Lesson 27: How to Use an Oven Broiler

How to Use the Oven Broiler

Broiling is less of a cooking method and more of a piece of equipment. Your broiler is a heating element located on the inside of your oven, mounted to the roof. Th ink of your broiler like an upside down grill. It emits the same type of high heat that your grill does. But because the heat comes top-down instead of bottom-up, you can use your broiler to make bubbly, melty cheese quickly and easily. Broilers can also be used to add a bit of char to help finish off a piece of meat or to add external browning. A broiler is not an effective substitute for a grill and should be used as a supplemental or decorative heat source.

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Lesson 26: How to Braise

How to Braise

Braising is a combination cooking technique. First, a food is lightly sautéed. It is then transferred to a new cooking container where it is placed in liquid. Th en a lid is added and it is finished in the oven. Commonly, a pot roast is considered a roast. But, in fact, a pot roast is actually a braise. This is due to the fact that roasting is a dry technique only.

Braising uses both dry and moist heat to create exceptional and highly flavorful dishes. French in origin, braises are specifically for use in French country cooking. Braises are typically created in a large clay pot called a daube. They can also be created in any high-sided pan regardless of construction material, as long as there is a lid. If a lid is not available, aluminum foil may be substituted. The addition of a lid causes the moisture to become trapped. This helps to create a moist and tender finished product.

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Lesson 25: How to Roast

How to Roast

Roasting is a dry cooking technique in which large cuts or whole meats are cooked at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, in an oven or over an open flame. Roasting takes place for an extended period of time, usually several hours. Think about a whole turkey, a whole chicken, entire pork lion, or a rack of
ribs. These all would be cooked for many hours to achieve the desired result. Typically, foods that are roasted are thick, like a whole turkey.

The key here though is that it is a dry, indirect cooking method where the food must be cooked for a long time. It must be thoroughly cooked and must naturally develop browning on the outside. A steak can not be roasted simply because of the size. A steak could be baked, but it could not be cooked for long enough to be called a roast. Th e long and slow cooking process of roasting creates big, bold, naturally occurring, savory flavors in large cuts of meat. Roasting helps to tenderize and liquefy the connective tissues inside of the meat. This creates a light, delicate end product.

Very often people will advertise that vegetables, especially potatoes, have been roasted. While they can be cooked in the oven and browned, this is actually an inaccurate description of the cooking process they have received. Roasted potatoes and vegetables are actually more appropriately labeled as baked. Even though they are browned, they are not actually roasted. Roasting requires hours of cooking. If a potato was roasted for 3 hours, it would be hard, black, and inedible.

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Lesson 23: How to Cook with an Oven

How to Cook with an Oven

The oven is an indispensable resource when you are cooking. Ovens come in 2 styles:

1 Conventional
Conventional ovens have a heating element, usually at the bottom, that naturally and passively heats the air inside of the oven environment. Th is provides a hot enclosed space where indirect heat may be absorbed.

2 Convection
Convection ovens are very similar to conventional ovens, except that they have one major advantage. They have a built in fan.

This built in fan serves 2 functions:

1 The fan circulates the air and heat inside of the oven. Th is prevents hot and cool spots.

2 Circulating air makes it easier for the food you are cooking to absorb the radiant heat and come to temperature quickly and evenly.

The oven is incredibly versatile. It can help you achieve many different results depending on how you utilize it. In this section, we will cover some helpful and essential styles of cooking inside of an oven that will really build your culinary knowledge.

Let’s Review

As we have learned and practiced in the previous lessons, heat is delivered in two styles: wet heat (moist heat) and dry heat.

In practice, wet heat delivers more thermal energy than dry heat. But, the liquid water can never exceed a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).

We have also learned about combination cooking methods like quick stewing that uses both dry heat and wet heat to quickly cook an item, while increasing tenderness.

Inside of our oven, wet and dry heat comes into play even more. Understanding the way that heat is delivered will help you to understand what your final product will taste, and just as importantly look like.

Remember, a dry cooking technique is where heat is applied through oil, through a pan directly, or through hot air. A wet cooking technique is where water or moisture is used directly to cook a food item. Remember in the pasta section where we boiled our pasta in water? This was a wet technique. The presence of moisture released from the item being cooked does not make the technique a wet technique. This can be seen in the difference between roasting and braising.

The cooking techniques for an oven that you will learn in this section of the book are:

Baking

Baking is a dry cooking technique. This is where ingredients are cooked inside of an oven using radiant or ambient heat of the oven to raise the temperature of the food being cooked. The outside of baked items tend to be more crispy or hard because the moisture on the outside of the food has evaporated during the cooking process.

Roasting

Roasting is another dry cooking technique where a medium heat is used over a long period of time to cook large savory cuts of meat.

Braising

Braising is a combination cooking method, where a high dry heat is used initially to create a savory crust on a cut of meat. Then, it is slow cooked in liquid to create a tender fall-apart final dish.

Broiling

Broiling is a dry cooking technique where a super high heat is applied from the top of the oven down. This is to help melt cheeses and quickly brown breads to create a crispy exterior without burning the bottom of the dish. Typically, broiling is used as a finishing technique.

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Lesson 22: How to Make Pasta Dishes

How to Make Pasta Dishes

In my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, pasta is a fundamental food staple. Until writing this book, it never occurred to me that other people outside of St. Louis may not know anything about pasta. So in this section, I am going to pretend that you are space alien who has never seen pasta before and teach you the fundamentals of pasta.

