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Question: How many people actually time their cooking when saute-ing or steaming meat, fish, vegetables, pasta, etc. (Other than, perhaps, the first time you use a recipe).

As a long time home cook, I find that I seldom do except when trying a new recipe . I tend to go more by smell, look, feel, and/or taste than time. Even when roasting or braising, I often time only in the loosest way, though for roasts I use a thermometer in the final stages. And unless I'm leaving the kitchen while something roasts, I will often start checking the meat when it "smells" or looks like it's time to use the thermometer.

I'm particularly curious whether professional cooks watch the clock when cooking.

Baking is a different story, though even there, touch, smell, sound are more definitive than time in many cases.
 

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I think it comes down to repetition. When you cook the same menu day in and day out and repeat each dish countless times the need to look at the clock goes away. And the fact that you are standing over what you are cooking in the case of saute cooking, or right there as the oven item is burning away. I do know pros who use a timer because they are sooooo busy they tend to forget about certain things. I worked with a guy who was so timer-dependent that I think it drove him crazy and it definately drove me crazy. He wore this watch with 5 seperate settable alarms and it seemed like the guy beeped every other minute. So in my work kitchen I have no timer but I do have a very large readable wall clock.
 

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I normally do not go by the clock.....funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago I was asked to turn on the exhaust while cooking a multitude of food...(usually 5 meals at a time) and I came real close to burning a dish because I did not smell it! I rely on smell as much or more than my other senses.
 

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I think there is a little more to the question of time or timing your
food.We all have our internal clock that will tell a chef when a particular ingredient will be ready to plate,and we make minute adjustments throughout the evening to ensure all comes out correctly.Some chefs have a tendency to overcook food because
of flaws in timing.

Do some chefs actually use timers to help them aid in the overall
timeliness,yes absolutely,is it for a particular dish,maybe, but generally is a reminder of time remaining so the chef can put
into perspective the rest of that paricular order (this can be easily
10 or 25 dinner orders that is being prepared) That is if he really cares in bringing the product to the plate that's cooked properly,as opposed to someone
who might not find the correct doneness of food as important.
And I've eaten this kind of food at the best of restaurants.
 

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I tend to use a timer to remind me to check items that are on the back burner, as it were. It's awfully easy to get involved in a complex sauté or someting and forget that the veg need to come out of the steamer after five minutes or so.
 

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When I am grilling or sauteeing, I only go by time in the loosest sense of the word. I know that a 12oz NY strip takes approx. 7 minutes to grill (3.5 minutes per side, 1.75 minutes per hash mark). I don't time this, as I have done it 1000 times. You learn just "to know" when to flip, turn, toss, etc. There are times though, that a timer comes in handy. When you are steaming a roulade of fish, held together in plastic. There really is no way to tell when it is done, other than to time it. I also use a time for ovens and baking. Baking because it is very important to the outcome of your dish, though there are some variences. But I pretty much use a timer any time something goes into the oven, as I am infamous for forgetting things in the oven!!!!
 

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At home, just about the only things I time are pasta and cakes/cookies. And even with those -- especially the baked goods -- time is just a rough guideline. I think that's pretty much true in any case, since ingredients, ovens, and other conditions are so variable.

When I've cooked at work, if the chef said to cook something for n minutes, I would try to follow the instruction; but when you're doing several different things at once, it's hard to keep track. Some places I've worked did have timers available. But mostly, it was just "cook until done." ;)
 
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