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Don't Let Your Meat Loaf
February 24, 2012 7:26 AM   Subscribe


 
But... you're *supposed* to rest the meat!
posted by maryr at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


At Cooking Light it's our job to substitute lower-fat ingredients

So baking, in itself, is a mistake?
posted by obscurator at 7:32 AM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


#42 - You leave the pudding uncovered for mice to drown in.
posted by swift at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


I disagree with #39. The mistake is that people ruin perfectly good cookie dough by baking it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ha! I regularly break rule #1, not tasting as I go. If I'm making pasta sauce or curry or most things, really, I'll just go right on through. Brown up those onions, maybe toss in some garlic, add spices as you go and as you find them in the spice rack. Oh hey, some coriander, that'd be great! Dump a bunch in. I'll taste it at the end to calibrate salt level and make sure there aren't any big holes in the flavor, but if you're not cooking from recipes and you've made something similar before, you really don't need to taste it every two minutes.
posted by echo target at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2012


As usual, knowing when to break some of the rules (see #3 and #9) is what takes you from being a good cook to possibly a great cook.
posted by vacapinta at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ridiculous cooking mistake #467: putting your tightly-wrapped ice-cream custard out in the snow to cool down before putting in the ice-cream machine, and having a squirrel eat it on you.
posted by LN at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2012 [20 favorites]


But burnt and crinkly bacon is delicious. And most of these are mistakes new cooks/bakers make, not people with any experience.
posted by jeather at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


30. Your bacon is burnt and crinkly
...is a feature, not a mistake
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


#43 - Permitting/requiring The 10th Regiment of Foot to cook something complicated for you.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:39 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]



I cook brown rice all the time 1 cup rice, 2.25 cups water and it comes out fab! (that blob of butter doesn't hurt anything)

I am intrigued about cooking it in a lot of water and draining though. That would make clean up a breeze.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:44 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


maryr, perhaps you should read the tip again? They're advocating letting the meat rest.
posted by agentofselection at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2012


Bake the bacon my arse.
posted by biffa at 7:48 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Lumpy gravy is the best, especially with gluey mashed potatoes.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:49 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The biggest mistakeis to leave your cockatiel near the chocolate fountain.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:49 AM on February 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


I always let my pigs take a nap before I eat them.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:50 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.

#2b: You don't GET OUT all the ingredients for the entire recipe before you start cooking.

This ensures that you actually have as much sugar that you thought you did.
posted by DU at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


#43 - Posting pictures of your "creations" on FacebookTwitterG+.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:57 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


The biggest mistakeis to leave your cockatiel near the chocolate fountain.

Need. images. Now.
posted by Mchelly at 7:57 AM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


- Real chefs don't use meat thermometers (why would you poke a hole into your meat?) so not using one is not necessarily a mistake. There are other ways to test for doneness.

- Some foods benefit from being turned often (steaks, IIRC), though obviously nothing benefits from being turned too often.

- Non-pretty poached eggs could only be the result of a mistake, not a mistake in itself.

It's true that I often burn the caramel, though.
posted by kenko at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2012


Bake the bacon my arse.

Baked bacon is actually really, really good. Perfectly crispy and no splatters. Just pour the grease off into a jar after. I get excited whenever our bacon grease jar is empty because it means I have to cook more bacon.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'd actually not run into the tip for oven-baked fries, which is the only useful thing I gleaned from the article.

#43 - Posting pictures of your "creations" on FacebookTwitterG+.

Or making these your only updates, unless you're a pro blogger. Snoozefest.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2012


They're right about using a ricer for potatoes. We just got one, and wow does it make a difference. Easier than mashing too.
posted by bonehead at 8:02 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not only was that article informative, but it was very nicely laid out with the entire list of 41 items on a single page, with only one solitary banner ad at the top. Bravo.
posted by rocket88 at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2012 [30 favorites]


#10 - You overcrowd the pan

I've been having the damnedest time convincing my wife that this is a true principle. Turns out she likes soggy sauteed mushrooms.

And yet she always wonders why I cook the breakfast sausage better than her...
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bake the bacon my arse.

Eponysterical!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


And yet she always wonders why I cook the breakfast sausage better than her...

I go through the same thing with that and with heating the pan before putting the oil in. She's a chemist too, so I've done the whole "research the molecular happenings" thing but damned if she won't just toss the oil in the pan immediately when she's cooking. It's now a spite thing I think!

Bake the bacon my arse.

Have you actually tried it at home? It's great. I mean, if you've eaten bacon in a restaurant that's not a greasy spoon, you've probably had baked bacon.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:07 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, poached eggs are my kryptonite. I'm a perfectly competent cook, and even when I went through a period about ten years ago when I made eggs benedict every weekend for several months, I never made a good poached egg. I used vinegar, I poured slowly from a teacup, but they were always a mess. I gave up, I don't do poached eggs anymore, and life is better.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2012


The biggest mistakeis to leave your cockatiel near the chocolate fountain.

Here you go!
posted by inigo2 at 8:10 AM on February 24, 2012 [85 favorites]


For rice, I was actually told that some stickiness was desirable because it made the rice easier to pick up. Otherwise, you'd be eating it grain by grain, right? Maybe this only matters if you eat with chopsticks.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:11 AM on February 24, 2012


Was ready to be snarky, but there are actually some good tips. The over-softening butter thing I have unwittingly done with bread baking; makes my spontaneous "MUST BAKE NOW!" urges harder, but I'll have to try it.

