Deep Frying Featured image
Pro Hacks

The Art of Deep Frying

It doesn’t matter if it’s boiled or fried
Just eat it” – Weird Al

 

With all due respect to Weird Al, it does matter. Deep Fried is the ultimate for crunch and keeping juice in when done right. And speed, never forget how quickly your food cooks when you deep fry it. We’ll lead you through some background, some science, with some tips and tricks, all focused on deep frying at home safely and with great results.

Deep Fried History

Somewhere, sometime, someone said let’s chuck this dough into that bubbling hot fat to cook it. Likely a couple thousand years BCE, in Canaan they surmise. The oil was probably lard of some sort, although extracting oils from plants was also a thing by then.

Ancient stove

Deep frying was later the western world’s contribution to Asian cuisine, starting with the Portuguese bringing tempura to Japan sometime in the 16th century.

tempura in deep fryer

Like most cooking techniques, deep frying has a place in every course of the meal from appetizer to dessert, snacks to buffets. Just in case there was any doubt, the state fair circuit in America has proven you can deep fry just about any food product you can think of. Other than Antarctica, every continent enjoys food from a fryer.

Deep fried fair food Shop

Deep Frying Science

Deep Fryer

You can walk out in 115-degree heat and feel it, but it is not painful. Most people will yank back their hand if they put it in 115-degree water. The difference is the amount of contact, water touches every inch of exposed skin, directly moving the heat to your skin whereas the air has so few molecules, relatively speaking, that the heat transfer is less. Same idea when you immerse food in hot oil, full contact with the heat. That is why you get faster cooking speeds and other affects.

frying on open flame

A large part of why food browns when exposed to heat is explained in the Maillard reaction. We don’t know all the whys behind it, but the French scientist was the first one to really examine and track the reactions of the sugars, enzymes and other food components. These are what give us all the great flavors and textures of fried, baked, or any style of cooked food that browns.

Types of oils for deep frying

Effective deep frying occurs between 350-375°F. This is the temperature at which you get the best balance between removing moisture and not absorbing oil in the food.

All oils have a smoke point and a flash point. Which is why some oils are not good for deep frying.

The smoke point is when they begin to scorch, obviously beginning to smoke a bit.

Flash point is when they burst into flame.

Don’t exceed the smoke point, the easiest way to avoid learning the flash point.

This table shows the smoke point of commonly available oils.

 

Fat & Oils Smoke Points

Fat/Oil°F
Flax Oil225
Canola Oil, unrefied225
Safflower and Sunflower Oil, unrefined225
Corn Oil, unrefiend320
Peanut Oil, unrefiend320
Olive Oil, extra virgin320
Butter325 -375
Coconut Oil, unrefiend350
Vegetable Shortening (e.g. Crisco)360-370
Lard360-400
Safflower and Sunflower Oil, refined450
Corn Oil, refined450
Peanut Oil, refined450
Canola Oil, refined425-475
Clarifiend Butter (Ghee)400-500

 

Refined canola oil is by far the most common oil used commercially for deep frying in our experience. As you can see, it has a very high smoke point. Peanut oil is arguably the best choice, light flavored and sturdy, it has some great qualities. It is also kind of expensive relatively speaking. Beyond that you see a lot of refined sunflower, soy or corn oil blends available for restaurants and home frying.

Batter VS breading

Batter with breading

Simply put, batter is wet, breader is dry. You can bread something with an already damp surface by simply dredging it through flour or such until it is coated. That flour coating will also allow a fluid to adhere better. So, to batter fish for example, you dredge it to coat with flour, then put it in the batter until coated and then place in the fryer. A breaded product can also be dredged, then it gets a wash layer, typically beaten egg with a little water, then dredged in the final coating of more flour or bread crumbs, crushed corn flakes, or many more choices.

Potatoes and flour-based foods like doughs or pasta do not require an extra coating step. They have enough starches to resist shrinkage, and keep their moisture levels. Think that through, and you see why we tend to use flour based breadings and batters to coat food before frying it.

Frying Safety

kettle on heat

You can certainly deep fry food with just a pot and a heat source. First off, mind the temperature. As we just explored, there are specific windows of temperature that are safe and get you good results. Here are the other considerations to stay safe.

frying frozen meat

Every Thanksgiving we hear about someone burning up their place while deep frying a turkey. Excluding dopes who drop a frozen bird into hot oil, the most common mistake is because of displacement and bubbling. When you first put food into a fryer, you get this really cool mild roar of bubbling oil that can come up as much as six inches across a deep turkey fryer, and similarly a pot of oil on your stove. Combine that with displacement raising the oil level when you add stuff to it and that’s where the danger starts. Turkey frying is typically done over an open propane flame, which will light oil on fire if it overflows down the sides.

Cooking in fryer

The lesson learned is to leave enough room for displacement, meaning how much your food will raise the oil level. And secondly, allow for bubble up or foaming of at least a few inches. Just to be safe, right before you add the first batch of food, turn off the heat. No open flame on a gas stove, or hot element on electric, to cause a flame. If it spills over you just get the mess to clean up in your non burnt down kitchen.

Equipment for stove top frying

stove top fryer

If you are using a pot on a stove you want to be sure that you have tall enough sides for the reasons we just mentioned. Ideally you want a basket of some sort that fits easily in the pot, and allows for a decent cooking area. There are purpose-built stove top deep fryers available, and basically you are emulating one with a basket in your pot. You can fry without the basket insert, but having it makes your life easier when it comes time to take the food out.

There are great tools for handling deep fried food during cooking. Spider strainers, slotted spoons, or mesh strainer spoons are all made for pulling food out of a fryer with minimal mess.

Spider strainers

The other piece of equipment that you will like having is a mesh cover to diminish splatter and grease vapors. Frying is messy, and will distribute some oils particles in the air, and leave a scent; all of which the mesh cover will help reduce.

 

Complete home fryer

Popular fried foods

If you plan on doing a lot of deep frying, there is a lot to be said for getting a dedicated unit to use. Generally, these will plug into the wall, freeing up stove space for other things, and letting you decide where you want to do your frying. In our case, that means the back patio, under cover if needed, so the smell and mess stay outside.

Small home fryer

These will have a fitted basket for removing your food when cooked. They will also have a fill line that will help you be safer and neater by avoiding any spill overs. Investigate the ease of cleaning and such if you want to make a purchase, that is an area they will differ greatly and you will appreciate the ease of a well-designed unit.

Oil filtering

Fryer Oil Filter

Every single time you use your fryer you really want to filter your oil. You can use a simple fine mesh metal strainer to remove enough debris to help your oil live longer, just wait until the oil has cooled enough to handle safely. This will provide you with two solid benefits. The first is that you will extend the life of the oil immensely. Properly filtered, you can use oil again and again, in the neighborhood of 10-20 uses.

Filtering will allow much less flavor influence from past frying to stay in your oil when cooking again. Unfiltered oil will have particles that get very overcooked as the oil is reheating, causing a scorched or chemical flavors to your oil. In some cases, large particles can contribute to your oil going rancid quickly, adding horrible flavors and the risk of making someone sick. For taste, wholesomeness and efficiency, filter after every use.

Go forth and fry!

deep fried possum served

Have fun, stay safe and experiment. There’s great premade food to fry from the grocers, and then your limitless imagination to explore

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Jerk Style Cooking Featured Image
Pro Hacks, Scratch

Spice Up Your Kitchen: Jerk Style Cooking

Jerk style cooking originated in Jamaica  and is known for its flavorful, spicy dishes. If you’re a fan of fiery food, then you’ll love jerk style cooking.

