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Old 11-03-2004, 08:30 PM   #1
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Heat, proximity and speed

I realize that this furom is generally filled with not serious conversation some of which is food related and some of which is more life related... I hope i am not getting on anyones nerves as I write about my exploration and discovery of various things food.
Having stated my cathersis

I am begining to see the whole crux of stove top cooking is in the relationship of time temperature and proximity.
If you use enough heat your meat never cooks through, to much heat and cooks or even burns on the outside and maybe rare or even raw inside, cook it to long and it gets dry, cook it to close and you burn the outside, to far and you are little more than playing with it...

It seems that part of the skill or talent in cooking and one of it's a fundamental aspects is getting a feel for how your cooking team...
The source of heat, the conductor of heat and your ability to gauge when a given thing is properly done , how those things work together. Clumsy sentence.
But it seems that the greatest food on earth is cooked in pans from the resturant supply store and stoves that look like they've been through a war by people who don't measure anything.
And all those international dishes we struggle to reproduce are cooked by folks with one pot, one pan, one knife and a fire

It seems you need a few pans that are good enough not to get on your nerves a few cook books so you can get a basic idea of what goes with what and from there the money needs to be spent in the software of cooking.
Stuff from the vege, meat and fish aisles of your favorite food emporium.

But tell me if i am right on that heat proximity time thing is on the right track cause i think i am getting the hang of stove top cooking and begining to get a style... basic foods with spices...


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Old 11-06-2004, 06:55 AM   #2
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Vilas - you're not getting on anyone's nerves! A - We're all here to share and learn, and B - there are no stupid questions!

You are absolutely right in your thinking about heat, proximity and time; and about the pans used, lol! I've seen some pots in the restaurant that wouldn't sell for 5 cents at the Good Will store!

Whew - where to start; okay, heat first. If you want to 'sear' something, use high heat first; then to finish cooking, turn the heat down to finish cooking.

If you're doing something like browning veggies, etc., start with medium high to brown, then again - turn it down a little to finish.

Proximity - Again with the searing - as close to the heat as possible; if you're doing a slow braise or simmer, then low heat with perhaps a heat plate on top of the burner. Only you will be able to gauge your stove and what happens when you have the heat on 'low' or 'high', as they're all different.

Proximity would also come into play if you want to finish a dish - like a steak or chop - in the oven, after searing; putting the whole skillet in the oven set at about 425 for a few minutes will finish the whole dish off, as the heat circulates around the whole piece of food, not just from the bottom up.

Timing, I think, is the hardest to learn, and is only done by just watching closely as your food cooks, and what happens to it. For steaks and chops, to judge 'doneness', try this - make a fist; poke the area in the 'meat' of your hand with your other finger - feels kinda stiff, right? That's well done - what your steak will feel like if you 'poke' it. Now loosen your fist a little, and poke again; a littler softer, right? Now you're at about medium. Now relax it even more, so your fist is totally relaxed, and poke again - feel how soft it is. That's about medium rare. Again, this is really subjective, and the best way to learn is just through try, try and try again! Another 'test' is to touch your finger to the tip of your nose, and then to your lips - feel the difference? Your nose is 'firmer', as the meat will feel if it's about medium to medium well.

Other observations might be with the differences between simmering, boil, and 'rolling' or full boil. Simmer is when you start to see little bubbles first at the edges of the pan, and slightly more to the center. Boil is when the entire surface of the liquid starts bubbling, and a 'rolling' boil is just that - the bubbles look like they're 'rolling' on the surface of the liquid.

Hope this helps a little - keep asking!

