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Some basic beginner questions....help please!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

So pretty much anything I do I always try to become the best I can at it...its just the way I am. So I've been reading up on cooking and have some really general questions that would help me progress further.

 

1. When slow cooking meat(such as a stew) how can you cook the meet for hours on end in a liquid without it becoming overcooked? It doesn't make sense to me that I can cook steak in 20 minutes or so by pan roasting but its also possible to chop it up an cook it for hours and not have it be incredibly overcooked.

 

2. Is brining chicken breasts always a good idea before cooking?

 

3. I usually try to cook chicken right to 165 and not much if any higher. Is undercooked chicken really easy to discern? I know if its vastly undercooked or was still thawing you can get a gradient from white chicken to raw uncooked chicken. But I am wondering if its safe cooking chicken to 165(read via thermometer) and not any further. I've removed chicken breast at 160 and watched it climb to 165 exactly while sitting in the pan. I don't want to be serving undercooked chicken but its not obvious to me if I am cooking it far enough or not. My wife commented that she thought it was still "a bit pink" but I'm not sure if chicken meat really looks pink when undercooked.

 

4. Is it a bad idea to use vegatable oil for searing? I've noticed that EVOO has a low smoke point and with a thin piece of meat can cook through before I'm able to actually sear the meat. Vegetable oil gets me a hotter temperature but I'm wondering about the flavor it imparts. Should I be using coconut oil or light olive oil?

 

Thanks for helping a newbie out!

post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sdiver2489 View Post

1. When slow cooking meat(such as a stew) how can you cook the meet for hours on end in a liquid without it becoming overcooked? It doesn't make sense to me that I can cook steak in 20 minutes or so by pan roasting but its also possible to chop it up an cook it for hours and not have it be incredibly overcooked.

It depends on the cut of meat, lean cuts with little or no connective tissue seem to cook best hot and dry, those cuts with connective tissue, which melts at around 180°F do better with long, slow, and moist heat.

 

 

Quote:

2. Is brining chicken breasts always a good idea before cooking?

Always is a dangerous word, brining poultry is generally a good practice, should you always brine? That depends.

 

Quote:
3. I usually try to cook chicken right to 165 and not much if any higher. Is undercooked chicken really easy to discern? I know if its vastly undercooked or was still thawing you can get a gradient from white chicken to raw uncooked chicken. But I am wondering if its safe cooking chicken to 165(read via thermometer) and not any further. I've removed chicken breast at 160 and watched it climb to 165 exactly while sitting in the pan. I don't want to be serving undercooked chicken but its not obvious to me if I am cooking it far enough or not. My wife commented that she thought it was still "a bit pink" but I'm not sure if chicken meat really looks pink when undercooked.

An instant read thermometer is your friend, and yes, almost any protein with continue to cook (rise in internal temperature) after it is removed from a source of heat. IIRC, 165°F for 15 seconds is a food safety recommendation for destroying Salmonella and, possibly, other disease causing bacteria. I've been told that chicken sashimi is served in some locales where Salmonella is not a problem.

 

Quote:
4. Is it a bad idea to use vegatable oil for searing? I've noticed that EVOO has a low smoke point and with a thin piece of meat can cook through before I'm able to actually sear the meat. Vegetable oil gets me a hotter temperature but I'm wondering about the flavor it imparts. Should I be using coconut oil or light olive oil?

Most vegetable oils are neutral with regards to flavor. Regular olive oil has a much higher smoke point than EVOO and I rarely use EVOO in high heat situations, why waste good money?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #3 of 6


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sdiver2489 View Post

So pretty much anything I do I always try to become the best I can at it...its just the way I am. So I've been reading up on cooking and have some really general questions that would help me progress further.

 

1. When slow cooking meat(such as a stew) how can you cook the meet for hours on end in a liquid without it becoming overcooked? It doesn't make sense to me that I can cook steak in 20 minutes or so by pan roasting but its also possible to chop it up an cook it for hours and not have it be incredibly overcooked.

 

2. Is brining chicken breasts always a good idea before cooking?

 

3. I usually try to cook chicken right to 165 and not much if any higher. Is undercooked chicken really easy to discern? I know if its vastly undercooked or was still thawing you can get a gradient from white chicken to raw uncooked chicken. But I am wondering if its safe cooking chicken to 165(read via thermometer) and not any further. I've removed chicken breast at 160 and watched it climb to 165 exactly while sitting in the pan. I don't want to be serving undercooked chicken but its not obvious to me if I am cooking it far enough or not. My wife commented that she thought it was still "a bit pink" but I'm not sure if chicken meat really looks pink when undercooked.

