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Al on Kitchen Tips

Hi,
  1.     When you're fat-frying (deep or shallow - it doesn't work well just for pan-frying), and you don't have a thermometer to check the heat of the cooking oil, drop a little cube of white bread into the cooking oil.
        If it just lays there, it's still too cool. If it blackens at the edges quickly, it's too hot. If it sizzles nicely, the temperature is about right.
        This is superior to the, "drops of water," test because it doesn't spatter hot oil all over, and the bread can be removed easily once the cooking starts.
        It's also a good way to get rid of white bread.

  2.     When you buy dry foods (grain, flower, beans, etc.) from the store's bulk bins, seal it tightly in its final storage container, put that container into a plastic bag (to prevent the container from picking up freezer funk) then put it into the freezer overnight to ease the tiny livestock that (probably) infest the stuff on to the next plane of existence.
        Eight hours at well below freezing should do the trick!

  3.     When deglazing a pan, do not pour the liquid into the hot pan IN THE MIDDLE! Pour it in from the EDGE of the pan!
        This will prevent thermal shock to the pan, stretching the metal of the bottom of the pan, forming a bulge in the pan that makes it impossible to get it to lay flat on a burner, ever again!
        This was a particularly painfully and hard-won lesson I hope you never have to repeat.

  4.     When making a traditional American, "French toast," two big pinches of sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract for every two eggs will make people say, "Damn! This is good!! What did you DO to it?!?!?"

  5.      If you are reduced to using table salt when you pan sear meat (we ALL know that we should use KOSHER SALT for this, right?) salt the PAN instead of the MEAT, so you know exactly how much salt you have per square inch.
        If you're using a bright stainless steel pan instead of cast iron or Teflon coated, the table salt will be nearly invisible, anyhow, so you're on your own

  6.     Rinse and stack your dirty dishes in the basin of the sink CLOSEST to the dish drainer, leaving the one FURTHER from the dish drainer empty.
        When the sink basin is full of dirty dishes, and you have to wash some drippy meat, or wash your dirty hands, the likelihood of splashing contaminates onto your clean-dish area is much smaller, since there's more space between the clean-dish area and the washing.

  7.      Wash your dish drainer occasionally! It can get pretty funky!!

  8.     If you can, walk outside to use cooking spray release! Over-spray of that stuff can be RIDICULOUSLY hard to clean off of floors, walls, windows, cupboards, countertops and stovetops.

  9.     When broiling, keep the oven or broiler door open a crack. This will prevent the buildup of flammable vapors and heat (when you broil, there's no [or RARELY] a temperature cutoff).
        Allowing the buildup of flammable vapors, and allowing the temperature to rise above their smoke point in an environment that has little oxygen (like the inside of a closed oven), then allowing the influx of a large gust of outside air (like: OPENING the over) can be an unfortunate thing.

  10.     Unless the food that a terrible cook sets before you is actually DANGEROUS or TOXIC in nature, say, "what a nice dinner," then buy them a copy of, "The Joy of Cooking." Tell them, "You did such a nice job last time that I thought you might enjoy reading this."
        Encouraging a bad cook is the only way to get them to cook more, and cooking more is the only way they'll get better!

    [mode="anecdotal"] I'm reminded of we kids making bear claws out of Mamma's left-over pie crust.
    After dinner Pappa [and frequently Uncle John] got one or two of them for desert beside the piece of Mamma's (and later Rick's [sister's]) pie.
    They were usually gray from being dropped on the floor too many times, and frequently fuzzy from other things you'll find on the floor of a home with a dog.
    Pappa would make a face, and Uncle John would whisper, "Albert: They've been cooked - at least they're sterile!" They would then eat them (eyes tightly closed and washed down with lots of milk or coffee) and praise whoever it was that made them.
    Our family has LOTS of good cooks in it! [/mode]

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Last Edited: 08/27/2010