Welcome to part 2 of my better cooking post series!
In part one, you learned how to balance flavors to make everything taste great without relying on exact measurements. If you haven’t read that yet, please do! Part 1 is filled with so much information that is vital in your journey toward becoming a better cook.
In Part 2, we are going into detail about cooking food. The actual cooking part is just as important as developing flavors…obviously. Even if your food is seasoned well, if it isn’t cooked properly, you aren’t going to enjoy it much.
When cooking food, I always make sure there is enough moisture involved but not too much. You don’t want things to get watery. So, I recommend using a little splash of liquid at a time. You can always add more if you need to! I love using coconut oil, olive oil and broth. You don’t need a lot of oil- only about a tablespoon should do just fine. If I need more moisture, I add a splash of broth to the pan. Doing this cuts out unnecessary fats and sugars from sauces, yet keeps what your cooking juicy and moist.
So first, let’s discuss temperature for fish, poultry and meat.
For a thicker, steak-like fish such as salmon or tuna, I personally like to cook it less than other fish. For tuna, I like a sear on each side, with it rare in the middle. For salmon I like to broil it to a medium temperature, so it is still pink in the middle. If you like it cooked through, make sure it isn’t too dark in the middle and it has that flaky look.
For white fish like tilapia, I like it cooked through more. It should be flaky and white, not clear. If it is clear and glossy looking, it’s got to go back in! Fish in general cooks pretty fast. I usually cook fish for no more than 15 minutes total. If you prefer food a little more well done, cook the fish for a bit longer.
I am all about testing it and tweaking as I go. If I am broiling salmon in the oven, I will put it in for 8 minutes, then check it and pop it back in for a few more minutes if need be. You can always cook it more, but you can’t un-cook it!
I cook a lot of chicken. I typically always make sure to slice or pound chicken breasts to a thinner, more even thickness so it cooks more evenly. Doing this ensures your chicken breast doesn’t get overdone on one side and remains rare on the other! Chicken should be cooked through all the way, then let to rest before serving so it gets juicy.
I like to sear chicken in a skillet on the stovetop in some olive oil on both sides, then put it in a 350 degree oven to continue cooking for about 15 minutes. Then I test the thickest piece to make sure it is done. If it’s not done yet, I put it in for 2 minutes more at a time until it’s cooked through. Doing this ensures you don’t overcook the chicken.
Always let the meat rest before cutting!! This is a very important part! Let it rest for about 5-7 minutes. Same goes for red meat.
Grilling is also a great way to cook chicken! It gives it so much flavor and you can easily monitor it as you go.
If you are cooking chicken bone-in, the cooking time will always be longer. I would add about 10 minutes on to the cooking time for all chicken with the bone in for sure. The internal temperature for chicken should be 165 degrees, so investing in a meat thermometer is a great idea. I always use mine!
Chicken, when cooked through, should have no signs of pink inside. If you see any pink, it is undercooked and you need to put it back on the heat!
Here is a great breakdown for cooking chicken! I always referred to this until it became second nature to me when cooking.
Cooking red meat very much comes down to personal preference, but the standard for steak is 145 degrees and 160 degrees for ground meat. I, personally, like my meat cooked medium rare when I do eat red meat…which is pink in the middle. Here is a temperature cheat sheet that is super helpful for red meat!
In this cheat sheet, they lay out at what temperature to remove the meat too, which is amazing because you now know how important letting the meat rest is!!
This is also a really great, fun way to test for meat doneness. The good, old fashioned hand test! It works pretty well, but of course a thermometer will always be more accurate. This is more of a good general guide to help you know when it may be time to test the temp!
As for cooking methods, my favorite for meat is grilling. Grilling adds SO much flavor and you can easily monitor it’s temperature, which makes it a little more fool-proof. Another favorite way to cook meat is to sear it in some olive oil or butter in a very hot skillet on both sides, then put it in a roasting pan and continue to cook in a 300 degree oven until it reaches the proper internal temperature. Not long…only about 10 minutes would be good I think. Again, it really depends how you like your meat cooked.
Next, lets move on to VEGGIES!!
I cook so many veggies every time I cook. I LOVE roasting vegetables because it gets them all crispy and delicious with very minimal effort.
To get perfectly roasted veggies, I heat the oven to 400 degrees F and coat a roasting dish with a good spray of coconut oil. I then dump all the veggies into a big mixing bowl. I typically use brussel sprouts, baby carrots, cauliflower, eggplant etc. I drizzle it all with olive oil and add a good amount of sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder…then mix it all well to coat. Pour all the veggies into the prepared roasting dish and roast for about 30-40 minutes. Check them at 30 minutes, toss them around and cook some more if need be!
I also love to stir fry veggies in a hot skillet with a little bit of oil. Once it gets a little dry, I add that broth I mentioned above to keep things moist. This is a super fast way to cook veggies like broccoli, spinach, green beans and mushrooms.
I also use my rice cooker to steam veggies all the time! If you have one, definitely try steaming with it!
I hope this helps! I truly believe that everyone can cook…as long as they gain the proper simple knowledge first. Keep your eyes peeled for the final part of this series coming next week!