All your senses come into play when you cook. And the more you cook, the more you’ll find yourself relying on them to signal something’s done. When all four burners and the oven are occupied with different dishes, keeping track of timers is far more difficult than simply keeping your whole body focused on the food.
Bacon: Ever notice how the bubbles that form on bacon as it’s cooking become small and foam-like when the bacon is crisp? With a single batch of bacon you can see how brown those strips of smoky pig belly are getting, but with multiple batches, the rendered fat is deeper and the foam is more obvious. This visible cue is really helpful if you’re cooking a lot of chopped bacon for bacon bits; the change from big bubbles to tiny ones is very clear.
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Toasted Nuts and Seeds: Whether what you’re toasting is in the oven or on top of the stove, let your nose be your guide. When you pick up a pleasantly roasty aroma, it’s ready. Don’t dillydally!
Steak: Skilled grillers have the touch test for steaks mastered. It’s a nifty trick for judging whether your steak is rare, medium-rare, medium, or well done. Watch the video above for a tutorial in what the meat should feel like. If you’re new to the technique, don’t hesitate to double-check yourself with an instant-read thermometer or even the cut-and-peek method, especially if you’re cooking a pricey piece of meat.
Quinoa: We’ve cooked a lot of quinoa and noticed that the red and the black can take a few minutes longer to cook than the white. That’s not a problem when you know what to look for. The quinoa is cooked when the curlicue white germ emerges from the grain.
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Fried Foods: You want every sense on alert when deep-frying. We swear by a deep-fry thermometer to get the heat right, but the Chinese have a couple of tricks for this. Some upend a bamboo chopstick into the oil, while others use the green end of a scallion. Either way, if it bubbles briskly, it’s ready. The question remains though: what temperature qualifies as ready? We’ll get back to you on that.
Your ears come in handy when frying.When the items to be fried are first added to the fat, they make a loud racket, but as they cook, the noise dissipates as the excess moisture is evaporated. A perfect example is fried sage leaves. They only take a few seconds to fry, but the sound swings from strident to silent in no time.
What sensory clues do you use when you cook?