Commentary: Is It Done?
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Knowing how to tell when food items are done cooking creates a confident cook and happy eaters.  The following is a brief overview of how to tell when food is done cooking. 

Cookies: Cookies should be lightly browned and removed before they turn a dark brown around the bottom edge. If you want a softer cookie, they should be removed when the cookies look slightly under baked. For softer cookies, start to check for doneness about 2 minutes before the suggested baking time.

Cakes, Muffins and Quick Breads (Non-Yeast Leavened Breads): Press the center gently with one finger and feel for resistance from the baked item. The pressed spot should spring back, and if not, it needs more baking time.A cake tester, skewer or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. If dough sticks to it, additional baking time is needed.

Breads: A visual test for doneness is to check the coloring of the loaf. It should be a nice golden brown color, not pale in color and not too dark. When the loaf is touched it should feel firm but not too hard. The best way to check doneness is to remove it from the pan, turn it over and tap on the underside. The loaf will have a hollow sound to it if it is properly baked.

Pies and Pastries: The best way to check doneness for pies and pastries is to check coloring. When properly cooked, the crust of pies and pastries will have a lightly browned coloring. When using a glass pie plate, look at the bottom of the pie crust as well.  If the top crust is lightly browned but the underside isnít quite done, loosely cover the pie with foil and check every 5 minutes until the center of the bottom crust is lightly browned.  If not properly cooked, they will look pale in color and their texture will not be crisp and flaky as they are intended to be.

Tasting the pasta is probably the best way to determine doneness. Begin checking for doneness approximately 1 or 2 minutes before the suggested minimum time on the package. If it is not done, continue to check every 30 seconds until the pasta is done. When done, it will be tender but still have a slight bite to it. Cooking pasta to this point of doneness is called "al dente," which is Italian for "to the tooth". If the pasta is overcooked it becomes mushy. The pasta should be slightly undercooked if it is going to be added to another dish, expose to further cooking, or added to a hot soup.  Danís tip:  throw the pasta against the wall (painted, not wall papered)- if it sticks, itís done

Fish and Seafood: Fish and seafood must be watched carefully when cooking. Check for doneness in the thickest part of the fish. The meat should be an opaque color and should be starting to flake when tested with a fork or a metal skewer. If the meat is already flaky it is overcooked. Remove the fish or seafood from the heat source when it is just beginning to flake because it will continue to cook for a minute or two once it is remove. This will prevent the fish from becoming overdone and dry.

Meats/poultry:  a good thermometer is a worthwhile investment.  Using a thermometer allows for more control over the doneness of the meat. 

Donít cut into the food to see if it is done.  This allows some of the natural juices to come out and the food dries out more

(chefís tip) the best way to test most food is by pressing on it with your finger.  If you do this every time you grill, you will quickly learn what a perfectly cooked piece of meat or fish fillet feels like.- you can poke your food with  your fingers as many times as you want, and it wonít dry out the cooking food, but again, if you cut into it, the food will dry out more quickly.-this is why you should use a pair of tongs or a spatula to flip the meat or fish

As meat, poultry and fatty fish like salmon and tuna cook, they become firmer and firmer to the touch.  A rare steak/tune fillet feels squishy, medium feels springier and well-done feels taut.  White fish is different because is becomes flaky when done.

Remember that most cuts of meat and poultry continue to cook once taken off the heat source. The larger the cut, the longer the interior heat continues to cook the   meat.  I suggest removing the meat and covering it with foil for at least 10 minutes. Resting also allows the meat to draw the natural juices back into itself, so that more of the juices stay in the meat when cutting instead of on your cutting board.

Serve boneless poultry and fish immediately since they lose their heat quickly

It is better to under cook than over cook.  You can always put the food back on the heat source to cook longer         

Vegetables: for crisp vegetables every time, less cooking time is best.   When steaming, rotate the vegetables up from the bottom, so that the veggies are evenly cooked.  Blanching veggies for 2-3 min. and then shocking them in cold water, allows for a quick sautť of 2 or 3 minutes with your favorite herbs, garlic and onion just before serving also keeps the veggies crisp.  Thaw frozen veggies and allow just a couple of minutes for re-warming.  Canned veggies are just that, canned.  There is no way to crisp them.



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