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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 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
  • The Timid Chef 8:43 am on June 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , pan-fried pork tenderloin, , Pork, pork tenderloin   

    Module 2-3 Recipe: Pan-Fried Pork Tenderloin 

    Here is a video on “how to slice and pound pork tenderloin.” Sorry but I couldn’t find a good youtube video. This video is still really good if you don’t mind ignoring the website’s annoying advertising.

    Yummy Pan-Fried Pork Tenderloin


    • 1 tablespoon neutral tasting cooking oil that has a high smoke point (canola or grapeseed oil are the best choices)
    • 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 medallions
    • ½ teaspoon salt (I only use sea salt in my cooking)
    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
    • ¼ teason FRESHLY ground black pepper

    Arrange pork medallions in a single layer on a work surface. Flatten the medallions to even thickness. If you have a decent tenderloin you should be able to press each with the palm of your hand to flatten to an even thickness.

    Combine salt, garlic powder, and pepper; sprinkle liberally over pork. Adjust the seasoning to your individual taste. I prefer to add a little more.

    Heat 12-inch skillet over medium-high to mercury-ball stage as learned in previous lesson.

    Add oil. When you see the first wisp of smoke coming from the skillet, add the pork to the skillet in a single layer; Do NOT overcrowd the skillet. If you skillet is not big enough, then cook in batches.

    Cook just until done, about 3 minutes per side. (Use a timer if necessary to keep from turning too soon. Monitor the temperature and adjust as necessary to keep a steady sizzle. LISTEN to your food!)

    Remove from heat; Please a piece of aluminum foil over the pork that is vented at the top and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving

    When you lightly pound a piece of meat, it makes it a bit thinner and shortens the cooking time. It also helps to tenderize the meat by breaking up the muscle tissue.

    If you don’t pound them, you’ll need to adjust temperature a little lower to cook the thicker pieces of pork to the desired doneness. I don’t recommend this.

    Note: Be sure not to overcook the pork. Contrary to what many people think, pork can have a little redness to it, just like beef. After cooking, lightly cover the meat and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. If you are not sure if the pork is done, use an instant read thermometer.

  • The Timid Chef 8:40 am on June 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chicken breast, chicken medallions, ,   

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

    Let’s use the concepts that we learned in Module 2, Lesson 1 by pan frying some chicken breasts.

    Equipment that you will need:


    • Chicken breast medallions
    • Cooking oil (canola is a good option as you want an oil with a high smoke point)
    • Seasoning (keep it simple and delicious with salt and pepper)
    • Lemon juice (a tasty option but not required)

    Before cooking you need to cut the chicken breast into medallions. Chicken medallions come from the breast, but they aren’t the whole breast. Medallions cook quickly and evenly due to their uniform size.

    A whole chicken breast is too uneven and thick to make a medallion. You need to make cuts so that your medallions will be uniform.  Begin by cutting the breast in half lengthwise, angling the cut so both halves are an equal width. Once you have thinner breast filets, you can cut them to medallion size, which requires cutting them in halves or thirds so each measures about 2 inches square. Now that we have our medallions and mise en place, let’s cook some food.

    Step 1: Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season it well with salt and pepper (this is a part of your mise en place)

    Don’t be afraid of seasoning your food!

    Step 2: Heat skillet to mercury ball stage

    Step 3: Add oil to the pan, and wait for the shimmer and first wisp of smoke

    Step 4: Add chicken medallions quickly (be sure not to crowd the pan, work in stages if needed)

    Step 5: Listen to the sizzle and adjust temperature accordingly

    Step 6: Turn when brown (check by lifting edge with a pair of tongs to check for browness)

    Step 7: Brown the other side

    Step 8: Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on top of the chicken and serve.

    Note: Do not keep turning the medallions. Allow one side to brown before turning.

  • The Timid Chef 8:29 am on June 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , mise en place, , sucs   

    Module 2-2 Pan-frying with Stainless Steel 

    Check out this video.


    Temperature control is key in using stainless steel cookware. The surface of a stainless steel pan is porous at the microscopic level. As the pan is heated, it expands and these pores shrink. If food gets pinched by these pores, it will stick. To prevent this you need to follow a few simple rules:

    • Preheat your pan properly by using medium to medium high heat and check the temperature with the water droplet test.
    • Add cooking oil AFTER preheating. You will heat the oil until you can see the first wisp of smoke and then IMMEDIATELY add your food. This is the reason that your food should already be prepared and waiting for you. This is known as “mise en place”.
    • If the oil gets too hot, pour the oil into another container, allow the skillet to cool, and then wipe out the oil with a paper towel. If the skillet has become discolored, wash and dry the skillet before continuing.
    • Depending on what you are cooking, food should be close to room temperature before cooking. Temperature differences make food sticking to the pan more likely.

    Properly heating the pan

    The water droplet test is a time-proven technique that will tell you exactly when your pan is ready for adding oil. Watch this youtube video by Rouxbe before continuing.