This one made me snort a little though:

"Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, then level with a knife," advises Test Kitchen Director Vanessa Pruett. A dry measuring cup is one without a spout―a spout makes it difficult to level off the excess flour with the flat side of a knife. "Lightly spoon" means don’t pack it in.

The delicacy of this compared to my shoveling of a bespouted measuring cup into the flour, using the inside of the bag to level it off, is an amusing juxtaposition. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:11 AM on February 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


+1 baked bacon. It is so easy to get it exactly like you want it, and doesn't require constant attention. Also, way less messy.
posted by utsutsu at 8:13 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always let my pigs take a nap before I eat them.

Do you let them nap in a blanket?
posted by Carillon at 8:14 AM on February 24, 2012


Did anyone else notice that #6 and #39 are the same tip? Also, a great way to avoid wilted salad greens (#32) that I learned from Cooks Illustrated is to toss them with just a few drops of oil after they are rinsed and dried. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it works.
posted by TedW at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2012


Enjoyable list of mistake more than half of which I have made in the past and some I still make but will hopefully correct from now on. Thanks for an interesting post.
posted by therubettes at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, this is why I don't cook. Everyone witters on about how easy cooking is, but every recipe has all these undocumented possible errors that experienced cooks don't make, while I make every mistake every time.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you bake bacon, the leftover grease isn't already in your pan. If there isn't leftover grease in your pan, how do you make cornbread?

USE YOUR BRAIN PEOPLE.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:19 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are other ways to test for doneness.

There are no ways to test for doneness, including thermometers. I've made hamburgers I don't know how many times and every single time my wife has one, it is pink inside. Even when the thermometer reads 180 (seriously).
posted by DU at 8:19 AM on February 24, 2012


I've gotta say, buying a food scale has really changed my bread baking success rate. It's so much easier, plus you don't have to dirty a bunch of different measuring cups - just put your mixing bowl on the scale, tare it, then sprinkle in the ingredient straight from its package until you get the weight you need.
posted by Think_Long at 8:19 AM on February 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh my god. That picture of the crinkly burnt bacon? Makes me want to turn my back on 10 years of vegetarianism and run straight the the bacon shop.

Who the hell says crinkly burnt bacon is bad?!?! GTFO Cooking Light.
posted by AmandaA at 8:26 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had to check whether or not my most recent cooking disaster was represented on the list, and hooray, it came in at number 5. Roughly speaking. I didn't actually overheat the chocolate, per se...I just failed to understand that (even a single drop of) water getting into the chocolate at the wrong moment would be bad.

I'd really like to understand the chemistry of what exactly happened, at a molecular level, but I haven't been able to find one that goes much beyond an assertion that chocolate is "delicate". In any case, at the macro scale what essentially happened was that the entire mass of chocolate seized up, and turned into something with a very, very strange texture. Not rubbery, exactly. Like Play-dough mixed with sand and then left out in the sun for an hour. Only adhesive, as well.

On the plus side...I bought more chocolate and used the microwave on my second attempt, rather than double boiling, and it came out great. It turns out that homemade "Almond Joy" clones beat the real thing by a wide margin.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:27 AM on February 24, 2012


Here you go!
Whoa! Did the cockatiel survive it? How did you clean him!? That is pure crazy.
posted by Glinn at 8:29 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


- Some foods benefit from being turned often (steaks, IIRC), though obviously nothing benefits from being turned too often.

It is my understanding that if you're turning the steak more than once, you're doing it wrong. My own experimentation has borne this out, but I'm willing to listen to a compelling argument against this tactic if you'll oblige me.
posted by some loser at 8:33 AM on February 24, 2012


I'd really like to understand the chemistry of what exactly happened

Chocolate is an emulsion of fat (cocoa butter in real choc), sugar, and cocoa solids. When you add water to untempered chocolate w/o other emulsifiers like egg yolk you risk breaking the emulsion.
posted by JPD at 8:36 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd really like to understand the chemistry of what exactly happened, at a molecular level, but I haven't been able to find one that goes much beyond an assertion that chocolate is "delicate".

The one-hour Good Eats gave a quick explanation, and there's some supporting detail here.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:36 AM on February 24, 2012


My favorite has got to be people who make weird substitutions for sure. Or just not really following the recipe in general. I have had friends tell me they wish they could be better at cooking and I usually tell them start off with following basic simple recipes so you can build a foundation of what you know how to cook, blah, blah and they usually tell me following recipes doesn't work. When I press further about what they mean by that, more than half the times they are substituting ingredients for nonsensical things or not doing what the recipe tells them to do at all. But instead of chalking it up to simply not following directions they blame it on an innate inability to cook or recipes being faulty.

You also see this a lot in recipe reviews online where people give a recipe really bad reviews. Usually it goes something like:

"This recipe is TERRIBLE. It does not come out like the picture at all and the flavor is ALL WRONG. When I had to make this recipe, I didn't have milk, so I added Miracle Whip instead. I also realized I had no butter, so I had to use butter-flavored PAM. It was SO DISGUSTING."

And you just kind of sit there dumbfounded.
posted by kkokkodalk at 8:39 AM on February 24, 2012 [43 favorites]


Whoa! Did the cockatiel survive it? How did you clean him!? That is pure crazy.

Oh dear lord. I need to apologize to everyone.

I got the link to the image from reddit. But that's not what I'm apologizing for. Apparently, I just made everyone see a portion, albeit a small one, from the travesty that was Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill", and that is unacceptable. My humblest apologies.

