219 Cooking Tips & Techniques You Might Find Useful!

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219 Cooking Tips &

might find


Suzy Bowler


Text copyright ©2013 Suzy

All Rights Reserved


This booklet is a collection of useful
ideas, methods, hints, tips and tricks I have learned or come to realises
during my embarrassing large number of years cooking professionally. They are
all ways to make cooking quicker and/or easier and/or more effective and/or
more delicious. Although it may well crop up I'm not really concerned here with
cheaper or healthier!

I'm sorry to be a bit bossy with the DON'T
and ALWAYS but these points are important.

Generally Speaking ~


Use a larger knife! So often,
even on the telly, I see chefs fiddling around with small knives when life is
so much easier with a big one, within reason of course. If you are serious
about cooking learn some knife skills (I don't think I can teach them here!); being
able to use a knife properly seriously speeds up prep.

Put a damp cloth or piece of
kitchen roll under a chopping board to hold it in place whilst chopping.

Similarly use a damp cloth to
secure a bowl when whisking something in it.

DON'T throw good food away; loads
of yummy things can be made from leftovers. For
information on using leftovers
at the end of the book.

vinaigrette in a jam jar, store in the fridge and just give it a shake to

DON'T store acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, citrus fruits etc.
foil because it will cause a
reaction whereby the acid could eat through the foil and ruin the food (and the
foil!). Also ...

DON'T cook acidic or alkaline foods in
pans as they will discolour and might taste horrible.

The colder a dish the more muted its flavours will be so taste when cool
and season accordingly. Ice creams should be brightly flavoured before

Keep smelly foods separate from others in the fridge to avoid cross

Read a recipe through before going for it - just in case there are any

ALWAYS preheat the oven fully before cooking in it.

Have all your ingredients prepared and to hand before starting to cook;
this is especially important when cooking fast moving dishes such as risotto,
omelettes etc.

ALWAYS decant unused contents of cans into another container or they might
react with the metal.

When turning out a chilled dish (terrine, bombe or what have you) wrap
the container in a hot cloth for a minute or two first so that it simply glides

DON'T salt dried peas and beans
whilst cooking as this can toughen the skins (as can acidic additions such as
lemon juice) wait till they are cooked before
Some people say this isn't true but I have always abided by it to no detriment!

Taste as you go.

DON'T over season at the start of cooking. It is important to add some salt
and other flavours at the beginning but not too much, flavours will change and
concentrate, finish seasoning when the dish is ready.

There are a few ways to remedy a slightly over salted dish, they are ...

If it is a thick sauce or soup add an unsalted liquid, water, cream or
similar or

Add a peeled and quartered raw potato and cook it in the dish for 15-20
minutes. You could then throw the potato away or eat it!

A little brown sugar together with a squeeze of lemon can also help
balance an over salted dish.

cover a pan when sautéing or frying
as the food will then actually steam rather than fry and you will get an
entirely different result.

Covering a pan increases the internal heat so is a useful way to speed
up a pot coming to the boil.

Balance a wooden spoon across the top of an open pan of boiling water (
when cooking pasta) to stop it boiling over.

Soak wooden kebab sticks in water before using; they are much less
likely to char or catch fire that way.

Whilst salt and fat are both frowned upon health-wise I have already
said that this booklet is not concerned with such matters and I would therefore
like to say that they are both crucial in making food as tasty as possible. Furthermore
good 'mouth feel' and makes the meal more

DON'T use a damp cloth or oven gloves to hold anything hot, the heat
will create steam and the steam may well create a nasty burn.

all the alcohol evaporates when cooking with it so do warn your diners before
serving, just in case they can't tolerate it.

of alcohol, and this is important, when adding alcohol to a dish, lift the pan
and turn away from the flame as it is possible that the stream of alcohol will
ignite and cause a very nasty accident.

easiest way to remove fat from a dish is to chill it completely. The fat will
rise to the top and hopefully solidify and can be scooped or lifted off.

A less easy way to remove
fat is to wrap an ice cube in kitchen roll and trawl it through the dish. The
fat will be attracted to the ice.

I also recommend investing in a separator jug
- very useful when making gravy.

Add a splash of sparkling water, soda water or beer to batter just
before using to add a little extra airiness.

Try to
garnish appropriately - parsley is not the only option, there are other herbs, citrus
fruit, drizzles etc. Add something complimentary to the ingredients of the dish
and people might actually eat it!

oats before using them adds an extra nuance of flavour to porridge and other
oat dishes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/160°C fan/gas 4, spread the oats on
a baking tray and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes. Give them a stir every
2 or 3 minutes and remove when lightly golden. Cool completely and use as you
would un-toasted oats.

If honey has crystallised stand it in a pan of warm
water till it clears.

To remove garlicky or other strong odours from your
hands rub them with something not too sharp made of stainless steel; a spoon or
perhaps on the sink. Then wash them, of course and, perhaps also wash the spoon
or whatever.

The easiest and most pleasant way to clean up a pan after making
a syrup
is to boil some water in it and then ... make a
coffee with the water!

Soup a bit too runny? An easy way to deal with this is to purée some of
the soup and then stir it back in.

Two other ways to thicken an over runny dish are ...

". This means
kneaded butter and is simply equal quantities of flour and soft butter mashed together
to form a smooth paste. You only need a spoonful or so of each but if you make
too much it is a useful thing to keep in the fridge. Have your runny dish at a
simmer and whisk in a little of the paste, bring to a boil stirring and simmer
till the sauce thickens. If you are not happy with the result repeat with a
little more
till you are.

