How much have household or cooking tips changed since the 1940s? To be fair there’s a lot of wisdom worth carrying over from one century to another, but there’s a lot of stuff that needs – and gets – the heave-ho. Add in some new opinions or modern pearls of wisdom and build your knowledge base.
Why should you have a joint of meat at room temperature before cooking it?
It can take 20-30 minutes for heat to penetrate the centre of a chilled joint of meat and to start cooking. Not only does this add to the cooking time, but it uses more energy to cook the meat. It also means you may not get the desired result when following a recipe.
Salt meat immediately after cooking (unless instructed to do otherwise in a recipe), then let it rest for at least 10 minutes so the juices can settle before slicing.
Slice meat with a long thin bladed knife that will glide through the meat rather than with a knife with a deep ‘heel’ (the part by the handle) which will result in chunky ‘hacked’ slices.
Should you rinse a raw chicken before cooking?
This is not a straightforward question to answer. One school of thought is to rinse, especially in the cavity, to ensure any blood or undesirables are rinsed away. The opposing advice is to NEVER rinse raw chicken because tiny droplets of water carrying bacteria will spray all over your chopping board, the kitchen bench, YOU, the kids, the dog, the lightbulb … honestly, it is a wonder we have all survived for so long (the chicken-washing tribe, I mean, of which I have belonged to for 40 years!). There is even advice online not to pour bloody juices from the bag the chicken was in down your kitchen sink because when you run the tap it will spray that all over the place. The advice is to put the bag with all the blood in your trash can. Do-able if you live in a city in a high-rise, perhaps, but not so great if you live in the country or only have a weekly rubbish collection (flies would love it). My advice is to be sensible. Rinse the chicken in the sink if you want to, or think it is necessary, but keep it low down in the sink and rinse with a gentle flow of water, not a power spray! Wash your sink with hot soapy water once you have finished with the chicken. Keep a separate board for raw meat, rinse, scrub and dry off with paper towels after use, then place it in sunshine if you can. Don’t have salad, fruit or other foodstuffs (like a bag of shopping!) on the kitchen bench near the sink. Don’t place a child on the kitchen bench. Banish the dog from the kitchen. Keep your mouth closed when washing chicken … Once you’ve survived all of that BREATHE, LIVE, ENJOY YOUR DINNER.
Eggs – The Catch 22
Eggs deteriorate quickly if kept in a warm kitchen. If not intending to use them for several days, store refrigerated until you need them. BUT it’s essential to bring eggs to room temperature before using in baking. Cold egg yolks added to creamed butter and sugar will curdle (the egg yolks need to be at room temperature so the two fats – yolks and butter – can be coaxed to join together). If you forget to take eggs out of the fridge and you can’t wait 30 minutes for them to warm up, put the eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 or so minutes. The warm water will take the chill off the eggs but not start to cook them. When boiling eggs have them at room temperature before lowering into a saucepan of gently bubbling water. If cold eggs are put into a pan of bubbling water the shells will crack and goobey egg white will float out into the water. That’s never nice to see.
When making meringues or a pavlova it is also better to have egg whites at room temperature before whipping because ‘warmer’ ingredients will hold more air and consequently the egg whites will create a larger volume of foam than one made with chilled egg whites. But here’s a trick – it’s easier to separate the yolks from the whites when the eggs are chilled, so do that first, putting the whites in a grease-free bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and give them 30-60 minutes to come to room temperature before whipping.
Eggs have porous shells so store them in the carton they come in to protect them from picking up bacteria or other aromas in the fridge. And store them the way they come, pointed end down, to slow down moisture loss inside the egg.