HomeFoodCooking secrets and terrible advice

Cooking secrets and terrible advice

You’ve followed the recipe like a forensic scientist but the outcome is still a bit lame. What’s going wrong?

Well, many professional recipes often assume a certain level of competence or don’t translate well across countries. I even read somewhere that chefs won’t give you all the steps or ingredients in their recipes, so you can’t make it at home to their level. Nasty.

Here are some secrets to getting the best out of your cooking.

Measure for measure

Australian tablespoon measurements are bigger than the rest of the world. Australian tablespoons are the equivalent of 20ml or four teaspoons. In New Zealand, the US and the UK a tablespoon is only 15ml or three teaspoons. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can radically change a recipe if you are, for example, using six tablespoons.

Try to use recipes with weighted measurements if you are finding it hard to convert. Doing sums in your head is less than ideal when you are up to your elbows in the cake batter.

Also, an Australian tablespoon is not a dessert spoon, which is what you have probably been using. It’s two level dessert spoons.

Flour power

When a recipe calls for ‘seasoned’ flour, that simply means you put salt and pepper into the flour to your taste. Of course, many of the older generation knew that already, but you’d be surprised how many don’t.

Test your oven

It’s a good idea to test where the hottest parts of your oven are. Cook up a batch of biscuits and check out where they brown the quickest. It seems like a small thing, but it can be a time saver if you are cooking a few different things that require different cooking times.   

Eggcellent tip

Eggs keep cooking way after you remove them from the heat. If you require the perfect boiled or scrambled egg, or even a non-rubbery quiche, you need to take that into account.

A lot of people seem tightly wound about how they like their eggs, so I’m not going to weigh in anymore on what’s the right way to cook an egg.

Mussel man

One urban myth or old wives’ tale, I’m never quite sure, had it that if your mussels didn’t open, they had been dead too long and to chuck them out.

Not so. It’s perfectly fine to eat them. They are just the Arnold Schwarzenegger of mussels and have particularly strong adductor muscles (that’s the thing that closes mussels).

The only reason you shouldn’t eat closed mussels is you usually have to pry them open with a knife and that’s annoying.  

Feeling salty

Once upon a time you needed to salt eggplant to draw out the bitterness. These days, eggplants are being bred for better taste and it is no longer required, but even so many modern recipes don’t reflect the change.

Still, salting eggplant has its place. It will draw out a lot of fluid and make a much crispier vegetable if you are frying it.

Timing is everything

Preparation time will almost always be longer than the recipe recommends, especially if you are cooking a recipe for the first time. 

You are matching your skills against professional cooks and recipe writers, so you are probably going to lose. Don’t get too antsy in matching these ‘quick and easy’ recipe times; you are only setting yourself up for disappointment.

Garlic guidance

Don’t add garlic too early. Too often I see recipes that say to start cooking the onion and garlic together or cook the garlic first. Don’t do that. Garlic turns bitter if it’s cooked too long.

It can take up to half an hour to cook onions, while garlic takes a matter of minutes.

Try to put garlic in at the latest point you can for the strongest flavour.

Wine no-no

Too often recipes recommend that you only cook with wine you would drink. I guarantee you would not be able to spot a Grange from a $10 discount delight in your next Bolognese.

I have a recipe for poached pears that requires two litres of wine. I am absolutely not going to drain three good bottles of wine for that. I’ll let you in on a little secret – I use cask wine and no-one has noticed. Once I have added all the sugar and flavourings, the wine’s taste profile is well and truly obliterated and I’m okay with that. 

You have my permission to use whatever wine is on hand.

Do you have a cooking tip that changed your culinary skills? Why not share it in the comments section below?

Also read: How to improve your fried rice game

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


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