What I’ve Learned from The Food Network (Vol. 19)

*holds up right hand*

I am a Food Network addict.

I spend hours watching shows I record from the Food Network.  It’s the way I unwind.  My favorites are Barefoot Contessa (and I have ALL of her cookbooks), Emeril Live, Everyday Italian, and Good Eats — in about that order.  I do make some of their recipes, but many times I don’t.  Watching the shows doesn’t even really make me crave the food they make.  I just find immense satisfaction out of just watching them cook.

My husband does not get this.  If he happens to sit down and catch a few minutes of the show, he wants to eat it RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE.  Therefore he rarely watches with me.  Unless it’s Good Eats.  Alton’s show has just enough scientific geekiness to reel my husband in.

I’ve learned a lot over my years of watching the Food Network religiously, so I thought I’d share some of it.

1. After grilling or cooking, take the meat off and let it rest before cutting into it. This one is huge.  I do it with everything now — hamburgers, steak, roasts, chicken, any meat that I make.  If you let it rest 5-10 minutes, it will retain its juices and be moister and tastier.

2. Season every step of the way. By season, I mean salt.  This is another biggie.  I use kosher salt, and I have it in one of those old-fashioned sugar jars like they use at a diner.  (Yes, salt in a sugar container; it CAN be dangerous.)  Anyway, it makes it very easy to use that way.

I always season my meat when it’s raw before I cook it, and then season along the way.  Same with pasta and veggies — lots of salt in the water, then a little sprinkle at the end for good measure.

As Ina is fond of saying, “If you salt it before you cook it, it tastes seasoned; if you salt it at the end, it just tastes salty.”  Sometimes, of course, you DO want that salty crunch on top (with roasted veggies or fried foods, in particular) but you should ALWAYS salt first.

3. Use the highest quality, freshest ingredients you can find. This is key, especially when trying to cook healthier or when making simple dishes.  The fewer ingredients in a recipe, the more important it is that they are high quality.

I’ve begun growing fresh herbs in my kitchen so I always have them on hand.  I keep fresh lemons and limes around now.  I buy local veggies at the farm stand whenever possible.

4. Measure liquids with a liquid measure and dry ingredients with a dry measure. This sounds like a big, fat DUH, but I never knew it wasn’t okay to measure liquids in my measuring cups.

5. Separate eggs when they are cold but beat egg whites when they are room temp. This isn’t always feasible because I’m not a great planner when it comes to baking.  But whenever possible, I try to follow this rule.  It definitely makes egg whites with more volume.

6. Make pastry with COLD ingredients. This is how to make flaky pastry.  You don’t want the butter or shortening to melt, but to remain in little pea-sized balls.

7. Bake cookies and cakes with room temp ingredients. It works best to have all ingredients room temp when baking.  Leave the butter and eggs out a while before making those chocolate chip cookies.

8. Adding a couple tablespoons of coffee (preparead or coffee granules) to chocolate recipes makes the chocolate taste richer. This is another Ina tip.  She always has coffee in some form in her chocolate recipes.  I’ve tried it, and it DOES make a remarkable difference.

So that’s some of what I’ve learned over the years, watching the Food Network.  I hope some of those tips are useful to you.


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36 Responses

  1. We watch a lot of Food Network too, but Husband prefers shows like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (which does make me want to eat the food right that second). I used to watch a lot of 30-Minute Meals, but lately have not so much. Thanks for the tips though. I don’t use enough salt, I know, because I just don’t really care about it, but I guess my family would like more flavor.

  2. We let all things coming off the grill rest a bit, it does make a difference. I am just starting to season things more, but that is a wonderful thing. Garlic Salt is my favorite so far.

  3. My husband and I are HUGE Food Network watchers (that and HGTV). Our favorite is also Barefoot Contessa.

    I love reading when you try Ina recipes. I was telling my husband that you tried to make her strawberrie preserves but that it didn’t thicken and he immediately said “so she used it for ice cream topping” before I could finish the story. lol!

  4. Seriously?? I can’t use the same measuring devices for liquids and dry goods? What do I use for liquids? Help me Jo-Lynne.

  5. I just had the same liquid/dry measurement discussion with my husband. He was determined to make cookies and I had to tell him that the measurements had to be EXACT, not approximate and he can’t use that pyrex measuring cup for flour and packing brown sugar.

  6. I too love cookery shows.

    My fav is BBC MasterChef. Do you have it, or an equivalent? So I was thrilled when one of the Masterchef finalists was doing the catering at a friend’s recent 40th birthday dinner 🙂

  7. I found your blog through Bye Bye, Pie. I love the Food Network and I loved this post. I’m putting a star beside it in my Reader!

    I know you said it was a ‘DUH’ tip, but I’m not sure I knew that I wasn’t supposed to use my measuring cups for liquid measures. What am I supposed to use? I’d hate for Alton to come over some day and shame me.

  8. Thanks for the tips–some of which I know, but I have used my measuring cups for liquids at times–I won’t do it again, I promise! And I should salt my pasta water more.

  9. I LOVE Food Network! You can also learn a lot from Alton Brown.

    A trick for room temp eggs in case you forgot to take them out in advance: sit them in a bowl of warm (not too hot!) water for a few minutes. It’ll bring them to room temp a bit faster if you’re in a hurry to get started.

  10. Great tips! I’m a rather clumsy cook, and I learned a few things that I know will be helpful. Who knew that temp was so important? Not me! Have a great day. 🙂

  11. Erin, LOL. For liquids, one of those measuring cups with a handle and a spout, Pyrex makes them. Those are for liquids. For dry ingredients, the stacking measuring cups usually in metal or plastic. 🙂

    I cheat all the time, I put liquids in regular dry measuring cups. But Ina says not to. 🙂

  12. These are fantastic tips. Thank you for sharing. I especially appreciated the grilling tip. I’ll have to try that. We (ahem…my husband really deserves all of the credit) grill regularly, but often we just “dig in” instead of waiting for the meat to “retain its juices.”

  13. Be cautious using salt. It can be a factor in high blood pressure and water retention. Try using more herbs and spices, like garlic powder as opposed to garlic salt or even better fresh garlic. When you are diagnosed with high blood pressure the first things they tell you are lose ten pounds and cut out the sodium. It is a huge adjustment but doing little things can make big changes.

  14. I watch the Food Network all day long, basically, but I’m not really fond of cooking myself. Watching other people do it is nice, though. heh. Every once in awhile, though, something will happen in the kitchen and I’ll know the answer. All from my many years of watching cooking shows.

  15. Wow! I’m such a dummy. I didn’t know most of these. Note to self: Start watching the Food Network.

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