Like many spicy cuisines around the globe, Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, it’s not all about the heat. Jerk style dishes are also incredibly flavorful and fragrant, thanks to the use of traditional Jamaican spices and herbs. Jerk style cooking is really versatile with chicken, pork, fish, and even vegetable dishes done on this style. Here’s the core that you need to know about this delicious culinary tradition.

What is jerk style cooking and where did it come from?

Jerk style cooking is a flavor-rich combination of African, Latin American, and Caribbean spices and flavors, born out of the Caribbean Island of Jamaica where these cultures intersected. A true staple in Jamaican culture, jerk style cooking originates from the Maroons  in the 17th century who were descendants of African slaves escaping to Woodford Hills, Jamaica. To preserve their food for long journeys over land and sea, they marinated meats with unique blends of spices from indigenous plants like allspice and Scotch Bonnet (habanero) peppers. Yet another amazing cooking style that came from the need to preserve food without refrigeration.

What are the key ingredients in jerk seasoning?

Like Chinese 5 spice or Indian curries, there’s no exact right way to make it.  Jerk seasoning is a blend of flavors that vary from region to region, but the core ingredients are habanero peppers and allspice, along with other Jamaican favorites such as thyme, garlic, cinnamon and nutmeg. The habanero peppers give jerk dishes their signature kick of heat which is balanced out by the sweetness of the allspice. Aromatic details come in through the thyme, garlic and cinnamon, all playing off each other to form a depth of flavor that compliments the foods you use it on. Nutmeg adds an earthy note while adding complexity and warmth to this unique blend of spices. Together they combine to deliver one of Jamaica’s best gifts: Jerk style cooking.

How Do I Make Dry Jerk Seasoning?

Dry Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Creating your own jerk seasoning is a great way to add some authentic Caribbean flavor to your dishes. Making it yourself allows you to tailor the mix to your palate, creating a blend that’s just right for you. Start by gathering all of the ingredients you need dried habanero peppers, allspice, thyme, granulated garlic, cinnamon and nutmeg. You can find these at most grocery stores or online at specialty spice shops.

Pro tip; start with less habanero  pepper and gradually add more until it has the desired level of spiciness. Be cautious working with the dried habanero, it is often finely ground which means it can go airborne into sinuses and eyes.

Once you have all of your spices, it’s time to create the blend mixing gently on a bowl Now that you have your blend ready to go, it’s time to use it! Jerk seasoning is great on chicken, pork and fish but can also be used on vegetables such as sweet potatoes or squash for a delicious side dish with major Caribbean flair. Just remember that this seasoning is spicy so a little can go a long way against delicate flavors.

How Do I Make Jamaican Jerk Marinade?

Jamaican Jerk sauce in bowl

Making your own jerk marinade is a great way to add flavor and authenticity to your dishes. The perfect jerk marinade is all about balance -it should be both spicy and flavorful, with just the right amount of heat. Start with gathering the ingredients for your marinade. You’ll need olive oil, lime juice, garlic, onion, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and habanero peppers. Seed core and chop the habaneros, again with caution. Coarsely chop the onions and garlic. Put everything in a food processor to get a nice blended puree.  At this point you have a delicious jerk marinade that pairs perfectly with a variety of proteins such as chicken, pork or fish. Simply schmear it over your protein of choice and let it sit for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking for maximum flavor infusion.

What are the most popular jerk dishes?

From traditional jerk chicken to spicy shrimp and savory pork, jerk style cooking can be adapted to suit any taste. It is also a friend to a variety of cooking techniques. Open flame is the most common approach to cooking off your jerked food. The broiling and crispy surfaces fit right in with the spices and the al fresco feeling of a jerk meal, particularly your marinated meats. smoking  is another great way to get an additional layer of flavors in your meal. Shrimp or fish or such will do just fine in a skillet for a quick sauté. Then there is the whole of delicious array of rich stews made with the same flavor profiles in the jerk marinades or dry spice sachets.

What sides go well with jerk dishes?

Jamaican jerk side dishes

When it comes to jerk dishes, you want your side dishes to compliment, and sometimes offer a relief from the spicy heat of your main course. There are several types of sides that bring out the flavor of a traditional jerk dish, such as steamed rice and peas or boiled yams. Pair them further with cool, creamy coleslaw or cucumber slices. Plantains  and mashed sweet potatoes make excellent accompaniments, as do salads, rice pilafs or roasted vegetables. Consider topping off your jerk masterpiece with a delicious array of toppings such as onions, tomatoes and lettuce, or even some very mild homemade mango or pineapple salsa.  It’s important to avoid sides that are too salty or heavily spiced -these ingredients can diminish your enjoyment of the flavor profile of traditional jerk dishes. Additionally, avoid anything with dairy (other than a light sour cream), as the rich taste can waylay the sultry seasoning that marks a true Caribbean-style jerk plate. Above all else, keep it simple but balanced.

You’re Free to Cook Like a Jerk…

funny steve martin in the jerk

Jerk style cooking has a long and interesting history, from its African roots to the Caribbean Island of Jamaica where it really flourished. With the right ingredients, a bit of patience, and some practice you can, too, make delicious jerk dishes in your own kitchen. The secret is all in combining the spices together to create an aromatic and flavorful marinade for your meat. The best part is that you get to create the foods and flavors that bring to mind enjoying a balmy evening in the tropics…in your own kitchen.

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Beef Jerky Featured image
Homemade, Scratch

Beef Jerky

Do you love beef jerky? Of course you do! Who doesn’t love a chewy, salty, smoky piece of dried meat that can last for months without spoiling? Beef jerky is the ultimate snack for anyone who wants a high-protein, low-carb, and highly portable bite of deliciousness. We’ll breakdown what you need to know to make the best tasting beef jerky at home.

You might think that beef jerky is a modern invention, created by some genius food scientist who wanted to make money off the paleo, keto, and Whole 30 craze. But you would be wrong.

jerky beef cooking on open fire

Beef jerky has a long and fascinating history that goes back thousands of years. Like some of our favorite cooking techniques (as you have heard us say before) it comes from preserving food with no refrigeration

Jerky’s roots in the Americas

The word “jerky” comes from a Quechua word: “Ch’arki,” which literally means “dry, salted meat.”¹ The Quechua  were an indigenous people who lived in the Andes mountains in modern-day Peru.

beef drying under sun

They invented the earliest version of beef jerky by drying llama meat in the sun during the day and freezing it at night. They also left the bones in, which must have been fun to gnaw on.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the New World, they learned about this method of preserving meat and adapted it to their own tastes. They called it “charqui” and used beef instead of llama. They also introduced spices like pepper, garlic, and oregano to add some flavor.

Jerky during expansion

Beef jerky spread to other parts of the Americas and the immigrating Europeans, where different cultures added their own twists. Cowboys made cowboy jerky, which was smoked over a fire instead of sun-dried.

shredded dried beef with eggs

And in Mexico, they made machaca , which was shredded dried beef that was rehydrated and cooked with eggs and salsa.

Variety and the spices of life

jerky store in USA

Today, beef jerky is now a global phenomenon. You can find it in different flavors, shapes, and sizes. You can also find it made from different kinds of meat, such as turkey, pork, venison, bison, or even alligator. You can even make your own beef jerky at home with a smoker, dehydrator or an oven.

Making beef jerky

cooked beef jerky

That’s what we are bringing you here, a modern recipe with classic overtones. Sweet and spicy, this is geared toward having a smoker. But you do not need a smoker, a gas grill will do. You can also add a high-quality liquid smoke, and ‘cook’ the jerky in a very low oven, or use a dehydrator.

