Thursday, October 14, 2010

Three kitchen tips everybody should learn. (and one bonus!)

This started as a post about the top 10 stupid things I see people do. Things that never cease to amaze me. By item 5 I had only mentioned cooking errors, and I had plenty more to go. So I want to make this more positive instead.

So here I present what I consider 3 essential cooking tips. Anybody who is old enough to work a microwave should be taught these tips. Nobody should be allowed in a kitchen without demonstrating proficiency in these three things.

You might even think that I've returned to 2008 and this is a rant on roommates. Well to some extent it is, but I see a disturbing disregard for these tips all over the place -- not just in my own home.


1 - Cutting should take place on cutting boards. Not in pans. Not on plates. Not on the counter or the table. On a cutting board. Cutting on a plate destroys your knife. Cutting in the pan destroys the pan. Cutting on either a plate or pan forces you to hold the knife in a way that's unnatural and unsafe. Use a cutting board. You'll find that you have far greater control over what you're cutting, and you'll find it far more comfortable too. Seriously. Use a cutting board.

2 - The dial on your stove goes all the way to "High" -- but "High" is really for boiling water only. Men in particular seem to always want to cook their food on High. Nothing makes me cry more inside than seeing ruby-red burners under a fry pan or skillet as somebody furiously tries to cook a chicken breast of hamburger on top. When you cook on high, the outside of your food burns before the inside gets a chance to cook. Of if you do leave your food on until the inside is cooked, the outside is so dry that it's hardly worth eating. Your food sticks to the pan like 100x more too. Cook on medium to medium high heat. 

3 - The stove has different size burners. Use them. Using a little tiny pan on a big burner doesn't help you cook any faster...it just dumps a lot of unnecessary heat into the kitchen and creates a HUGE hazard. Honestly. Say you're cooking something with a little oil...if some oil splashes out of the pan and onto the porcelain surface of the stove, no big deal -- just wipe it up later. But if it bounces into a hot burner it's going to pop and send little bits of hot oil flying through the air...probably onto your arm. Or what about dropping a utensil? You want to impart a funky flavour into what you're cooking? Drop a plastic cooking utensil into a hot cooking element.

Little pans go on little burners, big pans go on big burners. It's not rocket science.

Admittedly, this is less of a problem with gas stoves, but they usually still have different size burn zones. If flames are shooting up the side of your pan (Instead of contained on the bottom), you need to turn the burner down and/or switch to a smaller burner.


Bonus tip:
MIcrowaves cook food from the inside out. Ovens, stoves, and toasters cook food from the outside in. You can use this to your advantage. Got leftovers and you want to reheat them, but you don't want them mushy from the microwave? Well use the microwave to get them warm from the refrigerator, and then finish the job off on the stovetop or in the oven. 

And those frozen toaster pastries that always seem to come out burnt with frozen centers? (See #2 above) -- try microwaving them for 10-15 seconds first. That will heat up the fruit filling inside. Then drop the pastry in the toaster to crisp up the outside. 



There you have it. What skills do you think are essential for all people?