lean cuts.

Marinades are liquids that typically include acidic ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar or soy sauce. You can purchase them premade in the store or use a recipe to make your own at home.

To marinate, place the meat in a non-metallic dish, pour the liquid over the meat, cover and place the dish in the refrigerator unless you plan to begin cooking immediately. Tougher cuts may benefit from sitting in a marinade for hours prior to cooking or even overnight. However, lean cuts should only be marinated for an hour or two at most. Any longer could turn your lean cut into a tough cut.

Brines

Brines

Like a marinade, a brine can be used to add flavor. What’s more, it allows tough cuts of meat to remain moist even while being slow cooked.

In its most basic form, brine is a combination of salt and water although sometimes sugar and other flavorings are added. Heavily-salted brine can be used as a cure for meats that are going to be cooked very slowly, smoked or air dried. Brining with a lower salt content is done to impart flavor and increase moisture and always results in a juicier piece of meat. For a quicker effect, meats are sometimes injected with flavored liquids using a special meat syringe. While this does not give the same overall moisture increasing effect as brine, it imparts flavor throughout the meat.

What cooking method is best?

The answer to this question depends largely on the cut. Leaner cuts of meat are best cooked using a dry heat method while larger, tougher cuts of meat are best when cooked using a wet heat method. Grilling, broiling, sautéing, stir frying, and roasting are all dry heat cooking techniques while braising, stewing and poaching are wet heat methods.

Here’s a closer look at each one.

Grilling and broiling

  • Exposes meat directly to the heat source.
  • Meat takes on a smoky flavor as parts of the meat chars.
  • With grilling, the heat source is below the meat while in broiling the heat comes from above.

Sautéing and stir-frying

  • Done in pans on the stovetop, using a small amount of fat.
  • Meat is cooked quickly at a high heat to create a sear and lock-in moisture.
  • Stir-fry meat is cut into small pieces, cooked, combined with other ingredients and often finished with a sauce.

Roasting

  • Involves cooking meat with dry heat in an enclosed space, usually an oven.
  • Tender cuts of meat, such as beef filet or lamb racks, are roasted at a very high temperature (425 degrees and above) for a short period of time.
  • Tougher, thicker cuts of meat are roasted at a much lower temperature (250 to 300 degrees) for a longer period of time, often for many hours.

Braising and stewing

  • Braising cooks meat in liquid in a sealed container such as a Dutch oven.
  • Braises and stews cook for a long period of time on low heat.
  • It’s essential to maintain an even cooking temperature and not overcook. Otherwise, meat could become dry and tough.

Poaching

  • Meat is submerged in a liquid that is kept at a consistent temperature.
  • Poaching is usually done with smaller cuts of meat.
  • This method uses a higher temperature and a shorter cooking time than braising and stewing.
10
Jan

How To Cook Lamb

How To Cook Lamb

Lamb is a staple in the diets of many cultures including India, Greece, Spain, France, and countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Americans, however, eat far less lamb on average than people from these other countries. Lamb is often thought to be strong and gamey in flavor, and while this is often true, that is characteristic more of older lamb — over 12 months of age. The majority of the lamb sold in the U.S. comes from animals between 5 and 12 months old and while distinctive in flavor, is typically not too intense or overwhelming.

Different Types of Lamb Cuts

Lamb should be bought when it is light red and fine grained in appearance. Older lamb, or mutton, has a darker, purple hue and is much more pungent in aroma and flavor and the meat is tougher. Lamb should never have an unpleasant odor and the fat on lamb should always be white, never yellow or brownish. The ends of the bones on lamb should appear moist, red, and porous and not brown or dried and crusty.

Here are the most common cuts of lamb available.

  • Rack: A tender cut of meat that may be cut into single or double chops or sold as a full rack.
  • Loin: Another very tender cut that may be served as chops or a loin roast.
  • Shoulder: Although a tougher meat, the shoulder can be forgiving and moist, making it a good choice for those just learning how to cook lamb.
  • Leg: Similar to the shoulder although leaner.
  • Shank: Part of the leg, offering minimal meat but a unique flavor.

How to Cook Lamb

Most Common Ways to Cook Each Cut

Because of its robust flavor, lamb lends itself to numerous preparations and accompaniments. However, here are the most common cooking methods for each cut of lamb.

Rack of Lamb

  • Single and double chops from a rack can be grilled, sautéed or broiled while rib racks are usually roasted.
  • Because ribs are lean, they should cooked quickly using a high, dry heat to lock in flavor and moisture.
  • To roast a rib rack, cook on high heat (375-425 degrees) for approximately 15 minutes. Grilled, sautéed and broiled ribs can be cooked for 4-6 minutes per side or less, depending on the desired level of doneness.
  • Rib racks are most tender when cooked medium-rare.
  • A Frenched rack of ribs has the meat removed from the end of the bones. A crown roast is two Frenched racks tied together and stood on end.

Lamb Loin

  • Loin roasts may be roasted while loin chops are usually grilled, sautéed or broiled.
  • As with the rack, the loin is a lean cut and should be cooked quickly with a dry, high heat.
  • Loin chops may be marinated or dry rubbed prior to being grilled, broiled or sautéed for 4-6 minutes per side. Roasts may be placed in the oven at 375-425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the roast and the desired doneness.
  • Lamb loin has the best flavor when cooked rare or medium-rare.