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Old 11-06-2004, 09:13 AM   #3
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I have nothing much to add since Marmalady said it all so well. The only thing I have to say is in response to you saying you hope you are not getting on anyones nerves as you write about your exploration and discovery of various things food. That is what this board is here for, and I for one look forward to all of your posts about food. Keep em coming!!!
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Old 11-06-2004, 09:23 AM   #4
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food and it's preparation for our consumption is so intertwined in our lives that it is a natural extension for many of us to include the minutiae of our daily routines in our discussions. i try to keep things food related but sometimes we wander, mostly for fun, but also to love and support each other.

i appreciate you keeping more to the food exploration part, vilasman. we need to be guided back at times...
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very, very frightening me!" Galileo
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Old 11-06-2004, 07:43 PM   #5
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Acceptance! It's a wonderful thing and why I'll be a poster here and just a lurker on those other boards.
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Old 11-06-2004, 07:55 PM   #6
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Vilasman, we all just love it when somebody asks, and, more important "listens", and gets back to us all on how it turns out!

Since there are allegedly about 2500 cooks who either "post" or "lurk", delightfully, a bunch of them pile all over the slightest error or "tweak" with suggestions or comments, although I've not seen so many as one respond with how another's recipe "ruined dinner"..its all positive, and its allowing all of us to enjoy the joy of living and cooking that much more!

Keep watching, and never be afraid of posting, or digging through the archival threads for new suggestions, ideas, and techniques!

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Old 11-06-2004, 08:48 PM   #7
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Re: Heat, proximity and speed

Originally Posted by vilasman1
And all those international dishes we struggle to reproduce are cooked by folks with one pot, one pan, one knife and a fire
yes i do use one pan, one pot, one knife, and a fire A large fire! and chopsticks to cook everything. I never use the oven cept for desserts to cook my dishes because i was always taught to use stove top by my parents. Hmmm here's a tip. always control your heat. The rest is learned by experience. For my steaks i cook on medium flame and sometimes low. keep flipping it and poke my chopstick through it to see if it is rare, medium rare, or well done.
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Old 11-06-2004, 09:04 PM   #8
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Now somewhere somebody said you aint supposed to flip the meat ounce you got it into the pan. leave it 3-5 mins and then flip it. Oh well your way makes makes more sense.
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Old 11-06-2004, 09:53 PM   #9
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This may draw some fire, but I believe in that ancient and hoary legend that says "flip only once"....

For steak, (presuming we are broiling it!)(there is no other civilized method, other than the BBQ!) its 5 min's for Medium Rare, 6.5 minutes for Medium, and nobody in their right mind burns it further...flip, and cook the same amount on the other side, remove from heat and let stand for the same period (5-7 minutes) to let the juices re-distribute before serving...

The previous advice on testing with a finger and comparing it to "relaxed" up to "flexed" muscle in your bicep was "spot on" in telling the "doneness"...since "man" has been cooking like this since shortlty after we descended from the trees, I see nothing wrong with the methodology, we have only added the marinades, the hanging time, the selection of "cut" and the seasoning...

All above presumes a 3/4"-1" thickness of meat...

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Old 11-07-2004, 04:08 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by marmalady
Timing, I think, is the hardest to learn, and is only done by just watching closely as your food cooks, and what happens to it.
Just hours ago, I watched a Jacques-and-Julia show; they were doing steaks. Jacques prepared a Chateaubriande. It was a pretty thick cut, two-three inches. He seared it in a cast-iron pan, then finished it in a slow oven, 275-300 degrees. When he cut into it, it was done perfectly -- medium rare, juices running just right. I watched and I wondered: how does he know when to stop the searing and put it in the oven, and when to take it out of the oven? Is he a magician? Does he have Xray vision? I finally concluded that he "just knew", because he had prepared it or similar cuts hundreds of times in his life, and his eyes and his nose and his decades-long developed sense of timing told him exactly when to do what. You can avail yourself of instruction and advice from the pros to help guide you along, but the secrets of heat, proximity and timing will only come to you when you have prepared a steak a hundred, two hundred times, and your non-cognitive senses kick in, and you "just know". You just know the exact right moment, and any other moment will be wrong. Watching him prepare that steak helped me to lighten up on myself a little bit, that maybe I'm being unreasonable when I don't crack the code of a dish in the first couple of tries. Nobody is born knowing how to do it, not even Jacques Pepin.

But it's sure fun and absorbing to think about, isn't it?

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