• 3 Good-to-Know Kitchen Skills if You Are Cooking This Christmas

    Home chef mode on! Know how to organize your ref safely, read a recipe so you nail a dish, and measure ingredients like a pro.
    by Roselle Miranda .
  • 3 Good-to-Know Kitchen Skills if You Are Cooking This Christmas
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  • Cooking for the Noche Buena can be stressful because it has to be special. So whether you cook every day or this will be your first time to cook up a storm, these handy kitchen skills will help you with the pressure and stress so you can actually enjoy the festivities. 

    #1 How to organize your refrigerator safely 
    There’s a reason why chefs store food in a specific order. It is to avoid causing any food-borne illnesses caused by improper storage. So, on cooking day, make sure you organize your ref this way: top shelves store food that require little to no cooking while the lower shelves are arranged according to how high a temperature the food needs to cooked to be consumed safely. So, for example, if you're having chicken (and other poultry), which needs to be cooked to at least 165ËšF (74ËšC), it should be placed at the bottom shelf. 

    Here’s a more detailed list of how the pros organize their refrigerators to food safety standards from top to bottom (all raw food are expected to be items to be cooked on the day):

    1. Cooked food 
    2. Fruits and vegetables 
    3. Raw fish and seafood 
    4. Raw beef and pork 
    5. Raw ground meat 
    6. Raw chicken 

    If you’re using your crisper for your fruits and vegetables, which is position at the below the bottom shelves, place all raw food on a plate or tray to catch and prevent spills and drips from entering the drawers below.

    And if you really want to be an organized home chef, you will label your containers so you can practice the “First In, First Out" (FIFO) system: food that went in first should also be the first to come out, or in short, use and consume older ingredients first. 

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    How to read a recipe correctly 
    You find a recipe, buy all the ingredients, and follow it to the letter. But the dish doesn't taste as you would expect. t doesn’t work out. One reason could be that the recipe itself just doesn’t work. The other? You didn’t read the recipe correctly. If you suspect the latter, here are a few tips. 

    1. Read and review the entire recipe. 
    Don't cook yet: read the ingredients list slowly, and read and then review the procedure. This is so you know that “2 large eggs” actually means one is added to the batter, and the other is used for the egg wash or that you need to “preheat the oven” before starting on the chicken. 
    2. Note the time. How long it will take to prepare and cook? If you need to marinate the meat at least overnight, this means you can’t prepare it now, cook it immediately, and expect it to taste as it claims. 
    3. Prepare all ingredients. Also known as mise en place, this is especially important for stir fries when skipping a beat (ex. pausing while cooking to chop up a bell pepper.) can mean overcooking an ingredient. 
    4. Go in order. Recipes are listed in order of use, so mixing things up could mean a failed dish. And while recipes are guides, follow the steps as written the first time you try it to determine how it’s supposed to taste before doing it your way. 
    5. Taste, taste, taste. No matter what recipe you’re following, taste as you cook so you don’t over (or under!) season. It’s hard to fix a dish that’s been overly salted or spiced. 
    6. Finally, check for doneness. It’s dangerous to serve undercooked chicken, and it’s hard to chew overcooked beef. So, how do you know when the meat is really done? The foolproof way is to use a thermometer to check its internal temperature. For most meats, which includes pork, beef, and lamb, cook to at least 145ËšF (63ËšC), but poultry, especially chicken, should be cooked until 165ËšF (74ËšC). Note that meat will continue to cook -- and its temperature to rise another 5Ëšto 10Ëš -- even after you’ve taken it off the heat so take it out as soon as it hits the mark for perfectly cooked meats every time.  

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    How to measure dry and wet ingredients properly 
    Wet and dry ingredients vary in weight and volume. While the most accurate way is via weight, not everyone has a weighing scale. More commonly found in Pinoy households are measuring cups, a measuring jug, and measuring spoons. These are standard measurements and not interchangeable with the dining spoon or coffee mug. So dust them off, and use them for the next recipe. Here’s how:  

    • Measuring cups are best for dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, ground spices, etc). Apply the scoop and sweep method: spoon your ingredient into the cup or spoon until it overflows. Then, sweep the excess or level off the top. 
    • Measuring spoons are useful for small measurements of both dry and liquid ingredients (vanilla extract, soy sauce, vinegar, etc). Use the same method for dry ingredients as with measuring cups. For wet ingredients, pour it into the measuring spoon until the liquid reaches the top edge. 
    • Larger amounts of liquid ingredients are best measured in a measuring jug or a plastic- or glass-measuring cup that comes with a spout. To use, place on the counter, bend down until you’re eye level to the measurement needed, and pour in your ingredient. Stop once the ingredient reaches the line of measurement. 

    Roselle Miranda is the food editor of Good Housekeeping Philippines. 

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