But no matter how you make it or eat it, beef jerky is still the same ancient snack that never goes out of style. It’s convenient, nutritious, and satisfying. It’s also addictive, so don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Beef-Jerky-Recipe-image

Beef Jerky Recipe

Allen Bixby
Making Traditional Beef Jerky
Cook Time 2 hours
Marinate Time 12 hours
Total Time 14 hours
Course Snack
Cuisine American
Calories 410 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Pound round steak
  • 3/4 Cup beef stock
  • 3/4 Cup beer IPA
  • 1/4 Cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 Cup red wine
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Worcestershire
  • 2 Teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 Teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 Teaspoons cayenne
  • ½ Teaspoon MSG

Instructions
 

  • Trim excess fat off of your meat then slice thin, ¼” or less. Put in a sealable bag.
    Trimming fat from meat
  • Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Pour over the meat and seal.
    marinating be
  • Shake and massage bag to sure everything is well coated. Marinate in fridge 12-24 hours
    meat marinated and closed in bag
  • Preheat smoker to approx. 175 degrees
  • Remove the meat from the marinade and blot dry.
  • Place the meat on racks in your smoker for 2 hours.
  • Check the meat you can tell it is done when you pick up a piece and when you shake it. It shouldn’t bend.
  • Rack the meat and cool at room temperature then bag and seal, store in the fridge
    Packing Beef Jerky to store in fridge

Nutrition

Serving: 100gCalories: 410kcal
Keyword beef jerky, how to make beef jerky
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Cinnabon, DIY and how it came to be Featured image
Fast Food

Cinnabon Copycat

How do you make a genuine Cinnabon at home, and how did Cinnabon come to be as we know it today? Glad you asked; join us on a sweet journey…

How Cinnabon started

In 1984 a couple of restaurant entrepreneurs who had enjoyed visiting a cinnamon roll joint in Tennessee, agreed to a franchise deal. That eventually fell through, but these Seattle folks had already signed a lease for a spot in the Sea-Tac mall for their new venture; Cinnabon. With necessity being the mother of invention, they used their cooking contacts, worked through a couple hundred (!) versions arriving at their sweet spot only two weeks before opening. And thus, a legend was born.

Pro Tip; having lived in the area then, this was the perfect addition to the exploding coffee scene with Starbucks  and other local competition.

What is so special?

There are two main distinguishing components of their successful and delicious roll. A very specific cinnamon flavor, and cream cheese frosting. They ended up with their own proprietary blend of cinnamon called Makara. I found that Korintje cinnamon, named after the area that grows a lot of cinnamon, is the closest to their blend. Their blend has been said to contain at least a portion of this variety of cinnamon. You could also use cinnamons grown in Viet Nam to get similar flavor profiles. As for cream cheese frosting, we just say yes please, the more the better! Another trick of theirs, making additional frosting available because why wouldn’t you?

The biggie

In actuality, the biggest part of a cinnamon roll is the dough. Make a bread dough, then make it rich with milk, eggs and butter. This is what delivers an exceptional texture, with subtle flavors that are a perfect vehicle for the real goodies of a cinnamon roll. It is a variation on the theme of a brioche , the classic French dough used mostly as a sweet, but also for savory bread and bun choices.

Secret to the iconic Cinnabon rise

cinnamon roll dough preparation

One key to a silky texture in the bread part of your cinnamon roll is to let the dough have an extended  primary fermentation. That’s a fancy way to say wait, let it sit. In this case 12 or more hours in the fridge will go far to improve your results. Since cinnamon rolls are the ultimate brunch treat, this dovetails well to producing a morning food extravaganza. Remember, this is a rich dough, those tasty oils and fats get stiffer when cold. Straight from the fridge the dough will roll out thinner and stay that way while you make it into rolls. An overall win situation.

Pro tip; lightly grease your loose plastic cover, or a plastic bag with another over the open end, giving the dough room to expand.

Keep rolling

One of the other unique aspects of a Cinnabon roll is the number of ‘rings’ it has in the spiral. We’ve all enjoyed a great sticky roll that has three, maybe four, chubby rings of dough across 4-5”. Cinnabon is double that with 6-7 ‘rings’ across the same surface area. Yes, we are geeky enough to have counted them…it matters. Thinner dough means more surface area for the cinnamon filling and flavor. Remember rolling chilled dough goes thinner, now you see how it all comes together.

Cinnabon roll recipe

Cinnabon Recipe

Allen Bixby
Making Cinnabon at Home - DIY Copycat Walkthrough
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Wait Time 12 hours
Total Time 13 hours 55 minutes
Course Baked good, Dessert, sweet treat
Cuisine American
Servings 24
Calories 366 kcal

Ingredients
  

Dough

  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 Cups warm milk
  • 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Cup melted butter
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 Cups all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 1-1/2 Cups granulated sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup butter nearly melted

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Cup butter
  • 8 Oz package cream cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Teaspoons milk

Instructions
 

Dough

  • Melt the butter, set aside to cool somewhat
  • In your mixing bowl combine milk, yeast and sugar
  • Let it sit for about 10 minutes until foamy
  • Add eggs and one half of the flour
  • Mix well then add butter and remaining flour
  • Mix to create a shaggy dough
  • Use a dough hook or turn to a lightly floured board
  • Knead until smooth, 2-5 minutes by machine
  • Let rest for 30-45 minutes, the refrigerate

Build & Filling

  • Warm butter until nearly melted
  • Line two 9×13 baking pans, or one deep sheet pan, with parchment paper
  • Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl
  • Pull dough from refrigerator and put on lightly floured counter
  • Roll out to approximately 30×24 inches
  • Spread butter evenly over dough
  • Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mix evenly, using all of it
  • Roll the dough creating a tube 30 inches long
  • Cut into 24 even slices
  • Distribute evenly in baking pan(s)
  • Let proof 30 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Bake 20-25 minutes until browned
  • Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes

Icing

  • Have butter and cream cheese at room temperature
  • Cream butter, cream cheese vanilla and salt together
  • Sift in one cup powdered sugar, blend well
  • Sift in remaining and blend again
  • Blend for 5 minutes until fluffy
  • Add milk to desired consistency and frost the rolls
  • Serve and enjoy

Notes

Difficulty: 4 spatulas

Nutrition

Calories: 366kcal
Keyword cinnabon copycat, cinnabon recipe, how to make a cinnabon
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7-layer Bars Featured Image
Homemade

7-layer Bars

If you have a sweet tooth, you definitely love 7-layer bars if you have ever tried them. These are the ooey-gooey dessert bars that have a buttery graham cracker crust, and six more layers of deliciousness on top. You often find them in bake sales, potlucks, and holiday parties, and they sell quick and are certainly a crowd-pleaser.

A Sweet Treat with a Mysterious Name

Where did these bars came from and why they are called 7-layer bars? If you know, please let us know. They don’t actually have seven layers, although many recipes do have seven ingredients. The origin of these bars is not very clear, and they have many other names depending on where you live. Some people call them magic cookie bars, coconut dream bars, or hello dolly bars.

First versions

The first appearance of these bars in print seems to be in the mid-1960s, around the same time as the Broadway musical Hello Dolly starring Carol Channing. Some sources claim that the name ‘hello dolly bars’ was inspired by the show, but there is no direct evidence for that. One possible source is a food column by Clementine Paddleford in The Week magazine in 1965, where she featured a recipe sent by an 11-year-old girl from Dallas who learned it from her grandmother. The girl named the bars ‘hello dollys’, but she did not explain why.

Not quite sure

Another possible source is an earlier recipe for hello dolly cookies published in the Evening News of Ada, Oklahoma, in 1965. The recipe was similar to the later versions of 7-layer bars, but it did not include coconut or butterscotch chips. It is not clear where the name came from either.

