A lot of us are often given blurred visions of certain food preparation techniques that we forget many vital processes; thanks to commercialized quick-to-eat food products that make us want to pop them in the oven and voila! There are certain kitchen/cooking metrics that we Food Central do not encourage, but would like you to know so that you can be kitchen-smart.
Here are a few simple cooking tips that you might find handy when you do cooking. Preparing ingredients are sometimes tedious work – Just like washing vegetables, peeling prawns, washing shellfish, dressing the sirloin and so forth. If you know what’s best for yourself in the kitchen, you might be able to run away from certain fuss by using these food techniques:
- Salt your water when you’re hard-boiling eggs The trick to easy-peel hard boil eggs is actually adding in salt to lukewarm water, turn on the fire and start cooking the eggs. When your water is boiled, turn down your fire to simmer. Constantly check your eggs for cracks – Too hot of the water will crack your eggs (and if you want to save gas by putting in hot boiling water to boil your eggs, you might just crack a lot of them if you’re boiling in a chunk); salt your water by adding in around 1 handful of salt to 5 liters of water. The salt will lengthen your boiling time but it’ll make your life 100 times simpler.
- Keep your knife hot when you’re slicing ‘vulnerable’ food items The trick to making the perfect slice for eggs or cheesecake (and some chocolate products) is to keep your knife hot, not warm. Stainless steel do not keep hot temperatures well, and looking at your thin chef knife, it won’t keep it for long either. Clean your knife, dip it into hot boiling water for a while or put them over naked fire then make your incision – You’ll notice that it makes a very clean cut.
- When you slice eggs, keep the yolk on top Hard-boiled eggs are best sliced (usually into half) from their yolk section first. Always look for the yolk, then make your incision there. Slicing too far away from the yolk makes it hard for you to aim well – Also makes your egg portions uneven. In certain cases where you can’t see the yolk or it’s already out in the open, just follow No. 2 and do it your way.
- Use egg whites to ‘smoothen’ your chicken If you’re marinading chicken, you can also add egg white into your marinade and keep them inside. For example, one whole chicken (portioned into 8), and one large egg white. After cooking the chicken, you’ll notice the skin is actually smoother.
- Italian sauces are best left for a day before consumption Many homemade Italian sauces are great – Even better if you ‘age’ them for a day. As liquid evaporates from your sauces (giving you a more focused and intense flavor) and/or incorporates with other ingredients using its naturals, these sauces will not lose its flavor for a day but gives you a bigger punch the next day. Best few examples are basic tomato sauces, pesto and stocks like Velouté (white stock – Can be vegetable, fish, shellfish or chicken) or (X – can be any vegetable) Concasse.
- For a better Parmesan, let it ‘sweat’ Many cheeses cannot be done this way, but for the special Midori brand Parmesan Cheese in a block, (found in Jusco & Cold Storage and sometimes Tesco) cheeses can be left to sweat and made better. Here’s how you do it – Open the packaging but only remove the top part. Leave it outside on your dinner table (under 20+C room temperature) and make sure it has no contact with sunlight and rodents. Keep it that way for 2 days – Now taste it. It’s different.
- Let your Chinese Celery and/or Coriander live longer Putting them in your fridge alone (with paper or plastic wrap) will kill them fast. Get a small ‘deep’ tupperware or even a Milo tin, add water in it, and let them sit inside (with roots below). This will lengthen their shelf life.
- Remove chicken skin with one incision and one pull If you need to remove the main chicken skin from your whole chicken, do this: Use a sharp knife and turn your chicken breast-side-down. Make a straight vertical incision along the ‘backbone’ of the chicken, then tear the chicken skin apart. This should remove most of its skin (except for the wings).
- Non-stick a pan with food ingredients or few techniques Heat/Temperature control is your best technique. If you need your pan to be non-stick (but it’s not labeled or sold as non-stick), you can do a few things – Heat your pan thoroughly before cooking (dry), fry a full egg before cooking, cook a stick-able ingredient until the surface is cooked before touching it (with high enough heat), oil your pan and heat the oil (then remove it and place it in another container) before cooking and fry beansprouts or coconut husks before cooking.
- Remove the ‘new’ smell from your Pan or Wok You can try this few ingredients. Don’t bother washing it too many times to rid the smell because some ‘cheap’ pans don’t work. You can try heating the pan to the maximum then pouring hot oil into it and throw away, fry beansprouts or coconut husks, leave it heated under hot charcoal for 30 minutes, make a simple ‘stew’ and throw them away. All of these works, but if you’re still getting the smell, then you know that pan won’t last long.
