February 22, 2012
Sherri Meyer, MG Registered Dietitian,
We are finally ending a long kitchen renovation that began in July. Though we were fortunate to have a “spare” kitchen; I didn’t partake in any type of gourmet cooking while housed down in our basement. I fear my cooking skills may be a little rusty & these cooking tips from Eating Well came at the perfect time. I didn’t include all of them, just the “bad cooking habits” I thought most relevant. Happy Cooking!
1. Heating Oil Until It Smokes – Most recipes start with heating oil in a pan. It usually takes a little time for the stove to warm up, so we pour the oil and then turn our backs on the pan to do something else while it heats. Before you know it, you see wisps of smoke, which means the pan is hot and ready for cooking, right? Wrong! Not only do many oils taste bad once they have been heated to or past their smoke point, but when oils are heated to their smoke point or reheated repeatedly, they start to break down, destroying the oil’s beneficial antioxidants and forming harmful compounds. However, an oil’s smoke point is really a temperature range (olive oil’s is between 365° and 420°F), not an absolute number, because many factors affect the chemical properties of oil. You can safely and healthfully cook with any oil by not heating it until it’s smoking—to get your oil hot enough to cook with, just heat it until it shimmers.
2. Stirring Your Food Too Much – It’s tempting to stir your food constantly to prevent burning, but stirring too much can be a bad thing. It prevents browning—a flavor booster you get by letting your food sit on a hot surface—and it breaks food apart, making your meal mushy. Resist the urge to stir constantly unless the recipe specifically tells you to do so.
3. Overfilling Your Pan – Sometimes cooking requires a little patience. It may be faster to fill your pan to the brim with ingredients, but doing that can actually slow cooking and give you a big pile of mush at the end. If you want to sauté, filling your pan too full will cause your food to steam and not give you the crispy results you are looking for. The same goes for cooking meat. Shoving too much meat in the pan lowers the temperature of the pan too quickly, which can cause sticking and a whole host of other problems. Your best bet is to cook in batches. The extra time you put into it will make your meal much better.
4. Using Nonstick Pans on High Heat – Turn down the heat when using nonstick pans. High temperatures can cause the nonstick lining to release PFCs (perfluorocarbons) in the form of fumes. PFCs are linked to liver damage and developmental problems. Check with your pan manufacturer to see what temperatures they recommend.
5. Using Metal Utensils on Nonstick Pans — Using metal utensils in a nonstick pan is not a good idea. You can inadvertently scratch the surface of the pan, which could lead you to ingest the PFCs in the nonstick lining. Use wooden or heat-safe rubber utensils when using nonstick pans.
6. Overmixing Batter – When you’re making batter for baking (or anything with large amounts of flour) you want everything to be well combined. And to combine, you mix. But too much mixing isn’t good. The mechanical action of the mixing causes gluten to form in the flour, making baked goods tough. So gently mix until the batter is uniform, then put down your mixer.
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