4 Cooking Tips Will End Your Recipe Guessing

Foods & DrinksCooking Tips & Recipes

  • Author Chef Todd Mohr
  • Published May 13, 2010
  • Word count 873

Cooking is not made easy when you’re still guessing. In fact, guessing at cooking increases the stress because guessing makes you unsure of the results to come. I’m going to give you a little cooking help by offering some tips on how to end your guessing.

One of the reasons that you guess is because it’s hard to believe something until you can actually see it. But I want to help you to wrap your head around the idea that you have to believe it first and then you’ll see it.

Quantifying your portion sizes, temperature and testing are great ways to allow you to stop guessing. Let’s go ahead and look at how that might work.

4 Ways to quantify your cooking and eliminate guessing:

Cooking Tip #1: Temperature

Temperature is important in cooking. Some foods will make you sick if you don’t cook them at the right temperature. Other foods will be utterly destroyed if you cook them much above "medium heat".

Use water as an indicator of temperature. Water evaporates at 212 degrees F, so if you are using a saute pan, if you sprinkle a little water in the pan and it evaporates, you know that the pan is at least at the boiling point of water. The quicker the water evaporates, the hotter your pan is. This works on the grill as well.

You can also test a small piece of your food to test for temperature. For example, maybe you’re going to fry some chicken in oil on the stove, but you can’t tell if the oil is hot enough or not. Don’t ruin a whole breast by putting it into oil that’s not hot enough. Instead, take a small piece of the chicken and drop it in the pan. You’ll know right away whether the oil is hot enough or not to cook your food.

Cooking Tip #2: Test a Small Quantity

Sometimes, you just need to test a small quantity of something before cooking the whole thing. This is especially helpful in roasting. I can tell you that when I had my catering business, sometimes we would have to make hundreds or thousands of crab cakes in one big batch. Well, we would take one crab cake, cook it and test it. This would allow us to make adjustments on the rest of the batch and make a superior product! Cooking or roasting a small piece of something is a great way to see if your plan is going to work without sacrificing all of your ingredients during one of your guessing adventures.

Cooking Tip #3: Portion Size

Get a digital scale and begin to understand your raw portions sizes. Let me tell you a story about how I discovered the importance of this tip.

• When I used to make spaghetti for myself and my wife, I would cook a whole pound of spaghetti, basically one whole box for the two of us. When we sat down to eat, because so much spaghetti was available, we ate more than we should. After finishing our meal, there was always spaghetti left over, we would put the leftover spaghetti in the refrigerator and a few days later throw it out because we wouldn’t eat it.

• With my digital scale, I started by weighing 8 ounces of dry pasta for the two of us. I cooked the 8 ounces and still had some leftover, so I adjusted it down until I knew EXACTLY how much dry pasta to cook for the two of us…5.3 ounces is our perfect amount. Knowing this finally made cooking pasta easy, we don’t overeat and we don’t have leftovers.

Understanding and knowing your portion sizes will also help you to not overbuy at the grocery store because you’ll know EXACTLY how much to buy of a product to feed your family for a particular meal. And make sure you stick to the portion sizes. If you’re cooking frozen shrimp from a bag and the portions end up leaving 3 shrimp in the bag, don’t just dump them into the meal and cook them. NO, you’ll be feeding too much to your family! Leave them in the bag and cook them the next time. You don’t have to "just make the whole package."

Cooking tip #4: Test Spices

If you are making a pot of something and you need to add spices, don’t start throwing in the spices and guess what it’s going to taste like. Get the spices that you’re thinking about using and put the "concoction" in a small ramekin or a small soufflé cup first. This will help you to know how the flavors work and give you the confidence that the combination is going to work.

So, by using these quantifying cooking tips, you can stop guessing at what’s happening to your food. Observe your results and purposely alter your steps for the next time. You will be amazed at how starting with these little visual cues can help you to stop guessing and be confident that what you see is what you believe will be true. This isn’t guessing, this is cooking made easy!

Chef Todd Mohr is a classically trained chef, entrepreneur and educator. Chef Todd's simple philosophy - burn your recipes and learn how to really cook - has helped many home cooks and professionals alike finally achieve success in the kitchen. Learn his 1 Secret for Free and discover how online cooking classes can really teach you to cook!

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