Monday, March 31, 2014

What to Do with Burned Food?: Fixing Burnt Food


How to Fix Burnt Food?

Burnt food is not always ruined. Foods burned while cooking on the stove can often be fixed so they still look edible and taste good. The sooner you recognize a dish is burning, the better chance you have of eating it. Burnt liquid foods, such as soups, are the easiest to save. Burnt baked or fried foods can be tougher to save because these burns usually have more smoke involved.

When food burns during cooking, you need to do three things:

a) Stop the food from cooking.

b) Separate the unburned parts from the burned.

c) Treat the unburned parts, if necessary, to prevent a burned taste.

Here is how to do each most effectively:

1) Many things can be salvaged by scooping out the contents of one pot, and placing them into a clean one. It is critical that when you do this you do not scrape the burnt pot. You will likely lose a bit off the bottom for your final product but that’s OK. Once you have a new clean pot filled with your food, you can taste it and add or alter things as necessary. I have used this technique many times with great success, often without any negative impact to the dish you are cooking.

2) Remove the pot from the heat at once. Fill a container bigger than the pot (use the sink if necessary) with cold water and put the bottom of the pot in the cold water. Speed is of the essence. Just removing a pot from the flame doesn’t stop the cooking; the cold-water plunge does.

3) Assess the amount of food that is stuck or burned to the cooking surface. Preferably using a wooden spoon, remove all the ingredients that don’t cling to the pot and transfer them to another similar container. Be sure you don’t scrape the bottom or sides of the pot; remove only what comes out easily. 

4) Taste the food. It is unlikely that it will have a burned taste, but if it does, cover the pot with a damp cloth and let it stand for about 30 minutes. Taste it again. If the taste is still unpleasantly burned or smoky, your food is probably beyond repair—unless you can take advantage of the smoky taste by adding barbecue sauce and renaming it “country-style” whatever it was.

5) To rid food of the burnt taste, add a small amount of peanut butter to the food until the taste is gone. Re-season the food.

6) Experiment with other food ingredients like adding potatoes for burned soup. Some things that I have used successfully include adding your favorite sweetener or any of a variety of vinegar including: red/white wine, cider or balsamic. In addition adding extra spices can mask the flavors considerably. The key here is to pick ingredients that fits with the dish you are preparing but have a particular and neutralizing effect on the offending taste or smell.

Learn how to... Use Oil Instead of Butter When Cooking.

How to Fix Burnt Turkey?

Remove the skin if it's actually burnt then slice all the breast meat off the carcass and either steam it in a stovetop steamer, or thin out your gravy with a little bit of stock and soak all the breast meat in the gravy for as long as possible. It's a rule of life that everything's better in gravy.

How to Fix Burnt Gravy?

Transfer the gravy to another pan immediately, leaving behind the burnt stuff stuck to the bottom. Then take a quarter of a cantelope (or other melon), peel it, cut it into chunks and add it to the gravy. The cantelope will act like a big sponge, soaking up the bitter and imparting a little sweetness. Remove the cantelope before serving. If you don't have melon on hand, whisk a spoonful of Jiff peanut butter into the gravy. Don't ask why it works; it just works.

Master the art of cooking grains at... How to Cook Grains Like Rice and Barley

Use Oil Instead of Butter When Cooking


Know When to Use Oil or Butter

Cooking oil is plant, animal, or synthetic fat used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking. Types of cooking oil include: olive oil, palm oil, soybean oil, canola oil (rapeseed oil), pumpkin seed oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil, sesame oil, argan oil, rice bran oil and other vegetable oils, as well as animal-based oils like butter and lard.

Butter is a dairy product that consists of butterfat, milk proteins, and water. It is made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is used as a spread and a condiment—and in cooking, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying.

Melted butter plays an important role in the preparation of sauces, most obviously in French cuisine. Beurre noisette (hazelnut butter) and Beurre noir (black butter) are sauces of melted butter cooked until the milk solids and sugars have turned golden or dark brown; they are often finished with an addition of vinegar or lemon juice. Hollandaise and béarnaise sauces are emulsions of egg yolk and melted butter; they are in essence mayonnaises made with butter instead of oil. Hollandaise and béarnaise sauces are stabilized with the powerful emulsifiers in the egg yolks, but butter itself contains enough emulsifiers—mostly remnants of the fat globule membranes—to form a stable emulsion on its own. Beurre blanc (white butter) is made by whisking butter into reduced vinegar or wine, forming an emulsion with the texture of thick cream. Beurre monté (prepared butter) is melted but still emulsified butter; it lends its name to the practice of "mounting" a sauce with butter: whisking cold butter into any water-based sauce at the end of cooking, giving the sauce a thicker body and a glossy shine—as well as a buttery taste.

