Tag Archives: cooking at home

Recipe Cooking Times Can Be Deceiving!

cooking times

Often, they’re just a suggestion.

Recipe writers can’t always be quite as precise as they’d prefer when they list cooking times in a recipe.  So many variables enter into the equation.

This Spring, a friend’s daughter was making her first brisket for a dinner party.  She had preheated her oven, browned the meat on both sides, added all the ingredients to the roasting pan and then carefully put it in her oven for the listed 2 hours of cooking time.

She called me in a panic at the 2-hour mark – she had placed the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the brisket and the temp on the thermometer was correct.  But to her horror, the meat still appeared a bit pink (brisket is cooked all the way through) and it wasn’t tender at all!  She had eaten brisket many times at other friends’ homes and it was ALWAYS fork tender.  Hers was tough.  She was almost in tears and she couldn’t understand what she’d done wrong.

I calmed her down, told her that she’d done nothing wrong and then, because I’ve cooked more brisket than I’d care to think about, gave her this advice: ignore the cooking time and meat temp and put it back in the oven until a long-tined fork goes into the thickest part of the brisket with the greatest of ease.  Then, and only then, it would be cooked perfectly.  She needed to cook to the indicator – tenderness – not the time in the recipe.  Needless to say, her brisket was a success.

Here’s a good rule to follow:  Always cook to the indicator and not the time on the recipe.  The listed time is basically a suggestion unless you’re talking about how long to boil eggs and then it’s quite specific!

Recipes will always tell you what something is supposed to look or feel like.  It might be ‘cook until the skin is crispy and brown’ or, ‘when the spices start to stick to the bottom of the pan’ or, as in my favorite salmon recipe, ‘until the color has changed half to two-thirds the way up side of the filet and the skin releases completely from the pan’.

The reason you can’t go by an exact time on most recipes is because kitchens vary.  The oven temperature could be ‘off’ (even though you set your oven temp to what is in the recipe that doesn’t mean that your oven and the recipe writer’s oven are calibrated the same), the moisture in the air can be different from your kitchen to theirs, the material of your pan can be different from the writer’s, or any other number of small differences that can all add up to the listed cooking time in a recipe being not quite right to get the hoped for result.  Medium on an electric range is completely different than medium on a gas range.

So, remember, the cook times to achieve a ‘doneness’ are suggestions (we all taste pasta while it’s cooking, don’t we?).  If after the suggested cook time has expired and it still doesn’t look like what it’s supposed to – keep cooking.  Remember my brisket story.

If you remember this tip, pay attention to the process and don’t blindly follow the cook time on a recipe, you will have a much better result.  Patience!

Recipe for the Perfect Poached Egg

the Perfect Poached Egg

The mystery of poaching eggs is lifted.

I love poached eggs. My mom and dad used to have them with toast just about every Sunday morning. It’s a fond food memory for me.

I think more people would eat them at home were it not for all the mystery of how to actually make a perfect poached egg (and that most people think it’s almost impossible!). Ask a dozen people and you will get a dozen answers. The problem is a lot of people are just guessing and the reality is, there’s no real “recipe” for the perfect poached egg. It’s like boiling potatoes – you either do it this way or that.

I found this idea from Epicurious.com. They call it their “foolproof” method, and I have to agree. It’s so simple and works every time. Check my video to see how easy this is.

  1. First step, pour water into a large wide pan. Add salt to the water. I use Kosher salt because it’s not as salty tasting as table salt and it helps the white of the egg set a bit firmer.
  2. Heat up the pan of water—bring it to the point where there are small bubbles on the bottom of the pan. You want it not quite simmering – definitely not with any water movement. If the water is moving, the turbulence in the pan will throw wispy whites everywhere and, I don’t know about you but, I don’t want that.
  3. Hold a fine mesh spider (sieve) over a bowl and crack an egg into the spider. Tip- the fresher the egg the better it will hold together.  Let the looser part of the whites drain off. This will remove most of those unwanted wispy whites that you can get when you poach the other way (e.g., drop the egg into a pan of near boiling water). Scrape the bottom of the spider on the edge of the bowl to remove as much of the loose whites as possible.
  4. Gently lower the spider into the pan of water until the entire egg is submerged, but keep the egg on the spider.
  5. Set your timer to 3 ½ minutes. This will give you a perfectly runny yolk with whites that are tender soft, but firmly set. A little tip: as the whites start to set, gently scrape the white toward the yolk with a spoon to keep the egg loose so that it doesn’t stick to the spider.
  6. At about the 1 minute mark when you can really see that the white is setting up, GENTLY slide the egg off the spider so that it is fully immersed into your hot but not bubbling water. Gently move the egg around a couple of times with a slotted spoon as it cooks so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If the water is hot enough, it shouldn’t stick, but sometimes it does.
  7. When the timer goes off, lift your poached egg out of the pan with your slotted spoon and let the water drain away. If you want your egg to be free of water, carefully and briefly place it on a paper towel before serving. You’ll want it fairly dry it if you plan to serve your poached egg over toast.

A few serving tips. For one or two servings, take your dried/drained egg and place it on a SLIGHTLY oiled plate and hold it there to wait for another egg before moving it to a serving plate or toast.  Cooking for a crowd? Take your cooked egg straight from the pan and place immediately into a bowl with iced water (an ice bath) to hold until you’ve cooked all the eggs you need. You can keep cooked poached eggs in the ice water in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

To reheat your refrigerated eggs later, simply put hot tap water (as hot as your tap gets) into a bowl, transfer the eggs from the ice water into the hot tap water and let them sit for about 2 minutes.  They won’t cook more and will be warm for serving.

And now, you can enjoy perfectly poached eggs any time!