No one knows for sure

Some people think that the name 7-layer bars or magic cookie bars came from Eagle Brand , who put a recipe for these bars on the back of their cans of sweetened condensed milk. The recipe included seven ingredients: butter, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, nuts, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut. However, it is also not known when Eagle Brand started to use this name or recipe.

Our version of the 7-layer Bar

Hazelnut

No matter what you call them or where they came from, 7-layer bars are a classic treat that you can easily make at home. You can also customize them to your liking by using different kinds of baking chips, nuts, dried fruits, or spices.

Which is why we have the Oregon version; land of the filbert. Okay, most of you know it as the Hazelnut , at least that’s what we tell people. The epistemology isn’t important here. They are a really tasty nut, plus hazelnuts are known for going well with chocolate.

 

Other nuts

different types of nuts

You can use any nut you choose. Even a walnut. Go ahead, use the mildly bitter ubiquitous ruin of fudge and carrot cake, it’s your cookie to experiment with. Pecans, however, are an excellent alternative to use. They cook well, with nice textures and good flavors. Truly almost any nut will work just fine, each bringing their own flavorful components.

Bar cookies

Fairly straightforward, this class of cookies are baked flat then cut into individual pieces to be served. They will often be less dough oriented compared to traditional cookies, layered or built in a pan before baking. Traditional cookie dough can be pressed into a flat baking pan, cooked, then cut into bars as well.

THE JOY OF COOKING COOKBOOK

The Joy of Cooking 1953 version lists 20 variations of bar cookies starting with classic brownies and working up from there.

Oregon 7-layer bars recipe image

Oregon 7-layer bars recipe

Allen Bixby
Making the tasty and mysterious 7-Layer Bar
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Wait Time 0 minutes
Course Dessert, Sweets
Cuisine American food, Classic, Retro
Servings 24 person
Calories 278 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1-1/2 Cups Graham cracker crumbs (DIY 12 full crackers run through a food processor)
  • 10 Tablespoons melted butter
  • ¾ Cup semi-sweet choc chips
  • ¾ Cup white chocolate chips
  • ¾ Cup butterscotch chips
  • Cup chopped hazelnuts or nut of choice
  • 1 14 Ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Cup sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a bowl blend well graham cracker crumbs and melted butter
  • Line a 13×9 baking sheet with parchment paper
    baking sheet with parchment paper in pan
  • Coat paper lightly with cooking oil spray
  • Spread graham mix evenly and press into pan with the bottom of a glass or small pot
    graham mix spread in pan
  • In a bowl mix all chips and nuts
  • Sprinkle chips and nuts evenly over graham mix
    Sprinkled chips and nuts
  • Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top
    condensed milk layer
  • Spread shredded coconut evenly for the top layer
    shredded coconut layer
  • Bake 20-25 minutes until top is lightly browned
    baked Oregon
  • Let cool or chill completely before cutting

Notes

Difficulty: 1 spatula

Nutrition

Calories: 278kcal
Keyword 7-layer bars, coconut dream bars, dolly bars, making a 7-layer bar
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

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Braising 101 -Braising Food Like A Pro Featured Image
Pro Hacks

Braising 101 -Braising Food Like A Pro

The art of braising food and culinary tips on how to braise properly. We’ll also share some popular braised dishes that are sure to please any crowd.

Braising is a cooking term that has been around as long as humans have had a pot to cook in.  Every home cook should learn the proper techniques, even seasoned chefs look for best practices. You’d probably be surprised about how much you already know. Two words; crock pot. That’s right, a form of braising, but we’ll come back to that.

How it works

Braising is a very effective cooking technique that will yield tender, flavorful dishes with minimal effort. It involves cooking ingredients at lower heat and in liquid, typically in a covered pot or container. The long, slow cooking process gives time for the flavors to amalgamate, while also converting tougher cuts of meat into juicy and unbelievably succulent morsels. It is also a very forgiving cooking process. You can decide your food is done cooking, but it can stay where it is for another 30 minutes if needed. Keep in mind the other direction doesn’t work, you cannot hasten the process, it must have the minimum amount of time.

In restaurants we would often say good food takes time. Braising is made for that motto.

Benefits of braising

Let’s face facts, we modern cooks are spoiled rotten with the quality of ingredients we get, especially when it comes to meat. Spoiling and rotting were big risks. Getting stuff in the pot mattered. Tender meats were also an exception not the rule. Game meats and bush meats have great flavors, but need some help getting ready to eat. Enter braising, one of the best techniques to deliver tender meat and vegetables. It also brings out the base flavors in the food, is an economical way to cook a meal, and creates delicious blended tastes over the extended cooking time.

Braising Tips

In order to braise perfectly there are some key tips to follow. Whenever possible use fresh ingredients; this will give you the most natural and rich flavors for your dish. Make sure that your braising liquid is not too salty season it lightly as the salt level will reduce during the cooking process. Take time when preparing and choose good quality ingredients -this could mean using quality cuts of meat and homemade stocks. When it comes to the process when braising is to first sear the meat or vegetables in a hot pan before simmering them in liquid (often wine or broth). Then add your range of ingredients – herbs, spices, shallots, onion and garlic – with the slow simmer being key to achieving an outstanding result. Popular dishes such as beef stews, osso buco, and braised cabbage are all products of braising.

Non-traditional methods

Crock pots are a great way to braise foods. If they are your chosen piece of equipment, it is still a valuable step to sear the meat in a heavy skillet, getting all those caramelized flavors to add to your pot. We have a fun rotisserie chicken copycat recipe for braised crockpot chicken. If you are impatient, or legitimately short if time we have you covered. You can get very similar, almost identical results, when using an instant pot. We put our money where our mouth is with this recipe for pulled pork carnitas tacos. New tools are good, and the low and slow traditional methods stull work. What a great time to be alive and have such cooking choices!

Popular braised dishes

Moist and tender pot roast has been on menus since it was first introduced in the US in the mid 1800s, and is the penultimate American braised dish. From France we get coq au vin, beef bourguignon. A Mexican (and barbecue) staple is carnitas or pulled pork. These are all cooked by braising. We will go over those three dishes, but they are far from the only choices. Look into ragus and Bolognese, or Chicken all’Arrabbiata from Italy, slow cooked curries form Asia or Harissa, braised beef stew from Africa. You also owe it to yourself to try braised lamb shanks at least once.

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin served with wine

Coq au Vin is a classic French dish that utilizes the technique of braising to create incredibly delicious and tender results. The base of this dish is typically a combination of chicken, mushrooms, onions, bacon, and herbs like thyme and bay leaves and of course ‘vin’, wine. The chicken is browned in a pan or oven before being combined with other ingredients and simmered in either a red wine or white wine stock. The aroma that comes out of the kitchen while it cooks is heavenly! When it comes time to cook your Coq au Vin, make sure that the heat is at a low simmer -this will help keep all the flavors sealed inside the pot while still infusing new ones into every bite! Additionally, if you want to take your Coq au Vin game up a notch try marinating your chicken in white wine overnight and adding some cream or butter towards the end of cooking for added richness.

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon cooked by braising

Beef bourguignon is a classic French beef stew made famous in the US by Julia Child, with beef, mushrooms, pearl onions, bacon lardons, carrots, garlic and herbs. The secret to making this dish stand out lies in the proper use of braising techniques. When preparing beef bourguignon there are a few essential steps to follow to get the best results:

  1. Sear the beef -Heat some oil in a large pot or Dutch oven and sear the beef on all sides for about 5 minutes until nicely browned. This step locks in flavor and ensures that your stew will have plenty of delicious juices once it’s finished cooking.
  2. Add vegetables -Once your meat is seared, add in all vegetables including mushrooms, bacon, onions, carrots etc. Sauté these until they are beginning to soften before adding any liquids such as stock or red wine.
  3. Simmer -Once your vegetables and stock have been added reduce the heat to low-medium and let everything simmer for 2-3 hours until it has thickened up nicely and all flavors have been fully integrated into each other. Make sure to stir occasionally while it cooks so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot!
  4. Finishing touches -For a richer flavor try adding some butter or cream towards the end of cooking time or if desired some fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary can be added for an extra fragrant punch!
  5. Serve -Once everything has come together serve with boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes for an extra hearty meal!