When you saute something, even in a nonstick pan, you need to use some kind of fat. But which one — butter or oil? Each is best suited for different kinds of sautéing:

1) When cooking over very high heat, use oil, which is less likely to burn.

2) When sautéing with medium-high heat, you may opt for butter, which adds a nice flavor. However, the milk solids in the butter can burn, or brown, affecting the color and taste of your food.

Typically, meats are sautéed in oil because they need a higher heat, while vegetables are sautéed in butter to impart a pleasant buttery flavor. Seafood may be sautéed in either one. Many chefs opt to use half butter and half oil when sautéing seafood: They get the benefit of the buttery flavor, but the added oil helps to keep the butter from burning as easily.

If you decide to use oil in your sautéing, it’s helpful to know that some oils have a higher smoke point than others, which means they start to smoke at a hotter temperature (and so are preferable for sautéing). Good oils for sautéing include palm oil, canola, corn, and peanut oil. If the recipe doesn’t specify what type of oil to use, go with one of these three neutral-flavored oils.

Learn... Why Do We Use Cooking Oil When Cooking?

Just like the professionals do, you can prevent butter from burning in a saute pan by adding a few drops of vegetable oil or any neutral-tasting oil. Oil alone should be hot but not smoking in the pan before you add food. Butter alone should foam at its edges but not brown. Some chefs insist on using only clarified butter when sautéing because it won’t burn as quickly but retains the buttery flavor. (Clarified butter, called ghee in Indian cuisine, has been heated to separate out the milk solids, which are skimmed off, making it more like cooking oil with a higher smoke point.) 

How to Make Clarified Butter Easily?

Clarified butter is easy to make and lasts several months or more in the refrigerator. Here’s how to make it:

1) Put one pound of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not stir. Allow the butter to melt. It will begin to foam. Let it continue to cook and foam without stirring until the foaming stops. The milk solids will fall to the bottom of the pan and turn golden brown.

2) When the butter begins to smell nutty and turns deeper gold (after about 20 minutes), remove it from the heat. Let it cool for 20 to 30 minutes.

3) Pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a glass container, and cover. Discard the solids. Clarified butter will keep for one year, in or out of the refrigerator.

Use Olive Oil Instead of Butter in Baking in Cooking

Butter fills several roles in baking, where it is used in a similar manner as other solid fats like lard, suet, or shortening, but has a flavor that may better complement sweet baked goods. Many cookie dough and some cake batters are leavened, at least in part, by creaming butter and sugar together, which introduces air bubbles into the butter. The tiny bubbles locked within the butter expand in the heat of baking and aerate the cookie or cake. Some cookies like shortbread may have no other source of moisture but the water in the butter. Pastries like pie dough incorporate pieces of solid fat into the dough, which become flat layers of fat when the dough is rolled out. During baking, the fat melts away, leaving a flaky texture. Butter, because of its flavor, is a common choice for the fat in such a dough, but it can be more difficult to work with than shortening because of its low melting point. Pastry makers often chill all their ingredients and utensils while working with a butter dough.

Lose the saturated fats, not the taste. Olive oil dramatically cuts back on the cholesterol and saturated fat content of desserts. It produces lighter-tasting baked goods and allows the flavor of the other ingredients to come forth. Because olive oil contains vitamin E, it helps to naturally maintain the freshness of baked goods and creates moist cakes, biscuits and muffins.

Use the equivalents shown when cooking with olive oil instead of butter or margarine. As a rough guide, use 3 units of olive oil in place of 4 units of butter/margarine.

Butter- Olive Oil Equivalents

Instead of this Quantity of Butter/Margarine

Use this Much Olive Oil
3 Tbsp
1 2/3 Tbsp
1 Tbsp
3/4 Tbsp
1 Tsp
3/4 Tsp

Read Related Post: Properties of Fats and Oils in Cooking that You Should Know

Which Is Safe To Cook With Olive Oil or Butter?

Olive oil should be eaten raw. It is not heat stable. Butter is the much better option to cook with, or ghee as it has a higher smoke point. While butter is safe to heat, olive oil easily oxidizes at higher temperatures.

Both oils are healthy oils. One is indeed more nutrient dense, but both are safe to consume. Make sure you’re eating organic olive oil that hasn’t been adulterated with cheap oils to cut costs. There is no need to give up butter, because you should be eating more of it.

