Some people think that reading a recipe is difficult, it is really quite simple, the first part of the recipe is the ingredients, by following the ingredients you usually place them in the order that are listed, it is important that you weigh the ingredients to the exact measure that is listed.
The rest of the recipe tells you how to put the ingredients together and in what order. If you follow the recipe step by step you should be able to cook successfully. Some cooks after a lot of trial and error can do away with recipes and cook from memory. But a beginner at cooking should rather read and follow instruction from a recipe.
Here are some basic techniques to help you in mastering cooking. Once you’ve learned these you will find that cooking is easy and fun.
Many of these basic techniques have common names and are shared in most cook books. Learning them will help you to pick up any cook book and be able to understand what the author is talking about. Once you’ve learned these basic techniques, reading and understanding a recipe become child’s play.
Parboiling or Blanching
Parboiling or Blanching is a common technique, this is a process of cooking vegetables for a short time in boiling water, you can then remove the vegetables and either place them in bowl with iced water, or you can freeze them for later use. Once you start the cooking process again you will find that the vegetables will be softer and easier to manage. When you parboil or blanch vegetables don’t add any condiments.
Condiments (salt, herbs and spices) should only be added at the second stage of cooking. Blanching can also be used to remove vegetable skins or to make certain vegetables taste less bitter.
Grilling and Broiling
Grilling and broiling are two methods with similar results. Grilling requires intense heat usually done outdoors, above hot coals with a grill on top. This results in food cooked fast with some charring and caramelization that gives it a distinct flavor.
Broiling achieves the same or similar result but done differently in that you use your oven. Broiling is best done with the use of a broiling pan.
Like grilling you want the grease and fat to be able to drip away, it’s best to preheat the broiling pan before placing the meat on it. You will then place the pan towards the top of the oven so that it’s close to the grilling heat. It’s best to leave the oven door open to allow any steam to escape. You need a dry heat for cooking.
Your oven temperature should be set on about 500-550 oF or 260-288 oC. You will need to flip the meat half way through the cooking process to get an even all round browning effect on the meat. It’s important to watch the food to avoid burning it.
Steaming is a method of cooking foods with very little water, to be successful in steaming you should have a cooking pot that has a tight fit lid, the best pots are stainless steel pots, but the important thing is to ensure that the lid is a tight fit, Cooking food by this method it’s best to use a low heat. Steaming is one of the healthiest methods of cooking, cooking by this method vegetables retain their nutritional and vitamins values.
Sauteing is to cook food in a saute pan, usually a hot pan large enough to hold all of the food in one layer, has a wide flat base and low sides. You need fat to saute such as butter, olive oil or lard, the principle is to cook food fast so that it seals in the flavors and moisture.
When sauteing you don’t use any utensils, what you do is flick your wrist you will toss the food in the pan shaking and turning on it’s own. You can saute many different kinds of foods, meats, vegetables, mushrooms. Sauteing the food means that you cook it right through. Sometimes you will saute in preparation for further cooking, onions are a good example. Saute them before adding other ingredients to make a stew.
The most commonly used methods of cooking are simmering and boiling. Let’s break down the two.
Boiling means that you place your vegetables in a pot, cover with water place it on a stove and bring to boil. Once it has reached boiling temperature you could continue cooking at that temperature until the vegetables are done. To test the vegetables you need to check if they are soft. Using a fork or skewer pushed through will tell you how ‘done’ the food it by its softness. Don’t over cook vegetables or they will fall apart.
Simmering is similar to boiling only you bring the temperature up to boiling point, then you lower the heat to let it simmer, it’s simmering when it is just ‘bubbling’ lightly. This method is slower and is used for handing foods that require long cooking periods such as stews and casseroles. You can use cheaper cuts of meat with this method as they require a long slow period to tenderize the meat.
You also need to understand how temperatures work on your stove and oven. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to gain a good understanding of your cooking equipment.
Once you’ve mastered the above techniques you should be able to follow recipes with ease and be able to turn out some incredible meals. Of course practices makes perfect and once you’ve succeeded in one recipe you will gain confidence in trying out other recipes. Happy Cooking!
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