    Water Droplet Test
    • Heat your pan over medium to medium-high heat and let it sit for a few minutes on the burner.
    • After a few minutes add a drop of water to your stainless steel pan
    • If your pan is too cold – the water droplet will bubble and evaporate extremely fast. Adding oil and food at this point could cause food sticking problems.
    • Wait about 15 seconds and try again.
    • If your pan is too hot, the water will split into smaller droplets and dart around the pan very fast. If this happens, wipe the droplets from the pan, turn down your heat and let the pan cool for a moment.
    • When your pan is ready to add the oil, the water droplet will stay intact and move around the pan like a ball of mercury. This is when you should wipe your pan clean of water and add your oil. Do NOT add the oil without wiping the pan.

    Adding the oil

    So now you know when to add the oil, but when do you add the food? Now watch this Youtube video from Rouxbe on adding oil and when to add the food.

    Think about this:

    When adding oil to your pre-heated stainless steel pan, it immediately begins to smoke and turn brown. What should you do?


    You should discard the oil and clean the pan. Burnt oil can alter the flavor of your food. Additionally, oils that have exceeded the smoke point can be dangerous to your health.

    What is Mise en Place?

    It is a French phase that means, to put in place. Chefs use this phrase to describe the things that need to be done to prepare a dish. This includes chopping the necessary veggies, measuring spices and placing in little bowls, etc. The end result is that all of your measured ingredients and preparations are complete and at your fingertips as your prepare the food †

    Mise en Place

    What are sucs?

    The word “sucs” describes the caramelized bits that stick to the bottom of a pot or pan. When pan-frying, the juices from the meat caramelize and form browned bits. Sucs have an intense, sweet flavor, which can be released from the bottom of the pan by deglazing.

    To develop the best sucs, which are dark-golden brown, it is essential that you properly heat and oil your pan before adding any ingredients. The ingredients must be patted dry before adding. To properly develop and preserve the sucs during cooking, the heat must be controlled. The heat must be high enough to develop the sucs in the first place, but not so high that the sucs burn. Burnt sucs must be discarded as they will only add a bitter flavor to the dish. If the heat is too low or if the pan is overcrowded, little or no sucs will form.

    It is also important to not leave too much space in between ingredients, as this could cause the exposed oil to continue to heat and burn. Therefore, you should always use an appropriate-sized pan for the amount of food you are cooking or cook in batches.

    The last thing to note is the amount of sucs that form depends on what is being cooked. Leaner cuts of meat will yield less sucs versus meats with higher fat content. In addition, foods that are high in natural sugars, will yield more sucs.

  • The Timid Chef 8:17 am on June 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: combination cooking, , dry heat cooking without fat, introduction to cooking methods, , moist heat cooking   

    Module 2-0 Introduction to Cooking Methods 

    If you are serious about learning how to cook well, I recommend you invest in a professional cooking series. My absolute favorite is a video series called, “The Lost Art of Cooking“. You can either buy the videos or you can subscribe to “The Great Courses.” Buying the videos is expensive so I would recommend a subscription to the Great Courses. It is very affordable and the content is the same. The Great Courses has additional cooking classes taught by the same instructor. I obtained my subscription through Amazon but you can also go to their website here. It has a free 7-day trial.

    An alternative is a monthly subscription to Rouxbe or Online Cooking School.

    To be an accomplished cook you need to learn proper cooking methods. There are only four cooking methods and they can be applied to any type of food.

    1. Dry-heat cooking with fat
    2. Dry-heat cooking without fat
    3. Moist-heat cooking
    4. Combination cooking

    Dry-heat Cooking with Fat Includes:

    • Pan-frying
    • Sauteing
    • Deep-fat frying†

    Dry-Heat Cooking without Fat Includes:

    • Roasting
    • Broiling
    • Grilling
    • Baking

    Moist-Heat Cooking Includes:

    • Simmering
    • Boiling
    • Steaming
    • Poaching

    Moist-heat cooking emphasizes the natural flavor of foods and reduces the loss of water-soluble vitamins which increases the digestibility of protein.

    Combination Cooking Includes:

    • Braising
    • Stewing

    Braising is best for less tender cuts of beef such as a Pot Roast or Brisket. The meat is partially submerged in liquid.

    Stewing is also ideal for less tender cuts of beef, but the the meat is fully submerged in the liquid.

    Why would you use a dry heat cooking method?

    A dry-heat cooking method is a quick method of cooking. It adds crispness and flavor to food while retaining moisture. This method does NOT tenderize, therefore it is only a good idea to use this method on cuts of meat that are already tender.

    What types of food would we roast?

    Whole or cut up poultry, large meats such as leg of lamb, sirloin, or rump.

    What are three ways to retain moisture when roasting meat?

    Basting, larding (fat is inserted into the meat), or barding (fat is wrapped around the outside of the meat)

    What vegetables might be suitable for roasting?

    Potatoes, pumpkin seeds, radishes, asparagus, broccoli, and root vegetables. There are many others.

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