Real butter is good for you and actually fairly nutritious. It contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It is also rich in the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Butyrate, both of which have powerful health benefits. CLA may lower body fat percentage in humans and butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut health and has been shown to make rats completely resistant to becoming obese.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Effects of Maillard Reactions on Food Flavor


The flavor of cooked meat is the flavor that has drawn people to cook steaks, chicken, and hamburgers for years. This flavor is not a given for these products and can be changed drastically depending on the type of method used. There are differing ways to impart flavor on meat products when cooked. The Maillard reaction have effects on the flavor these foods.

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned foods their desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, breads, and many other foods make use of the effect. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.

The Maillard reaction occurs when there is an interaction between an amine group and a reducing sugar that go through three main steps to give color, flavor, and aromatics or odor characteristics. This reaction produces colored products that are high in molecular weight, generically called melanoidins, and are responsible for the browning mechanism in meats. It also produces the flavor and aromatic products that are associated with meat flavor. The Maillard reaction is the reaction that occurs when meat is subjected to high cooking temperatures.

The Maillard reaction occurs at ~310F. Since water boils at 212F, meat products that are cooked in water do not exhibit the products that are normally associated with that of the Maillard reaction.

Foods with Maillard Reactions

The Maillard reaction is responsible for many colors and flavors in foods:

1) The browning of various meats like steak
2) Toasted bread
3) Biscuits
4) Pretzels
5) French fries
6) Malted barley as in malt whiskey or beer
7) Dried or condensed milk
8) Roasted coffee
9) Dulce de leche
10) The darkened crusts of baked goods
11) Maple syrup
12) Chocolate roux

Maillard Reaction vs Caramelization

Caramelization is an entirely different process from Maillard browning, though the results of the two processes are sometimes similar to the naked eye (and taste buds). Caramelization may sometimes cause browning in the same foods in which the Maillard reaction occurs, but the two processes are distinct. They both are promoted by heating, but the Maillard reaction involves amino acids, as discussed above, whereas caramelization is simply the pyrolysis of certain sugars. The following things are a result of the Maillard browning reaction:

1) Caramel made from milk and sugar, especially in candies: Milk is high in protein (amino acids), and browning of food involving this complex ingredient would most likely include Maillard reactions.

2) Chocolate and maple syrup

3) Lightly roasted peanuts

In making silage, excess heat causes the Maillard reaction to occur, which reduces the amount of energy and protein available to the animals who feed on it.

Other Ways to Impart Flavor on Meat

Other ways of imparting flavor to meat is through the use of smokes or aromatics and other flavor enhancers used in the cooking process. As most know, the flavor profile that a charcoal grill imparts is quite different from that of a propane grill or electric grill. These flavor profile constituents have to do with the differences of what particulates are in the smoke. Charcoal grills impart a woody or smoky flavor to the products that are cooked on them and most people or consumers find the flavor pleasing. The type of flavor from these charcoal grills can be changed depending on the type of charcoal used, as well as by the heat of the charcoal. The heat of the charcoal has an impact due to the amount of exposure time that the meat has to the heat source. When the charcoal is burned in a grill, the production of aromatic compounds occurs. These aromatic compounds bind with the proteins in the meat to produce the pleasing flavor that consumers desire. 

Propane or gas grills can also impart flavor, but most do not impact the eating experience due to the low relative amount of aromatic compounds produced. Smoking meat or the use of smoke houses can also impart flavor to the meat. 

Warmed over flavor is a common flavor among reheated products. When meat is cooked, the proteins are denatured. This denaturation of proteins allows for inorganic chemicals such as iron to be released. Iron is a prooxidant, meaning that it has the affinity to take electrons from other molecules. These molecules such as fatty acids, myoglobin, and sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar proteins can be oxidized readily. The release of electrons, especially in fatty acids cause rancidity and can give the meat a pungent odor and taste. Most heat and eat entrees have some sort of antioxidant to halt the process. Oxidation in cooked meat can be 10 times that of fresh meat.

Read Related Post: Why Do We Use Cooking Oil When Cooking?


Chichester, C. O. 1986. Advances in Food Research (Advances in Food and Nutrition Research). Boston: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-016430-2.

Hodge, J.E. 1953. Dehydrated Foods, Chemistry of Browning Reactions in Model Systems. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

McGee, Harold. 2004. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner, New York. ISBN 978-0-684-80001-1.

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