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  • The Timid Chef 11:28 am on June 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: care of cast iron, cast iron, , , , cooking with cast iron,   

    Module 2-4 Iron Skillets 

    I have gone on and on about the importance of cooking with the right cookware. Using nonstick cookware on high heat is bad! I am aware that there are many out there that cannot afford the expense of a decent set of stainless-steel cookware. They can be expensive. That is where the timeless iron skillet comes in. Some of you may be lucky enough to still have the skillet used by your grandmother or even great-grandmother. If you don’t mind purchasing one used, I recommend taking a trip to Goodwill. They almost always have one. You can also check out garage sales, Craigslist, and stores that sell pre-owned merchandise. Even if it is a little rusted, you can bring it back into like-new condition. The only exception would be if there are any cracks in it which is the only time it needs to be thrown away. Even if it is rusted, sticky, or has lost its seasoning, it can be redeemed, and I will show you how.

    If you want to buy yours new or can’t find a used iron skillet, I recommend the Lodge cast iron skillet. Here is a thorough review of this skillet from America’s Test Kitchen. I am a big fan of their website, and I am sure you have heard me refer to them more than once already. I recommend that you have both a 10-in and a 12-in skillet. There are several reasons for this, but the most important is that you need the right size pan for the job. I covered the importance of the correct sized skillet in module 2-3.

    You can buy either a skillet that has an enamel finish or a traditional cast iron skillet. I prefer the traditional skillet because if it is seasoned well, it won’t stick. Here is a quick video from (of course) America’s Test Kitchen.

    So you have bought a used cast iron skillet and it is rusty and ugly. How do you bring back that wonderful nonstick coating (seasoning) and get rid of the rust?

    The following video does a great job of explaining what to do to bring your old, ugly skillet back to a beautiful sheen. However, once your pan is nice and shiney and looking brand new, DON’T use steel wool or Brillo pads on that skillet. Those are not necessary, and they will destroy the seasoning that you worked so hard to develop!

    I use about 1/8 cup (more or less) of regular table salt to clean my skillet and a wad of aluminum foil (if I need a scrubbie, and I usually don’t) to scrub away stubborn stuck-on food. You will be amazed at how well it works and it won’t destroy your hard-won, seasoned finish.With that being said, this is a great video on getting that skillet in tip top shape.

    Cleaning Cast Iron

    There is a lot of controversy on whether or not you can cook acidic foods in a cast iron skillet. When acidic foods are cooked in cast iron for extended periods (30 minutes or longer), it can eat into your hard-won seasoning. This could result in trace amounts of metals from the cast iron being released into your food. Although this is not harmful to your health, it can leave an undesirable metallic taste to your food. If you think you are going to be cooking a lot of acidic food in your cast iron skillet, and you don’t want to keep an eye on extended simmering, you can buy an iron skillet with an enamel finish instead. The coated skillets do not need to be seasoned but you sacrifice the beautiful seasoning that keeps your food from sticking. (In my case, I chose the best of both worlds. I have the traditional iron skillet and a porcelain covered dutch oven). Visit Module 1-3 for a review on dutch ovens and other cookware.

    The good news, a well-seasoned skillet discourages those pesky metals from leaching into your food. Until you become competent cooking in cast iron, use recipes that are specifically designed for use in cast iron. They will use little tricks like shorter simmer times and waiting until late in the recipe to add the acidic ingredients.

    Unlike stainless-steel pans, cast iron is not very good at heating evenly. If you throw a cold cast iron skillet on a burner, it will form very hot spots where the hot burner is, while the rest of the pan remains cooler. However, once it is hot, it stays hot! So to get around this, put your iron skillet in a preheated 500 degree F oven for about 15 minutes. This creates the perfect surface for superior searing that can’t be beat by any other skillet. Don’t forget to use an oven mitt on the handle. That handle gets REALLY hot!

    By the way, not only can you use your cast iron skillet on an electric stove, glass tops work well too. I know because I am not lucky enough to have a gas stove in my home. We have a glass top. However, be very careful. The skillet is very heavy and you don’t want to drop it on your glass top.

    How to maintain your iron skillet:

    • Always clean your skillet immediately after use and while it is warm. Don’t soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it WILL rust.
    • Wash the skillet by hand (dishwasher is bad) using hot water and a sponge or a wad of aluminum foil. (Use tongs or wear gloves if the water and/or skillet is extra hot!) Avoid using dish soap, but if you really need to (sigh), use only a drop or two (NO brillo pads).
    • To remove stuck-on food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse salt (table or kosher salt work fine) and water. Then rinse or wipe with a paper towel. Stubborn food residue may also be loosened by boiling water in the pan.
    • Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat. It will rust if not dried completely.
    • Using a paper towel, apply a light coat of vegetable oil (don’t use shortening, butter, or ghee) while the skillet is still warm. Some people also like to oil the outside of the skillet. Buff with a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
    • Remember to always clean your skillet immediately after use and while it is still hot or warm. Don’t soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust. (Yea I know I’ve repeated the rust thing several times. If it rusts, you are going to spend some time removing the rust and reseasoning. (That means don’t soak it and dry it after washing).
    Le’s Cook with Cast Iron

    A cast iron skillet has some additional uses. I would have never thought of using my skillet the way it demonstrates in the following video. I only recently began experimenting in ways to use my skillet besides cooking. I would really like to hear my readers’ ideas on this.