- Getting ‘rust’ marks out of your pans and woks Chinese woks are famous for this, especially when they are old. You tend to leave your wok to hang (with some water intact) and you come back and find your wok has rust marks. You can use a few methods to combat this problem: After washing your pan/wok, use a kitchen towel and some oil then rub enough oil on it – This will enable water to not oxidize the metal surface of your pan/wok. Alternatively, you can also heat your pan/wok to the maximum, and then leave it to cook (do not let it come in contact with water. Wash before heating your pan/wok.
- Don’t store shellfish into the fridge Storing shellfish into the fridge is the wrong way to go (applies for freshly live ones). What you can do is wash them under running water for a while to remove the dirt, place them in a container (without covering) then get a wet kitchen cloth and cover them. Make sure they’re in room temperature and is not kept for more than 1 1/2 days. Do this for live clams and local mussels (Malaysia).
- Don’t use mayonnaise straight from the tub/container Commercialized mayonnaise taste absolutely ridiculous if you’re not challenging it with another strong-tasting ingredient. What you can do to ‘tame’ its flavor is to add in milk, salt & pepper, whisk them well to a thinner texture. If you’re adventurous enough, take a small portion of mayonnaise and add in a few more ingredients. You can add garlic, tomato/chilly sauce, Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins), Maggi Seasoning Sauce, Jalapeño juice, Pickles, cream, sugar, brine, onions, carrots, cabbage or anything you can find in the fridge. Its tastes are subjective, so be careful.
- Test your knife with a tomato Want to know how sharp is your knife but do not know how to test it? Here are a few simple tricks for you to test them out: Slice a not-so-young-and-fresh (when pressed is quite soft) tomato, and you should be able to slice it without putting pressure on your knife blade. Another way is to slice big, yellow/red onions. If you cry fast, then it’s either your techniques or your blade. Another great way of testing is to slice plastic. Extremely sharp knives slice plastic bags almost too easily – Without even having to add any pressure. Simply move it along the plastic bag and see if it goes through.
- Don’t wash freshly harvested mushrooms Washing freshly harvested mushrooms can be disastrous (to its natural flavors). If you’re looking for hygiene, PICK IT FROM A MORE HYGIENIC PLACE or get it from Tesco. Either way, they work better. If you’re not particular, simply use a pastry brush and brush off its sand. For certain mushrooms like fresh button mushrooms, peel their ‘outer’ skin before cooking. You can use that skin for your chicken stock.
- Keep cockroaches away with this leaf Use ‘Pandan‘ (or called Screw Pine) leaves to keep cockroaches away. They work extremely well. Pandan/Screw Pine leaves has hundreds of usage in thousands of recipes and home-uses.
- Reheat your bread in the microwave oven with some water Put in your bread and a microwave-oven-friendly bowl or glass filled with water in the microwave oven and give it a quick 20 second high heat. This will not make your bread lose too much of its moisture.
- Make your banana grow naturally juicier What you can do is to hang your bananas – Using a string or a hook, hang the banana on its comb and let it sit on air – This will give your banana a juicy boost and also make it brown evenly. Placing it on cold surfaces will blacken the skin (in one area first then spread to more later) faster. Bananas are naturally ‘bomb-smoked’ first in the farm before it goes on sale (to enable boost and uniform ripening), and when it’s done that way, your bananas don’t taste as good as natural ones.
- Keep your rice from rodents and stick-free When you’re keeping uncooked rice, leave a few pieces of dried chilly in the container your store your uncooked rice. This will keep insects and rodents away. Besides, adding fresh dried chilly into your rice cooker will also make your cooking easier – The rice won’t stick to the bottom. Make sure you don’t cook the dried chilly (or make it come in contact with oil) first or it won’t work.
- Naturally cook your ingredients a few times faster If you’re adventurous enough, you can try packaging (in a plastic bag) a few unripe apples and some chilly. Put in 4 apples to 4 pieces of red chilly. Put them in a bag together and place it in the fridge. You’ll notice that the chilly ‘reactions’ actually ‘cook’ the apples faster. Although this is not entirely ‘proven’ scientifically to many Chef’s knowledge, it does work in certain cases.
Von Cook is the Chef de Partie and writer of Food Central, a busy kitchen in Malaysia cooking for Royalties. Von Cook has ventured to almost everything of 10 Head Chef’s 20 or more years of food and cooking experience and is sharing his food knowledge now with you.
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