Nov 15, 2018

Is It Done Yet?

Knowing when your food is done is crucial to a delicious meal.  Experienced cooks rely on their senses to know when foods are done.  We’re not referring to “common sense,” although that plays an important role as well.  Taste, touch, sight, smell and yes, even sound will tell you that your food is ready to come out of the oven or off the stove. 

Less knowledgeable cooks will rely on recipe instructions.  Following cooking times religiously will give you the expected results unless your oven is drastically different than the one that was used to test the recipes.  Start checking on your food a few minutes before the time stated in the recipe.  Set a timer to ensure that you don’t ruin a dish you’ve never made before. 

Taking the internal temperature of cooked and baked foods is another fool-proof method for testing doneness.  Candy thermometers, instant-read thermometers and meat probes are extremely useful to both the novice and seasoned cook.  Thermometers are especially important when deep frying or making candy as specific temperatures are essential for success.  When deep fried at the correct temperature, foods will absorb less oil and stay crispy.  Candy and caramel must reach precise temperatures to harden or thicken properly. 

Taking the temperature of a roast or turkey is the most efficient way to know when they’re ready.  Poultry must reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees to be safe to eat.  Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh or breast.  If you have stuffing in the cavity, measure that as well.  It should reach 165 degrees to be fully cooked and free of bacteria. The outside should be well colored and the joints should move easily.

When roasting meat the cooking time will vary according to taste.  The internal temperature of 130-135 is rare while 160-165 is well done.  Keep in mind that when a roast is removed from the oven it will continue to rise in temperature.   Always allow a roast to rest for 15-20 minutes after removing it from the oven to allow the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat. 

A roast with bones will need to cook about 30 minutes per pound when slow roasted at 325 degrees.  A boneless roast will need an additional 10 minutes per pound.  Smaller cuts like skirt steak will benefit from higher temperatures and shorter cooking times.  A 2-3 pound roast cooked at 425 degrees will be done in less than an hour while a 4-6 pound roast will be done in just over 60 minutes. 

Fish can be temperature-tested as well, but most cooks will judge the fish by its appearance.  White fleshed fish should be opaque in the center.  Fattier fish like salmon should be somewhat translucent or just barely opaque for best flavor.  Internal temperature should range from 120 to 140 degrees.

This delicious snack is so easy to prepare at home. All you need is a candy thermometer to help you get the temperature right!

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2 ½ cups (12 ounces) dry-roasted, salted peanuts

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon baking soda

Line a jelly roll pan with a Silpat or parchment.  If you are using parchment, brush it with canola oil.  Combine sugar, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

 Insert a candy thermometer. Continue boiling, without stirring, until temperature registers 295 degrees F, about 6 minutes. When the sugar begins to brown, add the nuts and stir gently to ensure even cooking. Once the nuts are coated with the sugar mixture remove saucepan from heat, and stir in the butter and baking soda; the mixture will begin to foam up, so mix quickly and carefully. Pour mixture onto the prepared baking pan. Using a spatula spread the mixture as thinly as possible on the pan. 

Allow the brittle to cool completely, about 45 minutes, and then break into bite-size pieces. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

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