About pans, mushrooms, flavor, chicken, and beef.
“Keep that meat thermometer out, it takes years of practice to be able to cook steaks by feel or touch.”
Subscriber Question | Brando
Q: I’m nervous knowing when chicken is done and often overcook it. Dry chicken is awful. How do I know when it is properly cooked and still moist?
All chicken is safe to eat once it hits an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit. White breast meat can actually be safely eaten at an internal temperature of 16F. Get yourself a meat thermometer and follow your recipe cook time accordingly. A quick note about avoiding dry chicken,
season it entirely or even submerge it in a brine to really penetrate the flesh. Of course, not everyone has the time to do this so generously season it and allow it to come to room temperature before placing into your hot pan.
Q: I struggle with cooking beef- what are the perfect temperatures for cooking each of the following?
Keep that meat thermometer out, it takes years of practice to be able to cook steaks by feel or touch without the use of a thermometer so definitely keep a thermometer handy if you are particular about your steak’s doneness or lack thereof. Personally, I enjoy my steaks blue and still moo’ing. First thing is first, never throw a cold steak from your fridge into a hot pan it will seize up and get tough before it’s cooked. Ideally you want to give your protein enough time to come up to room temperature and relax the muscle fibers within the meat, this is
called tempering your steaks.
For a sirloin steak, a solid medium cook will still give you the warm red center and the most preferred texture by diners.
T-bone steaks might be able to go a little higher internal temperature but typically the medium (140F) cook is optimal.
Filet mignon is ultra-tender and doesn’t need to go as far as medium. Typically, you’ll find this steak cut kept on the rare (120F) side.
Medium Rare: 130F
Medium Well: 150F
Well Done: 160F +
Q: Sometimes my cooking is bland, how and when do I add flavor?
As a chef I always instruct and insist on seasoning as you go. You cannot cook a dish without adding flavors and seasoning in layers; it’s just sacrilege. Before attempting a recipe, read it through and make sure you have all your spices and seasonings necessary. In the beginning start off slow with a pinch or two of the seasonings, you can always add more before the dish is done. When boiling pasta, you should always salt the water before hand as this is the only way to impart flavor into the pasta itself. Salting the dish after the pasta is cooked will not necessarily bring flavor into the pasta but rather leave you with an over salted sauce and an un-seasoned pasta. Add a pinch of salt, give it a taste, adjust seasoning as necessary. Kosher salt is always my go to as it is typically course and easy to grab in pinches.
Q: Unami flavors are quite the rage. There are so many different types of mushrooms now available. What are the different flavor profiles and which mushroom pairs best with which proteins?
With over 10,000 known types of mushrooms (many more undocumented) the combinations and flavor profiles are endless and can be overwhelming. A beautiful thing about mushrooms is their porous ability to absorb the flavors and seasonings in which they are cooked. Made up of 80-90% water most mushrooms displace their water content during the cooking process and are enhanced by the additional ingredients used in a recipe. That’s what makes them so versatile from soups and stews to pizza toppings and more. Hearty more “meaty” mushrooms like portobello or Cremini pair great with red meats and can even be substituted as a meatless option. The thin slender Enoki mushrooms are found in some Asian dishes paired with seafood as they get tender very quickly and are texturally in line with softer seafoods. Be sure to always clean your mushrooms with a damp paper towel and never eat raw mushrooms without knowing their source of harvest.
Q: When does one start with a cold pan, vs a warm pan or a hot pan?
Many recipes will indeed specify to start with a hot pan vs. a cold pan. This directly correlates to the type of cooking you are trying to accomplish and what the ingredient itself is. When sweating out ingredients like onions, leeks, garlic or any type of aromatics you want to start the pan off cold or warm and gently allow the flavors of the ingredients to melt together and slowly draw out the moisture. A good example is caramelizing onions, the moisture content in the onions is so high that you want to draw out that moisture allowing the onions to simmer in their own juices to help breakdown and begin caramelizing the natural sugars. Conversely in order to lock in the moisture of ingredients you’d want to start with a hot pan to help create a sear or a lock of moisture within the ingredient. Starting with a hot pan allows the surface of your pan to expand and create optimal surface exposure for any ingredient placed in it. The best example is when searing a steak. A hot pan will immediately start to cook the surface of the steak while allowing the middle to stay medium to medium rare. This also gives
you that dark crust you want to see on the exterior of the steak and will make the cook time much faster than if you started with a cold pan. Dry grey steak is no bueno.