Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Science of Cooking

By Mat Schaffer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and RecipesHarold McGee’s new book, “Keys to Good Cooking” (Penguin Press, $35), doesn’t contain a single recipe. But this comprehensive guide on how to purchase, store and prepare foods will revolutionize your time in the kitchen.

A former Somerville resident and author of the 1984 classic “On Food and Cooking,” the San Francisco-based McGee writes a column for the New York Times [NYT] and blogs on curiouscook.com. He is one of the country’s foremost authorities on the science of cooking.

The subject sounds intimidating, but McGee’s book is anything but. It’s an easy-to-read reference that covers everything from which knives to buy (stainless steel) and how to speedily ripen an avocado (in a paper bag with a ripe banana) to how to estimate the age of an egg (old eggs float) and restore stale bread (reheat).

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen“Science shouldn’t be (frightening),” McGee said at his Cambridge hotel on a recent publicity stop in the Hub. “When it comes to the kitchen, thinking like a scientist is really a matter of being curious about what’s going on, skeptical about what people tell you about what’s going on, and being willing to play with your food - to try different things and enjoy the process.”

According to McGee, the more we know about cooking, the better we cook.

“It’s like anything else,” he said. “The more you understand about something that you’re doing, the more control you have over what happens, the less you’re reliant about someone else’s advice, which may or may not be any good, and the more likely you are to get a good result.

Keys to Good Cooking. by Harold McGee“Professionals, because they’re cooking every day, develop an intuitive understanding of what’s going on very quickly,” he said. “The rest of us, who cook a couple of times a week, maybe on weekends, maybe not even that often, don’t have that intuitive understanding because we don’t have all those hours behind the stove. For us, it’s especially important to know a little bit about what’s going on because that can help us fill in the gaps of our experience.”

“Keys to Good Cooking” is a fount of fabulous information:

Searing meat does not seal in juices, and a moist cooking environment does not guarantee moist meat. Chill onions in the refrigerator or ice water beforehand to prevent tears when cutting or chopping. Both plastic and wooden cutting boards can be properly cleaned to eliminate bacteria.

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good FoodAnd don’t boil eggs! Boiling breaks shells, toughens proteins, intensifies the cooked egg flavor and helps turn the yolk surface green. Instead, hard-cook eggs below the boiling point.

McGee hopes his book will find a home next to your stove.

Recipes are an approximate road map to getting to a particular destination,” he said. “When you are working in your kitchen, you’re using different ingredients, different materials, different tools, different ovens. You have to take that into account and adjust as you go along.

“A question comes up, you’re not quite sure about a step in the recipe or something is going wrong and you’re not sure what to do about it? Pick up my book, find the right page, read a paragraph or two, close it, put it back and keep going.”

Get ‘Cooking’

Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They WorkSome culinary do’s and don’ts from Harold McGee’s “Keys to Good Cooking”:
  • Do not refrigerate garlic (or tomatoes or basil).
  • To prevent a wrinkled surface on cooked vegetables (asparagus, green beans, carrots, corn) coat them right after cooking with a little oil or butter.
  • Cook most frozen vegetables without thawing.
  • Check early and often if the meat is done (McGee is a big fan of thermometers).
  • To salvage overdone poultry breast meat, pull it into shreds and bathe it in pan juices.
  • To minimize fishy cooking smells, cook fish or shellfish in a covered pan or in a wrapper and allow them to cool somewhat before uncovering.
  • Choose dull metal baking pans and shells for the most even heating.
  • To preview an apple’s cooked texture, microwave a few slices just until soft or briefly bake them.
  • Intensify the flavor in cooked cherry dishes by leaving the pits in - but be sure to tell your guests.

La buena cocina / Keys To Good Cooking: Como Preparar Los Mejores Platos Y Recetas / How to Prepare the Best Dishes and Recipes (Spanish Edition)Have your own kitchen do’s and don’ts? Share it on Fork Lift, the Boston Herald food blog.
- mschaffer@bostonherald.com

Taken from below source:
Kitchen Science

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