 

4. Is it a bad idea to use vegatable oil for searing? I've noticed that EVOO has a low smoke point and with a thin piece of meat can cook through before I'm able to actually sear the meat. Vegetable oil gets me a hotter temperature but I'm wondering about the flavor it imparts. Should I be using coconut oil or light olive oil?

 

Thanks for helping a newbie out!


1. Contrary to popular belief you CAN overcook and make dry, slow-cooked meats. I've had many a restaurant braised shortribs that were dry.   It....is just more forgiving than leaner meats due to the slow cooking of the fat content in the particular cut of meat.

 

2. Doesnt hurt it in my opinion. but...that requires thinking at least 24 hours in advance....and who plans chicken out like that! haha. j/k

 

3. don't know the exact standards/etc if it's cooked, it's cooked if it's done it's done to me.

 

4. Not a bad idea and you're right about smoke points.....how about you're wrong....use grapeseed oil! ;)

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks Pete McCracken and RPMcMurphy!

 

Another (probably) simple question. In some chef's work I've seen them flour both sides of the meat(in the case I was watching it was pork). I was wondering what this would do to the meat and the cooking process.

 

Secondly, in regards to pan roasting vs. finishing it entirely in the pan I have a few questions in this regard:

 

1. Is the net result the same provided that the meat in thin enough to cook in the pan without burning a side?

 

2. Can vegetables/fruit be combined when cooking meat or is there a contamination issue there?

 

3. When turning meat should I use the same tongs used to place the meat in the pan and use a different set entirely to remove it from the pan when done cooking? I apologize for the simple questions but some of these kitchen basics bother me not knowing for sure.

 

I appreciate all your guys' quick help!

post #5 of 6

 

I remember feeling the same way about cooking meat.  I thought, why is it that I can overcook a steak in a matter of minutes but a pot roast can cook for hours and not be overcooked?  The answer is simple, it depends on which cut of meat you use.  You can easily discern how to cook a piece of meat by how much it costs.  A hard and fast rule is that if the meat is expensive (tenderloin, prime rib) it should be served pink in order to really enjoy its natural tenderness.  On the other hand a cheaper cut of meat (chuck, brisket, shoulder, pork belly) needs low and slow cooking in order to get it to the point where it is tender.  Is there a dish in particular you would like to try making to test this theory out?  We have plenty of recipes.

 

And for heaven's sake, a steak does not take 20min to pan roast unless it is over 2inches thick.
 

 In your second post you mentioned fruit and meat.  Yes fruit is often used when cooking meat, primarily when cooking game and poultry.  There is no contamination issue if you will be eating the fruit and meat in the same dish.  I have a wonderful recipe for seared duck breast wtih blackberry sauce.

 

About the tongs - this is your call.  In my kitchen I do like to use seperate tongs to place food in a pan and to remove it, especially if it's poultry.  Maybe I'm too fussy.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

Reply
post #6 of 6

There are some really good points in the above posts and some great guidance, but just a few things to add.

 

Regarding #1.  As alluded to, it all depends on the cut.  Steaks are relatively lean and have very little connective tissue so you can cook them quickly and they are fine when they are rare, but the more inexpensive cuts are tougher pieces.  They contain a lot of connective tissue, the muscles are used more so they are tougher, and they often come well marbled with fat.  These cuts are often very tough unless they are cooked to well done (with a few exceptions, cooked properly).  They slow and low cooking allows for all that connective tissue to breakdown and the meat baths in fat and collegen helping to keep it moist.  A great example of this is pork; I typically cook pork chops to no more than 150°F.  If you cook them much further they become like sawdust, but a pork butt (shoulder) is best cooked to about 190°F.  It is at this temperature that it is tender and easily pulled apart for pulled pork, but all the connective tissue and fat keep it moist.  Since the chop has none of that it dries out at a much lower temperature. 

 

Regarding #2.  I rarely brine my chicken unless I am cooking to be cooking it for a long time.  It is totally a personal preference.  There are plenty of people who never have brined a chicken in their life, but always make moist, tender chicken.  The thing about brining is that it makes for a more forgiving piece of meat to cut.  With chicken there is a very small window between being done and being overcooked and dry.  Brining adds moisture to the breast slightly enlarging that small window.

 

Regarding #3.  165°F is plenty done for chicken breast, but remember, if cooking a whole chicken you want to temp  it in the thickest part of the thigh.

 

Regarding #4.  For searing and high heat cooking I tend to use vegetable oil or an olive oil/vegetable oil blend and save the EVOO for finishing or for applications that take a lower cooking temperature.

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