Many recipes tell you to test fish for doneness with a fork: If it flakes easily, it’s ready. But sometimes that’s too late. Instead, watch the fish carefully and pull it from the heat just when it changes from translucent to opaque, or even a moment before, as we did for Food Network Magazine‘s Thai Fish Curry. The fish will continue cooking after you take it off the heat.
Ground spices lose flavor after about six months, but you probably won’t use a full jar of nutmeg that quickly. Buy whole nutmeg instead (it stays potent for two years) and grate just the amount you need each time. Use a fine grater and add the nutmeg sparingly — it will taste stronger than the pre-grated kind.
When frying eggs, crack them one at a time into a cup or small bowl — not directly into the pan. If the yolk breaks, you can save that egg for another dish. We pre-crack eggs for cookies and cakes, too, so we can pick out any bits of shell before they end up in the batter.
Next time you shop for apples, pick up a few varieties and combine them in recipes. Try tart (Granny Smith or Cortland) with sweet (Pink Lady or Macoun), and mix textures too: Empire and McIntosh soften when they’re cooked; Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp retain their shape. Just avoid Red Delicious — they get too mushy.
For a super fast dinner, pound your meat before grilling or sauteing it: Thinner pieces cook quickly (check out Food Network Magazine‘s Pork Scallopini Salad). Pounding also breaks up the connective tissue in tougher cuts, making them more tender. Place the meat between pieces of plastic wrap, and pound to an even thickness with the flat side of a meat mallet, a rolling pinor a small heavy skillet.
If you’re making a sauce, soup or stew with meat, a layer of fat will probably appear on the surface. To remove it, position your pot halfway off the burner: The fat will migrate to the cooler side. Then gently lower a ladle onto the surface of the fat (try not to disturb the surface too much or you’ll stir the fat back in). Better yet, if you have time, chill the dish: The fat will congeal and you can scoop it off.
When you’re making burgers, meatballs or other ground-meat dishes, combine equal parts of beef or pork with a leaner meat like turkey or chicken. You’ll save on fat and calories without sacrificing flavor and texture. We mixed ground beef with ground turkey for Food Network Magazine‘s Light Shepherd’s Pie — if you go all-turkey, you lose that great beefy taste.
Removing the stems from leafy greens like kale and chard is an oddly satisfying task. Here are two methods:
1. Hold the end of the stem in one hand (left image) and run your knife down both sides of the stem (away from you) to shave off the leaves.
2. Pull the leaves together (right image) and grab them with one hand. Then rip out the stem with the other hand.
(Photographs by Melissa Punch/Studio D.)
Foil packets make great braising vessels for the grill. We formed this oversize foil bowl to hold the beer-braised potatoes and shrimp (pictured above).
1. Stack 2 large sheets of heavy-duty foil. Place the solid ingredients in the center.
Don’t be scared off by a recipe that calls for fish sauce. It smells pungent, but you won’t detect any fishiness in your dish — just a rich, salty, almost meaty flavor. Fish sauce can be used in more than just Asian dishes: Add a splash to tomato sauce or whisk some into salad dressing. Just remember that a little goes a long way.
(Photograph by David Turner/Studio D.)