Cooking Tip Tuesday: Secrets to perfect pasta


Young. Old. Single. Married.  We’re a population who loves our pasta.  And while boiling pasta is an easy task, it’s not void of controversy.  Here are a couple pasta water add-ins and a post-cooking procedure that spark some uncertainty:

Salt.  Should you salt your pasta water?  The answer is YES.  Why?  It seasons your noodles from the inside out.  How much?  At least a couple tablespoons but don’t be shy.  Don’t worry too much about the salt that gets absorbed into the pasta (unless, of course, you are under doctor’s orders).  Most of it gets tossed with the water and if you start with seasoned pasta, you’re likely to need less salt in your finished dish.

Oil. Should you add oil to your pasta water?  The answer is NO.  Think about what happens when you put oil in water.  They repel each other, right?  So if you think about adding oil to water, logically, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The oil ends up congregating at the top of the water, serving no purpose except to lube up your pasta on the way out.  Which, in the end, actually inhibits the noodles from absorbing the sauce.

Worried your noodles will stick to each other?  I don’t blame you. It’s the worst when you get a clump of hard noodles mixed in with the rest of your silky beautiful bunch.  The best way to avoid this is to stir your pasta within the first minute or 2 of cooking.

The last controversy arises once your pasta is cooked…

Rinsing. Should you, could you, rinse your noodles?  You should not, could not, rinse your noodles.  I mean…NO. If you rinse your noodles, you rinse the delightful flavor you just worked so hard to get.  Not to mention you cool down the pasta, eliminating that hot-from-the-pot window, which is the prime time for pasta sauce absorption. PLUS, you rinse away the starch on the surface of your noodles, which is useful in thickening your sauce. 

In short,

  1. Salt your water
  2. Don’t add oil to your pasta water
  3. Don’t rinse your cooked pasta.

The End.

 

 

Cooking Tip Tuesday: 3 steps to guarantee success in the kitchen

Becoming a good cook takes practice.  Even professional chefs make mistakes, burn food and make dishes that suck.  The key to success is, learning from your mistakes, picking up your pots and trying again.

The following 3 steps provide the foundation you need to boost your confidence in the kitchen, make cooking more efficient and the experience more enjoyable.  So much so, I’m re-sharing these steps that you may have missed in my first few weeks of True Eats. Click the links below to read more!

Step 1: Thoroughly read the recipe before you start cooking.

Step 2: Prepare and measure ingredients.

Step 3: Use (and trust) your senses.

Please let me know if you’ve incorporated any of these 3 steps into your cooking and how they’ve worked for you!  I’d love to hear from you. ♥

Wild Card Wednesday: (How to) Sharpen your knives!

One of the first articles I posted was about one of THE most important kitchen tools…a good quality chef’s knife.  A brand new knife is amazing but, what happens when it starts to dull?  Not so amazing anymore.  Plus, a dull knife is actually more dangerous than a sharp knife because you end up having to use more pressure to cut through something, which inevitably sends food flying off the board and the knife chopping your fingers instead.

The good news is, quality knives are meant to be sharpened and it’s pretty easy to maintain a sharp edge.  And now-a-days, there are some very affordable products that do most of the work for you, quickly and painlessly.

Here’s what I recommend for your average home cook:

Manual (or hand-held) Sharpeners

There are 2 main types of manual sharpeners:

  • Those with slots containing various levels of (knife safe) abrasives inside.  The abrasive material removes small pieces of metal as you slide your knife through, reshaping the sharp edge.  The Chef’s Choice sharpener (seen below), uses diamond abrasives and is very versatile.  It can be used on European/American/Asian Style kitchen, sports or pocket knives.

Chef's Choice 4643 ProntoPro Angle Select Diamond Hone 3 Stage Manual Knife Sharpener

  • The second type of manual sharpener is like the MinoSharp version shown below.  It uses ceramic wheels and water to do the job.  It has 2 different levels of ceramic abrasives (in wheel form) to remove the excess metal. This goes one step further than your average manual sharpener and rinses the pieces of metal away with the water as you sharpen. I use one very similar to this one and love it.

MinoSharp 440/BR Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus, Black/Red

Electric Sharpeners

Electric sharpeners do the same thing as the manual ones. The difference is they are motorized so you hold the knife and let the abrasives do the work.  They work well, for the most part, but depending on the shape of your knife (namely, those with a large bolster), your knife may not fit properly and the knife can become unevenly sharpened.  Also, they cost quite a bit more than the manual versions.  If electric is what you want, Cooks Illustrated (the authority on all things tested and perfected) recommends the Chef’s Choice Trizor Edge shown below.

 

Sharpening Steel (a.k.a, the steel rod found in knife sets): This is actually NOT a sharpener. It’s purpose is to hone your knife.  WTF does that mean?  Think of if as a knife file.  It doesn’t remove metal from your knife (like a sharpener does).  It reshapes a dull edge, creating a smoother, straighter, sharper edge.  From my experience, this is mostly useful in a commercial kitchen or if you are using your knife to chop a lot, for a long period of time.  I personally don’t use mine.  I go straight to my sharpener when my knife dulls.