Pasta vs Noodle

Pasta vs Noodle is a bit like Square vs Rectangle. All pastas are noodles, but not all noodles are pasta. Pasta is a specific Italian form of noodle making that utilizes durum, semolina, or macaroni. These are all types of specific wheat flours. For a noodle to be considered pasta, it has to be made out of one of these flours.

Dried vs Fresh Pasta

The very first thing you will notice about pasta is that it is available in 2 major categories:

1 Dried Pasta
Dried pasta is what most people associate with pasta that you purchase in a store. It has been created and then dried for long term storage. This pasta is made without eggs. Dried pasta, when cooked, has a more firm texture.

2 Fresh Pasta
Fresh pasta comes in 2 forms: refrigerated or frozen. Fresh pasta is made with eggs, which makes for a softer texture. Ideally, fresh pasta is used in applications like ravioli or tortellini, where you are going to stuff the noodles with a filling.

There is a major misconception involving the word fresh. Fresh pasta is not better than dried pasta. It is just different in construction and texture. Dried pasta is more appropriate for most situations involving pasta. So please remove any inherent bias that you may have about pastas when the word “fresh” is involved. Remember, when speaking about pastas, fresh means soft.

Pasta Shapes

Every brand of pasta uses their own recipe to create their brand of pasta. So if each shape of the pasta is identical in recipe, how can we account for the actual measurable taste difference that occurs between the different shapes of pasta? The quantifiable explanation is that each shape of pasta creates a different texture, which then creates a different flavor. The pasta recipe is identical for each shape, so therefore, it must be the texture of the shape itself that is influencing flavor. If you eat the same weight of fettuccine and the same weight of spaghetti, you will find that the fettuccine feels heavier and more filling. You will also find that the spaghetti feels lighter and less filling. The only difference between the 2 pastas is its shape. So we can draw the conclusion that the shape of pasta effects not only flavor, but also the perception of fullness and weight as well.

This is why it is so important to choose a shape of pasta that is complimentary to the sauce and other ingredients that you will be serving with it. Angel hair pasta is incredibly thin and delicate. This angel hair pasta compliments lighter, more delicate flavors like seafood, basil, or scallops.

Large tube pastas, like rigatoni, are heavier in weight. They compliment heavy cream sauces and big, bold flavors. This is why rigatoni is usually served with a heavy cream sauce and lots of cheese.
The shape of pasta influences both the adhesion of sauce to the pasta and the thickness of the sauce in the dish. Shell shapes are particularly effective at holding little reservoirs of sauce, which create flavor explosions when you eat them.

How To Properly Cook Pasta

Properly cooking pasta is actually extremely easy. The key is to have water that is salted until it tastes like the ocean.

1 Fill your pot with hot water. About ¾ of the way full.

2 Add kosher salt to the pot and stir until all salt is dissolved. The amount of salt is dependent on the size of the pot and the natural saltiness of the tap water. Remember: You want it to taste as salty as sea water.

3 Bring water to a rapid boil.

4 Carefully and slowly, drop your pasta into the boiling water.

5 Return water to a boil. Make sure that hot water does not over flow and spill out of the pot.

6 Set a timer based on the cooking time recommended by the manufacturer. Each brand and each type of pasta cooks for a different amount of time.

7 While pasta is cooking, stir every 2 minutes to prevent noodles from sticking together. If noodles are sticking together, they will not evenly cook.

8 When timer is finished, remove 1 or 2 pieces of pasta from the pot and taste for doneness. Dried pasta should have a firm bite, but not raw or crunchy. Low quality dried pasta will become extremely mushy if over cooked, so use caution. Fresh pasta takes as long as the package says and simply needs to be brought to temperature, which will in turn fully cook the pasta naturally. Take care not to over cook fresh pasta as it will disintegrate if it is over cooked.

9 Using a dry kitchen towel or pot holders, remove the spaghetti pot from the heat and drain pasta and water through a colander that has been placed in the sink.

10 Using olive oil or canola oil, lightly oil the pasta while it is still in the colander to prevent pasta from sticking.

11 Your pasta is now ready to be used in your dish.

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Lesson 21: How to Make Stews

How to Make Stews

Stews are very much like soups, except they have much less liquid in them. Th ink meat and vegetables swimming in gravy. Stews are extremely easy to make and are often a fantastic way to dispose of a left over roast. I, personally, use my left over pot roast in my beef stew. Originally, stews
were used as a hearty, filling way to cook low quality ingredients and turn them into something edible and delicious.


Lesson 20: How to Make Soup

How to Make Soup

While most culinary books begin with soups and broths, I believe that great soups are not made only by boiling ingredients together. Great soups are formed by first cooking your base ingredients and then building the flavors beyond this. Most people look at soups as a way to dispose of left overs, but
I view soups as a beautiful meal all by themselves.

Soups should not be viewed as a liquid that may or may not contain other solid ingredients. A soup should instead be viewed as a meal that is submerged in a sauce. When you consider the body of the soup as a sauce, it makes it easier to prepare and easier to season. Most soups are, in fact, watered down sauces.

Before we go any further, I need to first teach you the French concept of “mother sauces.”

Mother Sauces


Soups and sauces both originate from the same place. These “mother sauces” give birth to their children which are specific sauces and soup bodies. By changing the concentration of water and flavor particles, you can change a sauce into a soup.