Here's the clip. (I would recommend not reading the comments. Or even watching the video, because, well, it's from "Jack and Jill".)
posted by inigo2 at 8:40 AM on February 24, 2012


"This recipe is TERRIBLE. It does not come out like the picture at all and the flavor is ALL WRONG. When I had to make this recipe, I didn't have milk, so I added Miracle Whip instead. I also realized I had no butter, so I had to use butter-flavored PAM. It was SO DISGUSTING."

Shouldn't you just link to the AskMefi post?
posted by JPD at 8:41 AM on February 24, 2012


I started thinking, "who does this?" as i read through the list. Then I realized the answer is "I did once, now I don't."


20. You neglect the nuts you’re toasting.

This one actually appears on another NSFW commonly made mistakes list as well.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:41 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh man, this is why I don't cook. Everyone witters on about how easy cooking is, but every recipe has all these undocumented possible errors that experienced cooks don't make, while I make every mistake every time.

Here's the thing -- experienced cooks do make these mistakes too. I know I'm not supposed to use the microwave to soften butter, but I do it all the time. And yeah, my cookies melt and get flat as a result.

But the thing is -- they are still cookies, and so I do not care. This is is about what you need to fix if you want picture-perfect, blue-ribbon-quality cooking. But really, most of the time "good enough" is just fine. I mean, really -- the thing with the way the carved turkey looks? Every single family Thanksgiving I've ever had, the turkey tray always looks like the "bad" picture -- and not a single damn one of us cares because we're eating it, not looking at it. As a high school friend once observed when someone spilled one kind of food into another: "it's all going to the same place, so who cares?"

Some of the tips about burning/overcooking things do make sense, but some of the fussier bits? Feh. You're talking about something that's going to be poo within 24 hours anyway, so no need to fret too much.

(And there are ways to hack everything -- I solved my own poached-egg difficulties by getting a couple of these things, and they've come out perfect every time. You crack the egg into these things and float them in a pan of boiling water; they cook fine and look gorgeous.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on February 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


You got your CGI cockatiel in my CGI chocolate fountain!
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:49 AM on February 24, 2012


I did not actually realize how much of a difference in heating properties low-fat dairy has compared to full-fat, so I learned something today. Of course, I'm still trying to figure out how I was able to curdle full-fat sour cream in a sauce once.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2012


Good tips, but by halfway through the article I felt like I was being being subjected to a withering critique. "Your Green Veggies Turn Brown!" "You use inferior ingredients!" "You overcrowd the pan!" "You suuuuck!"
posted by usonian at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Umm, if people are having trouble with rice being too sticky, have they ever tried just rinsing the excess starch off first? It still clumps enough for chopsticks or sushi but isn't glue-y.
posted by tyllwin at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2012


Good tips, but by halfway through the article I felt like I was being being subjected to a withering critique. "Your Green Veggies Turn Brown!" "You use inferior ingredients!" "You overcrowd the pan!" "You suuuuck!"

I can see that with the inferior ingredients tip, but regardless, it's unfortunately true -- if you use crappy ingredients, your output is also gonna be crap. As for the rest, this isn't anything you wouldn't see on a standard cooking show. Didn't seem withering or condescending to me at all. Rather, seems like good advice, and I learned several things I didn't know. The hard-boiled egg tip in particular is gold.
posted by blucevalo at 9:05 AM on February 24, 2012


I know I'm not supposed to use the microwave to soften butter, but I do it all the time. And yeah, my cookies melt and get flat as a result.

I too have made pangea cookies (where they spread out together forming a giant cookie landmass you must eat directly from the pan with your husband) and although that definitely has its upsides I learned a piece of magic from Alton Brown: you can use melted butter in cookies if you want, you just have to put the dough in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour before you bake them and they don't spread at all.
posted by Kimberly at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2012 [17 favorites]


This article is remarkably accurate. Normally I hate internet lists, but this one was actually really good. Maybe I just like hearing that I'm doing things right.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:09 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


if you use crappy ingredients, your output is also gonna be crap.

That said, it's probably going to be better-quality crap in the long run than a TV dinner is...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:19 AM on February 24, 2012


I, too, think the 2-to-1 water to rice ratio is a myth, but unlike the writer, I think it's too high (for the rice I use). The key to making good rice is buying good rice; different sorts require different different amounts of water. For good-quality (expensive!) Basmati rice (the Tilda brand is very reliable in quality and taste), I us 1.5 units slated water to 1 unit rice, bring to a boil, cover (sometimes with aluminium foil) and turn the heat to the lowest setting. You do not check if the rice is done. Don't lift the cover, it's done after 20 min. Let sit for a few minutes and fluff with a fork. It never burns. Far from being risky, this is as easy to make as pasta!

Of course there are many ways to cook rice, and for some rice using lots of water and draining may actually be better (but not for good Basmati rice).
posted by faustdick at 9:24 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can see that with the inferior ingredients tip, but regardless, it's unfortunately true -- if you use crappy ingredients, your output is also gonna be crap.
And that, fundamentally, makes me think that maybe I shouldn't even bother.
posted by craichead at 9:27 AM on February 24, 2012


I like amEricas test kitchen cookbook because it is full of tips like these, and for every recipe they describe all the failed variations that they tried. sometimes I make things the wrong way, and arrive atthe same failure they described. This is a great book if you feel intimidated by cooking.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:29 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I grew up daughter of an enlisted man in the air force and we didn't have a lot of money. My mom is an amazing cook though and the wonderful meals she made out of cheap ingredients are still a comfort to me. So "crap ingredients" is a relative issue. I say, make what you like with what you have.
posted by Kimberly at 9:31 AM on February 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


There must be something wrong with this list because - with the exception on making well-done bacon for myself on purpose - I don't make any of these mistakes and am a moron.