Pulled Pork

Braised Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a delicious and flavorful dish that is typically cooked by braising. The process involves slow-cooking pork shoulder in a flavorful liquid like beer, broth, cider or other acidic liquid to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor. The key to successful pulled pork is all in the preparation. The night before, the pork should be liberally seasoned with salt, pepper and your favorite herbs and spices. This will help develop an intense flavor as well as help keep the meat moist during cooking.  When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat your oven to 225°F (107°C). This dish is made for your crock pot, or you can place the seasoned pork into a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot with a lid on top. Pour in enough of your chosen liquid so that it slightly covers the meat. Once everything is in place, cover securely with a lid and slow cook, or place into the preheated oven for 5-6 hours until completely tender. Once done, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before transferring onto a platter. To finish off, take two forks and begin shredding apart the pork -this should be easy now since it has been cooked low and slow for hours!

 

So, What Are You Waiting For? Get Braising…

Braising is an incredible way to tenderize tough cuts of meat and vegetables while extracting flavor from all your ingredients. While most commonly used for tougher cuts of meat, braising can be applied to seafood, poultry and even fruits. When done correctly, braising opens up a variety of flavor possibilities with the freshest ingredients around. Get creative with your dishes by adding other herb and spices specifically tailored to your liking. With these tips in mind, your friends will be begging you for cooking secrets after they’ve tasted your delicious braised meal!

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Pro Hacks

The Basics of Stir-Fry -Stir-Fry 101

If you’re anything like us, you love a good stir-fry. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our home cooked stir-fry just don’t taste as good as the ones we get at restaurants.

We at Notakeout.com love to breakdown, explore, and then share with you how these things are done.  With a little bit of know-how, you will make delicious stir-fries right in your own kitchen. Keep reading to learn the basics of stir-fry and get some practical tips for making these amazing dishes at home.

What is stir-fry and its history

Ancient China in 5th century

Stir-fry, which has become an integral part of many cultures’ cuisines around the world, can be traced back to ancient China as early as the 5th century BC.

The technique is simple and efficient: food is quickly cooked in a large wok with oil at high temperatures.  This is in part a fuel saving process by creating a small contained hot fire for brief period of time and quickly cooking food cut into small pieces. The ubiquitous wok is designed to take advantage of this by providing a very hot core surface.

Aromatics such as garlic and ginger are added first before ingredients such as sliced vegetables and meat, adding ingredients based on the cooking time needed. Add in some sauce components for a finishing touch of flavor. There are countless variations to this technique that have developed over centuries, depending on regional ingredients and preferences.

The key ingredients in a good stir-fry dish

Creating a classic stir-fry can seem intimidating, but the key is to understand the basic rules of making them. The first ingredients to most stir-fry are good quality proteins, such as beef, chicken, seafood, or even tofu, with loads of fresh vegetables. Consider adding flavor enhancers like shallots, peppers, garlic or ginger for an extra layer of flavor, then add liquid or broth for some moisture and sweetness. Finally, don’t forget a few additional elements like chilis or sesame seeds to really elevate the dish. With these basics in mind, you’ll be able to make a delectable stir-fry meal any night of the week!

The equipment you need to make a perfect stir-fry dish

Chef cooking in wok with tong

To ensure your stir-fry is easily and quickly cooked, there’s certain equipment you’ll want to have on hand. For starters, you’ll need a wok, or a large sauté pan with high sides, that can accommodate plenty of ingredients. This will help cook without overcrowding and will also provide enough room for those golden-brown edges we all love so much. Additionally, make sure you have a good set of wooden spoons or some tongs on hand. Use these to keep the food moving, remember “stir” fry. The movement will prevent food from sticking to the bottom of your pan or scorching while letting it get well colored.

The steps involved in making a delicious stir-fry meal

Stir-fry is one of the classic, quintessential Asian cooking techniques. That means a great quick and easy meal for you to make at home. To begin, it really is important to have all the ingredients measured out, cut, chopped, and prepped beforehand so that everything can move quickly when it’s time to cook.

When you are ready, you start by heating oil in your pan or wok over medium to medium-high heat, then add in your chosen proteins (chicken, shrimp, etc.), cooking for just a couple minutes. Next, incorporate your vegetable selections into the dish -bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, or whatever you have in the fridge. Utilize the shape of the pan by pushing ingredients away from the hot center and up the sides as you add each new ingredient.  Finally, the sauces!

Here’s where you get to be creative. Try out different combinations of sweet and savory like Hoisin sauce and soy sauce, sherry and oyster sauce, chili sauce or oil, rice wine or even rice wine vinegar for some tang. Cook all these ingredients together until everything is evenly heated through before removing from heat and serving over a bed of steamed rice to soak up your sauce. This is how you whip up an effortless yet yummy stir-fry dinner right at home…no takeout necessary.

Some of the best dishes to try at home

There are plenty of easy stir fry recipes for beginners, but if you’re looking to get a bit more creative, there are some classic dishes that will definitely impress. Popular meals include General Tso’s chicken, beef and broccoli with black pepper sauce, and Kung Pao chicken. Here’s the basics for each of these dishes.

General Tso’s chicken

General Tso’s Chicken is a classic stir-fry dish that packs a flavorful punch. To make it, you’ll need boneless chicken thighs or breasts (dark meat is best), garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and of course General Tso’s sauce. Start by marinating the chicken in a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar and a bit of sesame oil for at least 20 minutes (longer if desired).

While the chicken is marinating, prepare all your other ingredients. Mince the garlic and ginger, chop any veggies you’re using, and measure out any sauces needed. Once everything is ready to go, heat up some oil in your pan over medium-high heat. When hot enough, add in the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown before removing them from the pan and setting aside.

Next cook the vegetables you’d like, bell peppers and onions are traditional, then pour in your prepped General Tso’s sauce.

Let all these flavors simmer together until bubbly before returning the cooked chicken back into the pan to warm through. Ready to serve and enjoy.

Beef and Broccoli with Black Pepper Sauce

Making a delicious beef and broccoli stir-fry with black pepper sauce is a tasty way to enjoy a Chinese style meal at home.

Start by prepping your ingredients of thinly sliced the beef, minced garlic and ginger. Measure out your sauces then set them aside until ready to cook. Heat some oil in a pan or wok over medium heat and once hot, add in the beef slices. Stir-fry until lightly browned before adding in any vegetables you’d like; bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms work especially well here.

Sautee these together for two minutes before adding in your garlic and ginger as well as soy sauce, oyster sauce and black pepper sauce. Let all these flavors simmer together while stirring occasionally.

Finally, when everything is cooked through, remove from heat and serve this savory dish over steamed rice.

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken is a popular Chinese stir-fry dish that packs a flavorful punch. It features juicy chunks of chicken cooked with a savory sauce and usually served with steamed white rice.

The key to making great Kung Pao chicken lies in the balance of flavors between the sauce, veggies and protein. Here is an easy walk through of how to make this classic stir-fry dish right at home.

First, as you’ve seen above, prepare all your ingredients. Thinly slice the chicken, mince the garlic and ginger, chop any vegetables you’d like to add (such as bell peppers, zucchini or mushrooms), and measure out your sauces. Mix together one tablespoon of soy sauce, two tablespoons of oyster sauce and one tablespoon of black bean paste for the Kung Pao sauce base.

