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Quick Tips: Meat and Seafood

  1. AK Home Cooking SolutionsWhen browning ground beef or sausage, use a potato masher to break it up. It's a lot speedier than using a fork or spoon and makes the meat much finer.

  2. Before freezing raw ground beef, remove it from its packaging, put in a resealable plastic bag, then press flat to an even thickness. Storing the meat in the freezer is easier and it thaws in no time.

  3. To drain excess fat from cooked ground beef, use a slice of bread to "blot" the meat and the skillet after browning. The bread soaks up the fat, leaving the meat in the pan.

  4. Partially freeze meat or chicken for 20 minutes to firm it up slightly so it's easy to thinly slice.

  5. To keep chicken breasts or veal from tearing when pounding out, place them in a large heavy-duty plastic bag with a few droplets of water. The water will help prevent the tender meat from sticking to the bag and tearing.

  6. After buying a roll of pork sausage, cut it into patties then freeze until firm on a wax paper- or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Transfer the patties to a resealable plastic freezer bag and return to the freezer. Remove only as many as you need at a time.

  7. Keep a bowl of cold water nearby when shaping meatballs to periodically dip your hands in. The water will help keep the meat from sticking to your hands and makes the surface of the meatball smoother.

  8. It's easiest to mix meatloaf or meatballs by hand than with a spoon, but it's messy. Next time, put all the ingredients into a large resealable plastic bag, seal the bag, then massage everything together. (This is a great project for kids!)

  9. For the best browning, use a paper towel to pat any excess moisture off the surface of meats before searing. Too much moisture will cause the meat to steam, not brown.

  10. Can't use a full pound of bacon? Lay uncooked strips on wax paper 1/2 inch apart, top with a second sheet of paper, roll into a cylinder and freeze in a resealable freezer bag. Whenever you need bacon, remove the frozen strips and refreeze the remainder.

  11. Oven-frying bacon is less messy than pan-frying. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil, arrange strips on the sheet, and roast at 350� F. for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain on paper towels. Let the drippings solidify before removing the foil.

  12. Always let meats and poultry rest for at least 10 minutes after roasting and before carving. During cooking, juices concentrate at the center of the meat; resting allows them to redistribute throughout the meat. Early carving causes the juices to just leak onto the cutting board.

  13. When roasting large cuts of meat or whole chicken, create a flavorful roasting "rack" by building a grid with stalks of celery, whole carrots and thick slices of onion. The vegetables will flavor the pan drippings, making for awesome gravy!

  14. To safely transfer a roasted chicken to a cutting board, insert a sturdy metal skewer or the handle of a long wooden spoon through the cavity and use it to lift and move the bird.

  15. When removing skin from chicken pieces, get a grip on it with a paper towel so the chicken won't slip out of your hand.

  16. Always slice cooked meats across (against) the grain. The "grain" is the direction the muscle fibers run, and cutting across the grain shortens the fibers, making the meat more tender.

  17. Drain marinated meats well before grilling. Excess marinade or oil can drip into the flames, causing flare-ups and scorching on the surface of the meat.

  18. When browning meat or chicken for soups or stews, it's best to do it in two or three batches. If the pan is overcrowded the meat will just steam and won't get as brown as it could.

  19. To freeze homemade turkey, chicken or beef stock, divide the strained stock into smaller plastic containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top. Cool to room temperature, spoon off any fat from the surface, cover tightly, and freeze. Stock may be frozen for up to 6 months.

  20. Choose fresh fish based on how it looks and smells. It should be firm, evenly colored and slightly translucent. And it should never, ever smell fishy or "off." If it does, pass it by.

  21. Take care not to overcook fish and seafood, because it's so lean, it can turn dry and rubbery very quickly. If fish flakes easily with a fork, it's done. Shrimp and scallops are done when they're firm.

  22. To thaw frozen shrimp quickly, place them in a large bowl, then cover with cold water. They'll be ready to use in about 15 minutes.

  23. When preparing mussels for cooking, don't remove the beards (the wiry filaments on the side of the shell) until ready to cook. If removed too soon, the mussel will spoil. It's easiest to pull them off with a pair of pliers.

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