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Tricks Of The Kitchen Trade

Printed From: Foods of the World Forum
Category: Other Food-Related Topics
Forum Name: Around the Kitchen Table
Forum Discription: A place to discuss general food talk, as well as general techniques for food preparation.
URL: http://foodsoftheworld.ActiveBoards.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=4539
Printed Date: 17 January 2018 at 07:50


Topic: Tricks Of The Kitchen Trade
Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Subject: Tricks Of The Kitchen Trade
Date Posted: 22 December 2015 at 08:39

From time to time, every cooking forum tries a “best tips” thread. Most of the time they don’t work.

There are two primary reasons for that. First, for many of us, the little tricks we use in the kitchen are done automatically. We don’t think of them as special, or that, perhaps, others don’t know about them. Second, it’s difficult to pull these tricks out of thin air. You might have a little thing you do at the appropriate time that is, in fact, your favorite kitchen trick. But if somebody asks you, out of the blue, what your favorite kitchen tip is, you’re hard pressed to come up with it.

With that in mind, I started keeping a running list of some of the techniques I use that others might not be aware of. I’m hoping these will prime the pump, so to speak, and other members will jump in with one, or two, or a half-dozen of their own.

These aren’t in any particular order. Basically, when I used one of these tricks, or, for some reason remembered it, I added it to the list:

Toasting Seeds & Nuts: Perhaps the most common error made by cooks---including professionals---is to burn seeds, nuts, and spices that are being pan toasted. You turn your back to perform another task, and poof! Smoke and blackened seeds.
     The solution: Get the empty pan scorching hot, then add the seeds, nuts, or spices. Immediately remove it from the heat and shake the contents until they release their fragrance and start to color. This will only take a few seconds. Pour them into a bowl and let cool. Using this trick you’ll never burn them again.

Testing Oil Temperature: Thermometers are great for checking the temperature of oil when deep frying. But what if you don’t have one? Or if you’re pan frying or shallow frying, when thermometers are the second best thing to useless? All kinds of tests have been devised, from sprinkling a drop of water to tossing in a cube of bread.
      Of them all, the best one I know is to dip the tip of a wooden chopstick into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is at 375F.

Non-rolled Pastry Crust: There’s nothing like a flaky pie crust. But some of us---me included---are dough-rolling challenged to say the least. Rolling pie dough is a skill I just can’t master. But that doesn’t stop me.
     Instead of rolling, I break off small pieces of the paste and shape them into balls, roughly the size of a marble. These get pressed down, with my thumb, into coins. The coins are arranged on top of the filling, slightly overlapping. Voila! A lovely crust, with artistic textural breaks.

Poor Man’s Panini Press: Most of us do not own panini presses. But sometimes we want the special flatness of that kind of sandwich. To achieve that effect, think bricks. That’s right. Regular bricks. Wash them well, and wrap in foil.
     For one or two sandwiches you can do these in a skillet. Butter both pieces of bread. Preheat the skillet, add the sandwiches, and place a brick on each. When the first side is browned, remove the bricks, flip the sandwiches, and replace the bricks until the second side is done.
     With thicker sandwiches, such as Cubanos, you might have to press down on the brick initially.
     Sandwiches for a crowd? No big deal. Heat two sheet pans in a 400F oven. Meanwhile, prep the sandwiches by buttering both sides. When the pans are hot, set them on the range. Put the sandwiches on one of the pans, invert the second over them, and add several bricks. Return this whole package to the oven until the bread is toasted to your preference.
     Subtip: When making panini, grilled cheese, or similar sandwiches, try spreading them with mayo instead of butter. You’ll be surprised at how nice they brown up, with an additional flavor level as well.

Microwave Butter Dome: We’ve all done it. The recipe calls for butter at room temperature. But you forget to take it out of the fridge. Or maybe it’s winter, and you’re kitchen never gets warm enough to properly soften the butter.
     Not to worry. Take an appropriately sized glass measuring cup. Fill with water and pop in the microwave until the water boils. Dump it out, give it a wipe, and invert it over the butter.
     The residual heat in the glass acts like a terrarium, and the butter will soften in just a few minutes.

Preseasoning Sausage Meat: This is a trick I learned from an old-time sausage maker, and it surprises me that more sausage makers don’t do it. After cubing the meat, spread you herbs and spices on it before grinding it. This assures even distribution, particularly if you double grind, in a way you can’t obtain by adding seasoning to already chopped meat. BTW, if you grind your own burger meat, this works for that, too.

