Leave all your favorite cooking techniques here.

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Preheat your skillets!!! It works wonders while making those difficult dishes like Grilled cheese and Pancakes.
HOW TO CLEAN SQUID (CALAMARI)


1. Grasp the squid tail in one hand and the head in the other. Firmly pull apart with a slight twisting motion. The head and innards should easily slip out of the body.

2. The squid head and innards have now been removed from the squid body tube.

The tentacles and body tube are edible. The head behind the tentacles and the innards are discarded. The ink from the sac is a gourmet's delight and is used as an added flavoring in many recipes.

3. Squid ink is used by many gourmet chefs to add additional flavor to recipes. If you are lucky enough to find squid ink for sale at a gourmet market, be prepared to pay a premium price. However, if you clean your own squid, you will have it at your fingertips. A little bit goes a long way. A few drops added to the liquid in your recipe will be sufficient to both color and flavor a dish, especially rice and risottos.

The squid ink sac is located in the innards. It looks like a black vein, and it is easily removed with your fingernail. To get to the ink, puncture the ink sac and squeeze it into a tablespoon of water, wine, or other cooking liquid.

Be forearmed when harvesting squid ink. Wear gloves, an apron, and protect porous surfaces such as the cutting board. The ink does stain. It is particularly unsightly when it gets under your fingernails.

Tiny amounts of squid ink are also located behind the eyes.

4. The squid tentacles are completely edible and especially good when flash-fried as in fried calamari or in seafood soups.

Place your knife just behind the eyes of the squid and cut straight down.

5. If you plan on eating the squid tentacles, you must remove the beak.

The squid beak is a bony piece of inedible cartilage. It is located at the base of the tentacles where they connect to the head of the squid. Once the tentacles are cut from the head, squeeze the connective tissue at top and the beak will easily come out.

6. Once the head and tentacles are removed from the squid, the tail portion remains.

The tail tube portion contains a thin, clear sliver of cartilage. This cartilage is also known as the cuttle or cuttlebone, hence its family name of cuttlefish.

The cartilage almost looks like a super-thin shard of glass, as you can see in the photo. It is inedible and must be removed. Simply grasp the cartilage with your fingers and pull it from the squid body tube. It should release fairly easily.

7. Although the dark, spotty skin of the squid is edible, most cooks choose to remove it for a more appealing presentation. The skin will easily separate from the flesh as you can see in the photo above.

Once you have the skin removed, thoroughly wash the inside of the squid body tube, using your finger to pull out any residual innards. Pat dry before proceeding with your recipe.
It's amazing how many people don't know how to handle chicken properly.  The following article covers the subject pretty well.


CHICKEN HANDLING, SAFETY & STORAGE
 

When working with chicken it is essential that proper handling and storage is used to ensure safety. You cannot see the harmful bacteria on the chicken so you must handle it as if it is present. Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause foodborne illness and is sometimes found on chicken. Follow the guidelines below to ensure safety against foodborne illnesses when handling chicken.


Contamination Prevention:

Cleanliness: A clean working environment is essential in the prevention of contamination when working with chicken. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw chicken. The work area, cutting boards, and utensils must be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water after being exposed and should not be used for other foods until properly cleaned. This will prevent cross contamination of bacteria from the chicken to other foods.

When working with other foods at the same time as preparing and cooking chicken, be sure to use different utensils for each food. Do not use the same cutting board to carve cooked chicken as was used for the raw meat, unless it has been properly washed and dried before using. Cutting boards should be thoroughly scrubbed with hot soapy water after each use and periodically cleaned with a bleach solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.

Handling: Raw chicken should be purchased just before checking out at the store so it is exposed to unsafe temperatures for as short a time as possible. It should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent any leakage from contaminating any other foods. After purchasing it should be taken home and refrigerated as soon as possible. In warm weather, be sure your vehicle is air-conditioned or bring a cooler along to store the chicken in while traveling home.

When cooking and serving chicken, the meat must be handled properly to prevent contamination. Use a different platter and cooking utensils for cooked meat than what was used for the raw meat, unless they have been properly cleaned and dried after exposure to the raw chicken. Be sure the raw meat does not come in contact with foods that have already been cooked or foods that do not require cooking before being consumed, such as raw vegetables and fruit.

If taking cooked chicken to be served at another location, be sure to pack the chicken so it maintains the proper temperatures. If you are keeping it hot, it should maintain at least a 140°F temperature and if it is cold, it must be kept at or below 40°F.

Cooking Safety:

Be sure chicken is cooked completely to eliminate the chance of foodborne illness. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in several locations to ensure doneness. Internal temperature should be a minimum of 170°F when checked in breast area and a minimum of 175°F when checked in the thigh area. If a meat thermometer is not available, check for doneness by piercing the breast and thigh with a fork and be sure the juices run clear.