Heat some oil in a pan or wok over medium high heat then add in the sliced pieces of chicken. Stir-fry until lightly browned (does not need to be fully cooked) before adding in any vegetables. Sautee these together for two minutes before adding in your minced garlic and ginger as well as your prepped Kung Pao sauce base.

Let all these flavors simmer together while stirring occasionally –it should take around 5 minutes for everything to fully cook through. It really is that easy, serve and enjoy.

Now you have seen that in just a few simple steps you can create restaurant quality dishes right at home, just like our mantra; no takeout (NTO) necessary.

Dos and don’ts to know about stir-frying

Stir-frying is a great way to quickly bring together tasty ingredients for a flavorful dish, but it’s important to keep a few dos and don’ts in mind. When stir-frying, remember that higher heat is best used to cook thinly sliced meat and correctly sliced vegetables. Larger quantities of delicate ingredients can be cooked at a lower temperature; however, it is very important not to overcrowd the pan. This can result in steaming your food rather than sautéing it.

To ensure even cooking, make sure all items are cut into the same size; this will allow each ingredient to cook quickly and evenly. Lastly, don’t forget to season your dish -an easy mix of sugar, salt, pepper and soy sauce added in at the end can take your stir-fry from good to great!

Keep in mind that high heat equals rapid cooking so you can use less oil. Be aware that too low will burn your food. Different oils have different smoke point , so use a high temp resistant oil like peanut oil.

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Pro Hacks, Tools

Knife Skills Everyone Should Know

As a home cook, you’re always looking for ways to make your life easier and cooking is no exception. After all, who has time to waste when there are only so many hours in the day? You want to be able to get dinner on the table quickly and efficiently, without any fuss. One way to do that is by mastering some basic knife skills.

Culinary schools teach essential knife skills that every chef uses on a daily basis. These same techniques can also be used at home to improve your everyday cooking. Here are some of the best tips and tricks for using knives like a pro.

The different types of knives and their uses

different types of knives in draw

Selecting the right knife can be daunting in the kitchen, but understanding the different types and their uses will quickly become second nature.

Chef’s knife is first and foremost as the go-to cutting implement for a variety of preparation tasks. Measuring six to ten inches long, this multipurpose workhorse has a versatile blade designed for slicing, dicing, mincing and chopping. Your knife should be well balanced and sized to your hands and build. See some of our favorite value knives here.

Utility knives generally have shorter blades, 5-8 inches for lighter jobs such as peeling and slicing fruits/veggies. Santoku knives are a great knife for this category.

Paring knives for intricate cutting have shorter smaller blades, some quite flexible. Peeling small veggies, paring (hence the name) which is cutting off unwanted pieces, stems, tips edges, etc. that you don’t want in your food, are the tasks this knife is suited for

Boning knives have longer somewhat to noticeably curved blades that somewhat flexible. This makes them ideal for getting meat off the bone and trimming excess fat from meat.

Serrated knives are perfect for sawing through hard-crusted breads, some will have softer serrations for slicing meat and such. Tomato knives are serrated to more easily break the skin without crushing the fruit.

Slicers will generally have longer straight blades so that they draw easily through meats and such giving you smooth slices with no tearing of the tissues.

The range of blades available to cooks gives an advantage when attacking any culinary task! Knowing which one to grab before you start hacking and slashing your food into submission will make your cooking experience much better.

 

 

How to hold a knife for maximum control

Holding a knife correctly is an important skill to learn in the kitchen, not just for safety but also to ensure maximum control while cutting. Just try walking into a commercial kitchen and grabbing a knife, they will set you straight right away, because yes, there truly is a proper way to grip these tools. It is called the pinch grip.

The best way to do this is by gripping the handle with your dominant hand wrapping the last three fingers around the grip. Place your thumb firmly on the blade close to the bolster (that’s the thickened band where handle meets blade) and pinch the very back part of the blade between thumb and forefinger. Your forefinger can wrap just around and touch the tip of your thumb right behind the bolster.

This gets your center of gravity in the right place for controlled slicing and chopping, it also comes in handy when cutting harder vegetables. Keep your ‘pinch’ close to the handle itself to maintain balance and control of the knife. Let it rest in your fingertips so you can move it freely and give yourself more precision. With these basics skills in place cooking will become safer, neater and faster.

Note; This is a western kitchen grip – not like cowboy – differing from what you may see in a sushi house where cooks will have their index finger extended out over the spine of the blade.

The basic cuts every home cook should know -slicing, dicing, chopping, mincing

Girl Cutting cucumber on cutting board

Knowing the proper way to slice, dice, chop, and mince  can make a world of difference in your home cooking. Learning these foundational techniques found in culinary school is essential for making the best use of your time in the kitchen. From slicing through soft produce such as tomatoes and mushrooms, to chopping harder veggies like onions and potatoes, mastering your knife skills can simplify meal prep by allowing you to move more quickly between ingredients. Then add flair with julienne cuts and intricate dicing; this will take any dish up a notch on both presentation and flavor. Knife skills save time by producing better results in less of it!

Common Mistakes or Bad Habits when Using Knives

Dull Knives in kitchen

Always-always-always make sure your knife is sharp. The biggest cause of cutting accidents is using a dull knife.  This forces you to apply too much pressure while cutting, which in addition to being unsafe, can lead to uneven slices and take longer than necessary. Proper techniques are key when using a knife in order to cut safely and efficiently. This includes keeping your fingers curled inwards away from the blade while chopping and using your off hand as a guide. Generally, you want a straight up and down motion when chopping, use a back-and-forth motion when slicing. Picking the right knife is important here too. Knifes for chopping will allow the blade to contact the board and keep your knuckles just clear of contact. Slicer blades don’t have that height because your motions are front to back not up and down. Lastly, having an adequate surface on which to cut. Cutting boards should always be used, they protect your knife’s edge, and will help keep countertops from being damaged by knives.

What Our Favorite Chefs Have to Say

chris cosentino knife pro
Chris Cosentino, Top Chef Winner & Knife Guru

 

Popular chefs agree that having the right knife for the job is key when it comes to using a knife. According to James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Cosentino, “Having the right size and type of knife not only makes cutting easier, but safer too.” He emphasizes the importance of investing in good quality knives as they can last longer and provide better performance.

Chef José Andrés also encourages home cooks to invest in well-crafted knives that feel comfortable in their hands. He explains that having a comfortable grip is essential because it helps with control and accuracy while cutting or chopping. He also recommends learning how to sharpen knives which can help improve their longevity and keep them sharp for longer periods of time. A great tip he provides is to store knives properly in woodblock or on magnet strips to helps protect the blade and anyone reaching into a drawer.

For many chefs, knowing how to properly hold a knife is just as important as having good quality tools. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay emphasizes keeping your wrist straight when holding a knife to ensure maximum control while slicing, chopping or mincing ingredients. He advises against gripping too much of the blade itself since it could lead to fatigue, cuts or other accidents during food prep.

Popular chefs understand the importance of using high quality knives and knowing how to use them correctly for maximum safety and efficiency during food prep.

Investing in well-made knives with comfortable handles, practicing proper technique when holding a knife and storing blades properly are all tips supported by experienced professionals in the culinary world.

Tips for using knives like a pro; honing, sharpening, storing

Girl sharpening Knife

Becoming an expert with a knife doesn’t have to be difficult. Just mastering the basics like honing, sharpening, and storing it correctly, can make you feel like a pro in the kitchen. Hone your knife regularly so you have greater control over the blade and can maintain sharpness.