Because this is a beginners cookbook, I am going to teach you a modified and simplified version of the concept of “mother sauces.” As you will notice, each of these categories has a broad generalization about it, which is very specifically the origin of its flavor.

1 Mammal Stock
This includes any stock or broth whose flavor origin derives from the roasted bones or meat of mammals.

Examples include: beef, pork, veal, deer, and lamb

Commonly used in: beef vegetable soup, French onion soup, brown gravy, and demi-glace

2 Poultry Stock
This includes any stock or broth whose flavor origin derives from the roasted bones or meat of poultry.

Examples include: chicken, turkey, and duck

Commonly used in: chicken noodle soup, chicken and dumplings, and Marsala wine sauce

3 Seafood Stock
This includes any stock or broth whose flavor origin derives from the roasted bones or meat of seafood.

Examples include: fish, clams, oysters, crabs, lobsters, and muscles

Commonly used in: seafood stews, and seafood risotto

4 Vegetable Base
This includes any stock or broth whose flavor origin derives from boiled or sautéed vegetables.

Examples include: tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, and leeks

Commonly used in: tomato soup, marinara, wild mushroom soup, lentil soup, and vegetarian vegetable soup

5 Dairy Base
This includes any liquid whose flavor is derived from dairy products.

Examples include: milk, cream, cheese, and butter

Commonly used in: lobster bisque, clam chowder, baked potato soup, beer cheese soup, cheese sauce, and macaroni and cheese

6 Asian Condiment Base
Th is includes any liquid whose fl avor origin derives from seasoning condiments.

Examples include: soy sauce, fi sh sauce, ketchup, and rice vinegar

Commonly used in: ramen, and tofu soup

Asian condiment bases are unique in the fact that they are not created from simple ingredients. These condiments have been created through long processes to condense their flavors in the creation of sauces. But we can, by simply adding water, create great soups using these condiments.

As you can see, these simplified “mother sauces” can very easily be turned into soups or sauces.

The biggest difference between a soup and sauce is utilization inside of a recipe. A sauce is used to compliment the flavors of a recipe (think gravy on mashed potatoes). A soup is used to flavor and bind a recipe together (think beef broth in French onion soup). A sauce will never be the majority of a
recipe. A soup will always act as a container for other ingredients to reside inside of.

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Lesson 19: How to Use a Spaghetti Pot

How to Use a Spaghetti Pot

Now that we have completely covered the sauté pan. Let’s move to the second most useful tool in the beginner cooks arsenal. Th is, of course, is the stock pot. It is also more commonly known as the spaghetti pot. A spaghetti pot is typically between 1 ½ and 2 gallons in volume. Most commonly, these large pots are used to make one of America’s favorite foods, spaghetti. Thanks Italians! But the versatility of this large pot is not limited solely to spaghetti. You can use this pot to easily create soups, stews, pastas, and so much more.

The spaghetti pot is the successor to the large home cauldron. It was also known as the porridge pot. Typically homes of the past few millennia would have a wood burning fireplace or fire pit over which this large cauldron would be placed, and in which meals would be prepared. Luckily today, we don’t have to eat the same pot of food for an entire week straight and can instead enjoy a variety of dishes at our pleasure. Th is, though, should illustrate the usefulness of a large pot in your everyday cooking.

In this section, we are going to learn how to create soups, stews, and pasta dishes. Many of these recipes will use the cooking techniques that you have previously learned in the sauté pan lesson. We are going to build on these concepts to learn how to use multiple forms of heat and multiple styles of
cooking at the same time. As I had mentioned previously, using multiple forms of heat allows you to create different textures and more robust flavors.

The cooking techniques that you will learn with the spaghetti pot are as follows:

Soups
Soups may be created in a variety of methods and manners. But I will teach you to create them using the dry stir fry technique, followed by a prolonged moist heat boiling. This builds big flavors and creates bold soups.

Stews
Stews are created in the same way as soups, but have less liquid and tend to be heartier than soups. Stews use the same moist heat techniques to create a tender delicious meal.

Pastas
Our lesson on pastas will help you to learn how to create dishes using multiple pieces of cooking equipment and different cooking techniques simultaneously. The good news is that while some of these recipes can require the juggling of multiple pieces of equipment, they are all very easy. Best of all, they are delicious! Remember to identify the type of heat being used, and think about the effect on the end flavor.


Let’s take spaghetti and meatballs for example. The meatballs can be created with the same ingredients, but depending on how you cook them, the end flavor and textures will be completely different. Many people sauté their meatballs, which creates a crispy savory meatball. Others cook their meatballs in their sauce. By cooking the meatballs in sauce, they stay very tender and soft, but lose their crispy texture and savoriness. I, on the other hand, bake my meatballs. This is so that they turn out savory, tender, and uniform.

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Lesson 18: How to Make a Quick Sauce

How to Make a Quick Sauce

The sauté pan is actually where I create most of my sauces. Most people cook their sauces in a sauce pan. I do not because the wider and shallow shape of a sauté pan increases heat distribution and promotes quicker evaporation of water vapor. Th is builds bigger, bolder flavors quickly. In my experience, waiting 4 hours for a sauce to finish is simply unacceptable. Using this method, I can create a quick from scratch red sauce in 45 minutes or less. Because a sauté pan is so versatile, you may cook up your sauce bases and then bring them into fullness very quickly and easily inside of a sauté pan.

