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Absurdly, stupidly basic cooking questions (Part 2)


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Yeah, I get the impression baking powder is usually a mix of a powdered acid like cream of tartar and some kind of base. I only recently found out that baking soda is often called for to neutralize other acidic ingredients so they don't affect the action of the baking powder! I imagine cream of tartar would be useful in that capacity, too, if there were more alkaline foods out there...

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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cocoa and baking soda combine in cookies quite well. Often one is instructed to use baking soda and buttermilk (or sour milk in older "receipts") which produce a moderate rise when baking powder is not included.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 1 month later...

Anyone know what the functional difference between beef short ribs and back ribs is? I saw both at an Asian market, both cut into pieces about 2 inches on a side. They looked almost identical in terms of marbling, but the back ribs were less than $2/lb while the short ribs were over $5/lb.

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Anyone know what the functional difference between beef short ribs and back ribs is? I saw both at an Asian market, both cut into pieces about 2 inches on a side. They looked almost identical in terms of marbling, but the back ribs were less than $2/lb while the short ribs were over $5/lb.

According to this chart, short ribs come from the chuck area whereas the back ribs come from the upper (near the spine) portion of the rib cage. I'm not sure we've seen a functional difference between them in our household, except that the rib to meat ratio may be different. We've been braising both short ribs and back ribs, and gotten much the same flavor and texture from either cut. (We've had the same experience with the piggy equivalent cuts.) I see, however, that the Angus chart in this link suggests braising or stewing for the short ribs and broiling or grilling for the back ribs, so the chart's authors seem to think back ribs are more tender from the outset.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Another question.  What is cream of tartar, and what does it do?  (As an aside, some lady in front of me at the grocery the other day was buying 12 jars of it!).

When my son was in preschool families took turns making playdough for the class using a recipe like this and I was the lady buying a dozen tiny jars. If they had given me more notice I'm sure I could have ordered a large package much more cheaply.

Fern

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Here's a way of using your thumb muscle that I think is a little more accurate ...

Muscle relaxed = raw/black and blue

Muscle stretched (puling your index finger and thumb apart) = rare/medium rare

Muscle flexed hard = medium / well done

it's accurate, but a pretty rough guide ... I still haven't figured out how to use touch for anything more precise than this.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 3 weeks later...

Braising...

How can cooking in a 300F oven cook something "gently" if water boils at 212F? If I put my roast on the stove-top and boiled the hell out of it for 3-4 hours, I don't think I'd have a tender pot roast, but I'm told to put my seared meat with it's braising liquid in the oven at 300 for 3-4 hours. When I sneak a peak under the lid, it certainly looks like it's boiling away, so what gives?

(Now that I have my new stove, this isn't such a huge deal, since I can simmer it on the stovetop just as easily, but still, enquiring minds want to know.)

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Braising...

How can cooking in a 300F oven cook something "gently" if water boils at 212F?  If I put my roast on the stove-top and boiled the hell out of it for 3-4 hours, I don't think I'd have a tender pot roast, but I'm told to put my seared meat with it's braising liquid in the oven at 300 for 3-4 hours.  When I sneak a peak under the lid, it certainly looks like it's boiling away, so what gives?

(Now that I have my new stove, this isn't such a huge deal, since I can simmer it on the stovetop just as easily, but still, enquiring minds want to know.)

You know, I've never been able to figure this one out. Everyone whose opinion on cooking I respect says to braise at a lower temp, even as low as 200F. I understand that, if you leave the lid off, you'll get some evaporative cooling, but why do so many braising recipes tell you to braise, covered, at 300F?

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Braising...

How can cooking in a 300F oven cook something "gently" if water boils at 212F?  If I put my roast on the stove-top and boiled the hell out of it for 3-4 hours, I don't think I'd have a tender pot roast, but I'm told to put my seared meat with it's braising liquid in the oven at 300 for 3-4 hours.  When I sneak a peak under the lid, it certainly looks like it's boiling away, so what gives?

(Now that I have my new stove, this isn't such a huge deal, since I can simmer it on the stovetop just as easily, but still, enquiring minds want to know.)

You know, I've never been able to figure this one out. Everyone whose opinion on cooking I respect says to braise at a lower temp, even as low as 200F. I understand that, if you leave the lid off, you'll get some evaporative cooling, but why do so many braising recipes tell you to braise, covered, at 300F?