There you go. A half dozen tricks of the trade that might make your kitchen tasks easier.

What about everyone else? What special tricks do you use in the kitchen?


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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket



Replies:
Posted By: drinks
Date Posted: 22 December 2015 at 08:56
I cannot believe the last one is NOT standard procedure for every sausage maker, I have done that since I started making sausage some 60 years ago.
I suppose that habit is from growing up with Germans on both sides of the family.
Interesting ideas.


Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 22 December 2015 at 13:17
I know what you mean, Drinks. But the fact is, I've shared it with a number of serious sausage makers, and it was always a revelation to them.

To me it just makes sense.

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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 30 December 2015 at 07:23
I was hoping that other members of our community would jump in with tips of their own. I know, from the number of views list, that folks are reading this thread. They’re just not contributing. Very disappointing!

At any rate, I’d continued keeping track of some tips and tricks I use. Being as I’ve got them anyway, I’ll add them to this thread.

Coffee Filter Strainer. For fine straining, nothing beats a cheesecloth-lined sieve. But there are substitutes if you lack the cheesecloth.
     One you often hear is to line the sieve with paper towels. Have you ever tried it? A paper towel’s job is to absorb liquids, not pass them. As a result, much of the liquid gets taken up by the towel, which also tends to clog if there’s a lot of solid material. Sure, you can wring the liquid out of the towel. But doing that chances returning particulates to the clear liquid you’re trying to produce.
     Coffee filters, on the other hand, do a good job. Their function is to pass liquids while holding back any solids (like fine coffee grounds, donchasee). So, in a pinch, use a coffee filter to strain your soups, stocks, and other liquids.

Dry Roast Tomatoes. The classic way of peeling tomatoes is to blanch them in boiling water to loosen the skins. That certainly works. But it’s both time consuming and messy.
     Few cooks---even professionals, as it turns out---are aware that dry heat works just as well. The process is similar to charring peppers, you just don’t take it that far.
     For just a few tomatoes, I use my torch. Place a tomato on the stove rack, and gently run the flame of your torch over it. You’ll actually see the skin momentarily left away from the tomato. Transfer that tomato to a bowl, and continue with the others. Then peel them. The skins will come right off, although a paring knife sometimes helps grab them to start.
     For a large number of tomatoes, your oven or backyard grill works fine. I prefer the grill, because it lets me monitor the tomatoes, turning them as necessary. The process is relatively fast, so you really want that sort of control.
     Another benefit of using the grill: If you want fire-roasted tomatoes, just leave them on the grill until the skins actually char a bit. They won’t fully blacken, like peppers, but the flavor of the grill will be infused into them.

Deboning fish filets. Of all the kitchen tasks, removing the pin bones from fish filets is the biggest PITA going. Or, if not, it runs whatever is a very close second.
     One way of easing the task: Take a metal or glass mixing bowl, and invert it on your work surface. Drape the filet over the domed bowl. This will cause the bones to lift, slightly, and expose the tips, which you can then grab with your deboning tool. If the filet is too long for the bowl, just keep advancing it, as if the fish were slithering over the dome.
     That image, btw, comes right from how I discovered this trick. I was watching a black snake crawl over a rounded boulder. As it moved its scales would lift slightly. And a light bulb went off in my mind.

Foiled again!. Many, perhaps most of us, came up believing that how you use foil affects heat. The dull side, we were taught, absorbs heat, whereas the shiny side reflects it away.
     This is one of those “truisms” easy to accept, because it seems to make sense.
     Bzzz! Wrong! Thanks for playing! According to the folks at Alcoa, who, apparently, ran some extensive tests, which side is out has no effect on heat retention or absorbency.
     If I’m wrapping things for the freezer, I still put the dull side out, only because it’s easier to label the package. Otherwise, I pay no attention to which side is out. And I’ve never noticed, since taking that approach, any difference in cooking times.
     I reckon those folks at Alcoa know what they’re talking about.


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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: pitrow
Date Posted: 30 December 2015 at 09:30
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

I was hoping that other members of our community would jump in with tips of their own. I know, from the number of views list, that folks are reading this thread. They’re just not contributing. Very disappointing!


I'm following along, but I can't really think of any "tips" that I know of that aren't already listed or considered general knowledge.


Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

Foiled again!. Many, perhaps most of us, came up believing that how you use foil affects heat. The dull side, we were taught, absorbs heat, whereas the shiny side reflects it away.
     This is one of those “truisms” easy to accept, because it seems to make sense.
     Bzzz! Wrong! Thanks for playing! According to the folks at Alcoa, who, apparently, ran some extensive tests, which side is out has no effect on heat retention or absorbency.
     If I’m wrapping things for the freezer, I still put the dull side out, only because it’s easier to label the package. Otherwise, I pay no attention to which side is out. And I’ve never noticed, since taking that approach, any difference in cooking times.
     I reckon those folks at Alcoa know what they’re talking about.


I think on this one it really depends on the type of heat you're using. For standard or convection ovens I don't think there'd be much of a difference, but anywhere it's exposed to radiant heat, like a broiler or infrared heat, I would imagine that the dull side would absorb the heat at a greater rate than the shiny side. I could be wrong though, I've never tested. I know, however, it does make a difference when you're using aluminum foil to make a reflector for a solar oven.


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Mike
http://lifeinpitrow.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow - Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog


Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 30 December 2015 at 11:04
All of which sounds logical, Mike. Which is, perhaps, why we've all bought in to the idea.

I haven't actually taken temperatures. But I've found that over charcoal or wood coals, with one part wrapped dull-out, the other shiny-out, both cook in the same time.

Question: Under what circumstances would you cook foil-wrapped food under a broiler? I'm having trouble envisioning anything done that way.

With a foil-wrapped pan, but the food exposed, cooking time is unaffected, in my experience.

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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket


Posted By: Percebes
Date Posted: 07 April 2016 at 09:51
To make clear stock let your bones sit in ice water for an hour or longer before adding heat.

Some of the elements that you hope to remove in the protein scum are only COLD soluble. They require some time to become soluble and to be better extracted. Do not close the door on them and lock them inside.

Heat changes everything and can lock the haze into the liquid.
Think of it as though you were blooming gelatin.



I have witnessed chefs actually use warm to hot water to speed up stock making.
This is one of the two most common reasons for cloudy stock. Allowing the scum to boil under without removing it is reason #2

I boned a turkey for sausage making last night, so I let the carcass sit in cold water in the stock pot on the back steps overnight at 4C.
I stirred it vigorously at least twice over the course of that soak.

A quick skim reveals how much clearer this stock is.

Third reason for cloudy stock is the inappropriate use of fat or inherently fatty items in stock making.

To the chef that tried to serve me a clear stock made from Salmon heads and bones.
Stop using salmon for clear stock. It won't work.
Save those stocks for Chowder.

As for aluminum foil the bright side does indeed offer 8% greater reflectivity over the dull side. However, it means little if you wrap a cold food product with the shiny side in and put in on the grill.

It is simply reflecting back the cold side of the equation, because the heat is coming from the wrong side.
Foil has poor heat retention, but is so thin as to allow rapid passage to the food. Moist heat transfers heat more readily than dry heat. Think placing your hand over steam. So wrapping food in foil allows the moisture trapped inside the foil wrapped package to rapidly turn to steam which would reduce cooking time regardless of whether the foil is shiny or matte..

The foil becomes a sealed environment that would modify the conditions that the food is exposed to.

I generally wait to see my foil wrapped package expand, which visually tells me the interior temps that must be present to produce steam.

The folds that employed are critical to success in sealing the atmosphere.





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I am a wine enthusiast. The more wine I drink, the more enthusiastic I become.


Posted By: HistoricFoodie
Date Posted: 09 January 2018 at 14:28
Thought I'd bring this thread to the top, hopefully so others can add to it.

A couple more:

One of the biggest messes in most home kitchens is slicing corn off the cob. No matter how careful you are, corn kernels kick out all over the place. Next time, try this: Invert a small bowl inside a larger one. Support the cob on the small bowl and slice away. The kernels will drop into the large bowl instead of scattering all over the place.

Long-time members will remember Chris Flanders, one of the most knowledgeable and creative cooks belonging to our community. For reasons of his own, Chris doesn't post anymore. But he recently passed on to me a great trick from keeping stocks of ginger, galangal, and turmeric. Peel and grind the roots (I use a fine micro-plane), transfer to a plastic zipper bag, and roll it out thinly. Then, when you need some ginger or whatever, just break off a piece of the sheet. Works like a charm.

Anyone else have some tips to offer?

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But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket



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