If cooking a chicken that has been stuffed, be sure to check the stuffing for doneness. It should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Do not stuff until just before cooking and remove immediately once it is done. It is recommended that stuffing be cooked outside the chicken in a separate dish to reduce the risk of bacteria growth.

Do not partially cook chicken and then store to complete cooking at a later time. The chicken should be cooked completely. Shown below are the temperatures chicken should reach for proper doneness.

Internal Temperatures for Proper Doneness

Whole Chicken - Thigh Area    175° - 180°F
Whole Chicken - Breast Area    170° - 175°F
Chicken Breast and Wings     170° - 175°F
Chicken Parts - Dark Meat     180°F
Ground Chicken     170°F
Stuffing Inside Whole Chicken    165°F

Note: If the proper temperature is not reached the chicken should be returned to the heat source for further cooking.
 
Proper Storage:

Chicken should be stored at a temperature outside of the temperature zone in which bacteria, that causes foodborne illness, grows quickly. The danger temperature zone is a range between 40°F and 140°F. Raw chicken can be stored in a refrigerator for several days. If it is not going to be used within the recommended time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing. Leftover cooked chicken should be wrapped tightly and refrigerated as soon as possible. Do not leave the chicken at room temperature for more than two hours. If cooked chicken is not going to be used within four days of cooking, it should be frozen.

Refrigerating:

Raw or cooked chicken can be stored safely in a refrigerator at 40°F or lower for several days. The amount of time that it can be refrigerated will depend on the freshness of the meat when purchased, the temperatures it is exposed to in transporting from the store to home refrigeration and the type of packaging used.

If the raw juices are leaking from the original package, it should be removed and the chicken placed in a bowl and covered with wax paper, foil or rewrapped tightly in plastic before placing in the refrigerator. The package should be placed on a dish with sides to prevent any meat juices from dripping on other foods. It should be kept away from other foods so they do not come in contact with the raw juices. The meat should be stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator.

Chicken can be stored safely for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator at 40°F or less. Chicken giblets and ground poultry should only be stored in the refrigerator for 1 day. If you are storing for a longer period of time, the chicken products should be frozen. Remove chicken from the refrigerator just before you are ready to cook it.

Chicken leftovers should be cooled and refrigerated as soon as possible, limiting the amount of time it is exposed to room temperatures. Never leave the chicken at room temperature for more than two hours. Cooked chicken can be store for up to three or four days in a refrigerator at 40°F or less. If leftovers are not going to be used within this time, they can be frozen and stored for up to three or four months. Leftover stuffing should be removed from the chicken as soon as possible to minimize the possibility of bacterial growth and then stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. The stuffing can be stored for up to three days, but if it is not going to be used within that time it should be frozen. Stuffing can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.
 
Freezing:

Fresh chicken should be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower. It should be used within two days of the date on the package and if it is not going to be used within that time, it should be frozen. Freezing should be avoided if possible because it causes the chicken to be less tender and juicy but if it will not be used within that time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing.

When freezing, be sure the chicken is as fresh as possible. Remove it from the package it came in and rewrap tightly, using plastic wrap, foil or freezer paper. If you are storing for more than two months, double wrapping is suggested. Be sure the wrap is pulled tightly against the entire surface of the chicken to prevent ice crystals from forming in areas that are not wrapped tight. Ice crystals form in these areas because moisture has been drawn out of the meat, causing the chicken to become tough in these areas. This condition is known as "freezer burn." Mark the wrapped package with contents and the date so you can be certain of how long it has been stored in the freezer.

The chicken should be frozen as quickly as possible. The quicker it freezes the better it will be when thawed. To speed up the freezing process, place the package on the floor or against the wall of the freezer since these are the coldest parts. It is always best to freeze and store frozen food in a freezer unit, rather than a refrigerator freezer. The freezer units will maintain a temperature of 0°F or below, which will allow food to be stored for longer periods of time. A refrigerator freezer will generally only maintain a temperature of 10°F to 25°F and is opened more often, which causes fluctuation in temperature. If meat is stored in a refrigerator freezer, it should be used within two or three months. Whole chicken stored in a freezer unit can be stored safely for up to a year, and chicken pieces can be stored up to nine months.

Storage Times    (Suggested times for maximum quality)

                             Refrigerator (40°F)            Freezer (0°F)
Whole Chicken      Two to Three Days         Twelve Months
Chicken Parts       Two to Three Days          Nine Months
Giblets                  One Day                       Three Months
Ground Chicken     One Day                       Three Months
Cooked Chicken     Three to Four Days        Three to Four Months

Note: If storing longer than the storage times shown above, double wrapping is suggested to help keep in moisture.