Where is "overfill fruit pies"?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:31 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't like unitaskers much but sometimes the devices do such an awesome job and improvement over the manual approach that they deserve space on the counter. Our unitaskers are just the ice cream maker, the popcorn makers (I have an oil-based one, my partner prefers air popped) and the Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker. Man, that elephant makes AMAZING rice (and other starchy grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet, etc). So, so happy we got it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2012


kkokkodlak's comment about substitutions touches on something that is irritating not only about cooking, but in a lot of things: that disconnect between one's actions and decisions, and the end result.

Beit substituting salt for sugar and then declaring cookies as a whole to be folly, or people who complain about not being in shape, hurt themselves exercising, and then declare exercise to be ineffective, who say that spending more on shoes than a bottom rung pair of generic WalMart sneakers is a silly waste of money, since "you have to buy shoes every few months anyway"; I can't tell if it's hubris, naivety, Dunning-Kruger, or what sort of cognition makeup that stubbornly refuses to question their practices.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:35 AM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'll be in the corner eating my "so wrong bacon" while separating my eggs by using the shell to shell method.

Also different rice has different cooking methods. Japanese rice would become sad using the lots of water method (popular in the UK).
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:36 AM on February 24, 2012


#44: You don't cook because it looks hard.

Problem: People post a lot of lists on the internet making cooking look really complicated and hard, thereby creating unnecessary anxiety.

Solution: You really just need to get in the kitchen and start experimenting. Nobody's going to die if you mess up, nobody's going to judge you except yourself, so have fun and practice making things you like! Start with simple recipes (pancakes) and work your way up. It looks complicated, but it's not that complicated, and it's actually very rewarding.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:37 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


if you use crappy ingredients, your output is also gonna be crap

I don't really get this. I think it's true for a certain style of cooking - I like to call it 'reheating' - which is heavily favoured by certain cookery writers (I'm looking at you, Nigel Slater) and involves doing only very slightly more than assembling. In general, I think, the less you are going to do to something, the more important its quality is. But the real magic of cookery is surely that you can take a bunch of crap and turn it into something beautiful. Take a cake, for example. I can buy Tesco Value ingredients for everything there, though I prefer not to get my eggs from caged hens as I have non-taste-related concerns about that. I can then make a beautiful cake! I don't need artisanal flour to get a tasty result. Or let's consider a nice soup. I had one the other week that I made from some slightly wilty celery, a couple of leeks, an onion I had to cut the black bits off and half a chicken stock cube I found at the bottom of a cupboard. You will have to trust me on this, but it was delicious. I grated some slightly sweaty cheddar over it and had a lovely dinner. Real cooking is greater than the sum of its parts.
posted by Acheman at 9:38 AM on February 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


#43 - Permitting/requiring The 10th Regiment of Foot to cook something complicated for you.

There's your problem: too many cooks.
posted by Palindromedary at 9:39 AM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


So "crap ingredients" is a relative issue. I say, make what you like with what you have.

Definitely a relative issue. Crap ingredients just means crap ingredients, cheap ingredients don't necessarily have to be bad quality, and every good cook knows how to cook with what they can get. Bad cooks can make a mess out of expensive meat, oil and spices, and that's not even saying anything about thousand-dollar kitchen tools. It's all about knowing what you're doing (and doing it with confidence).

Like someone up-thread said, you can't really substitute cream for Cool Whip...but you don't have to get the organic, Whole Foods most expensive version of cream, either.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:43 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Acheman

A really strong example would be tomatoes. Off season tomatoes are just terrible. Which is why you oven roast them, or otherwise caramelize the sugars.

The article is still mostly right about ingredients, and I'd always choose the best if I had the choice, but there are a lot of ways to stretch out and salvage low quality ingredients.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:44 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The best baking mistake: The time I accidentally added way too much water to a dough and ended up having to make a quadruple batch of soft pretzels.
posted by sararah at 9:46 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


there are a lot of ways to stretch out and salvage low quality ingredients.

Yeah. One of the greatest cooking epiphanies I had was when I realized just how many of the world's "classic" dishes were based on peasant women who were just trying to use up what they had. Take bouillabasse - today you'll get recipes that insist on your using this or that particular fish, with the implication that if you don't use it, it's not the real thing. But bouillabasse got invented by the wives of fishermen in Provence, who just started the basic recipe and had it waiting and ready for when hubby came home with whatever he'd caught that day; whatever it was, it went in the pot.

Same too with all the different pasta recipes -- someone somewhere was hungry, they wanted something to serve over their pasta. They took a look at what they had in the house, figured out something to do with it, there it was. And jambalaya -- I am convinced that so long as you have the basic rice/tomatoes/pepper/onion/broth component going, whatever else you put in can be determined by "what cooked meat do I have in the fridge that needs using up".

Every cook has found a way to stretch what they had and make use of it. Of course your stock will be a bit better if you use 100% fresh vegetables, but if you use the carrots and celery from the fridge that have started to wilt a bit, that's still going to be good. So long as you don't use anything that is actually rotting, you're going to still come up with something decent.

