Hello, marshmallows! I have a very special surprise for all of you today. My friend Christy is currently studying to be a chef at Kendall College and she agreed to share some pro tips with the rest of us home cooks. How awesome is that? It’ll be a nice change from my usual, “Cook the meat. Plop it on a plate. Now eat.”
Christy is pretty much a culinary rockstar. She received The International Wine & Food Grant (don’t know what that is but it sounds fancy!) and interned at a local research and development company called Charlie Baggs, Inc. On top of all of that awesomeness, she’s a blogger, too! Check out recipes and other delicious things over at Simply Plated.
Before we dive into the post, though, I want to tell you all a little about how I met Christy. We both did speech in high school (nerd alert!) and we went to the same speech camp. For those of you who weren’t lucky enough (i.e. nerdy enough) to attend speech camp, it’s basically like any other summer camp you can think of but SO MUCH BETTER. Christy and I were prose kids, meaning we had an even better time because our coaches taught us a dance routine to Rihanna’s Umbrella that we performed for the entire group at the end-of-camp-dance.
As one of our coaches said, “Your parents are paying a lot of money for us to teach you how to dance!”
Ah, such great memories. Anyway, now that I got that long and mostly unnecessary story out of the way, let’s get to the real “meat” of this post. Ha, see what I did there? Yeah? Okay, I’ll stop talking now.
Hi everyone! My name’s Christy Gaylord and I’m finishing up my culinary arts degree at Kendall College in Chicago.
When you first start culinary school, it’s almost like boot camp. Intense knife drills, breaking your bad habits, 8-cutting chickens, fabricating fish, making giant steam kettles full of different kinds of stock, etc. But one of the first major lessons is how to stop relying on recipes. Instead, you learn ratios, methods, techniques.
You learn to look at all of the ingredients you have on hand, and apply the proper cooking method; rather than looking at a recipe and gather or buy new things. Waste is a terrible sin in the kitchen. Everything can and should be used. Reversing the recipe process makes it easier to use up every last product you have in your refrigerator and makes you a more productive cook. This makes for a profitable restaurant, but you use these techniques to save money in your home kitchen.
During your first quarter at Kendall College, you take a class called “Cooking Methods.” It’s a 10-day crash course in deep frying, roasting/baking, sauteing, sweating, pan-frying, braising, stewing, shallow and deep poaching, vegetable cookery and preservation. This way, you know how to perfectly execute each technique, within time it becomes second nature.
Cooking methods are divided into three main categories based on the type of heat used: wet, dry and combination.
Wet cooking methods include stewing, shallow and deep poaching, any cooking method where the product is completely submerged in liquid. Foods that benefit from wet cooking methods are tougher cuts of meat that need low and slow heat sources to tenderize.
Dry cooking methods include, roasting/baking, sauteing, sweating, and believe it or not, frying is considered a dry cooking method. Cuts of meat that are cooked using dry methods are already naturally tender. They don’t need a long cooking time and in fact and dry out over a long period of time.
Combination cooking methods like braising include both searing and simmering the product for a long time partially submerged in cooking liquid. These pieces of meat are slightly more tender than a piece of meat you’d want to stew, but still have connective tissues that need time to break down. If you cook a piece of meat properly, and slice it against the grain, you’ll end up with a tender cut every time.
After you learn the cuts of meat and the cooking method they require, store bought tenderizing become obsolete.
Store bought tenderizers contain “papain” which is an enzyme that’s found in unripe papaya and pineapple, it also has the uncanny ability to break down meat until it looks like dog food. Besides being pointless and disgusting, people can also develop some serious allergies to this enzyme—especially if you’re sensitive to latex.
You also learn a lot about the anatomy of animals. How they move dictates which muscles are worked more and therefore tougher. This why you can’t throw a beef shank in a pan and have it turn out tender.
I drew you a cow (another thing I learned how to do in culinary school):
3- Short Loin- Dry
5- Sirloin- Dry
6- Top Sirloin-Dry
7- Bottom Sirloin-Dry
Once you learn how each cut of meat needs to end up tender, you can purchase meat with confidence knowing that you know exactly what to do with it to make it delicious!