Lamb Shoulder

  • Lamb shoulder is best braised or stewed although shoulder chops can be grilled or sautéed.
  • As a tougher cut of meat, the shoulder benefits from the wet heat used in braising and stewing.
  • Braise lamb shoulder in a covered dish with liquid at 350-375 degrees. Cooking time will depend upon the size of the shoulder. For slower cooking and a deeper flavor, cook at 250-300 degrees.
  • The shoulder should be well-done when cooked to give it a melt-in-your mouth quality.
  • Most lamb braise recipes include seasonings and vegetables so you can cook your entire meal in one dish.

Lamb Leg

  • A classic leg of lamb is a roasted dish although leg steaks may be grilled or broiled.
  • Lamb legs have little fat and are quite tender, attributes that lend themselves well to dry heat cooking.
  • Roast a leg of lamb at 350-375 degrees until the internal temperature is 130-140 degrees. Actual cooking time will depend on the size of the lamb.
  • Leg of lamb is best when cooked rare to medium-rare.
  • Lamb kebobs are usually made with cubed meat from the leg.

Lamb Shank

  • Lamb shanks are best when braised or stewed.
  • The shank is full of connective tissue that needs to be broken down to tenderize it, something best accomplished through slow cooking over low heat.
  • Cook in liquid over low heat until the meat pulls away from the bone.
  • Shanks should be cooked to well done for the best flavor and texture.
10
Jan

How To Cook Pork

How To Cook Pork

Much like beef, pork has gotten a bad rap as being unhealthy and fattening. As a result, leaner breeds of pigs are being raised in the U.S. today. While that may make pork better for your waistline, it can make it more difficult to cook moist, delicious dishes. Fortunately, you only need to lean few basic methods to learn how to cook pork well, even if it especially lean.

The flavor of pork is fairly mild and lends itself equally to savory, aromatic and sweeter, fruity preparations. As with other types of meat, cooking techniques vary based on which cut is being used. There are leaner cuts like the tenderloin and chops, which are perfect for roasting and grilling. Less lean cuts like the shoulder and ribs are at their best when cooked long and slow.

Different Cuts of Pork

There are many cuts of pork, but these are the ones most likely to be found in the grocer’s meat case or at a local butcher’s shop.

  • Ribs: Depending on the part of the pig they come from, ribs can be either baby back or spareribs.
  • Chops: Center cut chops are usually boneless and come from the loin while bone-in chops may also have rib meat.
  • Tenderloin: Coming from the pig’s back, the tenderloin is just what its name suggests: tender. You can also buy full pork loins which are larger and may be tougher.
  • Ham: A true ham is the back leg. It’s usually precooked or processed prior to sale. Picnic hams come from the shoulder and are often sold fresh.
  • Shoulder or Rump: Pork roasts are typically shoulder or rump roasts which, despite their different names, both come from the shoulder.

How to Cook Pork

Most Common Ways to Cook Each Cut

All pork sold today is considerably leaner than what your grandparents ate years ago. It is also safer now that trichinosis, a parasite that at one time was prevalent in pigs, has been almost completely eradicated in America. That means you can disregard any advice to cook all pork until it’s overly well done and dry as a bone. Instead, select the right preparation method for your cut to deliver juicy, delicious pork to your dinner table.

Pork Ribs

  • Spareribs are best braised or stewed, but baby back ribs can be also be barbequed.
  • Ribs can have a large amount of connective tissue and slow cooking over low heat can help tenderize these cuts.
  • Ribs often have a clear membrane on the underside that should be removed prior to cooking. Then spareribs can be cooked in a covered container with liquid or cut into chunks for stew. Baby back ribs are often covered with a dry rub or sauce and barbequed slowly over low heat.
  • Both types of ribs will be most tender when cooked well done.

Pork Chops

  • Pork chops are best grilled, broiled or sautéed.
  • Most pork chops sold today are very lean which means they must be cooked quickly over high heat or they will be dry and overdone. Some chops are made with shoulder meat and those can be cooked slowly over low heat.
  • Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the chop with some thin cuts only needing 2-3 minutes of heat per side. The USDA recommendation for pork is 145 degrees so look for the meat to hit 135 degrees and take it off the source of heat. The internal temperature should continue to rise another 10 degrees while it rests prior to serving.
  • Chops will be juiciest when cooked to medium.

Pork Tenderloin

  • Tenderloins can be grilled or roasted or cut into medallions for sautéing.
  • While whole pork loin has more fat and can be roasted over a long period at low temperatures, tenderloins should not be cooked too long or at too high a heat or they will dry out.
  • You can marinate tenderloin first or simply season it. Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. When its temperature reaches 135-145 degrees, remove the tenderloin and let it sit for a few minutes to let the juices redistribute prior to cutting.
  • Like chops, the tenderloin is usually best a medium temperature.

Ham

  • Precooked ham simply need to be heated. A picnic ham should be braised.
  • Picnic hams are tough, fatty cuts that need to be cooked slowly over a long period in order to become tender.
  • Place a picnic ham and some liquid in a covered container, such as a Dutch oven, and cook over low heat until the meat is well done and pulls away from the bone, if the ham has one.
  • Hams should be well done. However, avoid over-heating a precooked ham since they can quickly dry out.

Pork Shoulder or Rump

  • Pork shoulders and rumps benefit from braising and stewing along they can also be barbecued or roasted slowly over low heat.
  • These cuts can have quite a bit of marbling that makes them flavorful, but they may also have tough connective tissue that needs to be broken down through braising or slow roasting.
  • Cut up and use in stews, braise with liquid over low heat until well done or roast at low heat until tender.
  • Pork shoulders and rump roasts should be cooked until they are well done.