Concentration of Flavor


One very important subject that I have not touched on is the concept of concentration of flavor. Very simply, the strength of a flavor is determined by the concentrated amount of water present in a food item. Because water itself is pH neutral and because of its nature, pure water has no flavor. I know you may be thinking to yourself that you can taste water, but the truth of the matter is that what you taste are minerals that have dissolved into the water naturally. When you remove these minerals completely, you will find that water simply has no taste and what you are discerning is the sensation of liquid being present in your mouth alone.


Because of this, water actually dilutes anything it comes in contact with. Knowing this, we can very easily manipulate the content of water to either increase the concentration of flavor or decrease the concentration of flavor. Think of it like this. Flavor and water are opposites. In this regard, they work to each others inverse. As water increases, flavor decreases. As water decreases, flavor increases.


Water is not the enemy though. It must be present to keep foods edible. Otherwise, everything would be hard and crunchy, like a potato chip or pretzel. Even potato chips and pretzels contain small amounts of water. The key here is to find a balance that you like and works for each unique dish.


Concentration of flavor is very important to consider when you are creating sauces. Concentrating flavors makes the difference between balsamic vinegar and balsamic reduction, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce, beef stock and demi-glace. By varying the concentration of water, we can create rich, flavorful sauces or light delicate sauces. This is very important to understand, because not every application is appropriate for an overly flavorful, overly bold sauce. Sometimes, all you need is a touch of moisture and an emphasis on the already natural flavors.


Concentrating flavor is as simple as boiling the water out of the liquid. The longer you allow something to boil, the more concentrated the flavor becomes. This happens because water changes from liquid to gas at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not take the flavor with it as it escapes. This water leaves the flavor as a deposit in the pan. The rate of evaporation is affected by the surface area of the liquid. This ties back into why I use a wide, shallow sauté pan as opposed to a narrow, deep sauce pan. By increasing the surface area, (wider opening) the liquid water can phase change quicker and evaporate from the sauté pan at a quicker rate. This allows me to build my desired flavors faster and easier.


This is a double edged sword though. If you evaporate your water too quickly, you can overly thicken a sauce or burn whatever you are cooking. Risotto is a situation where this can happen very easily. The solution is incredibly simple, just add more liquid. I recommend using flavorful liquids that fall in line with the flavor profile of whatever dish you are creating. IE: Instead of water; use tomato juice, milk, cream, chicken stock, or beef broth to re-hydrate your sauce or dish.

Components of a Sauce

A sauce is made up of several key components. Each component serves a function inside of the sauce to create the final desired product.

1 Base
The base of a sauce can be just about anything. Just as it sounds, the base serves as the foundation that the sauce is built upon. This could be something as simple as sautéed garlic or as complicated as a mixture of meat, vegetables, and seasonings.

Examples of sauce bases:
Country gravy uses breakfast sausage as its base.
Marinara uses sautéed garlic as its base.
Marsala wine sauce uses portabella mushrooms and Marsala wine as its base.
Bolognese uses ground beef or Italian sausage as its base.

2 Body
The body of the sauce is the main liquid component in which all ingredients are held. It determines much of the character of the sauce, as well as the liquid concentration. All of the ingredients are suspended inside of the body.

Examples of sauce bodies:
Country gravy’s body is made up of milk.
Marinara’s body is made up of tomatoes.
Marsala wine sauce’s body is made up of chicken stock.
Bolognese sauce’s body is made up of tomatoes.

3 Seasonings and Aromatics
Seasonings and aromatics are the most important part of the sauce. These seasonings define the personality of the sauce. When seasoning a sauce, it is very important not to overly salt or overly season the sauce. These seasonings should be complimentary to whatever dish you are creating. You need to decide if your sauce is the star of the show, like in spaghetti bolognese, or if it is a complement, like brown gravy on mashed potatoes. This will help you determine how flavorful of a sauce you should create. Remember to utilize the Roundness of Flavor seasoning techniques when you are seasoning your sauces.

Examples of seasonings and aromatics:
County gravy seasonings include salt and black pepper.
Marinara seasonings include oregano and sugar.
Marsala wine sauce seasonings include oregano and salt.
Bolognese seasonings include basil and sugar.

4 Liquid Content
As I discussed earlier in this section, the liquid content has to do with the concentration of flavor. As you decrease the liquid content, you increase the concentration of flavor. By varying the amount of water, aka liquid content, inside of a sauce, it changes the flavor concentration.

Examples of reducible water content:
In country gravy, milk is reducible.
In marinara, the tomatoes are reducible.
In Marsala wine sauce, both the wine and the chicken stock are reducible.
In Bolognese, the tomatoes are reducible.

5 The Thickener
Thickeners determine the texture and the stickiness of a sauce. When a sauce becomes thicker, it actually adheres more flavor to whatever it is applied to. The thinner a sauce is, the more moisture it imparts into a dish.
There are 2 commonly used thickeners when making sauces:

1 Cornstarch
Cornstarch is the easiest of all thickeners to use. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into 4 tablespoons of cold water. Mix into the sauce. Stir well and bring to a boil. The cornstarch thickens with the presence of high heat. Continue mixing until entire sauce is sufficiently thick. Cornstarch is mostly opaque and can give a cloudy appearance to clear sauces.

2 Wheat flour
Wheat flour is applied in the form of roux. (Pronounced ROO) Roux is created by mixing the flour with fat and then cooking it together until it is lightly brown. Roux is typically used in cream sauces and cream soups. It is employed in applications where the clarity of sauce or soup is completely irrelevant. Roux can be made as you are creating a sauce base or it can be made ahead of time by mixing 40% flour with 60% melted butter.
Not all sauces use a thickener or thickening agent. Some sauces self thicken simply by reducing the water content found in the sauce naturally.