(Honestly, if I get really good quality ingredients -- like a really good fish or really good meat -- I'm going to do as little as possible with it anyway to taste it how it is. Whats the point of getting grass-fed beef if you're going to muck it up with a bunch of other complicated flavors?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on February 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just pour the grease off into a jar after. I get excited whenever our bacon grease jar is empty because it means I have to cook more bacon. - curious because I love the oven-baking method...any particular kind of jar, and what exactly do you do with the grease?

FWIW, I don't find it necessary to put the bacon on a wire rack, and I always turn the whole pan once.

seanmpuckett, is the fuzzy logic really that awesome? I'm thinking about getting a rice cooker after ruining a batch of rice this week. (I have NO idea what went wrong, did exactly what I usually do, and it turned out half overdone and half raw. WTF?) And I've heard good things about Zojirushi, but wow that's expensive!
posted by epersonae at 10:07 AM on February 24, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I used the two cups of broth from leftover takeout pho in the rice cooker (with a cup of rice). Came out great. Had the idea from substituting basic chicken broth for the water before.

Experimentation, especially founded on earlier new ideas, is great in cooking. Not so much baking, but that's another show. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2012


My mother used to save the pan drippings from cooking bacon. I never did figure out what the hell she did with it afterwards.. Maybe I should ask her? She grew up during the depression though so this was I think a habit she learned from her own mother.
posted by some loser at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2012


Most of this is good, but the rice one is just wrongness squared. Rice cooked in too much water will come out wet and less flavorful. It's true that water-to-rice ratios vary with different rice grains and you'll need to experiment a little and know your rice. But the absorption method done properly does not lead to sticky rice. It leads to fluffy, flavorful, dry rice.
posted by yoink at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2012


I never did figure out what the hell she did with it afterwards..

I seem to remember my grandma and great-grandma always saved the bacon drippings in a mason jar covered with a bit of foil. That got used for any number of things, but I especially remember you'd spoon a bit of fat into the skillet making eggs or gravy the next morning. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:16 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some loser: bacon grease/dripping sometimes gets used in place of butter or oil if you're frying something and you want a hint of bacon flavor (i.e., if you're making an omlette, you could use a dab of the bacon dripping in place of the butter in the pan). I've also used bacon dripping in place of oil when I've made stovetop popcorn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:17 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In general, I think, the less you are going to do to something, the more important its quality is.

QFT!

This is why I can cook some really fancy looking/tasting stuff and costs next to nothing.

I think my favorite and most basic example is salt. My in-laws a both a pepper grinder and a salt grinder. They're normally pretty cheap so this is pretty fancy for them and they think it's pretty cool. The salt is is just big crystalized chunks not kosher salt or sea salt or anything.

I get that in some cases (seasoning steaks) the slightly larger crystals can supposedly make a difference but my FIL will tell my MIL to use the "fancy salt" even in stuff where the salt will dissolve. It's all NaCL dammit!

Ingredient quality will make a difference in some things. Sugar doesn't matter, flour can. It isn't so much a quality issue as it is gluten content (cake vs. bread. vs. all-purpose flour). Most veggies don't really matter as long as they're fresh but tomatoes will make a big difference to sauces. A lot of it is experimenting with stuff you make often to see which ingredients make a difference.
posted by VTX at 10:23 AM on February 24, 2012



My mother used to save the pan drippings from cooking bacon. I never did figure out what the hell she did with it afterwards.. Maybe I should ask her? She grew up during the depression though so this was I think a habit she learned from her own mother.


What don't you do with bacon drippings?
Fry with it, give edge to your sauces, flavor vegetables, grease pans. Any time you need a (relatively low smoke point) oil or want delicious bacon flavor. I can't believe I had to explain that. :)
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


epersonae: we got the littlest 3 cup Zojirushi cooker on sale for a hundred from Amazon, it was a very considered purchase for us as we're frugal. As long as one selects the correct rice setting for what's going in and put in the called for amount of water, it will always be perfect. And one doesn't have to watch it. In fact, one doesn't even have to be awake or at home. The best bit about it is the timer: dump rice and water in the morning, come home to perfect rice. Or put it up at night and have fresh sticky rice for packing bento at dawn. It's done for us black glutinous rice, sushi rice, basmati and calrose all perfectly, and does a nice rice porridge too, as well as the starchy hipster grains (which do require some at-home recipe tweaking for amounts of water). So, yeah, if rice/grains is significant part of your diet, it's worth it. (Cleaning it is easy too, it's never burned, and the pot is non-stick.) Sales pitch over!
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I second the japanese rice maker comment... I buy no-rinse rice (they just started selling it in our regular grocery store) and it takes literally 30 seconds to start the rice, and it stays warm until we need it.

9. You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.

This one is strange... they tell you how to somewhat accurately measure flour by volume, but the picture shows measuring by weight, which is by far the more accurate way, and most recipes I use specify weight.

As an aside, when I taught second grade we had district math tests that we gave the students three times a year, and one of the questions was "How would you measure flour when you're making a cake?" The choices included cups and ounces... the "correct" answer was cups. So basically they wanted me to teach my students that weighing was the wrong way to measure flour. I actually taught them that most bakers use weight, but most people who write tests use cups.
posted by Huck500 at 10:30 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I made soap with bacon drippings and olive oil. Like twenty pounds of it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:30 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


5. You overheat chocolate.

I did this last time I made chocolate-covered roasted garlic. I'm mentioning this mostly because I like talking about chocolate-covered roasted garlic.

