Recipes always give you a general idea of how long
something should cook. But there are so many variables in the kitchen,
it helps to have a few additional clues. Here are some helpful hints:
For safety purposes, the USDA recommends
cooking foods to the following internal temperatures:
- Beef, veal
and lamb steaks or roasts: 145° F.
- Fish: 145° F.
- Pork steaks,
chops or roasts: 160° F.
- Ground beef, veal or lamb: 160° F.
- Egg dishes (quiche, etc.): 160° F.
- Turkey, chicken, and duck
(whole, pieces or ground): 165° F.
A good meat thermometer is a
great investment—they don’t cost a lot, and it will help you ensure
that your dishes are properly heated through and cooked to perfection
every time! For more information about safely handling food, get tips
from the USDA.
Baked goods such as cakes and
brownies are done when they spring back when lightly pressed in the
center, begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, or when a
toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
are done when the loaf sounds hollow when tapped and reaches an
internal temperature of 200 to 210° F. To determine the temperature of
bread, insert an instant read thermometer in the bottom of the loaf.
Most vegetables are "done" precisely at the moment
when you like the texture, either crisp and crunchy, soft and tender,
or someplace in between. The best way to determine whether or not
vegetables are cooked properly is to taste them when their cooking
time is nearly up. Then you can decide whether or not they are cooked
to your taste.
Some vegetables, however, must be cooked until
tender. Potatoes, squash, beets and root vegetables like turnips are
best cooked until they’re soft through and through, with no hint of
crunch. Test by either tasting or by inserting a knife tip or skewer
into the vegetable. It shouldn’t meet with any resistance.
Pasta, Beans & Rice
call for pasta to be "al dente," which means
"to the tooth", tender yet still with a bit of "bite." The only way to
see if pasta is cooked to the proper stage is to bite into it. If it
is still white at the core, give it another minute, then test again.
Dried beans should also be cooked until tender with no sign of
chalkiness, and again, the best way to find out if they are done is to
taste them. Test several beans before deciding whether or not to take
them any further, they can cook somewhat unevenly.
Most varieties of
rice are done when tender but not mushy or soggy. Like pasta and
beans, there shouldn’t be any crunch to it, but overcooking is easy to
do, so sample the rice when it’s finished cooking. If it’s still a
touch chewy, let the rice stand, covered, for a few minutes. Often,
the steam in the pot will be enough to cook it through. If making
risotto with Arborio rice, the finished dish should have the slightest
bit of bite or resistance to it. Test a grain of rice by biting it in
half, if there’s a tiny white spot in the center, you’re good to go.
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