Sharpen, or get professionally sharpened, when needed to ensure a proper edge on the blade so that it glides through food perfectly. Finally, investing in good storage for your knives is important for safety reasons, you don’t want them loose in a drawer. Think about getting a magnetic wall strip or sturdy block, or specific drawer inserts where you can always find them easily. With just these three tips, you’ll quickly be cutting like a pro at home.

Putting it all together

Now that you’ve honed your knife skills (pun intended), it’s time to put them into practice! Try putting your newfound techniques to use with some recipes that are sure to impress based on your cutting skills. From herb-filled salads to veggie-packed stir-fries, dinner prep is a breeze. For a great cooking experience, follow the basic tips shared here; selecting the right knife for the job, learning proper technique and safety, and using honing or sharpening techniques regularly to keep your blades sharp.

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Pro Hacks

Molecular Gastronomy For Everyday Cooking

Are you ready to geek out?!

I mean, are you a passionate home cook always looking for new ways to improve your skills? That sounds better. If so, you will be interested in exploring molecular gastronomy. This approach uses scientific principles to create delicious dishes that are both visually and tastefully appealing, pretty, much the goal of all cooking really. However, by understanding the physical and chemical processes involved in cooking, you can take your home cooking to the next level. So, let’s explore how molecular gastronomy can help you create amazing meals that will wow your family and friends.

What is molecular gastronomy and how can it be used in home cooking?

Beautiful couple cooking at home

Molecular gastronomy is a branch of food science that focuses on the physical and chemical processes that arise when cooking. It may sound complicated, but molecular gastronomy can actually be used in home kitchens to create delicious meals. Through molecular gastronomy, cooks gain control over their ingredients by experimenting with and manipulating processes and interactions in order to yield flavor and great looks. To do this, cooks may use advanced techniques such as reverse spherification or gelifying agents which allow them to make perishable foods last longer, enhance flavors, or add visual appeal to dishes..

 Manipulating chemical processes

cooking prawns in pan

Cooking is an incredible process in which physical and chemical reactions form the building blocks for culinary creativity. Heating alone can cause changes in the properties of food, from altering textures to forming new compounds. Consider how a simple egg transforms from a clear-ish liquid when raw to a solid white with yellow custard when cooked. This transformation is caused by proteins denaturing and forming cross links, resulting in coagulation.

Beyond heat, other physical processes like grinding can be used to generate more intricate flavors; this helps release essential oils and causes chemical reactions among ingredients.

Different cooking techniques play an important role—think of tossing spices in hot skillet to bring out their aromas, blossoming food like garlic with a quick sauté to open it up.

On a molecular level, these techniques can break down cell walls to release flavorant or cause molecules to bind together differently than they would have otherwise, leading to novel flavors you could only create through conscious manipulation of food components. Here’s six good practical examples on how you can take advantage of science to bring great flavors to everyday cooking at home.

Create new and interesting flavors, textures, and colors in dishes

Vegetables with chemical formula illustration

From adding sweet spices to savory dishes to blending unexpected ingredients, the possibilities for creating new and interesting tastes and textures through food are endless. That is why cooking is both an art and a science.

Exploring the way different ingredients interact with each other can result in unique payments that turn up the flavor of a dish. The chemical processes that occur when cooking also affect how flavors and colors interact when heat breaks down proteins. Acids change the pH level of a dish, resulting in a more complex flavor because of how the food will interact with your sense of taste and tongue at the molecular level. Manipulating these physical and chemical processes while cooking can open up many opportunities for discovering delicious new combinations.

Potential risks associated with using molecular gastronomy

man eating unhealthy food

With the rise of molecular gastronomy in home cooking, there are a few potential risks that cooks should be aware of.

This relatively new form of cooking involves manipulating physical and chemical processes, using tools such as immersion circulators for precise temperature control or liquid nitrogen to freeze ingredients, and can yield delicious results when done correctly.

With the use of these techniques however, comes the potential danger of lack of knowledge from both the inventive culinary perspective or scientific background needed to safely and effectively utilize them.

To ensure safe cooking practices in molecular gastronomy at home, cooks should research carefully before they begin experimenting with potentially hazardous materials, taking extra precautions with proper handling and storage. With a few minor modifications to creative technique and safety measures in place, cooks can now explore the ever-evolving artistry in their own kitchens without worry.

Relationship between food and culture

Cooking necessarily involves myriad physical and chemical processes taking place within food molecules, as they interact and form new molecules that result in flavor, aroma, and color. By understanding these processes, chefs all over the world are able to manipulate raw ingredients in various ways to yield desirable results. In understanding how one culture prepares food differently from another, we gain insight into the unique identity of each individual society; ultimately it is this beautiful diversity that shapes our appreciation for all facets of global cuisine, and gives the inquisitive cook multiple avenues to explore.

Cooking styles of particular regions

Girl cooking food in traditional way

The traditional cooking styles found in particular regions are more than just a reflection of local ingredients, they often reflect the greatest accomplishments of their culture. From immense wood-burning ovens to terracotta pots heated in fire pits, hundreds of ingenious methods have been used to prepare meals according to the customs of a region. Through an exploration of physical and chemical processes like flame, oxidation and dehydration as well as reactions between components such as fats, acids and enzymes during cooking, flavors can be manipulated to delicious effect. Time-honored recipes rely on these principles for flavor and texture differences unique to each dish, turning the simple act of eating great food into a simultaneous celebration of culture.

Examples

Cooking involves more than just following recipes; it requires an understanding of how ingredients interact with cooking style, temperatures, protocols, and tools. There are many different approaches to cooking around the world that draw on a variety of physical and chemical processes to yield delicious meals.

  • In Asia, some dishes are prepared with traditional wok cooking, where ingredients are tossed in a hot metal pan over intense heat. The heat causes an array of reactions between fats, acids, and enzymes that give food its flavor and texture.
  • In India, tandoori cooking utilizes clay ovens to roast meats and vegetables. This method locks in moisture and nutrition while giving the food a smoky flavor.
  • Mediterranean cuisine often relies heavily on the use of olive oil and herbs to create savory dishes such as paella or ratatouille.
  • Grilling is another popular cooking style used throughout the world that involves exposing food to direct flame for a brief period of time to impart charred flavors without compromising texture or taste.
  • Sous vide is a scientific technique that uses vacuum sealed bags submerged in warm water for slow, even cooking without overcooking or drying out the ingredients.

Each regional or contemporary method demonstrates how humans have been able to manipulate their food for centuries to achieve wholesomeness and great tastes.

Science of good eating

meal served on table

Crafting delicious food is a science, as much as an art. Understanding the physical and chemical reactions that occur when cooking can greatly affect the quality of meals we create. Food scientists have identified ways to control these processes and thus our dishes’ flavors. Centuries of experience taught us that cooking proteins at lower temperatures for a longer duration allows for a more tender texture without removing its moisture content.

Changed ingredients or varying levels of acidity in sauces can modify flavor profiles completely. Having knowledge of things like cooking temperatures and reaction times required to transform ingredients lets cooks customize recipes to perfection.

FAQs

How does heat affect the ingredients in cooking?

The temperature, duration and intensity of heat can cause different reactions between fats, acids, enzymes, and other components which results in varying flavors and textures.

What are some traditional cooking methods used around the world?

Virtually every culture has techniques that are based on local availability, from braising to barbecue, confit to canning. The more of them you explore the deeper your own lexicon of cooking becomes.

How does an understanding of physical and chemical processes help us craft delicious food?

An understanding of physical and chemical processes involved with food preparation can help cooks customize recipes to their liking. Different reactions occur between components like fats, acids, enzymes, oxygen and more during cooking, resulting in different flavors and textures that can be controlled through techniques such as temperature control; altering ingredient levels; changing acidity levels in sauces; and introducing fresh components during the process.