20. You neglect the nuts you’re toasting.

One of my mother's Christmas cookie recipes calls for toasted walnuts. For years it was traditional to burn the first batch, and then have someone stand over the oven and watch the second batch very carefully to make sure they didn't burn.

Then we decided to have someone treat the first batch like it was the second batch.

Finally we discovered that you can toast walnuts in a dry skillet.

I made soap with bacon drippings and olive oil. Like twenty pounds of it.

I thought this said "soup".
posted by madcaptenor at 10:35 AM on February 24, 2012


any particular kind of jar, and what exactly do you do with the grease?

What Stagger Lee said. There are almost no recipes where substituting a couple of teaspoons of bacon fat for any other fat wouldn't be an improvement.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:39 AM on February 24, 2012


Great list though I would dispute or amend a few of them.

Previously mentioned was the issue of not turning a protein more than once. There's a picture in the Modernist Cuisine cookbook of a cross-section of a steak that's been turned once and one that's been turned several times. The one turned once is similar to the picture of the roast in tip #23 with the bull's eye effect while the other one has a more evenly distributed gradient of color. It makes sense because frequent turning distributes heat more evenly and you still get a nice crust on it. Regarding the issue of food sticking to the pan, if it's hot enough it shouldn't stick.

Tip #9-casual measuring-is more true for baking and "modernist" cooking than typical home-style cooking. Of course it helps to have experience before cooking that way.

Tip #11-separate eggs by hand- the shell cuts through the white way more easily plus if the yolk breaks it's more contained, less chance of contaminating the bowl of whites(though I love how the best tool for getting out specks of yolk is the shell itself.)

Tip #16 meat thermometers are notoriously inaccurate. The thermapen is the only one I even remotely have confidence in.

Tip #18 adding a pinch of baking soda is a great way to accelerate caramelizing onions.

Tip #20 don't toast nuts at 350. 325 is much better. More even toasting, less chance of burning.

Tip #25 so true. Although a good cook can usually make something good with whatever is on hand there are limits to what's possible. It is very difficult to make something old/overly processed taste good. More often than not, cheap ingredients ruin a dish.

Tip #26. There are so many different opinions about how to poach eggs. My .02, bring deep water to a boil then turn heat down as low as it can go, no vinegar, crack egg into ramekin(or slotted spoon to drain thin white if you want to get fancy), swirl water, gently place egg in the eye of the vortex, cover, check after 3 min., should be done before 4 min depending on how cooked you like the yolk. Check out onsen eggs for the next level of delicious soft egg cookery.

Tip #28 russets don't get nearly as gluey as new spuds. I've put them in the kitchenaid mixer with the paddle for a long time without any problem.

Tip #34 my issue with starting eggs in cold water is you have to keep an eye on when the water comes to a boil. Sure, set a timer to remind you to check but cold eggs in near boiling water for exactly 14 minutes then shocked in cold water works every time. Very few eggs will crack when added to the hot water.

Tip #36 as some have mentioned already, there are too many different kinds of rice for there to be only one fool-proof cooking method. Check out the Persian method of parboiling rice then putting it back in the pot after straining out the water to create the amazing crust known as Tahdig.
posted by umamiman at 10:50 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still have the spun aluminum canister my mom collected bacon grease in. Black bakelite lid, strainer on top, embossed "GREASE" label on the front. In addition to the aforementioned uses, bacon grease is essential for really excellent cornbread. As is a very hot cast-iron skillet. As is NO SUGAR. NONE, ZIP, NIL. Cornbread isn't supposed to be sweet, people! You're thinking of muffins, which are a TOTALLY DIFFERENT thing! Don't say you've got cornbread and give me a goddamn muffin!

(Yankee kids, dirt "lawn" with bottle tree and busted Maytag, etc.)
posted by dogrose at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah. One of the greatest cooking epiphanies I had was when I realized just how many of the world's "classic" dishes were based on peasant women who were just trying to use up what they had. Take bouillabasse - today you'll get recipes that insist on your using this or that particular fish, with the implication that if you don't use it, it's not the real thing. But bouillabasse got invented by the wives of fishermen in Provence, who just started the basic recipe and had it waiting and ready for when hubby came home with whatever he'd caught that day; whatever it was, it went in the pot.

Yeah, but they probably had access to delicious fresh fish and tomatoes -- high-quality ingredients! Peasant food can be high quality (shellfhish and lobster used to be considered peasant food, and are now delicacies). European peasant food especially is almost certainly more high quality than the average US crap ... In my experience, average/poor/student folks in Europe tend to value food more anyway, so they're willing to splurge for special events and go for the highest quality.

I think the key is to know when top-quality ingredients matter, and to know when they don't. So you can buy cheap cuts of beef if you know what to do with them, but get good real butter and olive oil and bread. Canned beans & tomatoes are just fine, but spend a little more on your fresh fruit and veggies.
posted by yarly at 11:01 AM on February 24, 2012


I used to agonize over rice until I learned to cook it the Brazilian way--saute onions in olive oil; when they turn translucent add minced garlic and your uncooked rice and saute for a couple of minutes until the rice gets all toasty-like; then add water, covering the rice and maybe about an inch more. Let it boil. Don't cover it. If there's too much water you can drain it at the end. If the water is boiling off and the rice isn't done yet, add more water. It's no biggie.