I'm going to take a wild guess that (a) every oven is different enough that recipes have to generalize, and (b) most recipe writers don't figure people have the time to cook at, say, 225F and (c ) the cookbook publishers are worried about having someone cook too low and too slow and getting food poisoning. These are all guesses, mind. In the eGullet Culinary Institute seminar, The Truth About Braising, Fat Guy's instructions were to set the heat and check it periodically to make sure that there's just a small simmer going. (The link, by the way, takes you to the introduction. There were 4 different sessions, with Q&A and discussion afterward, and the instructions for setting up the braise were early on. The seminar makes for a good education.) Using that technique I generally find that temperature to be somewhere around 225F or 250F in my oven, depending on the rack position.

On the other hand, keeping a tight lid on the liquid will trap steam. You won't be boiling the meat (contact with the liquid) so much as steaming it, which is a different process. Whether you're boiling, braising or dry-roasting the meat it will still take time for the interior to reach the same temperature as the exterior, and how fast that happens will depend on how efficient the cooking medium is at transferring heat (liquid is very efficient; air is less so) and how hot it is. I think that means that within a certain temperature range you can get the same results at somewhat higher heat, but you have to be more watchful to make sure you don't overdo it.

Any other SSB's out there want to take a whack at this?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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  • 1 month later...
I have a stupid question - has anyone had any luck freezing already-cooked pasta?

Ziplock bag touch of oil...the kids do it for camping

and I freeze lasagna and baked ziti for sure

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I haven't done it myself, but I've had one of those Bertolli frozen skillet dinner things that had individually frozen pasta pieces in it.

I think the key to freezing it would be to not cook it all the way and freeze it on a sheet so the pieces are separate. (then transfer to bags or something.)

My next guess would be to cook a sauce and dump the pasta right into it. It will thaw and finish cooking.

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Yes, I freeze cooked spaghetti or linguine all the time so that I have "instant" food for the hungry teens. They will ravage the pantry for junkfood if their needs are not instantly met. I don't oil it, just rinse well and toss into a ziplock. Nuke on low power just to loosen up and then into the pan with sauce, or back to the microwave with some also loosened up frozen sauce.

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. . . .  I think that means that within a certain temperature range you can get the same results at somewhat higher heat, but you have to be more watchful to make sure you don't overdo it.

Any other SSB's out there want to take a whack at this?

I think you've got the essence of it here. Within reason, it doesn't matter what temperature the oven is; the liquid in the pot simply can't rise above 212 F -- that's physics. So as a recipe writer, you do the responsible thing and make sure the oven temperature is sufficient to keep the liquid boiling. I suspect the oven is preferred (it's why I prefer it, anyway) because it's a more stable environment. 300 F is also sufficient to bring the liquid to a boil in case the cook hasn't brought things to a proper simmer prior to ovenage, and accounts for heat loss when you open the oven door to put the dish in.

On the other hand, I've done stovetop braises for 3-4 hours without problems. It's just a matter of paying attention in case the seal of the lid isn't perfect (none of them are). After all, you've got the same boiling point in play.

I do think that 212 F is a bit higher than optimum for a braise. 180 F is what I shoot for: high enough for collagen conversion and safety, and as low as possible to mitigate protein contraction. What I usually do is bring the oven to 325 F, get the dish in the oven, give it 15 minutes, then reset the oven to 200 F.

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This may have been answered before, but I did not see it, so I want to ask why "chefs on tv" put salt in the water before cooking pasta? I grew up with my mom and elder relations putting cooking oil in the water and that had been what I was doing ever since. Every time I watch a tv show where the chef is italian, they throw a handful of salt in the water. I did it once and it turned my spaghetti salty. I was so embarassed because I've never had salty spaghetti before and at that time, we were having some visitors and it was too late to cook another batch...

I don't understand what went wrong...? Can someone more smarter than me explain the difference, why some cooks uses oil and some uses salt? I know my mom said use oil so the spaghetti do not stick together as they cook, but salt?

Thanks for any explanation..

austramerica

Life is short: Break the rules...Forgive quickly...Kiss slowly...Love truly...Laugh uncontrollably...And never regret anything that made you smile. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance...
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I can't fry a sunny side up egg to save my life.

Are you having trouble with the yolk leaking, or with getting the white to set? Or something else?

This may have been answered before, but I did not see it, so I want to ask why "chefs on tv" put salt in the water before cooking pasta?