What is the connection between culture and cuisine?

Cuisine is closely linked with culture as it not only reflects local ingredients but also reflects their human accomplishments through their traditional methods of meal preparation. Each region has its own individual set of skills that can also teach us about their customs for meals with family or friends.

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Pro Hacks

Plating Food 101 – How to Plate Food Like a Chef

 Focusing on the basics of presentation to plate food like a pro. We’ll cover topics like composition, balance, and even share some tips from top chefs.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That is how it works with food, people enjoy it with their eyes first, so one of the most important aspects of cooking is learning how to plate food – the specific term in a restaurant for the design of the food on its particular serving dish.

It may seem like a small detail, but the way you present your dish makes a big difference. In fact, many cooking experts will say that plating is just as important as the taste of the food itself. If you’re new to the world of plating, don’t worry -we’ve got you covered.

Basics of plating food

Man plating food with basic principles

Plating food is an art form, and the basic principles to plating successfully are essential for any culinary student or professional chef. For plating of food, one must consider many aspects like texture, color and shape.

Professional chefs use their own style to enhance a meal’s plating design and presentation but the basic plating principle remains the same. The plated dish should be colorfully arranged as it incites hunger and enhances the overall flavor experience for diners. With enough practice, achieving stunning plated dishes will become second nature.

Components

When plating food, textures such as crunchy fruits or vegetables, smooth sauces, or fluffy rice can all help create an interesting visual effect on the plate that complements the dish’s flavor. Shapes are also important: neatly placed components of food with varying shapes often look more appetizing than those that are haphazardly arranged. Arrangements of different heights on a plate bring dimension to a dish by adding visual interest in a way that flat-lay plates cannot achieve.

By keeping these factors in mind when plating dishes, one can begin to play around with different color combinations for beautiful results.

Colors

When it comes to plating food, the colors one chooses to use can make all the difference. While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing colors for plating, certain color combinations go together well and can help create a beautiful dish. For example, vibrant and contrasting colors such as yellow and purple, or red and green, will create a striking visual that instantly draws attention to the plate. Similarly, complementary shades like blue and orange or pink and navy blue also look great when plated together. The plate itself is the palate for the food you serve. From a broad simple ivory China plate to a stainless-steel tray, consider the color aspects of the serving dish when you consider your plate presentation.

Shapes

When it comes to plating food, complementary shapes can help bring out the beauty of your dish. Pairing circular and oval shapes gives a sense of balance and symmetry, while triangle shapes can be used to create visual movement on the plate. Utilizing different sizes of components can also add depth and texture to your dish. For example, large cubes of meat arranged between small pieces of garnish or nuts adds an interesting contrast to the plate. Additionally, using mounds or peaks adds a dramatic effect to the presentation as well as helping keep food from spilling off during transport. Finally, arranging food in a radial pattern around a central point helps create a visually appealing effect that invites diners to dig in!

Texture

In culinary school, chefs are taught not only the importance of vivid and vibrant colors on a plate, but also mixing textures for an enjoyable eating and dining experience. Each cooking technique creates differing textures in the process, a process that you control. Contrasting between crunchy, creamy, or smooth toppings or sides is what helps bring together different components of a dish. Chefs across the board understand that creating contrast in textures along with shapes and height, will also draw attention to the primary item on each plate.

How to choose the right plate for your dish

Different types of plates in kitchen

As we mentioned, different colors, shapes and sizes, along with different materials, all make a huge impact on how your dish is perceived. Selecting the right plate can be one of the most difficult tasks in presenting dishes.

We understand that home cooks often have limited choices in their cabinet and do your best with what you do have. Used wisely, plates can help you set the tone for your meal and draw attention to key aspects of it, including texture variations and flavors.

Types of Plates

When it comes to plates, there are a variety of shapes and sizes that can be used depending on the type of food being served.

  • Round or oval plates are best for serving a complete meal as they provide space for each component to be arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way.
  • Square or rectangular plates are ideal for serving dishes like pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and other single-serving items.
  • Large platters such as chargers or slates can hold multiple items at once and are often used to serve appetizers or side selections.
  • Round platters can also be used to create interesting centerpieces by arranging small components in a radial pattern around the edge of the plate.
  • Smaller plates such as dessert dishes are perfect for showcasing individual desserts like cakes and pies.

Plate Coloration

In addition to shape and size, color is also important when selecting plates for different types of food.

Bright colors such as yellow and orange can help draw attention to lighter fare such as salads and fruits; while dark colors like navy blue or black may pair better with heavier foods like steak or pasta dishes. White plates also look great with most meals and provide a neutral backdrop for any dish you serve.

In the end, choosing the right plate depends on the type of food being served as well as your desired presentation style, and of course the options you have available.

Tips and tricks for creating beautiful dishes

Man plating food

Combining garnishes and presentation creates an endless variety of creative ways to plate a dish so that it looks as good as it tastes.

Focus on things like using complimentary colors, layering ingredients and adding sauces strategically and utilizing contrasting shapes and heights to create visually captivating plates. Chefs are encouraged to think outside the box in order to create unique and memorable meals for their guests.

Temper this with keeping things somewhat simple, too busy from a visual sense can become a negative.

How to avoid common plating mistakes

Over-garnish plate on black surface

  1. Don’t overcrowd the plate or pile too many ingredients onto one dish. This not only creates a cluttered look, but can also take away from the texture and flavor of each individual component.
  2. Be careful with your color selection. Too many bright or bold colors as this can create a visually unappealing plate that is too busy.
  3. Try to use high quality ingredients when possible. Lower quality ingredients may not look as attractive or lack flavor.
  4. Don’t over-garnish your dishes and can detract from the beauty of the main components on the plate. Select only garnishes that complement and enhance the flavors in the dish rather than overpowering them.

Much of cooking your food is science. Plating food is eye-catching, artful and often times a reflection of the chef’s, or your, culture, values, and character.

From mastering the basics to discovering your own plating style, remember that creativity is king when it comes to how you present and serve your dishes. Even if you’re not a professional chef, plating can be great fun and an enjoyable way to show off your culinary skills—just don’t forget the parsley sprig.

FAQs

What techniques do professional chefs use to plate food?

Professional chefs utilize techniques like layering ingredients, adding sauces strategically, and utilizing contrasting shapes and heights to create visually captivating plates.

How can I make sure my dish looks as appealing as possible?

To ensure a dish looks visually appealing be mindful of the colors you select, make sure to use high quality ingredients, when possible, don’t over-garnish your dishes.

What should I consider when choosing a plate for my dish?

It is important to select the right type of plate based on the type of food being served. Considerations include size, shape and materials used in construction. Make sure it complements both your cuisine and décor style.

What are some tips for creating an aesthetically pleasing plate?

To create an aesthetically pleasing plate, start by selecting the right size and shape of plate for your dish, balance ingredients to ensure no one component overwhelms the others add subtle garnishes that enhance the flavor without overpowering it, arrange your food in unique shapes or patterns.

How do I make sure my food is cooked perfectly when plating?

To ensure food items are cooked to perfection every time, invest in a quality thermometer such as an instant-read meat thermometer or infrared thermometer. This will allow you to monitor temperatures accurately and make sure everything is properly cooked before it goes on the plate.

What type of utensils should I use when plating?

The type of utensils you use when plating depends on the type of cuisine being served. Generally speaking, tongs are best for serving salads or lighter dishes while larger spoons work well for heavier entrees like soups and stews. Additionally, tweezers can be used to arrange small items like herbs and spices into intricate designs on top of each dish. There are also specialty tools available such as cake decorators and dough cutters which can be used to create unique shapes out of dough-based dishes such as pizza or pasta.

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