Archive for the 'Tips' Category

Tip #12: How to keep a fish grilled in a wire cooker from sticking.

We grill a lot. Something like 200 days a year. All through the winter in Michigan. I just shovel a path through the snow to the grill and fire it up.
We love to grill salmon and rainbow trout. Really just about anything that swims.
I have a 30-year-old wire fish cooker that works great. However, I have had to fix some of the welds after years of abuse on the grill.
But, how do you keep your wire fish basket from sticking to the wire?
Simple: Spray the top and bottom sections of the inside of the wire basket with non-stick vegetable cooking spray.
But where?
You’ll make a mess in the sink because the wire basket does not fit in the sink.
Paper on the floor? NO! (so said my wife).
Outside? Maybe, but on the grass?
Here’s the solution: Open your wire basket fish cooker and place it on the open door of your dishwasher (see photo) and spray away.
Neat, clean and no more sticking fish.
Works for asparagus, too!

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Tip # 11: How to make cookbook ribbons


What the heck are cookbook ribbons? I first ran into cookbook ribbons when they came on our first copy of The Joy of Cooking (Photo 1). Two red ribbons were glued into the spine of the book and they were included so you could bookmark two recipes and find them easily. I loved the idea.
One day I was using one of my favorite cookbooks and making two recipes from it. I got very frustrated about losing my place as I went from recipe to recipe and back again.
Then the light bulb went on. Why not put cookbook ribbons in this book?
Gluing ribbons into the spine was not an option. So, I decided to add them to the back of the book. Here is how to do it step by step (this is more difficult to write out than actually do!):

Materials:

  • One spool of 1/4-inch red ribbon. I got mine at Jo-Ann Fabrics. The spool holds 10 yards and the ribbon is made from 100% polyester. It works just fine.
  • Good quality packing tape
  • Scotch tape or you can use small pieces of packing tape
  • Scissors

Steps:

Photo 2:
Cut two pieces of ribbon. To figure the length of the ribbon, open the back of the book and put about two inches of ribbon into the gutter of the book between the last page and the inside back cover. Holding the ribbon in place, run the ribbon down the top of the book to the front cover and slide the ribbon in between the front cover and the first page. Now run the ribbon diagonally to the lower left-hand corner of the book (the top of the book is up). Leave about two inches hanging out of the corner. Hold this spot on the ribbon and spool off enough ribbon to double the length. Cut the ribbon at that point. Hold the two ends together and cut this long length into two equal pieces.
Photo 3:
Using a small piece of Scotch tape or small pieces of packing tape, stick the end of the one of the pieces of ribbon two inches into the gutter of the cookbook (from the top) with the tail of the ribbon extending out the top. Repeat with the second piece of ribbon. Make sure that the two pieces of ribbon are slightly separated so both of them are secured by the tape in the next step. The reason for using the small pieces of tape is to keep the ribbons in place while you tape them down in the next step.
Photo 4:
Using a three-inch to three-and-one-half inch long piece of packing tape, tape down the two ribbons. The packing tape should be placed down on the last page of the book first, pressed down on that page over the ribbons, pressed tight against the gutter and then up and over to the inside back cover of the book. Half of the packing tape width should be on one side of the ribbon and half on the other. You can see the shinny tape on both sides of the tape in this photo (4). Be sure to keep the tape inside the top edge of the cookbook. You do not want the tape sticking out the top of the book. Also, make sure the tape is long enough so it extends about an inch beyond the ends of the ribbons.
Photo 5:
Now, take the ribbons and run them over the top of the book and between the front cover and page one of the book, running the ribbons diagonally to the bottom left-hand corner of the book. Grab the ribbons at about 2 inched from the corner of the book. Trim the ends of the ribbons on a slight diagonal as shown in the photo.
Photo 6:
This is how the book looks with the ribbons placed on two different recipes.

All of my favorite cookbooks have ribbons.

Is it done yet? What’s the best internal temperature?

Well? Is it done yet? That’s the question I am asked by my wife when I am cooking meat or poultry either in the oven or on the grill.
You don’t want to cut into an expensive piece of meat to check if it is done because all the juice will run out. So an instant read thermometer is the best way to check the meat. The one I recommend can be found here.  An inexpensive alternative is the CDN ProAccurate Quick Tip Digital Cooking Thermometer DTQ450. You can find out more about this thermometer here.
Now that you have a thermometer, at what temperature is the meat cooked? I have scoured the Internet and as usual I found different answers to that question. Generally I have found that the federal government wants you to over cook your meat to be on the really safe side. I have landed somewhere in between.
You do need to cook meat to a temperature at which certain bacteria are killed. The chart below lists the temperatures I use for various cuts of meat and poultry. To be on the safe side, you should develop your own list of temperatures to follow (this sentence is designed to keep me out of jail. LOL)