Freezing Tips:

Use moisture proof wrap or bags when freezing chicken. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used because it would not hold the moisture in the meat.
Be sure all packages are marked with the content and the date it was frozen.
Wrapping individual chicken parts in foil or with freezer wrap and then placing in a freezer bag will allow you to take out only the number of pieces you will need.
Freeze fresh chicken as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
Store frozen chicken in a freezer unit to obtain maximum storage time.
Thaw frozen chicken using one of three methods: in the refrigerator; in cold water, changing every 30 minutes; or in the microwave. NEVER thaw chicken at room temperature.


Storage Times
Since product dates aren't a guide for safe use of a product, how long can the consumer store the food and still use it at top quality? Follow these
tips:

  • Purchase the product before the date expires.
  • Follow handling recommendations on product.
  • Keep chicken in its package until using.
  • Freeze chicken in its original packaging, overwrap or re-wrap it according to directions in the above section, "How to Handle Chicken Safely".




Refrigerator Home Storage (at 40° F or below) of Chicken Products

Product

Refrigerator Storage Times

Fresh Chicken, Giblets or Ground Chicken

1 to 2 days

Cooked Chicken, Leftover

3 to 4 days

Chicken Broth or Gravy

1 to 2 days

Cooked Chicken Casseroles, Dishes or Soup

3 to 4 days

Cooked Chicken Pieces, covered with broth or gravy

1 to 2 days

Cooked Chicken Nuggets, Patties

1 to 2 days

Fried Chicken

3 to 4 days

Take-Out Convenience Chicken (Rotisserie, Fried, etc.)

3 to 4 days

Restaurant Chicken Leftovers, brought immediately home in a "Doggy Bag"

3 to 4 days

Store-cooked Chicken Dinner including gravy

1 to 2 days

Chicken Salad

3 to 5 days

Deli-sliced Chicken Luncheon Meat

3 to 5 days

Chicken Luncheon Meat, sealed in package

2 weeks (but no longer than 1 week after a "sell-by" date)

Chicken Luncheon Meat, after opening

3 to 5 days

Vacuum-packed Dinners, Commercial brand with USDA seal

Unopened 2 weeks
Opened 3 to 4 days

Chicken Hotdogs, unopened

2 weeks (but no longer than 1 week after a "sell-by" date)

Chicken Hotdogs, after opening

7 days

Canned Chicken Products

2 to 5 years in pantry

 


 



Some of you may live where good quality beef is hard to find.  Here in the Philippines, stores just don't understand beef.  They don't know the cuts of beef we're all familiar with in the U.S. . . . and the cuts they do have are almost always very tough.

If you're stuck with low quality beef, like me, then this guide can help you out.  I can tell you that the baking soda method works great but can turn you meat into mush if you tenderize for too long.  You know those amazingly tender beef dishes you find in Chinese restaurants?  Well, that's what you can get from the baking soda method.

Tenderizing Beef




With Baking Soda




 You may want to slice the beef into the desired size before tenderizing. After the meat has been tenderized, it may just fall apart as you’re cutting it later. First, take your beef and determine how much you have.
You want to use one teaspoon of baking soda per pound. It doesn’t matter if
it’s an exact teaspoon, just make a rough estimate. It will all be washed off
in the end. Once you determine how much beef you have, use the correct amount
of baking soda to sprinkle over the meat. Use your fingers to work it into the
beef, making sure you cover the entire piece. Next, you’ll want to let the beef
sit for a while.


 


You want to let it marinate in the baking soda for 15 to 20 minutes. You can put the tenderized beef in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and either put it in the refrigerator, or leave it sitting on the counter for
the set amount of time. Some people say you should marinate it over night. Be
warned, however, if you leave it marinating that long, the meat might end up
with a distinct baking soda flavor.


 


Other Common Methods




 Tenderizing makes it possible to purchase less costly beef cuts and still enjoy the tenderness that is usually found only in the more expensive cuts. Tenderizing methods allow some of the tougher cuts of beef to
be cooked with high heat methods such as grilling and broiling, which are
usually reserved for tender cuts. Described below are some of the most commonly
used methods for tenderizing beef.


 


Pounding




 Tougher cuts of beef can be tenderized by pounding thin slices into even thinner slices, using a meat mallet. The pounding action flattens the meat and breaks up some of the fibers and connective tissues,
making the beef a bit more tender.  Cooking
the tenderized beef rapidly with high heat cooking methods is an important
factor in keeping the meat tender. The flattened beef slices may be broiled,
grilled, or sautéed, which provide excellent results.     