Other rices I'll do in the rice cooker but "everyday" rice is stovetop for me! (Oooh, and if you add some grated carrots when you're sauteing it's delish!)
posted by wallaby at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't really get this. I think it's true for a certain style of cooking - I like to call it 'reheating' - which is heavily favoured by certain cookery writers (I'm looking at you, Nigel Slater) and involves doing only very slightly more than assembling. In general, I think, the less you are going to do to something, the more important its quality is. But the real magic of cookery is surely that you can take a bunch of crap and turn it into something beautiful. Take a cake, for example. I can buy Tesco Value ingredients for everything there, though I prefer not to get my eggs from caged hens as I have non-taste-related concerns about that. I can then make a beautiful cake! I don't need artisanal flour to get a tasty result. Or let's consider a nice soup. I had one the other week that I made from some slightly wilty celery, a couple of leeks, an onion I had to cut the black bits off and half a chicken stock cube I found at the bottom of a cupboard. You will have to trust me on this, but it was delicious. I grated some slightly sweaty cheddar over it and had a lovely dinner. Real cooking is greater than the sum of its parts.

I think the point to draw from this isn't "Ingredients don't matter for most types of cooking" but rather "Cooking from scratch with slightly off ingredients is still better and cheaper than most pre-prepped food" but it doesn't follow that ingredients are overhyped.

Like your chicken soup example - there is no way you couldn't taste the difference between your bouillon cube and actual homemade stock as an ingredient. Or in your cake example - using high quality butter in the frosting rather than mediocre butter or even shortening.
posted by JPD at 11:14 AM on February 24, 2012


Yeah, but they probably had access to delicious fresh fish and tomatoes -- high-quality ingredients!

I think we're getting back to the argument that "it depends what your definition of 'crap' is." You don't necessarily need to get the imported $7 butter and the artisinal heirloom tomatoes from Whole Foods, is my point, and if you get regular Heckers' flour rather than King Arthur your bread will not explode or turn into a sludge that will kill you in your sleep.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:15 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thermapen is the only one I even remotely have confidence in.

The Thermapen is almost too accurate. I have lots of trouble with it, especially on the grill, since after flipping meats they start to cool off on the side away from the heat. So I still think things are underdone since it's reading low on the top side. Or I poke something in 10 places to make sure that it's evenly cooked.
posted by hwyengr at 11:23 AM on February 24, 2012


Er, some of these are less mistakes and more "this is how classically trained European chefs do things." Especially the rice, butter, and bacon ones.

More important than anything is to learn what goes on when you cook and how your changes effect things. Shirley Corriher's and Sally Schneider's books are great places to start for this, also Cooks Illustrated magazine, which is much about how they came up with the recipe as it is the recipe itself.

What Stagger Lee said. There are almost no recipes where substituting a couple of teaspoons of bacon fat for any other fat wouldn't be an improvement.


Well... you have to be careful. It's got a different smoke point than say Canola oil or EVOO, I can't find which book I've got it in, but if I remember correctly it's around the same place as butter (it's got more impurities than lard), so not as good for high temperature pan frying. I've found you should use less bacon grease than butter to grease the tin for pop-overs (or is it Yorkshire Pudding with bacon grease?). It has more fat and less water than butter, so that can be a problem for baked goods. Also, stick to olive oil for baked potatoes, if you want smokey flavor, soak some ham\other smoked meat (I do this with smoked heart all the time) in the olive oil for 15-20 min (depending on the ham), then fry that up in little crispy pieces to top the potato (instead of bacon).

Now Goose-fat, there's a beautiful fat.

So you can buy cheap cuts of beef if you know what to do with them,


To be fair, cheap cuts can be good quality beef, and expensive cuts can be so-so. The relative price of the cuts is a product of how much of the cut there is per cow and demand.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


if you get regular Heckers' flour rather than King Arthur your bread will not explode or turn into a sludge that will kill you in your sleep.

Speak for yourself!

(I got better.)
posted by yoink at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, cheap cuts can be good quality beef, and expensive cuts can be so-so. The relative price of the cuts is a product of how much of the cut there is per cow and demand.

Certainly this varies by part of the world too and what is appreciated. When I moved to the UK, I was stunned that pork belly is a cheap cut. But then I also love cheeks and livers which can be sublime and are usually under-appreciated I think.

And, yes, duck fat and goose fat. Great for cooking.
posted by vacapinta at 11:33 AM on February 24, 2012


Hey I mentioned the smoke point. :)
But yeah, given a choice I'd probably drown myself in goose fat.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2012


You don't necessarily need to get the imported $7 butter

They'll pry my $7 European imported cultured butter out of my cold dead hands!
posted by yarly at 11:52 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In general, the connection between price and quality when it comes to food is tenuous at best. The best tomatoes in the world are the ones from the farmer's market at the height of the season and they are cheap, cheap, cheap. Vegetables and fruits in season and locally grown are usually going to be both cheaper and better. The cheap cuts of beef are the ones that you use to make things like fantastic tacos; expensive cuts like tenderloin are nice and tender, but don't have much flavor.

You have to experiment to know how and where to spend your food dollars.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:54 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey I mentioned the smoke point. :)
But yeah, given a choice I'd probably drown myself in goose fat.


Sorry, I missed that.

