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Making it less goopy

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Over the past few weeks I've been cooking some hamburger helpers, and they've tasted pretty good, but I always thought they had quite a bit more goopiness than when my mom made them. Yesterday I tried making mac n cheese and it turned out horrible. I threw it away because it was so disgusting. It was more like souparoni.

I have a pretty good idea that a major part of this was I left the noodles sitting in the water for too long. When I went to drain the water the noodles were so soft I couldn't drain the pot easily because the noodles would just slip out, so I think I left a pretty good amount of water with the noodles[although it didnt look like it].

Now my question is what else caused this extra goopiness[even in the hamburger helpers], and what can I do to prevent it? Should I add less water and milk when I cook, or not let it simmer for so long? I usually let them sit for awhile, even up to an hour on a lower heat.
post #2 of 16
lol, hamburger helper and mac n cheese....ok, first off, yes you are way overcooking your pasta. make sure your water is boiling when you throw your pasta in, it shouldn't take more then 5 minutes or so for box pasta to cook in a boiling pot. second, dump your pasta in a colander and rinse, shake out excess water then add back to the pot. if you try to get lazy and drain water with pasta in a pot it almost garuntees excess water.

another quick tip, especially with mac and cheese in a box, less milk more butter. so if it says 1/3 cup milk add a not quite full 1/3 cup, where it says add 1tblsp butter add 1 and a half. makes a thicker sauce.

seriously though mate, you can a make spagehtti or pasta primavera just as fast and with none of the preservatives your eating with that other stuff. best of luck
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks. I'm just trying to learn some basic cooking skills, as I'll be off to bootcamp soon and after that I'll have to make my own dishes.
post #4 of 16
don't sweat it, I have to make mac n cheese for the nephews and such, I just make them try other things while they are here too.

Best of luck or break a leg (whichever you prefer) at boot camp. I feel right sorry for ya too, MRE's suck. Had my fill of them helping out with the early Katrina efforts. alright, the enchilada one was pretty decent..ok i could taste beef, chile sauce and cornmeal. light years ahead of the hamburger patty in gravy with peas:rolleyes:
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #5 of 16
Hamburger Helper and Kraft (aka Blue Box) Mac and Cheese:

1. Read and follow the directions. They give timing and amount.

2. These products have their own websites, with FAQs that will answer all questions.

Gunnar is right that you almost certainly overcooked the pasta. I think 5 minutes might be slightly too litlle time, though. Consult the box. This leads to your first cooking lesson. You have to pay attention to what you're doing. You can't just walk out of the kitchen and come back whenever you feel like it and expect the food to cooperate with your whimsical schedule. Adapt to the kitchen because it sure as heck isn't going to adapt to you. Be there. Pay attention.

Pasta is not a forgiving food. Whether fresh, boxed, or part of a pre-packaged meal in a box, the moment pasta is cooked it must be drained immediately, it can't be left in the cooking water. Something that probably isn't on the box ... is that after draining the pasta can be tossed in oil (don't use too little), covered and held for quite a while. If you don't oil it, it will stick together.

Also, there's no such thing as too much water when cooking pasta. Start by bringing enough water to cover, plus at least a couple of inches. I forget offhand about how much pasta's in a box of HH, or a blue box for that matter, but I'd say about 6 cups (quart and a half) is right. After it's boiling, salt the water (1 or 2 teaspoons table salt), and add about about a tablespoon of oil. Give the water another minute or two to come back to temp and finally add the pasta. (Stir in short noodles, like "elbow macaroni" and the stuff that comes in HH -- don't just dump them in all at once). Bring back to the boil, and stir now and then. After five minutes, start tasting to test for doneness. Since it's going to be cooked again, you want it a little on the al dente side rather than completely limp. But just a little -- you don't want hard, you just want it to "bite back" a little.

When it's done, drain immediately. For HH and mac purposes you can even rinse them in cold water to stop them from continuing to cook while they're being held. Finally, toss them in a little oil.

Try and learn enough cooking to get away from Hamburger Helper and similar products. They might be OK compared to MREs but compared to real food they're pretty grim.