Side note: Some sharpeners are designed specifically for one type of knife over another (i.e. Asian vs. German vs. American) so just make sure you read the details before purchasing.

Lucky for me, the lovely folks at Cooks Illustrated, wrote THIS in-depth article about the different ways to sharpen and maintain your knives.  If you want to read more about it and see a video of how to hone your knife, check it out.

If properly maintained, good knives will last forever. “A sharp knife is a chef’s best friend”ancient proverb

Click HERE to buy the manual Chef’s Choice Pronto Pro Diamond Knife Sharpener

Click HERE to buy the manual MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus

Click HERE to buy the electric Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edge Sharpener

 

Cooking Tip Tuesday: Oven roasted bacon

Cooking bacon for more than 2 people can be a pain in the tush.  No one wants to stand over bubbling hot grease, flipping bacon for 20 minutes, to have just enough slices for even a family of 5.  And what if you’re making bacon for a crowd? Then you’re talking multiple skillets and/or 45 minutes of a bacon grease facial.

Fuhgeddaboutit!

YOUR OVEN is a place where bacon can spread it’s wings and sizzle like never before.  I first experienced the joy of oven roasted bacon while working in a prep kitchen at a local catering company.  They’d cook FULL sheet pan, upon sheet pan of bacon in like 20 minutes flat. And now, if I’m making any more than 3 or 4 slices at once, in the oven it goes.

Here’s how:

Preheat your oven to 400 degree F. Line it with parchment (or not), lay your bacon strips on the sheet pan, making sure to leave about an inch between each piece (very important not to overcrowd or it won’t get crispy). Let your beautiful strips cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on how many strips you’re cooking and how thick your bacon is.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  Eat.

Cooking Tip Tuesday: How to properly measure flour

Do you often have a hard time getting your baked goods just right? Being a successful baker takes a lot of practice, plenty of mistakes and an understanding of the science behind it. There are a lot of chemical reactions that have to take place so it’s really important that you be precise (and follow directions).  That’s not to say you can’t be creative.  You just have to be precisely creative ;).

One of the most basic (non-scientific) things I’ve learned along my baking journey is how to properly measure flour.  Up until a few years ago, I would just scoop it with my measuring cup and dump it into the bowl. The problem with this “scoop and dump” method is, you are using the force of your scoop to pack the measuring cup full, thus packing in more flour than necessary. In some recipes, it may not make much of a difference but in many recipes such as cupcakes, cakes or brownies, you will negatively affect the texture of your baked goods. Ohhhh snap!

Never fear.  True Eats is here!

Here ⇓ is proper way to measure 1 cup of flour:

  1. Use a spoon, scoop or smaller measuring cup to scoop the up flour
  2. Lightly sprinkle it into your designated DRY measuring cup until slightly overfilled



3. Use a knife, back of a measuring spoon or other flat metal utensil to level it off.

Voila! Properly measured flour!

(Wanna be EXTRA precise?  Use a food scale.  Anytime baking recipes include weights, I use them. Cooks Illustrated, the authority of “tested and perfected”, recommends THIS one. Scales are a great investment because they last forever and you can use them for measuring any food (for meal prep, double checking weights for recipes, and more)).

Cooking Tip Tuesday: The secret to separating eggs

Did you know that it’s much easier to separate eggs if they are cold?  Mind blowing, right?

When your eggs are cold, the yolks are firmer and thus, separate from the white much easier.  Think about it…when yolks are warmer, they are softer, which puts them at a higher risk of breaking.  So, if you have a recipe that requires only egg whites or egg whites separated from the yolk, separate them when they are cold. Then, if the recipes requires “room temperature” egg whites or yolks, allow them to come to room temp in their respective bowls.

Cooking Tip Tuesday: Rest your meat

resting meat

You’ve probably heard, “let your meat rest” before slicing but, do you actually do it?  It’s hard when you’re hungry and that juicy piece of meat is calling to you, “Eat me!  Eat me nowwww!”.  OK, maybe meat doesn’t talk BUT, if it could, it would cry, “Let me rest.  Just for 10 minutes.  You can do it”.

Have you ever wondered why?

When your food is cold, the muscle fibers are relaxed. Take a steak, for example. When you throw it on the heat, the muscle fibers tense up.  You’ll loose some moisture in the cooking process but when the meat is cooked, if you let it rest, the moisture slowly infuses evenly back into the meat, giving you a more juicy, tender, flavorful piece.

Alternatively, if you slice it right after it comes off the heat, all the moisture is still concentrated in the middle of the meat, leaving you with a pool of juice on your cutting board.  Sad :(.

There’s a lot of science behind it and if you want to read a great, in depth article about it, check out this article by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from The Food Lab.

And please, for the love of all things juicy, let your meat rest.