 


Commercial Powders




 A powdered meat tenderizer can be purchased and sprinkled on tougher cuts of beef. The tenderizing powders contain enzymes that help break down the tougher fibers of the meat. The enzymes are often produced from
pineapple and papaya extracts.          


 


Marinating




 Another option for tenderizing beef is with the use of a marinade. Soaking various cuts of beef in a marinade is a good method for adding flavor as well as to help tenderize the meat.


 


A proper marinade should contain an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or wine, oil such as olive oil, and seasonings such as herbs and spices. Citrus fruit juices may be used in place of the vinegar or wine to provide the
acidic ingredient that is necessary to soften the tissues of the meat.


 


Fresh pineapple juice is an excellent ingredient for a marinade because it contains one of the most powerful natural tenderizers, the enzyme bromelin, which is very efficient in breaking down protein. This enzyme
is destroyed if it is heated, so when using pineapple juice for the purpose of
tenderizing meat, the juice must be fresh. (Any previously cooked or canned
pineapple juice has no effect on tenderization.)


 


There are several important points to remember when using a marinade:


 


·         Quantity: The marinade should totally cover the meat in order for it to work effectively.


·         Soaking Time: When using tender cuts of beef, a soaking time of 2 hours or less is all that is required because the marinade is
used basically to flavor the meat. Tougher cuts of beef should be soaked in the
marinade for several hours or overnight in order to tenderize the meat as well
as flavor it.


·         Refrigeration: Always marinate beef in the refrigerator.


·         Proper Containers: Since the marinade contains an acidic ingredient, reactive containers such as metal bowls should not be
used. It is best to use containers such as glass or plastic bowls or plastic
bags that can be sealed.


·         Reuse: The marinade should not be reused for any other purpose because of the bacteria that may be present from having been in
contact with the raw meat. The only way the marinade can be reused is to boil
it thoroughly to be used as a basting liquid or as part of a sauce for the
meat.




 Rubs




 An additional option for tenderizing beef, as well as adding flavor to it, is with the use of a rub. A dry mix of herbs and spices are applied to the raw beef and are allowed to permeate and flavor the meat over a
period of time, usually overnight in the refrigerator. An endless variety of
rubs can be prepared for beef depending on the types of flavors that you want
to add to the meat.


 


·         Application: A rub mixture can be rubbed onto the meat, but the moisture from the meat can cause the dry ingredients to stick
to your hands. The best results often occur when the ingredients are sprinkled
evenly on all sides.


·         Ingredients: Some of the ingredients that may be used for a dry rub include black pepper, cumin, chili powder, crushed red
pepper, celery seed, garlic powder or fresh crushed or minced garlic, salt, and
brown sugar.


·         Paste Rub: A small amount of liquid may be added to the mixture in order to create a dry paste, which may be preferred in some
cases. Some of the liquids that are often used are vinegar, cider vinegar,
wine, or fruit juice.


·         Sugar Usage: Use sugar sparingly because it will melt and burn during the cooking process, especially if the beef is grilled or
broiled. Too much of the burnt sugar will provide unpleasant results. Only a
small amount of sugar is necessary to provide adequate flavor.


·         Results: Both the dry rub and the paste will form a flavorful crust when the beef is cooked. Rubs are most often used with
beef ribs that will be grilled or barbecued, but they can be used with almost
any cut of beef.




 Barding




 Barding consists of wrapping thin layers of beef fat or bacon around cuts of beef. Some of the fat melts during the roasting process, which adds moisture and flavor to the meat and serves as a natural tenderizer.
The remaining fat can be removed after the meat is cooked.


 


If you plan to roast a lean, tough cut of beef rather than braise it, then barding may be beneficial. Lean cuts of beef, such as cuts from the round, which are among the muscles responsible for locomotion, are usually
tough because often used muscles are less tender than seldom used muscles.
Muscles that are constantly worked also lack internal fat, known as marbling.


 


Suspension muscles from the center of the animal, located in the rib and loin area, are very tender because they do not move as much as muscles in the front or rear portions of the animal. As a result, beef cuts
from the loin and rib never require barding.


 

General Tip for Quality Baking

I never had an aptitude for baking but was forced into it when I had my own restaurant. In restaurant cooking, for various reasons, it's wise to use grams/kilograms rather than measuring cups and spoons. Because of this I also converted all my baking recipes to grams/kilograms. I have to tell you that baking became my favourite job. When you use baking recipes based on weight you get much more consistent results and it is much easier to tweak the recipe.

A small digital scale rarely costs more than $40 if you shop around, and it is very practical for home use. You get consistent results and don't have all those measuring cups and spoons to wash. It can also save you money by making it far more practical to buy larger portions of meat that you can then re-portion consistently into smaller sizes for freezing.

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