Put a tablespoon of flour into a bowl and whisk in four tablespoons of hot
liquid from the stew till smooth. Whisk the mixture back into the dish and keep
whisking till it has thickened. If you have already used flour at the start of
the dish "they do say" a different starch should used for the slurry
in which case use cornstarch or arrowroot.

cook with unpleasant wine! Its only worth cooking with wine that is worth

Meat and Poultry


Thaw frozen meats slowly in

ALWAYS get meat out of the
fridge a while before cooking and allow to come to room temperature. It will then
cook more evenly and also a little faster.

Dry meat with a paper towel
before cooking, this is especially important for pan frying.

Although salt is known to draw
juices out of meat (and anything else) salting immediately before cooking is nevertheless
a good thing, it adds flavour and doesn't have time for any juice drawing so
salt before roasting, frying etc.

Interestingly enough if you
salt large pieces of meat long enough in advance the salt will indeed draw out
some of the juices but they will be reabsorbed right into the centre of the
joint making it juicy and flavoursome. Rub a spoonful of sea salt into a joint
of meat and leave for 4 or more hours before cooking.

When pan frying ALWAYS get the
pan good and hot before adding oil and then get the oil good and hot before
adding the meat.

DON'T use non-stick pans for
pan frying as when heated to high temperatures they release toxic gases and
In any case they are useless for
deglazing because, as their name suggests, nothing sticks to them - see point 47

If the meat seems stuck to the
pan when you want to turn it wait a little while, once a good crust has formed
it will release itself from the pan,
you dried the meat properly before cooking.

The reason you want to sear
meat is to caramelise it and thus boost flavour. To make the most of this
flavour ALWAYS deglaze the pan after pan cooking meat. All you need to do to
make a fine sauce is, after removing the protein from the pan and setting it aside
somewhere warm for its rest, add a little (just 60ml or so depending on the
size of the pan) appropriate liquid to the pan. (Red wine or beef stock for
beef, white wine or chicken stock for poultry, white wine or lemon juice for
fish - get the idea? Be more creative, or less - water is a lot better than
nothing!) Bring it to a simmer scraping up anything that that has stuck to the
bottom of the pan. Cook stirring till all these yummy bits have melted into the
liquid and continue cooking till slightly syrupy. Either
this to a sauce you already have or stir in a knob of butter and/or a splash of
cream to create a sauce. Your meat should now be relaxed enough to serve - see
50 below.

When turning meat use tongs
rather than a fork to manipulate it so as not to pierce it allowing valuable juices
to be lost.

DON'T press or flatten burgers
during cooking because this squeezes out the juices, compresses the meats and
irritates me.

ALWAYS, always, always allow
meat to rest before serving. Set it in a warm place for 10 minutes or so for a steak
and up to 30 minutes for a
during which time the
fibres of the meat will relax, juices re-distribute and the meat will become
tender and succulent.

Add chunks of onion, carrot and
celery to the pan when roasting meats - they will add flavour to the gravy.

When browning meat ALWAYS leave
plenty of room between pieces, otherwise what they will actually do is steam
rather than fry and they'll end up pallid and soggy.

Arrange a chicken, turkey or
other bird for roasting with its legs splayed; it will cook faster, more evenly
and yield more crunchy skin in that position.

DON'T stuff duck or other fatty
birds as the stuffing will absorb grease to an inedible degree. If you want to
serve stuffing bake it in a separate dish to the bird.

People often ask me what 'binder'
I use in burgers and suggest egg or breadcrumbs but I find the best burgers are
made purely from coarsely minced beef with a modicum of fat and seasonings to
taste. Mine always stay together fine.

Snip the edge of gammon steaks
or any fat or silver skin edged piece of meat before frying or grilling to stop
it curling up.

DON'T overcook liver, it will
become tough. I find the best way to cook it is to first make
a lovely
onion gravy. Pan sear the liver briefly, pour over
the hot gravy, turn off the heat, put on the lid and wait for about 10 minutes.
During this time the liver cooks in a moist and tender way whilst gently enhancing
the gravy.

The best way to
meat and fish in a freezer
bag, for several reasons:

You need a smaller amount of marinade - put everything in the bag,
squeeze out the air and seal, the marinade will be pushed up against the

To help it work you can massage and munge the marinade into the meat.

It takes up less room in the fridge.

No clean-up.

DON'T re-use marinades because
there is a danger of cross contamination

Meat has a grain to it and will
be much
more tender
if sliced across the grain (whether
it be before or after cooking) resulting in short threads of meat. If sliced
the other way, along the grain, it will result in long chewy strands.

When reheating cooked meat do
so as gently as possibly or it will toughen. An excellent way is to reheat it in
its appropriate gravy or other sauce. Bring the sauce almost to a boil, turn
off the heat, add the meat, cover and set aside for 10-15 minutes during which
time it will become hot and stay tender.

How do you tell if meat is done
to your liking? If you have a meat thermometer here are some temperature
guidelines ...

Beef and Lamb - Rare 50ºC,
Med-Rare 60ºC, Medium 65ºC, Med Well 67ºC, Well 70ºC

Pork and Veal - Medium 65ºC,
Well Done 75ºC

Chicken and

you don't have a thermometer
used another
method to test
meat ...

Touch your ear lobe - this is
how rare meat should feel.

Touch your cheek for the
feeling of medium rare meat.

The side of the nose apparently
feels like medium meat.

The end of your nose is how
well done meat should feel!

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