The salt serves two purposes: first, to add flavor to the pasta (or rather, to enhance the already-present flavor) and the second, to (marginally) increase the boiling-point of the water. The first is the more important function, IMO. I don't add a "handful," though, more like a few large pinches (I suppose it comes out to around a tablespoon of salt to a few quarts of water). If your pasta came out salty, you just added too much salt. I'm sure there are more meaningful recommendations of exactly how much to add out there, so I would definitely start with someone's hard-and-fast numbers and adjust them to suit your tastes. You definitely should not end up with salty pasta.

The oil is put in on the theory that it prevents the pasta from sticking to itself. Bupkis, I say. If the pasta is sticking to itself, you are not using enough water. Of course, I am far from an expert on these matters, but that has been my experience, and I make a lot of pasta! :smile: Have you tried it without, or just stuck with tradition? I'd give it a try without and see if it makes a difference for you.

Edited to clarify and expand.

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
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I can't fry a sunny side up egg to save my life.

Are you having trouble with the yolk leaking, or with getting the white to set? Or something else?

I can never get the last stranghold of white around the yolk to set without cooking the whole thing to death or going over easy. I've tried water instead of oil, spooning hot oil onto the egg (this kinda worked but the egg was soooo greasy and nasty), tight lid, no lids. I just can't get the hang of it.

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I can't fry a sunny side up egg to save my life.

Good Lord, me either Zeke. It kills me too. Is there a video tutorial somewhere about how to do this?

Also? I can't cook rice to save my life. I think I just have a mental block about it. I need to just bite it off and buy a good rice steamer. Or keep buying the Whole Foods 365 brand frozen rice. I feel like such a cheater...oh the shame.

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I can't fry a sunny side up egg to save my life.

Good Lord, me either Zeke. It kills me too. Is there a video tutorial somewhere about how to do this?

Also? I can't cook rice to save my life. I think I just have a mental block about it. I need to just bite it off and buy a good rice steamer. Or keep buying the Whole Foods 365 brand frozen rice. I feel like such a cheater...oh the shame.

If you make alot of rice I would get a rice cooker. I did and haven't looked back. 30 buck megamart rice cookers cook ok rice but are difficult to clean. I used to have one of those. Now I have a Zojirushi NP-HBC10. I absolutely love it. If I could I would marry it.

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This may have been answered before, but I did not see it, so I want to ask why "chefs on tv" put salt in the water before cooking pasta?

The salt serves two purposes: first, to add flavor to the pasta (or rather, to enhance the already-present flavor) and the second, to (marginally) increase the boiling-point of the water. The first is the more important function, IMO. I don't add a "handful," though, more like a few large pinches (I suppose it comes out to around a tablespoon of salt to a few quarts of water). If your pasta came out salty, you just added too much salt. I'm sure there are more meaningful recommendations of exactly how much to add out there, so I would definitely start with someone's hard-and-fast numbers and adjust them to suit your tastes. You definitely should not end up with salty pasta.

The oil is put in on the theory that it prevents the pasta from sticking to itself. Bupkis, I say. If the pasta is sticking to itself, you are not using enough water. Of course, I am far from an expert on these matters, but that has been my experience, and I make a lot of pasta! :smile: Have you tried it without, or just stuck with tradition? I'd give it a try without and see if it makes a difference for you.

Edited to clarify and expand.

Life is short: Break the rules...Forgive quickly...Kiss slowly...Love truly...Laugh uncontrollably...And never regret anything that made you smile. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance...
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I can't fry a sunny side up egg to save my life.

Are you having trouble with the yolk leaking, or with getting the white to set? Or something else?

I can never get the last stranghold of white around the yolk to set without cooking the whole thing to death or going over easy. I've tried water instead of oil, spooning hot oil onto the egg (this kinda worked but the egg was soooo greasy and nasty), tight lid, no lids. I just can't get the hang of it.

I'm sure all the pro chefs out there will cringe, but my solution is to make the eggs in a pan with a good lid, and to pour in a few tablespoons of water next to the egg right before putting the lid on. This causes the white on top to steam, rather than forcing it to be cooked by the heat from below. I find that it works very well, though maybe I prefer my whites cooked a bit less than you.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Ummm, can I use frozen bread to make 'fresh' bread crumbs? :huh:

I have no idea why I'm lurking in this thread today... I'm sure I should be writing my dissertation or some nonsense...

Yes, definitely. The difference between "fresh" and "not-fresh" when it comes to breadcrumbs is whether the bread has been dried or not. Fresh breadcrumbs have a much higher moisture content, so absorb less oil, etc. Frozen bread should work fine, though for whatever reason I generally thaw it first. Probably not actually necessary...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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