Good luck,
BDL
post #6 of 16
Before I got into cooking mostly "from scratch", I used hamburger helpers and mac & cheese mixes a lot. But I always added my own special touches to them. Diced fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, frozen peas, canned tuna [to the mac & cheese], almost any fresh or frozen veggie--but especially broccoli would bring it to another level for me. However, now that I have the time and the interest in cooking, I don't do the mixes very much any more [I say not much because everyone needs a day off now and again :look:]. I like the fresher taste of my own foods, without the preservatives, salts, sugars, extra fats and who knows what else is in there?
Going to boot camp, then having to cook for yourself doesn't mean you have to settle for the ordinary. There will be others in the same boat. Here's how to eat for free: First, learn to be a really good cook. Then get together with a couple of buddies & offer to prepare meals if they will provide the food. Everyone wins :lol:
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #7 of 16
I'm a pasta fan for sure. As BDL said, pasta is not forgiving at all. Once you put the pasta in the boiling water it's like a spoiled brat. It needs your attention or it's gonna make life difficult. Stir it until the boiling stirs it for you (this assumes you have enough boiling water for the amount of pasta). After a few minutes, pull a noodle out and taste it for texture. If it's not there yet, wait a bit and test again. Don't walk away from it:crazy: Once it's done, dump immediately into a colander and drain it well. Then it has to be mixed with something right away, whether it be a sauce, butter or olive oil or whatever, you have to coat the noodles with something so they won't stick together.

An alternative, if you're making a cold pasta dish such as pasta salad, is dumping it into a colander as soon as the texture is right, rinsing it with cold water, and draining it well. Then you can relax.
post #8 of 16
yeah what they said too:D





I really mean it.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #9 of 16
I guess my reply was a long "me too" answer :crazy:
post #10 of 16
Again, what they said. An hour is way too long for a pasta in a sauce.

Try starting your pasta, and make a quick packaged sauce while you are cooking the pasta - 10 minutes for dried pasta (look at packet directions) absolute max. Then toss together while both are hot - sit back and enjoy. Any 15 minute dinner is a great dinner :)

Cooked whole boiled potatoes are also a great beginners meal when teamed with a packaged/tinned sauce, for example a meat sauce, or a cheesy white sauce. You can add things to them, liked diced fried bacon, shredded cheese, some purchased coleslaw, shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, greek yoghurt, grated carrot, butter/margarine, loads of salt and pepper. Perhaps not all at once! Mustard goes well too if you like it.

Start simple, go from there. Always lots of advice available here if you need it :)
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #11 of 16
To answer the original question the reason its getting ""gloopy" as you call it is because the hour you are holding it is breaking down the starches and the sauce is loosing it body.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #12 of 16
Seems to be two schools of thought now on pasta holding after cooking. Some toss it in oil, some do not. Experiments have been done and show the pasta tossed in oil does not hold as much of the sauce as the non oiled. The oiled pasta even though its reheated seems to repel the sauce. Again 2 schools of thought.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #13 of 16
I typically toss the pasta with some of the sauce it will be served with. The sauce sticks to the pasta, and also keeps the pasta from clumping.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #14 of 16
For Hamburger Helper, use a touch less liquid than they say and more butter. You can sometimes add a touch of cream or sour cream towards the end (if appropriate- eg the Potato Stroganoff). If worse comes to worst, you can always use a bit of cornstarch: dissolve 1 tsp in 1 tsp water. Add it towards the end and let it boil for at least 2 min.

For boxed mac 'n' cheese, don't overcook the pasta and don't rinse it when you drain it. Rinsing removes the starch and 1) keeps the cheese goop from sticking and 2) makes it a little more watery. Be sure to drain it really thoroughly, though.

Nothing wrong with using convenience products to learn, but be advised that some use ingredients like modified food starch that won't behave the same as scratch dishes that you'll learn later. When you get the hang of 'em, start jazzing them up a bit with your own additions.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
I made some mac n cheese today and it turned out nicely. Pretty good for only 50 cents. I'll try doing the same to the hamburger helper in a few days.

Thanks for all the input:cool:
post #16 of 16
Right on :D
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