Examples of thickeners in action:
Country gravy uses roux as its thickener. This roux is created by cooking the grease out of the breakfast sausage and incorporating flour into this grease.
Marinara does not utilize a thickener. Instead, marinara thickens naturally with the reduction of water. This is due to the natural fiber that exists inside of tomatoes. Marsala wine sauce utilizes cornstarch as its thickener. Bolognese does not utilize a thickener. Instead, Bolognese thickens naturally with the reduction of water.

Steps to Making a Quick Sauce


1 The key is to start with your base ingredients.
2 Stir fry these together and season them with flavorful herbs and spices.
3 Add whatever wet ingredient makes up the body of your sauce.
4 Bring all of this to a simmer.
5 Add your thickener, if necessary.
6 Taste for flavor profile and adjust as necessary.
7 Serve, if it’s perfect.

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Lesson 17: How to Quick Stew

How to Quick Stew

A quick stew is a combination cooking method. Very simply, a quick stew occurs over medium to high heat any time you place a lid on a pot or pan. Specifically for our purposes, a quick stew occurs as soon as a lid is placed over a sauté pan.

The cooking action of a quick stew captures heat in 2 ways:

1. by the applied dry direct heat from the bottom of the pan
2. by capturing the inherent moisture that is escaping from the food as it is cooked and recycling the moisture as indirect moist heat

Because a quick stew can be utilized after any form of dry heat, you can build those delicious brown bits all over your food. Th en, simply place a lid over the sauté pan to create a softer texture with the moist heat. This is especially useful when you want to build big, bold flavors with soft, tender, fall apart chunks of meat. The other major benefit is that it can create tender chunks of meat that would take hours of slow cooking in a relatively quick amount of time. I personally use this technique when I am creating shredded chicken for my shredded chicken tacos.

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Lesson 16: How to Saute

Sautéing is probably the most widely referenced, but improperly labeled cooking technique. When people say that something is sautéed, they actually mean that it has been pan fried or stir fried. But the common phrase that people understand is to refer to this food item as having been sautéed. By definition, a sauté is where you have a thinly sliced item that you cook in a sauté pan with a minimal amount of oil over medium-high to high heat and you flip the item no more than twice. If you add additional oil to the pan, you are now pan frying. If you do not add additional oil, but jostle and move the ingredients rapidly and often, you are stir frying. Sound confusing? It really isn’t.

Let’s use a pork chop as an example. To properly sauté a pork chop, you add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large sauté pan. Bring it to a medium-high heat. When the pan is heated, place the pork chop into the oil on the pan and allow to cook until 50% finished. At this point, you flip the pork chop and allow it to finish cooking on the other side. This produces a large amount of browning on the pork chop, because the surface of the meat will be exposed to the heat source (dry, direct heat). This creates a large amount of the savory browning compound found in the Maillard reaction. This is what defines and is desired in sautéing.

But, we are new cooks. So we will not be cooking at a high heat, because we will burn everything! Remember what I taught you earlier? You can obtain the same results at a lower heat as at a high heat. It simply takes a little longer. Inside of our practice recipes, I will teach you the intricacies of the sauté technique.

Equipment Needed for Sauté Practice Recipes:
chef’s knife
butter knife
cutting board
large mixing bowl
medium mixing bowl
measuring cups
measuring spoons
large whisk
large high-sided sauté pan
medium sauté pan
high heat spatula
high heat flipper
metal tongs

Saute Recipes:

Adult Grilled Cheese

Crepes

Omelets

Classic Denver Omelet

Potato Omelet

Spinach and Feta Omelet

Pancakes

Uncle Lee’s Pork Chops


Lesson 15: How to Pan Fry

How to Pan Fry

Pan frying is more similar to deep fat frying than it is to sautéing or stir frying. A pan fry is where you cook food in at least ½” of oil. Th is oil typically covers about half of the food you are cooking. If the food is completely submerged in oil, it becomes a deep fat fry. I typically pan fry chicken fingers, breaded pork chops, and other foods that I want to fry quickly without the hassle of storing a gallon of used cooking oil. Never fill your pan more than half way with cooking oil.

Your oil could catch on fire if it is over filled, or if it is exposed to an open flame. Use extreme caution when pan frying and be very careful.

You want to heat the oil in the pan when the pan is cool. You do not ever want to heat an empty pan, because it will warp the pan. Th e ideal temperature to pan fry is at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You can achieve this with a medium-heat on a regular sized burner. Pan frying can be extremely messy. If you are not careful, it could also burn you. Although it may seem counter intuitive, when you place items into a hot cooking oil, you want to hold onto the item until the very last second and then release it into the oil. Th is reduces splashing and helps to eliminate burns on your forearms. When placing food into the hot oil, we also want to take care not to overload the oil by putting too many items in at once. Th e food is much cooler than the oil. If you are not careful, the food can significantly decrease the temperature of the oil, which results in much longer cooking times. Also, overloading the pan can cause the oil to spill out of the pan. Th is could cause a fire.

Cooking foods in hot oil increases its crispiness by reducing the water content of the food while also allowing the structure to remain in tact. Th e reason fried food crunches is because the water is missing but the breading material remains in a dehydrated state. Always make certain to allow any excess oil to drain back into the pan before placing the finished pan fried item on paper to cool and release excess grease.