    It works great to prevent food from scorching. I melted chocolate in a regular stainless steel pan and then sat that pan inside of my iron skillet. It did a great job of keeping the chocolate from scorching; maybe not as good as a double boiler, but I don’t have one and there is no more room in my kitchen to store stuff (I swear cooking can turn you into a pack rat). I use that same technique when simmering milk for homemade yogurt to prevent the milk from scorching. I would love to hear of anyone else’s creative ideas.

    I promise we are at the end of this article. We will continue learning about cast iron by cooking steak in the next module!

    Cast iron can be used for more than just cooking

    Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s learn how to cook the perfect strip steak in an iron skillet: Module 2-4 Cast Iron Steak

  • The Timid Chef 9:29 am on June 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dry Heat Cooking, , , frying pans, malliard reaction, nonstick cookware, , sauteing, searing   

    Module 2-3 Dry-Heat Cooking with Fat 

    Dry-heat cooking methods with fat includes stir-frying, pan-frying, deep-frying, and sautéing. They rely on high smoke-point fat such as canola oil, grapeseed oil, refined olive oil, ghee, etc., to act as the cooking medium.

    Dry-Heat Cooking with Fat: Sautéing and Pan-Frying

    Fat allows you to cook your food using very high temperatures; this effectively browns your food and makes it taste great. Steak, chicken, and fish are tender proteins that behave and respond well to this cooking method.

    Tender cuts of protein cooked using dry-heat methods result in a piece of meat that is tender and juicy. This method is not suitable for tougher cuts of meat. Muscle that gets a lot of exercise will be your tougher cuts of meat. Whereas muscle that does not exercise will be the more tender cuts.

    What is the difference between sautéing and pan-frying? In a sauté, the food is cut into small pieces (diced onion or a tenderloin cut into bite size pieces) and in pan-frying the meat is left in larger pieces (chicken thighs or ribeye steak). I will use the term pan-frying when discussing this technique.

    Pan-frying/sautéing are used for tender cuts of meat.

    1. Cube steak – this is most often a piece of pounded top round or sirloin steak
    2. Pork cutlets
    3. Pork chops
    4. Fish
    5. Chicken
    6. Any cut of beef from the rib or loin sections such as: rib-eye steak, tenderloin, porterhouse, T-bone, top sirloin, or filet mignon.

    We will practice pan-frying with:

    • Chicken breast medallions
    • Pork tenderloin cutlets
    • Chicken thighs

    When pan-frying you need to use a skillet that is on the larger side but not too big. If the pan is too small, the meat will not brown. Instead, it will just simmer in its juices.  On the flip side, we don’t want to use a pan that is too big either. If the skillet is too large, there will be spots that will not have food, and since there is nothing to absorb the excess heat, the oil will burn in these areas.   We want the meat to develop a beautiful brown sear which will seal in the juices and flavor of the meat without scorching or burning.

    The previous lesson discussed how to properly use a stainless-steel skillet and when to add oil and food to the skillet. If you have not yet not read this lesson (Module 2-2) or the lesson on Cookware (Module 1-3), please stop and read before continuing (unless you already know how to use a STAINLESS-STEEL skillet). Nonstick cookware is not an acceptable choice for high heat cooking. If you use your nonstick skillet for everything, then please read this article on nonstick cookware. If you don’t have a stainless-steel skillet or cannot afford one, invest in an iron skillet instead. With the exception of acidic foods, you can cook anything in an iron skillet that you can cook in a stainless-steel skillet. I cannot stress the necessity of understanding how and why to use the correct skillet for the job.

    Once you have finished cooking your protein, allow it to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. There is a reason for this and its not because “that’s what they do on all of the cooking shows”. As meat cooks, the muscle fibers constrict and get firm. This pushes the moisture out towards the surface of the meat. Resting the meat allows the moisture to redistribute back through the meat. This will results in a juicier, more tender piece of meat. If you cut the meat too soon, the liquid spills out resulting in a dry, tougher piece of meat.

    Malliard Reaction

    Browning, or the Maillard reaction, creates flavor and changes the color of food. It requires temperatures to reach at least 300 degrees to complete the necessary chemical reaction for browning to occur. Until the Maillard reaction occurs, meat will have less flavor. Interestingly, it is not limited to meat or fish but to all foods that contain protein. The main problem is that the Maillard reaction is both time and temperature dependent. This means that the home cook or beginning chef must listen to variables such as meat thickness, time, and how hot (or not hot) the pan is for the Malliard reaction to successfully complete.  

