More Tao of Cooking….

By: Craig Munhall, Executive Chef
For this cooking subject – The Tao is time.  Common question:  “how long does it take to cook?” Like you have a roast beef and you want to cook it in the oven.  The first question would be what temperature to set the oven on.  But the second question would be, how long will it take?  After you have your answer, has the item ever been over or under cooked?  You followed the directions but it didn’t come out right? Well what’s up with that? There are many different variables that go into applying heat to food.  Almost all heating sources vary to some degree.  Even elevation/altitude can have an effect on cooking times (and how far a baseball travels – but that’s another subject).  Because of these variables in a professional kitchen you will often hear things like “cook it till it’s done” , or my favorite, when someone says “How long should I cook this?” and the chef says, “till it’s ready”.   This is the Tao of cooking that every chef adheres to.  We cannot say that something will take x amount of time to cook.  What we WILL say is something like check it in 20 minutes or take the temperature in an hour.  Approximations in time are something that we learn through experience.  When we don’t take this fluid approach thinner cuts of meat get overcooked and larger ones are rare, sauces and stocks don’t have the right consistency and flavor.  Just as important as how long – is when to stop.  For things like stocks and sauces, vegetables, and baking there is a need to arrest the cooking at the correct time.  Again, the food will tell you when it’s ready (and your thermometer will confirm).  You cannot blindly go on time, you need to pay attention to the food and care of it.

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