Breading Techniques

Breading is broken up into 2 major techniques.

1 Dredging
Dredging is where you take a piece of meat and cover it in starch (like wheat fl our). Th en
submerge it in an egg wash. Next, return to the starch to be re-covered. Last, place into
the pan to cook.

2 Battering
Battering is a wet technique. You take whatever food item that you intend to fry. Dip it
into the batter. And immediately, place into the pan to cook.

Dredging can only be used on meats and other proteins. Whereas, anything can be battered. This is why you can have fried zucchini in a thin batter breading. When you intend to bread anything, you must first decide what you would like the end texture to be and how you would like it to taste. This brings us to our next piece of the puzzle which is all about breading materials.

“Great Job! Keep up the good work.”

Breading Materials for Dredging and Battering

There are 3 main breading materials that are used to bread an item.

1 Wheat flour
Wheat flour is the most common in American cooking. It creates a softer, more sheet-like crust. Think about fried chicken and how the chunks of breading fall off in big sheets of crunchy breading. Flour also does a very good job of holding onto seasonings that you mix into the breading. Flour also has a very mild taste that is barely noticeable.

2 Bread crumbs
Bread crumbs come in a variety of shape, sizes, colors, and flavors. The two most commonly used are Italian bread crumbs and Panko. Many home cooks will also crush up corn flakes. I would consider corn flakes a bread crumb style breading. Bread crumbs do best in a single layer and in applications where they are not applied too heavily. When bread crumbs are eaten they tend to fall apart into smaller chunks, about the size of peas.

3 Cornstarch
Cornstarch is a fabulous breading for super crunchy applications. Of all the breading materials, it makes what is possibly the hardest surface. This surface is perfect for absorbing sauces. Cornstarch is typically used in Chinese food, like General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken. I love to mix cornstarch with wheat flour, as it helps to create a better crunch while maintaining the typical flavor of wheat flour breading. The only major draw back to cornstarch is that it does not have very much flavor on its own, and therefore must be mixed with other breading or covered in sauce before serving. Now that we have the basics of our breading choices covered, let’s discuss the how to actually do it part.

How to Properly Dredge
Breading, aka dredging, food is incredibly personal and a culinary technique surrounded by a lot of superstition. Proper dredging requires several steps and 3 key pieces to function.

The 3 key pieces to dredging are:

1 Protein
Protein can be any piece of meat that you desire to have pan fried. Typically after being breaded, these pieces of meat are referred to as fritters, if they have previously been pounded flat. I recommend seasoning the meat with salt and pepper and storing them  in the refrigerator the night before you intend on cooking this protein. As we learned in Roundness of Flavor, salt is a natural flavor amplifier. In addition to this, it is the only known flavor or seasoning to work its way through the entirety of a piece of meat. By pounding our protein with a meat mallet before we bread them, we guarantee 2 things:
1 Proper adhesion of the breading
2 A more tender final product

2 Binders
Just like a binder for school, the binder for dredging works to hold everything together.

The two best binders are:
1 Egg wash
Egg wash is consisted of 1 part egg to 2-4 parts water. This mixture is scrambled together to create an egg wash solution. This is the binder that I most often use, simply because of its ease and convenience to my personal natural cooking and eating style. I happen to carry eggs and water at all points in time, but rarely carry butter milk.

2 Butter milk
Butter milk is a tangy, spoiled milk product that is an incredibly useful binder. It naturally imparts its own unique tangy flavor, which as we have learned lightens the
weight of a finished product.

3 Starch/Breading
The function of starch is to provide a unique crispy crunch, a different flavor, and an interesting texture to a piece of meat than would be normally had. This unique eating experience keeps things interesting and let’s be honest... breading is pretty delicious! As I had discussed earlier in this chapter, breading can be made with different types of starches. I highly recommend experimenting with different mixtures to find the one that you like best.

Here are some of mine:
Fried chicken: 3 parts flour to 1 part cornstarch
Scaloppine: 1 part flour to 1 part cornstarch to 1 part breadcrumbs
Chicken fried steak: 4 parts flour to 1 part cornstarch

Because your breading is your external flavor, you may want to consider seasoning your breading.

Take caution though, if you salt your meat first, do NOT salt your breading. Learn from my mistakes! On that thought, I have found that spices hold up better in the fryer than herbs do, because herbs tend to be more delicate in flavor. A great work around is to apply seasoning after the food has been fried sufficiently.

All dredging has to posses those 3 items to function correctly. Th e end goal is to adhere your breading to your meat. But by nature, the starch is not naturally going to stick without a little modification to both the protein and the breading.

Steps of Dredging

1 The first thing we need to do is enhance the natural stickiness of our protein. The best way to do this is using a meat mallet to tenderize our protein. This will increase the concentration and exposure of sticky proteins found within our meat and will promote adherence of our breading.

2 After thoroughly pummeling your meat into submission, we want to allow the meat to rest and dry it off with a paper towel. Pat it dry to reduce the surface moisture. By reducing the surface moisture, our breading will adhere better to the meat as we cook. Moisture turns to steam during cooking. Th is expansion of steam during cooking can force the breading off of the proteins. Let’s be honest. Nobody wants half breaded fried chicken!

3 After the meat has been allowed to rest for 30 minutes and sufficiently patted dry, we are going to place the meat into our breading and thoroughly cover the surface.

