Sunday, January 13, 2013

Becky's Cooking Lessons: Priceless Tips and Tricks

People will think you are a seasoned pro when you use these tips and tricks while cooking.

As I think of them, I will add more tips and tricks, so check back often.

Want to make your ground beef go farther.  Add shredded zucchini or other squash to it.  Then cook your favorite dishes as usual, like tacos, spaghetti, and even hamburgers.  You'll get lots of fiber and vitamins, and stretch your ground beef budget farther.  It tastes the same, so no one will ever know!

Papa John's is right, better ingredients do make for better meals.  Granted, sometimes they can cost more, but you're probably spending money on a lot of junk, too.  Checkout my post on edible weeds, you can't get much cheaper than that!  Using fresh ingredients makes the difference between good and "oh, that's good!"

Don't throw out those cilantro stems.  They have the same flavor as the leaves, unlike with parsley.  Chopped up, you can't tell the difference in texture...

To make your taco meat stick together more like a paste and be finer in texture (like some fast food restaurants), just sprinkle a tablespoon or two of flour over the meat before you brown it.  Stir constantly, smushing the meat down into a thin layer with the spoon.

 To brown meat, keep a high heat, don't overcrowd the pan, turn on the vent fan, and don't use salt - to keep moisture away.

To sweat onions and other vegetables, keep a low heat, crowd the pan, and use salt to release moisture.
Mushrooms have lots of water.  They must "sweat" it all out before they can brown.  Use same instructions as browning, but expect it to take a little longer to release the moisture.

To rid your hands of garlic smelltouch anything metal.  The smell disappears instantly.

See more tips for garlic in Lesson 1 of my series.

steak searing in pan
How do you know when to turn meat over?  If you're cooking a pork chop, steak, fish, or any other solid meat (not ground), the meat will tell you when it's time to be flipped over.  If the meat sticks to the pan or grill, it's too early to flip.  It is ready to flip when you can lift the meat with ease.  Sometimes, you'll run into a pan that everything sticks to no matter what.  In that case, use common sense.  If you think it's burning, it probably is.

hamburgers with indentationHow to make flat hamburgers.  Do your hamburgers always come out in a dome shape instead of flat?  The secret to fixing them is not to flatten them with a spatula.  This will dry out all the good juices!  Instead, make an indentation in the center of the raw meat before cooking them.  The indentation will go away, and your burgers will be evenly flat all over. Also works with patty sausage!

Spoon in pot boilingTo stop a pot from boiling over, blow on it and reduce the temperature.  The bubbles will go down immediately.

Or to prevent a pot from boiling over, put a wooden spoon across the top of the pot.

To remove the smells from onions and other pungent foods from your cutting board, spray or wet it with vinegar.  Allow the vinegar to evaporate, and your cutting board is safe to cut fruit so that it doesn't takes like an onion.  It also kills nasty bacteria!

vinegar bottlewooden cutting board

Don't have any buttermilk but need it for a recipe?  No problem, just stir in 2 T vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let set to curdle about 5 minutes.  You can also buy powdered buttermilk which will last in your fridge a very long time.

Make buttermilk from vinegar and milk

potato absorbs salt

If your soup, stew, or sauce is too salty, don't worry!  Just add a potato.  Potatoes absorb lots of salt. You can remove the potato once the dish tastes right.

water prevents burning in oven

Does your oven burn the bottom of your food, but you can't afford to get the oven it fixed?  Simply place a pan of water on the rack underneath your dish.  It acts as a buffer so that your dish cooks without burning.

To perfectly peel a boiled egg, use old eggs instead of fresh.  Also put the eggs in ice water right after cooking to cause the egg to shrink away from the shell.  This trick will work every time.

As I am cooking, I will note the tips and tricks I use and post them on my blog.  So check back frequently!

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