    Water is the sworn enemy of the Maillard reaction; it lowers the temperature and greatly minimizes the reaction. This is the reason that overcrowding your pan is such a bad thing.

    So now that we have covered a few basics and reviewed a few concepts let’s get cooking with:

    Module 2-3: Recipe: Pan-Fried Chicken Breast Medallions

    Module 2-3 Recipe: Pan-Fried Pork Tenderloins

    Module 2-3 Recipe: Donna’s pan-seared crispy chicken thighs

  • The Timid Chef 7:08 am on June 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    Everything You Want to Know about Garlic and aren’t Afraid to Ask 

    For everything garlic, click on Garlic

    From recipes, to health benefits, to history. I had to reblog this website as I found it really fascinating.

  • The Timid Chef 5:59 am on June 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: leeks, onions, red onions, scallions, vidalia, yellow onions   

    Let’s Talk About Onions 

    Onions are a member of the allium family of vegetables and herbs. This family also includes chives, garlic, scallions, and leeks. Just so you know, scallions are another name for green onions. I am sure there is some subtle difference between the two, but they are so frequently used interchangeably that I don’t think it matters.

    Onions can vary in size and flavor, as well as in shape and color.  They can be sweet, sharp, spicy, and pungent. Whether or not the onion is in season directly influences its flavor and its affect on your precious recipes so keep this in mind when shopping.

    Onions are a nutrient-dense vegetable that can be sautéed, roasted, grilled, caramelized, or eaten raw. They are low in calories, yet high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

    If you want to learn about onions and have a good laugh, watch this youtube video. It really is funny.

    This is a much more serious but informative video about onions. Did you know that onions have real health benefits?

    Chives are related to garlic, leeks and onions and are native to Asia, North America and Europe. It has a milder flavor than onions and garlic.Chives add flavor soups, dips, mashed or baked potatoes, fish, seafood dishes and omelets. Heat destroys their flavor, so add chives to dishes at the last minute.

    Garlic is used as a flavoring in cooking, but it has also been used as a medicine throughout ancient and modern history. To learn more about garlic, follow the link for an article from the George Mateljan Foundation. Their mission is to help you eat and cook the healthiest way for optimal health. I could rattle off a lot of what is on their website, but I wouldn’t be able to do it better. I highly recommend visiting for some great information on this herb.

    Green onions are actually baby, immature onions that are picked before they are fully grown. Green onions are milder and sweeter than their more mature selves. They are frequently eaten raw or cooked by stir-frying, steaming, or roasting. Green onions are great for topping salads, soups, and pasta.

    Leeks add subtlety and flavor to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present. Although leeks are available throughout the year, they are in season from the fall through the early part of spring which is when they are at their best. Their leaves are not edible, but the stalk and bulb are usually sliced thin and used in soups.

    Pearl Onions are mild, very small, and sweet. Best things about these little guys, you don’t need to chop them. Just peel, give a quick rinse, and they are ready.

    Red Onions are not good choices when caramelization is needed. These onions are medium to large in size and have a mild to sweet flavor. They are most commonly used raw in salads and sandwiches. They tend to lose their colour when cooked.

    Vidalia Onions are very sweet and best eaten raw. This makes them an excellent choice for topping that juicy burger. If you prefer the onions on your burger to be cooked, then white onion is a better choice.

    White onions and yellow onions  can be stored up to a month in a cool, dark place that has good air circulation. They should not be stored in the fridge. These two onions are interchangeable and there is hardly a difference in taste. They are higher in sugar and great for caramelization.

  • The Timid Chef 9:29 am on June 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Canola oil, , , Cooking oil, , Olive oil, , Peanut oil   

    Module 2-1 Cooking Oils 

    Watch this video from salted to learn about cooking oils.

    Smoke Point

    What is smoke point and why do we need to know? The “smoke point” of an oil is the temperature at which it begins to break down and begins to smoke. Exceeding an oil’s smoke point will not only set off your smoke detector, it will also give your food a burnt and bitter flavor.

    Best Oils for Frying (not necessarily the healthiest)

    These oils all have a high smoke point and are great for the high temperatures associated with pan-frying and deep-fat frying. Canola oil is a great choice when you need a neutral-tasting oil.

    Unrefined Verse Refined Coconut Oil

    Refined coconut oil has been filtered and bleached to remove any scent and impurities. It also has additives to reduce fatty-acid content and increase its shelf life. While you can refine coconut oil mechanically, it is more commonly done chemically. Unlike refined coconut oils, unrefined coconut oil is expeller-pressed and much healthier. Cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides which are made of healthy fatty acids. Unfortunately, these are lost during the refining process.

    Cooking oils explained
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