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Handy Hints and useful tips in the kitchen

Saving the Flatbed Toaster
flatbed toaster

  Electric toasters are great for quick snacks. Toasted sandwiches and even grilling meats like bacon slices are a breeze; but they can cause mess on the unit's surfaces that sometimes burns on making it hard to clean. Over time, the non-stick may become chipped and scratched if care isn't taken. There is a way to save your flatbed and cut down on the cleaning.
  Tear off a strip of baking paper just over twice the depth of the base plate and fold it in half. Leave it on hand while the appliance heats and you prepare whatever it is you wish to toast. Once ready, place the paper on the base, open up the fold, put your toasties on, fold the top of the sheet over, then close the lid. Just take care not to burn your fingers.
  When the food is cooked to your satisfaction, slide it off with the paper and serve. Allow the flatbed to cool; then wipe with a damp cloth or sponge. Before packing it away, place a double thickness of paper kitchen towel on the base - this will save chipping of the non-stick surface when the lid is closed. Just don't forget to take it off before plugging in and switching on next time.

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.

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.

Foil the Grease!
  Baking trays and tins are a given, but after being in a hot oven they can be difficult to clean properly. Non-stick especially can be easily damaged by scouring, even if the scourer is reputed to be quite okay. One way to avoid baking on grease that was impossible to remove previously is to ensure you don't get it on the baking tin in the first place.
  Aluminium foil is that way. Roll sizes are generally wide enough to cover most items; but two sheets overlapping will cater for extra-large. Pull out the foil far enough to go over the edges and lips, then gently stroke into the base, up the sides, over the edge and tuck under the lip. Replace the foil protector when it gets torn or too soiled.
  One go will last an age, particularly if you use baking paper as a partner under casseroles and ramekins.

Oven Temperatures
  All of our latest recipes give oven temperatures for fan-forced and conventional appliances. Some of the earlier ones, however, are only for conventional. Then there are the really old cookery books and Granny's favourites (written on yellowing lined paper with a fountain pen) which sometimes don't even specify temperatures except in terms like: "a moderate oven, or cook on Gas Mark 4." This can be confusing and may result in under- or over-cooking. Following are a few basic conversions:
oven temperatures
  The conversions are only estimates and can vary depending on the energy supply (gas or electric), plus the idiosyncrasies of the oven itself. Rule of thumb with temperatures: fan-forced is approximately 10% lower than conventional.
  Cooking times also need to be adjusted. When unsure, I would suggest erring on the side of caution by setting a timer for less than the recipe time. For example: "Cook for 45 minutes on 180°C, or until golden." I'd take this to mean the 180°C is for a conventional oven, so fan-forced would be set to 162°C with a timer reminder to check progress at about 30 minutes.

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