4 Remove the meat from the breading and lightly shake to remove any excess.

5 Now, place the meat into an egg wash made of one part egg to three parts water. The diluted egg mixture acts as a binder for the second layer of breading. This creates a secondary adhesion layer and allows all of the layers to stick to both the protein and themselves. You may also use butter milk as your binder.

6 Return your meat to your breading and thoroughly cover to ensure the moisture has been thoroughly absorbed by new dry breading.

7 Once again, shake the excess breading from the meat and pan fry until the meat has been thoroughly cooked. Take care to flip this meat only once as messing with it too much will cause destruction of the breading.

Battering is incredibly simple in comparison to dredging. Th e applied information is the same, but the end product and the batter/breading are a little different. Because batter is liquid you can change the final density of the breading with leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda. You can also batter just about anything. Commonly battered items are sweet and sour chicken, General Tso’s chicken, shrimp tempura, fried zucchini, and mozzarella sticks. Batter may be constructed out of virtually anything as long as it contains starch, binder, and liquid. Most often your starch will be wheat fl our or cornstarch. Your binder will be eggs. And your liquid could be water, beer, vodka, milk, or buttermilk. These will then be mixed together to create a batter just like cakes, pancakes, or muffins. To create a complex batter, you will want to utilize a middle bread crumb step. In this step, you will dip your item into the batter. Then, you will roll the item in bread crumbs and either apply a second layer of batter to seal everything together or you will immediately drop the item in the fryer.

4 Step Simple Battering

1 Mix your batter.
2 Prepare your ingredients and make certain they are close to room temperature.
3 Submerge your item fully into the batter.
4 Immediately transfer into your hot oil and pan fry until fully cooked.

6 Step Complex Battering

1 Mix your batter.
2 Prepare your ingredients and make certain they are close to room temperature.
3 Dip your item into the batter and immediately transfer into your bread crumbs.
4 Roll your item into the bread crumbs until all surfaces are covered.
5 Return to batter ensuring entire item is covered.
6 Delicately drop item into hot oil and cook until fully cooked.

A Few Important Batter Tips

1 It is preferable for the batter to be fully submerged when frying. If this is not possible and pan frying is your only option, place the battered item into the hot oil. Allow to cook for 30 seconds and then immediately flip the item so that the outside of the batter can set properly and not run off when pan frying. You may also carefully and lightly use tongs to move hot oil onto the raw batter so that it will set properly.

2 Remember that batter is sticky and that you should place items into the hot oil slowly and separately to keep them from sticking together.


Lesson 14: How to Stir Fry

How to Stir Fry

A stir fry is probably the easiest form of cooking that one can begin with. They are technically unchallenging, incredibly forgiving, and are very easy to make changes to as you cook. As the name suggests, you physically stir the ingredients in the pan as they are being fried by a light amount of oil. This constant movement allows the ingredients to heat evenly, brown on all surfaces, and keeps the food from burning because of an even distribution of heat.

Most people associate stir fry with Chinese food. But, this is only partially correct. Chinese food is made with a technique that would be better classified as a Chinese fry. Stir fries may be made with any variety of ingredients and is limited only to your imagination.

I typically use a stir frying technique when I am creating the vegetable and stock bases for my sauces and soups. A stir fry may be cooked any where from a low-heat to a high-heat. You may also use any thickness of ingredients that you choose. But for best results, keep the ingredients within the bite size range.

How to Use the Sauté Pan
The most important technique to know with a sauté pan is the wrist flip. A wrist flip is where you flip the ingredients in a pan, solely by moving the pan forwards and then backwards. This causes the ingredients to move to the front of the pan, fly up and out of the pan, and then back down into the back of the pan. Most commonly this is associated with sautéing, but is primarily used in the stir fry technique. Visually this technique is incredibly impressive. But, it does take some practice even
though it is very easy to master.

Note: This can only be done with a sauté pan that has rounded edges.

1 Firmly grasp the handle of your sauté pan.

2 Lightly raise the rear of the pan and lower ever so slightly the front of the pan. Take care to keep the pan over your heat source.

3 Move your wrist forwards with medium force, about 6 inches.

4 Lift the front of the pan at the end of the 6 inch extension.

5 Continue to lift the pan up, about 3 inches.

6 As you raise the pan, pull your arm back firmly to the original position.

7 Catch your ingredients as they fall back down into the pan.

Th is motion is not a forwards and backwards motion. It is almost the exact same motion that a trains wheels make as they are rotated. Th ink about the drive arm on a steam train. It doesn’t go forwards and backwards. It moves in a circular direction. Th is techniques uses that same “chug-a-chug-a” motion to move the pan. If you move your arm statically forwards and backwards, you will either end up with a huge mess or achieve nothing at all. The flipping action is in the raising of the front
of the pan. As your arm moves forward, it gives your ingredients forward velocity. By raising the pan at the end of the stroke, it changes the forward momentum into vertical momentum. This causes the ingredients to leave the pan, become airborne, and end up flipped and back into the pan. Most importantly, this technique does not require a large amount of force on your part. Applying too much force will end up with ingredients on your ceiling.

Mastery of this technique is mandatory, as its use is extremely common in many applications. Th is includes pancakes, omelets, and many other applications.

“It’s okay! Try Again!”

