Basic Cooking Techniques

Some Quick and Dirty Tips For Deep Frying

Although most people are pretty familiar with the process of deep frying, here are some tips to make it a little easier, allowing you to end up with a better finished product.

  • Although deep frying is an incredibly versatile technique, it is used mainly for poultry and chicken because it keeps these products from drying out while allowing them to achieve a nice, crispy exterior.
  • Cooking temperatures range from 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a lower frying temperature for items that take a little longer to cook such as frying chicken at 325 degrees. Also, potato chips are usually fried at about 300-310 degrees F to allow enough time for all the water to be fried out of them before they become burnt.
  • Fast food joints use special pressure cookers that raise the internal boiling temperature of water to 250 degrees F (which is usually 212 degrees F at sea level). The higher boiling point allows the food to cook without as much moisture loss, ultimately resulting in a juicier finished product.
  • When frying fish, first salt with a little bit of kosher salt and then dredge in flour. The salt will bring a protein rich fluid to the surface of the fish which will allow for better adhesion to the flour. The flour will give the fish a nice protective coating, keeping the flesh from becoming fibrous and chewy. It will also allow for even and thorough browning.
  • When making batters for deep frying, use a flour that has a lower gluten content such as cake flour. Too much gluten can produce a tough, bready coating. However, gluten also aids the clingy properties of your batter so you don’t want your flour to be completely gluten free.
  • When using all purpose flour (AP) for batters, the addition of cornstarch and corn meal can be added to the lessen the negative effects of gluten in the flour.
  • When breading items with bread crumbs, first dredge the product in flour, then dip in egg, and then coat with bread crumbs. The flour will allow for the adhesion of the egg, and the egg will allow for the easy adhesion of the bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs are a favorite among chefs.

For more information on proper frying technique, listen to SCS 8| Frying, Confit & Deep Fat Poaching.


How To Poach

Poaching is a great way to cook delicate proteins such as fish. It is a moist method of cooking that gently and evenly cooks a protein without allowing the protein molecules to coagulate too quickly which can result in the finished product becoming chewy.

Basic Technique For Poaching

  • Heat poaching liquid (usually stock, wine, or court bouillon), to anywhere between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. A good visual guide is when bubbles start forming on the bottom of the pan but do not break the surface.
  • Some chefs will heat their poaching liquid to upwards of 200 degrees to counteract the cooling that will occur when the protein is placed in the liquid.
  • Monitor the temperature of your poaching liquid with a good thermometer to make sure that the temperature remains consistent.
  • Poach your protein to the desired finished temperature (about 130-135 degrees for fish and 135-140 for meat).
  • Remove protein and allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes depending on size and weight.

More Info


How To Cook A Prime Rib

The term “prime rib” is often incorrectly used for what is really a rib roast. The word prime is derived from the highest grading beef can obtain from the USDA, due to its marbling and fat content. Most true “prime ribs” are used by high end steak houses and swanky hotels, leaving only the choice USDA grades to be found at most supermarkets.

However, there is no law against a restaurant calling a roasted “choice grade” rib of beef “prime rib” because who’s to say that they didn’t roast it in a “prime” fashion.

So why call this post “How To Cook Prime Rib” even though its really a rib roast? Because that’s what people know it as and will keep calling it no matter how incorrect. But at least now you know the real truth. So without further delay…

