Do you do a lot of oven cooking ? Cooking seems to almost be on the verge of becoming such a lost art that the kitchen may well become a room in the house only occasionally used for preparing meals. Part of the problem with cooking for many people–especially newbies–is that so many things can go just a little bit wrong inside the oven. Baked food may not necessarily be overflowing with all flavor of your favorite foods cooked on top of the range, but oven cooked meals usually are healthier . So if you want to prepare healthier meals or just want to use your oven more than you already do as a result of the problems it keeps seeming to provide, take it from a self-professed master domestic chef and following these little nuggets of knowledge gained from experience. When it comes to oven cooking, experience becomes a life-saver. Or, at least, a meal-saver. So learn from my experience and avoid many of the kitchen pitfalls that keep you from becoming the great chef you could be.
1. Even Baking
Have you experienced trouble baking two thing inside the oven at once? Even when the two food items being baked are exactly the same–such as two cakes inside identical pans–one always seems to take a little longer than the other. The result can be either removing an undercooked baked item which forces you to put it back in or you get there too late and find that you’ve got pan of burnt food. The solution to this kitchen problem is one of science. In order to assure evenly baked items inside a conventional oven, you need to allow enough room for the warm air to circulate. This is accomplished by separating the pans you use for baking or roasting so that at least two inches of space sits not only between them, but between them and the sides of the oven.
2. Location, Location, Location
What does oven baking have in common with real estate? It’s all about location. Have your desserts come out less than beautiful and delicious? It could be related to where inside the oven you are doing the baking. It’s perfectly fine–even preferred–to roast poultry or beef smack dab in the middle of the oven, but that can be deadly for sweet treats. When it comes to pies or quiches or really any dessert with a crust, the ideal location for the oven rack is the lower third. Baking sweets with a crust on the lower third of the oven will ensure a crispy bottom crust while reducing the risk of a top crust or the crusty ring around the top of a dessert coming out baked nearly to death.
3. Pass the Salt, Keep the Juice
Do your plans to roast a turkey for Thanksgiving or a chicken or great big hunk of meat on any other occasion never seem to come out quite as juicy and delicious as you hoped? Or as the turkeys and chicken and chunks of beef roasted elsewhere turn out? The problem may be related to trying too hard to get flavor and in the process losing flavor. How does that paradox work, exactly? If you add salt to the poultry or meat you are roasting too early, the sodium acts like a sponge that soaks up the juices. The trick to pulling a savory piece of meat out of the oven after roasting that is tender, moist and dripping with juices lies in keeping the juices inside. And part of that process involves keeping the salt away until just before the interior temperature reaches the point at which you know the roast is fully cooked.
4. Aluminum’s Golden Treasures
Let me guess: you gave up making cookies in your oven because they never come out with the golden color that somehow makes them taste better than the dark, almost burnt-looking cookies you get. Right? You know what is causing your oven baked cookies to look dark and unappealing? You are not using the magic of aluminum pans. The shiny silver sheen of aluminum pans creates a reflection inside the oven that you don’t get with darkly colored pans or glass or even old aluminum that has lost its silvery shine. When you bake cookies in the oven using fresh aluminum pans, they will come out looking just like those cookies on the cover of the box or tube.
5. Meat Loaves
Does your meat loaf invariably turn out dry? Let me tell you, meat loaf is hard to perfect. In fact, I’m not sure you can perfect meat loaf unless you spend so much time in the kitchen learning how to cook in the oven that you become a professional. So, therefore the next best thing is to simply change the way you are going at it. I’ll wager dollars to donuts that you are trying to create one big meat loaf in one bit pan. And that is exactly why that meat loaf comes out dry. Instead, invest in a high quality deep cupcake pan. Then use each of the cupcake holes to make an individual meat loaf. Not only is this method a guaranteed way to ensure that the meat loaf comes out less dry, it’s also fantastic for customizing loaves to fit individual tastes. For instance, I prefer my meat loaf to be extremely spicy so my little loaf would be covered in hot sauce. Someone else might prefer cheese in their loaf or more or less tomato sauce or a crusty topping of French Fried Onions. Get the idea?