Your homework is to practice this technique in real life. Take a larger low-sided sauté pan and place 2 tablespoons of dry rice into it. Practice moving the rice around the pan and then slowly work up your confidence in the wrist motion by practicing what I have just taught you. Rice is the best medium to learn on because it is completely unforgiving. If you flip too hard, you will have rice on your floor. If you flip too soft, you will have rice on your floor. If you throw your arm forward
without lifting at the end, you will have rice on your floor. Basically, you are going to have a gigantic mess. So, make sure to have a broom handy. Practice this technique every day until you are extremely comfortable with it. It will not only bring you in tune with the technique, but it will harmonize the sauté pan as an extension of your own arm. This is the end goal of cooking. You need to feel like each piece of equipment is an extension of your own body. And when you feel like this, you will naturally develop an intuition and exceed the expectations that you could of ever had in your cooking proficiency.

Equipment Needed for Stir Fry Practice Recipes:
chef’s knife
medium size cutting board
large mixing bowl
small mixing bowl
measuring spoons
measuring cups
small sauté pan
large sauté pan
high heat spatula
colander
aluminum foil
rice cooker (optional)

Stir Fry Recipes

Savory Vegetable Starters

Beef and Broccoli

Fancy Instant Shrimp Ramen

Mapo Tofu

Teriyaki Chicken with Carmelized Onions and Peppers


Lesson 13: How to Use a Saute Pan

How to Use a Saute Pan

For me, the sauté pan is an indispensable cooking utensil. You can prepare virtually anything in it. Sauté pans come in many sizes and shapes. Sauté pans are also known as skillets or frying pans. But for our purposes, we will call them sauté pans. The answer is just about anything you like.

I personally recommend that you own at least

2 sauté pans:
14” high-sided sauté pan with a lid
8” low-sided sauté pan with curved edges

Before we go any further, we need to discuss the idea of applied heat.
“So what can you do with the saute pan?”

As we learned in a previous lesson, heat is applied in 2 fashions:

1 Directly
Direct heat is where the heat is conducted directly onto the food. In a sauté pan, you place the pan on the burner. The burner heats the pan, which then heats the food. This is a direct form of heating.

2 Indirectly
Indirect heat is where the ambient temperature of the container or environment heats the food. This is the way that an oven operates. The air inside of the oven becomes hot, which then heats the cookware, which then heats the food.

This is very important to know because direct and indirect heating sources produce different results. Direct cooking methods tend to be hotter and faster. Whereas, indirect cooking methods tend to be slower and lower in temperature. In the end both cook the food, but their final product will have a different texture and consistency based on the cooking method.

These applications have 2 defining characteristics:

1 Dry heat
Dry heat is any form of cooking where water is not used as a cooking medium. Th is includes anything where the food is submerged in oil or fat. Dry heat is defined by the removal of moisture from the food products that you are cooking. When we use dry heat, we are removing moisture from the food while we cook it.

2 Moist heat
Moist heat is any cooking application where the moisture inside the food product, or water has been added, and is used as the cooking medium. This includes wine, juices, broths, stocks, milk, or anything that adds liquid water; no matter what it has suspended inside of it. Moist heat adds moisture to food as you cook it.

Dry heat tends to produce products that have stiffer or crunchy textures. This is because dry cooking techniques cook the moisture out of the food. The absence of moisture creates these crunchy textures. Whereas, moist heat creates products that are softer and more tender. As you will discover on your cooking journey, you will very often use multiple forms of heat with varying characteristics
to produce the results that you are searching for.

A perfect example is the manor in which I create soups. First, I stir fry all of my solid ingredients until they develop a nice brown color. Then, I transfer them to my spaghetti pot and add the liquid ingredients. Then, I bring this to a boil and taste the seasonings along the way. In this example, I use a direct, dry heat (stir frying). Then, I finish the recipe with a direct, moist heat (boiling).

Now that we have this basic information out of the way, I’m going to teach you the different techniques that you can use inside of a sauté pan and supply you with some recipes to practice these techniques.

The cooking techniques that you will learn with the sauté pan are as follows:

Stir Fry
A Stir Fry is a very easy technique to use inside of a sauté pan. It utilizes a direct, dry heat to quickly cook meats, veggies, and starches. Even though it is a very simple technique, it allows for a variety of savory and delicious dishes to be created. Stir fry uses a rapid agitation (a quick stirring motion) of the ingredients to cook them evenly and quickly.

Pan Fry
Pan Fry is another simple sauté pan technique that utilizes a direct, dry heat to cook. A pan fry is typically used in conjunction with breaded items on which you want to create a crispy crust. Even though the oil used in a pan fry is a liquid, it does not constitute a moist heat. Remember, moist heat is created when you are cooking the food in a water based liquid.

Sauté
Sauté is the technique that the sauté pan is named for. Sauté uses a direct, dry heat and distinguishes itself from the stir fry by simply flipping the food being cooked no more than twice. Where stir fry uses a rapid agitation, sauté is a patient technique where each side is allowed to brown and then is flipped.

Quick Stew
A Quick Stew is our first hybrid cooking technique. Quick stewing begins with a direct, dry heat similar to a stir fry. Then it ends with a direct, moist heat. You begin by stir frying the ingredients. Then, you add liquid and a lid to the top of the sauté pan to allow the moist heat to soften and tenderize the food you are cooking. This creates a savory and tender dish very quickly.

Quick Sauces
Quick Sauces are made just like the quick stew, but with more liquid and a slow boiling process to allow the excess moisture to evaporate. This evaporation, or reduction, creates even more concentrated flavors. The longer a sauce is allowed to simmer, the more integrated the flavors become. Quick Sauces utilize a dry direct heat followed by a moist direct heat.