How To Cook Prime Rib

  • When cooking prime rib, I like to always heavily salt the rib roast the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight. If you salt the rib roast right before cooking, it will draw moisture to the surface through osmosis and retard the browning process.
  • A lot of people like to start their “prime rib” in a 300-350 degree oven in order to keep it from shrinking. Me personally, I like to roast it first at 500 degrees for about 15 minutes to give the meat a little jump start on the browning process
  • Start by heavily seasoning your rib roast with lots of kosher salt and pepper and letting it sit in your fridge overnight if at all possible.
  • Place the rib roast fat side up in a roasting rack, and place the roasting rack in a roasting pan. If the fat cap is thicker than 1/2″, trim it down accordingly.
  • Insert a probe thermometer into the center of the rib roast, (this step can be omitted if you are using an instant read thermometer).
  • Place the rib roast (aka prime rib) into a 500 degree oven for about 15 minutes to help the browning process begin.
  • After 15 minutes, lower the oven to 300 degrees and allow to cook until it reaches the desired internal temperature, (120 degrees F for rare, 130 Degrees F for medium) allowing for about 10 degrees of carryover cooking. This means that for medium, you should really pull the rib roast out of the oven when your thermometer reads 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit. Note: end pieces will be more done than the center.
  • After the desired internal temperature is reached, remove from the roasting rack and allow to “rest” in a warm place for about 15-30 minutes. This will cause the juices to evenly distribute back into the meat, keeping your prime rib moist when slicing.

While your prime rib is resting, it is the perfect time to make your pan jus from the drippings.

  • Put the roasting pan on the stove top on medium-high heat. If there is an excessive amount of fat in the drippings, you can pour some of it off, being careful not to lose any of the meat juices.
  • Throw in some mirepoix (diced onions, celery and carrots at 2:1:1 ratio respectively) and brown in the fat drippings.
  • Once the mirepoix is nice and browned, add in some roasted veal stock at the rate of 1/2 gallon per 10 lb prime rib. Allow to simmer and reduce by at least 1/2, making sure to scrape all of the little brown meat drippings off the bottom of the pan.
  • Strain through a chinois into a sauce pot, and allow to sit off the flame so that the fat has a chance to rise to the top. Skim off the fat, and finish your jus by seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve your prime rib with some sort of potato (baked, mashed, fried, etc), a good seasonal veg, some horseradish sour cream, and of course your natural pan jus.

How To Roast

To roast something is to surround it with hot, dry air. It is a great technique to cook any number of items including fish, poultry, meat and even vegetables.

Roasting and baking are basically the same thing, except roasting is usually used when referring to meat, poultry and vegetables, while baking is usually used to refer to fish, breads and pastries. This is nothing more then culinary semantics, and both techniques are really one in the same.

Proper Technique For Roasting

  • Never cover your product when roasting. Covering will create steam, and instead of roasting your meat or vegetables, you will instead be steaming.
  • When roasting meat or other forms of protein, try to always use a roasting rack. This will keep the product from simmering in its own juices, which will cause the underside to poach and not roast.
  • If using a conventional oven to roast, anticipate hot spots and uneven cooking. The product which you are roasting will cook faster on the back side then the side closer to the front of the oven since most of your heat is lost through the door. To avoid uneven cooking, be prepared to rotate your product, especially when roasting for extended periods of time.

SCS 8| Frying, Confit & Deep Fat Poaching

Download Episode

In this episode, we finish our three part series on basic cooking techniques with a lesson on frying, confit, and deep fat poaching. In the discussion segment, I answer Dino's question on why I prefer canola oil over olive oil for cooking, and in the culinary quick tip, we go over proper breading and frying technique.

Links For This Episode



For our complete list of audio lectures you can view The Stella Culinary School Podcast Index. For a list of video techniques, please visit our How To Cook Video Index. You can also subscribe to the Stella Culinary School Podcast feed through traditional RSS or iTunes.



SCS 007| Braising, Poaching & Roasting

How to Braise Poach and Roast

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In this episode, we continue our three part series on basic cooking technique with a lesson on braising, poaching and roasting. In the discussion segment, I answers Scott's question on becoming a chef, and some of the hurdles that he will have to overcome in the process. And in the Culinary Quick Tip, we talk about Sous Vide, and how it can be applied to the braising process.

Links For This Episode



For our complete list of audio lectures you can view The Stella Culinary School Podcast Index. For a list of video techniques, please visit our How To Cook Video Index. You can also subscribe to the Stella Culinary School Podcast feed through traditional RSS or iTunes.



