Monday, March 6, 2017

25 things I learned about cooking (some the hard way).

1. Garlic salt ≠ garlic powder.

2. When the recipe says let the meat rest, let it rest. We don't want the serving dish to look like a scene from Bones.

3. A minute means the difference between a bad soft-boiled egg and a bad hard-boiled egg.

4. If you make up a recipe or make changes to one, write down what you did, or you will never be able to re-create it and people will wonder why you can't make X as good as you did that one time. "Remember that time? That was so good."

5. Cookies burn fast.

6. It's difficult to overbake a potato, but really easy to underbake one.

7. Many things go well in a salad, but know your audience before adding raw onion. Yes, even a mild onion.

8. The amount of work we put into something does not obligate someone else to enjoy it.

9. Some oven gloves, like some bathroom towels, are really just for show. In the case of oven gloves, make sure you know if it's good before grabbing the turkey pan.

10. Making a cake is easy. Making a cake look good is tricky. Making it look like something in a magazine is hugely difficult. The baker who did that had a lot of instruction and ruined a lot of cakes getting that good.

11. If you are a non-baker and you make four dozen cupcakes for a special event, you will be sick to death of frosting them around #17.

12. Turn the burger over when you see red running out from the top. It's done when... Well, make your best guess. No burger ever gave anyone E.coli because it was cooked too much.

13. Disposable foil pans work well with some recipes but not with others. Only one way to find out which.

14. Baking is chemistry, with four main components: temperature, ingredients, volume, and time. A change to any may ruin what you're making. Using a 10-inch pan when you are supposed to use a 9-inch pan may be possible by adapting other components, but it's guesswork unless you're a real baking genius. Keep toothpicks on hand for testing.

15. Even the color of the pan can ruin what you're baking. Generally foods in dark pans should bake at 25 degrees F lower than the recipe calls for, but that may not be enough. If you have a choice, avoid dark pans. They're annoying and add no benefit.

16. Your family may love some recipes, but that doesn't mean other families will even want to try them. Recipes that feature Spam, for example, are dicey that way.

17. A high price is not a guarantee of excellence with cookware.

18. Work very hard to keep hair out of food and bones out of fish. It's important.

19. Every oven is a little different. Usually it's not a big deal, but it can be, especially with delicate stuff. A roast can take a lot more punishment than a meringue.

20. There are 8,000,000 recipes online that promise to make a cheap steak as tender as a mother's kiss. All 8,000,000 are lying. (A slow cooker may eventually get it to be merely dry and chewy, which is an improvement.)

21. When a recipe calls for fresh herbs, you can get away with dried -- just use ⅓ as much.

22. Related note: 1 teaspoon = ⅓ tablespoon.

23. There are chefs who act as if canned vegetables are an affront to all that is good and holy. I like to think I'm made of sterner stuff than that. I admit there are differences among products; canned corn is just fine, but canned asparagus loses that nice fresh snap.

24. Anyone who uses the expression "Easy as pie" has forgotten the first time he ever tried to make a piecrust. "Easy as eating pie" would be a better expression.

25. The company is more important than the food.

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