One of my favorite recipes (from this appropriately titled book) starts with sauteing bacon, onions, and garlic in goose fat.You add it to soups for making them richer (great for tomato soup).
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2012


The best tomatoes in the world are the ones from the farmer's market at the height of the season and they are cheap, cheap, cheap. Vegetables and fruits in season and locally grown are usually going to be both cheaper and better.
Ok, but I live in the upper Midwest, and I'd get crazy constipated between November and April if I only ate vegetables and fruits that were locally grown and in season.
posted by craichead at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Count me among the ready to snark people who learnt something from this article.
I've been a cook, and obviously I can still cook a meal for 300 people anytime. I think it is worth remembering that all great cuisines came out of local and seasonal produce, and were created under what we would call primitive conditions.
posted by mumimor at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have somehow managed to do all of these things during the same meal.


(I'm a good cook NOW, but it was all trial and error and BOY did that take a long time.)
posted by The Whelk at 12:46 PM on February 24, 2012


Now Goose-fat, there's a beautiful fat

Duck/Goose fat is the closest thing to a WIZARD SPELL in the cooking world for the amount of flavor it imparts vs. the effort it takes to collect.
posted by The Whelk at 1:03 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like how this article assumes I am serving food to other people and not just eating it directly out of the pot while sitting on the couch in my underwears.
posted by elizardbits at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


You have to make enough for two, set two table settings, open two bottles of wine, and then sit down, serve two meals and make conversation with the radio. After you've finished your meal, you collect the uneaten other portion off the plate, put it in tuperware, and then clear the table.

DO this for ten years or until they find your cat-eaten corpse sprawled out over the dinner table.
posted by The Whelk at 1:53 PM on February 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the greatest cooking epiphanies I had was when I realized just how many of the world's "classic" dishes were based on peasant women who were just trying to use up what they had.

Yeabuddy. "Menudo" literally translates to "small change". So yeah, leftovers.
posted by lysdexic at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2012


I never did figure out what the hell she did with it afterwards.

My grandmother used it to get her dogs to eat their pills.

As for tip one. Make sure you use a clean spoon every time.

I still make that mistake of not reading ahead. Just last week I didn't see the last step of a Lamb Shanks en Papillote was 2.5 hours in the oven. I ate at 9pm instead of 6:30pm.

One tip they missed. Keep your station clean, and clean as you go.

Onion need to soften for 8 minutes? Clean the bowls and put the flour jar back.
Meat need to brown for 3 minutes per side? Sanitize the cutting board, start soaking the whisk.

Your station is a reflection of your state of mind. A messy counter is a messy mind.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:38 PM on February 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wow, every one of these is useful and illuminating. Great post.
posted by zardoz at 6:32 PM on February 24, 2012


After 29 years of arguing that a rice cooker was just a space waster, my husband bought one.

Two words people: RICE. COOKER. Toss it in, walk away and ignore it. Fantastic rice, every time.



Metafilter: something that's going to be poo within 24 hours anyway
posted by BlueHorse at 8:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


#42 - You leave the pudding uncovered for mice to drown in.
posted by swift at 10:33 AM on February 24


It was the sauce for the pudding, and only one mouse. And she never did it again!
posted by jb at 9:57 PM on February 24, 2012


It was the sauce for the pudding, and only one mouse. And she never did it again!

That poor mouse.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:10 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to admit my pro-fat snobbery made me snark and go "many of these problems can be alleviated by just leaving the fat in! If you're so darn worried about health, consume smaller portions rather than eating unsatisfying low fat food! You'll want less if you can taste the full range of the flavour, rather than sad little cellulose sponges."

But I am aware this is kinda like the eccentricities of any other culture specific diet, so I shall hurf durf butter eater over here. /mutters

On the other hand I intentionally 'bulls eye' my meat. I'll even throw it on the grill when I can feel it's still very could in the middle- my point being to sterilize the outside and kill the things that might make me sick, but otherwise eat as close to raw as humanly possible.

You know what makes alarmingly good poached egg? Ramen. I usually doctor mine (half the spice packet, bits of my own seaweed and frozen veggies) and I crack an egg straight into the boiling water after adding the seaweed. Initially I was stirring the egg in, but I stopped doing it, and while sometimes it gets tentacles, usually if I work fast I get a spice infused, soft egg lump.
posted by Phalene at 10:10 PM on February 24, 2012


yeah - I do roast beef at 475 for 15 minutes, then turn it down. Burnt on the outside, raw-ish on the inside, yum!
posted by jb at 10:14 PM on February 24, 2012


That poor mouse.

Ah, but what a way to go!

Reminds me of that juice ad (I forget what brand) that asks if youir kids would go swimming in a vat of high fructose corn syrup. The answer is, given the chance, OF COURSE they would.
posted by maryr at 8:04 AM on February 25, 2012


James Barber's "The Urban Peasant" is the cookbook all noobs need.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2012


Regarding crap ingredients leading to crap dishes... my mom was once "hired" to make my cousin's wedding cake. My super-cheap aunt bought all generic cake mix. The layers started falling apart when my mom tried to stack them and she had to go out and buy name-brand mixes. But some people just don't learn. We sent her daughter to the store to buy some brand-name Cool Whip. Despite the fact that it wasn't her money, it was my mom's, and she was careful to specify 3 or 4 times COOL-WHIP BRAND WHIPPED CREAM, she came back with the cheapest stuff on the shelf.

agentofselection: "maryr, perhaps you should read the tip again? They're advocating letting the meat rest."

I think she was referring to the thread title.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:36 PM on February 25, 2012


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