SCS 006| Sautéing, Searing & Pan Roasting

Pan Roasting, Sauteing & Searing

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In this episode of The Stella Culinary School Podcast, we start a three part series on basic cooking technique. Discussed today; sautéing, searing and pan roasting.

Links For This Episode

Check out Stephen Budiansky's article, Math Lessons For Locavores, or you can follow him on his personal blog,

Further Information



For our complete list of audio lectures you can view The Stella Culinary School Podcast Index. For a list of video techniques, please visit our How To Cook Video Index. You can also subscribe to the Stella Culinary School Podcast feed through traditional RSS or iTunes.



SCS 4| Blanching

How to Blanch Vegetables

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In this episode of the Stella Culinary School Podcast, we talk about the basics of blanching, including the science behind keeping green vegetables green, and how to properly blanch root vegetables.

Resources For This Episode


For our complete list of audio lectures you can view The Stella Culinary School Podcast Index. For a list of video techniques, please visit our How To Cook Video Index. You can also subscribe to the Stella Culinary School Podcast feed through traditional RSS or iTunes.



How To Cook Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are something that we all know and love. They make a great side dish to accompany your favorite meat entrée, and are so versatile that you can serve them with almost anything. Although most people understand the underlying principles of how to make mashed potatoes, there are some techniques and secrets that restaurant chefs employ to ensure that their mashed potatoes are better than the ones you make on “turkey day”.

Mashed Potato Procedure

  • Peel whole russet potatoes and cut into manageable chunks. I’ll usually cut my potatoes into quarters lengthwise, and then cross cut them into pieces roughly measuring about 2.5 inches.

  • Place your potato chunks in an appropriately sized pot, add a couple large pinches of salt and cover with cold water. Starting your potatoes in cold water will allow the complex starches to cook more evenly.

  • Place the pot on your stove top, turn to high heat, and bring to a boil.

  • Once the water begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until fork- tender.

  • When the potatoes are fork-tender, strain them off and make sure that all the water is allowed to drain out.

  • From this point, most home cooks would simply mash with a hand masher, add butter, salt, pepper, and possibly a touch of cream. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this method, but if you want your mashed potatoes to truly be the best that your dinner guests have ever put into their mouths, then keep reading.

Secrets to Making Great Mashed Potatoes

So what are the secrets that restaurant chefs use to make great mashed potatoes? Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Use a food mill. Passing your mashed potatoes through a food mill will give them a wonderful silky smooth texture. Do this first, before you add your butter and cream. If you like your mashed potatoes chunky - fine, then don’t mill them. However, silky mashed potatoes are much harder to come by in the home, and honestly, they just taste better.

  • Add enough butter to give your cardiologist a heart attack. The number one reason why mashed potatoes made by a restaurant chef will always taste better than yours is because they mix in an enormous amount of butter. A good place to start is about 1-2 ounces of butter for every large russet potato used.

  • Use European-style butter. Most fine dining chefs use European-style butter because it has a higher fat content. One brand that is commercially available to the home cook is Land O’ Lakes. It should say something like “European Butter” on the box. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, fat is KING.)

  • The creaminess from your mashed potatoes should come from the melted butter, not the cream. Add your butter first until the mashed potatoes reach their desired consistency, and then add a touch of cream for added body and texture.

  • Some chefs believe that melting the cream and butter together before adding them to the mashed potatoes allows the fat to coat the starch granules of the potatoes more evenly, giving it a better texture.

  • Season your potatoes well with plenty of kosher salt. The number one mistake that most home cooks always make is that they under season their food. If you made your mashed potatoes properly, they should contain an enormous amount of fat, which will coat the palate. To counteract this, a little extra salt is needed to really bring out the flavor.

What are some of your favorite things to add to mashed potatoes, and what secret tricks do you use to make them the best your dinner guests have ever tasted?

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