Internal Temperatures in Degrees F
Beef
Brisket……………………………….175
Eye of Round …………………..125
Roast ……………………………… 130
Chicken
Bone-in……………………………160
Boneless………………………….160
Leg/Thigh ……………………….185
Hamburger
Med Rare ………………………..130
Medium ………………………….. 145
Well Done………………………..160
Pork Chop……………………….140
Pork Loin……………..135 to 140
Prim Rib Roast
Rare……………………………………120
Med Rare:………………125 to 130
Medium…………………..135 to 140
Steak
Rare……………………………………..120
Med Rare…………………..125 to 130
Medium…………………….130 to 135
Whole Turkey
Breast…………………………….165
Thigh……………………170 to 175
(reading in thickest
part of thigh)
Yeast Bread……….190 to 205

How much does an egg weigh or a cup of rolled oats or a cup of honey for that matter?

On this blog, there has been a lot of interest in the weight of a cup of flour. So I thought I would follow that post up with the weights of various other baking ingredients. The original post can be found here.
Remember that weighing your ingredients on a digital scale increases accuracy and makes you a better baker. The digital scale I recommend in here.  Precision in baking is key.
The following table was built based on research I did on the Internet and in my cookbook collection.  And, a funny thing happened on the way to the digital scale.  No one seems to agree on what ingredients weigh!  Amazing.  How long have we been baking around the world?
What I decided to do is show you the results of my research while at the same time listing what I use in my kitchen.  You will have to make up your own mind as to what a cup of corn syrup weighs or any other ingredient for that matter.
I hope this helps in your quest to be a better baker.

Weight (ounces)
Ingredient Vol
KA PR FS Bill
Buttermilk 1 cup 8 8 8 8
Cornmeal 1 cup 4.8 6 5.3 5
Corn syrup 1 cup 11 8 12 11
Egg, whole 1 large 1.75 1.67 1.6 1.6
Honey 1 cup 12 11 12 12
Milk 1 cup 8 8 8.5 8
Oats, rolled 1 cup 3.5 4 ~~ 4
Oil, vegetable 1 cup 7 8 8 8
Raisins, loose 1 cup 5.25 6 5.3 5.5
Sour cream 1 cup 8 8 8 8
Sugar, granulated 1 cup 7 8 8 7
Sugar, powdered 1 cup 4 ~~ 5.3 4
Yogurt 1 cup 8 8 8 8
Sources:
KA = King Arthur Flour
PR = Peter Reinhart
FS = Fareshare.net
Bill: What I use

Tip #10: Using a Cookie Scoop

For years, my wife, Mary Ann, and I have made cookies for our three sons and our friends. Chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal, peanut butter, you name it. We’ve made them all.
And usually we use a cookie scoop to form the cookies. See the Kitchen Tool discussion here.
Many cookie recipes call for chilling the dough before baking, like the one we use for chocolate chip cookies.
In the past, we have chilled the dough and then formed the cookies.
Bad idea.
Make the dough and using the cookie scoop, form the balls of dough for the cookies while the dough is warm. Trust me, it is much easier to use the cookie scoop when the dough is warm.
Place all the dough balls close together on a cookie sheet, cover them with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator or out in the garage in winter, like here in Michigan, for about 30 minutes while you fire up the oven.
Bake the cookies by putting 12 dough balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and bake away.
Simple I know, but this little tip will save your hands and wrists.
You’ll be making cookies into your 90s!

Tip #9: Roasting Pecans or Walnuts

Roasting pecans or walnuts is a great idea because it brings out their wonderful flavors and makes everything you use them in better.
But, roasting nuts can be tricky because if you use too high a temperature or roast them too long, the nuts can burn. Been there. Done that.
And, I have tried just about every way there is to roast nuts. Dry skillet. Oven at 400 degrees F. Oven at 350 degrees F. Even the microwave.
I have not been very happy with any of these methods.
But, then recently Rose Levy Beranbaum (author of The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible to name a couple of her books) came to my rescue.
She recommends roasting nuts at 325 degree F for ten minutes. Here’s how:

  1. Place the nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place the sheet in the oven.
  2. Roast for about five minutes and then open the oven door and shake the baking sheet and move the nuts around.
  3. Roast for another five minutes.
  4. Remove the nuts and cool completely. You should smell that wonderful aroma of roasted nuts.

Simple. No burning. Better baked goods.

Tip #8: Pastry/Dough Rolling Sticks

These are just square dowels that you can get at Home Depot, Lowes, or you local lumber yard. The neat thing is that they come in different fractional sizes like 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or 3/4.

They are not very expensive so get one of each size.

Usually they are made of poplar wood and are about 36-inches long. You should cut them in half with a saw or a sharp knife (to do it this way just make the middle of the stick all the way around and push the knife in as far as you can on all four sides. Then just snap the stick in half). Or you could just ask someone where you buy them to cut them in half if you don’t have a saw at home.

Using them is easy, just put the proper sized stick on each side of dough or pastry you are working with and roll away.

Perfect thickness every time.