blue sky

Home     Display     HandyHints

Handy Hints and useful tips for Cooking

Wok vs Fry pan
  The Wok seems to be the preferred pan for Asian meals, especially stir-fries; but I use it for general frying too. Because of its shape and capacity, it is particularly handy for dishes that are fried first before a sauce is added. Recipes like Tuna and Mushroom, Chicken Creole and many curries are made easy with a Wok.
  When it comes to frying meats that tend to spit oil all over the stove top, a Wok with a splatter guard saves on cleaning. For shallow or deep frying, the bell shape with a small base requires less oil than a conventional fryer; and a lower heat setting is often sufficient. Scotch Eggs and fried chicken are a breeze in the Wok.
  If you don't have a Wok, do yourself a favour and get one. The non-stick type isn't expensive. It will not only save you a lot of hassles, but it might also tempt you to try a Chinese or two.

Marbling in Meat
  Quite often, when buying fresh meat, especially beef, the attraction is to go for a nice good red colour with little fat. The chances are a roast or steak looking like this will turn out as tough as old boots. Marbling is fine lines of white fat snaking through the red and this will ensure the meat cooks evenly from the inside. So, the more marbling there is, the more tender it is likely to be.

Extra-light olive oil - what does that mean?
  If you are expecting this to be a cooking ingredient that is less fattening, you are in for a shock - the name is a bit-of-a misnomer. The description actually refers to taste rather than fat content.
  So, if you don't mind a stronger taste, or you particularly want it, go for extra-virgin olive oil; or if you prefer not to over-power the food you are cooking, extra-light is ideal.
  Either way, both are cholesterol-free (so we are led to believe) and are the healthy option to saturated fat. I'm told canola oil is also okay. Just remember - fats and oils of any kind are counter-reductive if you are on a diet; except in small doses followed by plenty of exercise to burn it off.

Quick Baked Potatoes
  Baking potatoes in their skins can be done in the oven, but it takes time and a lot of power. Instead, try them in the microwave. Pierce the skin of each potato a number of times with a fork, wrap in a piece of paper kitchen towel, then nuke on 800 for about 5 minutes,depending on size. They can be served as is, topped with butter, or can be stuffed - see Recipe R27.

Cracking Eggs
  There's nothing worse than a bad egg, especially if you crack it into other ingredients you've already put in the bowl - it ruins the lot!
  Next time you are making a cake or pudding, break the eggs one at a time in a small dish or cup first, before adding them to the bowl. Use the same method for fried eggs, pouring them in carefully from the dish to keep the yolk intact. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, but this way you won't have to throw it out because one of them has gone off.

Rice from the Microwave
  Some like it steamed, others prefer to boil their rice. Anyone who has a microwave might like to try this:
  In a deep microwave-safe container with an aerated lid put one cup of uncooked rice plus 2 cups of cold water and stir briefly with a fork. With the lid on, microwave for 4 minutes on number 5 (probably 50% for those with that type of temperature setting). When it pings off, remove the lid, stir with the fork, then replace the cover and return to the microwave for a further 4 minutes on the same setting. Repeat this procedure for another 2 minutes, then check if the rice is nearly ready. You may need to whiz it round for another 2 minutes if the grains are still hard; but don't overdo the cooking or it will end up soggy.
  Depending on your make and model, you may need to adjust the temperature setting, the time, or both. It took me a few goes to prevent it from boiling over on the second or third spin around. Now, it works well without making a mess of the nuke, and the separate stages give me time to get on with the rest of the meal.
  Once it is cooked, I prefer to flush the rice with fresh water: very hot if it is to go straight on the plate; cold if I intend to re-heat it when required, or if I'm using it for fried rice. I usually make a double batch, one for the meal and the other half for the freezer. When I need to use the frozen rice, I simply defrost it and reheat in a suitable container for 2-3 minutes on number 4 (40%), adding cooked mixed vegetables on occasions for something different. For fried rice, it just goes straight in the wok with the spices etc.
  Flushing reduces the starch, which is not only good for those on a reduced-carb diet, but also keeps the grains separate and fluffy.

Keeping Crackers Crunchy
  Cookie jars and tins, plus some plastic storage containers aren't always airtight. Dry foods such as crackers, crisps, cookies and cereals can go soft and stale quickly if not adequately sealed after opening. To keep them fresh and crunchy, close the bag or packet to exclude most of the air, fold over the spare and secure with a spring-type clothes peg. For those products which sit in a plastic tray, remove this and replace the remaining cookies, etc in the bag before sealing with a peg or an elastic band.

Aerosol Cooking Spray vs Non-Stick Surfaces
  Spray-on cooking oils can damage some non-stick coatings. The culprit isn't the oil itself, but the aerosol propellant. Buy a small trigger-spray bottle, or one of those dispensers made specifically for cooking oil, the ones which can be pressurised by hand-pumping.
  Not only will your pans last longer, but you'll save money in the long run and be helping the environment by reducing your trash.

Making Non-stick Pans Last Longer

  Pans with a non-stick coating are a breeze to use and clean, but they do need special care to keep them in good condition. The temperature of the hot-plate or burner should not be too high - this eventually breaks down the coating which will start to flake and contaminate the food. So, reduce temperatures with this in mind.
  When cleaning after use, allow the pan to cool slightly - never pour water into a hot pan! Wipe off any oil or fat deposits with paper towel, then add some warm water and leave to stand a few minutes. Non-stick pans can be washed in soapy water, but avoid using scourers of any kind if possible; and rinse under the tap before draining.
  Instructions for a new pan suggest seasoning before use. This is usually just a matter of a drop of oil rubbed lightly over the cooking surface. Just bear in mind that a wash with soap will remove this coating and it will need re-seasoning again prior to using next.

Top of page

  Back to Handy Hints main page

Money Fruit Food on plate Spyglass ereader Popcorn

Where every effort has been made to be accurate and fair-minded, comments and opinions expressed on this website are based on personal experience and do not necessarily reflect the views of the wider community or those groups and institutions mentioned. A Season of Happiness and its staff accept no responsibility for any outcome based on suggestions offered. What works for us may not work for you. Please bear this in mind.

copyright © 2011-2018  All Rights Reserved