Food Preparation Tips

This article discusses methods for peeling, cutting, and mixing food. It gives different procedures for firm vegetables and fruits, thick-skineed fruits, and items such as firm, ripe tomatoes, peaches, and apricots.

Every recipe you read assumes that you know exactly what it means when it says "peel apples" or "cut tomatoes" or "mix ingredients." Certainly they know what they mean by it. Let's take a look at what professional chefs mean when they direct their staffs to peel, cut, or mix food.

First, you need to have the right equipment. Use a peeler or paring knife to peel food. Use a stainless steel knife to cut fruit. The knife you use should be sharp and the edge should be aligned. Use a cutting board that has been sanitized every time you cut. Place it on a damp towel or a rubber mat to keep it from slipping.

Use a bowl that is large enough to keep mixtures from spilling or sloshing out. Use a spoon, spatula, or wire whip to mix food.

Also, try to do any peeling and cutting as near to the time that you will be using or eating the food as possible. This reduces drying and vitamin loss.

Peeling Foods

Firm fruits and vegetables include apples, potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. Because vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the skin of the food, you should not peel the vegetable or fruit unless the recipe calls for it. If the recipe does not call for peeling the ingredient, wash it and prepare it with the skin on. To peel firm vegetables and fruits, begin by cutting off any bruised portions. Hold the fruit or vegetable firmly in one hand. Start peeling at the top of the food.

If you are using a peeler, remove the skin by dragging the peeler firmly down the surface of the food. Rotate the food and repeat the motion until all of the skin is removed. If you are using a paring knife, cut the surface of the food with the knife point and push the knife under the skin. Work the knife between the skin and the meat of the fruit or vegetable. Continue cutting until the entire skin has been removed. Work carefully so that you remove as little of the fruit or vegetables as possible.

If you are peeling such items as firm, ripe tomatoes, peaches, or apricots, begin by cutting the stem end off and cutting a shallow "X" on the opposite end. Plunge the fruit into boiling water for one minute. Then remove the fruit from the boiling water and dip them into a clean container of chilled water. The chilled water will stop the cooking process. The skin should now slip off easily with the help of a few knife cuts.

When peeling thick-skinned fruit (such as grapefruit or oranges), start by cutting of the ends of the fruit. Set the fruit on a cut-off end so that it is stable. Cut off a section of the skin with a paring knife or a utility knife. Cut deep enough into the fruit to remove the skin. Slip the knife between the fruit and the skin to remove a section. Continue this process until the entire skin has been removed.

Cutting Foods

When cutting food, use separate cutting boards for cooked and raw foods. Use a clean and sanitary board each time you change foods. Hold the knife gently but firmly in one hand and the food in the other. Hold the food with your fingertips curled back to form a flat, vertical guide for the knife. This will reduce the chance of you cutting yourself. Be sure to also keep your thumb back out of the way.

Let the flat side of the blade slide up and down against the flat vertical section of your fingers. Place the tip of the blade on the board. Rock the blade up and down from the tip to the heel. Move the food toward the blade and back your fingers away from the blade as portions are cut away. Concentrate on steady, firm cuts and making each cut as uniform as possible.

If the recipe describes the cut as "chopped," then the food may be cut in a food processor, Buffalo chopper, or vertical cutter and mixer. Food can also be shredded in a mechanical chopper or cutter.

Mixing Foods

A recipe will often dictate the mixing method that should be used. Mixing methods can produce unsatisfactory results.

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Stir the ingredients in a circular motion. Stir until all ingredients are completely combined, or follow the recipe for the number of strokes or the length of time to mix. A stroke is usually defined as moving your spoon or spatula through the ingredients one time completely around the bowl.

To beat ingredients, move a spoon or a wire whip in a repeated circular motion to add air to the mixture. A mixer with a wire whip attachment can be used on medium or high speed for beating.

Always use a spoon or rubber spatula to "fold" ingredients. Cut through the ingredients and fold the halves on top of each other. Keep the air bubbles in the mixture.

There are many different kinds of electric mixers that work with a variety of volumes. Most mixers have three operating speeds and have attachments such as paddles, wire whips, and dough arms. When using a mixer, make sure the mixing bowl and the attachment are securely in place before you turn on the mixer and that the attachment is the right size for the bowl. Pour the ingredients into the mixer. Close the lid. Set the proper speed on the control switch and turn on the mixer. Turn off the machine before you change speeds, scrape a bowl or empty a bowl. Don't place spoons, spatulas, or your hands in the mixing bowl while the machine is running.

All of these directions can help you make sure that your preparations match the intentions of the recipe writer. Have fun cooking!

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