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Tips and Tricks

Our editors enjoy dining out as much as we like cooking at home. And because this is what we do for a living, we've got lots of experience at both. In this column we're sharing the ins and outs of dining in and out. Bon Appetit!


Try an alternative cooking method

Using an alternative cooking method can result in healthier and better tasting food. Consider a few options – 1) Making fried chicken? How about baking it instead? 2) Frying a pork chop? You could bake that, too, or put it on the barbeque. Making a gumbo or jambalaya? Easy to do in a pot or crockpot, but how about tweaking the recipe a tad and cooking it in a paella pan?


Salt and pepper at the end

Some recipes call for salt and pepper to be used at the front end of the cooking process. Is that necessary? Next time you come across this ask yourself if it might be better to add it closer to the end of the process, when so many other spices get added.


Prep all you can first

You know how a recipe might say one-hour cooking time, 1.5 hours total? Our experience tells us that's after all the ingredients have been prepped. And while we don't think that's a good enough reason to prep them all in the beginning here's one that is – a more fluid, less haphazard, hair-pulling cooking experience. Use a series of ramekins and bowls to place all the called-for quantities of items into. If things are to be blended, like spices, put them all in the same container. Then when it's time to fire the burner you won't make yourself crazy trying to chop garlic when it's really time to put it into play.


Perfect protein cakes

Sausage patties, crab cakes, and otherwise need a little TLC when they cook and need to be turned at just the right time. Begin by placing them into the pan in a clockwise order with the first in the 12 o'clock position. This way you can remember which ones went in first and flip in a logical order later. Next sear each patty to hold in the juices. Then allow them to heat up until they are about 100 degrees on the top raw surface area. An infrared thermometer helps a lot here. If you don't have one, look for juices to be making their way through the surface. Now flip each one in their original order and then go around one more time to sear each patty on the reverse side. Use an instant read thermometer to read the internal temperature of the patty and remove at the recommended temp level.


Let the water tell ya

Infrared thermometers are handy for knowing when things are coming up to the right heat. But going back and forth to read a pan as its coming to the proper heat can get a little annoying. Instead, when you begin to heat the pan, place a tablespoon of water into it. Eventually the water begins to bubble. At the point it disappears your pan will be somewhere between 325 and 350 degrees. You can use an infrared at that point to verify. Think of all you can do now while you're waiting and not hassling with temp checks.

Have you got a tip or trick you'd like to share with out readers? Send it to If we use it, we'll send you a copy of our Cooking with Class cookbook.

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