I did a post about my love of cooking and failure at baking a couple weeks ago. Then, this week, I came across some helpful hints on the Real Simple website and I’m now convinced my blundering around in the kitchen was only making things more difficult for me. In addition, I’ve deduced that I’m probably responsible for the economic recession and global warming, too. My bad.
I won’t try to address all my food preparation faux pas, but here are a few that are part of my usual kitchen repertoire that are apparently WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
Storing Tomatoes in the Refrigerator: Just say no! The cold blah, blah, blah…enzyme breakdown…something-or-other…chemistry talk…leaves them tasteless. The proper way is to store them on a counter away from sunlight or if they need ripening, in a paper bag with an apple. Fruit gang-bang in a paper bag. In my kitchen.
Choosing Lean Ground Beef: I’ve been trying to eat much healthier this past year and switched to the leanest beef I could afford. Then failing in experimenting by adding different ingredients to the cardboard burgers to juicy them up like I was some kind of mad scientist. Its the deficit of fat that’s drying out my burgers. Solution: Use 80-85% lean beef.
Cooking With a Cold Pan or Cold Oil: It never fails that I try to gently lay something in the hot oil and I end up burning myself, either in the oil, the splatter or on the pan. So, I throw it all in the pan, then turn on the heat. Nope, wrong again. If you don’t heat the oil to to the right temperature prior to adding the food, it will stick…and in my case burn. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. So I should heat up the oil a couple minutes and use some sort of utensil to get the food into the pan to keep from scalding my skin then peeling like a snake.
Using a Nonstick Pan for Everything: I have a really, really, really bad habit of walking out of the kitchen when something is cooking, getting sidetracked and forgetting I’ve got something on the stove. After many scorched meals (and skillets), I replaced all my cookwear with teflon. Bad again. In all the time it takes to brown my food in a non-stick pan, its overcooking. If I use the tip above about the oil in a stainless pan (and a cooking timer) things shouldn’t form a death-grip onto the pan like I do with a bag of chips.
Turning Meat Too Often or Too Soon: This is probably the number one thing I’m guilty of. I’m so fearful of burning something that I constantly flip, turn, re-arrange, fold, spindle and mutilate. And that squeezes out all the liquids, drying my food out. My new culinary word-of-the-day is “peek”.
Baking With Cold Eggs and Dairy Products: After it being nagged into my brain all my life about keeping my dairy products cold, NOW they tell me not to when baking. More science talk, that I’m not going to try to understand, but it results in dense cakes and breads. So I need to let them get to room temp. (about 30 min. to an hour out of the fridge) unless the recipe calls for it to be cold (like for flaky pie crusts).
Measuring Dry Ingredients in a Liquid Measuring Cup: Somewhere along the line in my cooking education, I was told to always pack my dry ingredients, like flour, into my measuring cups. Now I learn that’s the opposite of the correct way to measure. No wonder everything I baked tasted like flour…I was putting way too much in my recipes. I’m going to quote the proper procedure so I don’ mess it up–
Use dry measuring cups when portioning out flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch, as their flat rims are designed to help you get the most accurate measure. Spoon the ingredient into a cup, then sweep off the excess with the side of a knife. Resist the temptation to scoop directly from the bin or bag with the cup—you’ll compact the ingredients, with the same result as above.
I also learned about measuring implements: There IS a difference between a measuring cup and measuring cups. The single cup is for liquids, the individual cups are for dry goods. And apparently it does make a difference which one you use.
So, now that I know some of the secrets of kitchen magic, maybe I’ll give baking a shot again. Check out the link to the full list to see more helpful tips. How to Fix 17 Basic Cooking Mistakes