Oven cooking is easier for beginners
This is the fourth of a five-part series focused on tips for college students and others cooking for themselves for the first time.
So far in your new life as an apartment dweller, you have learned how to successfully keep to a grocery budget and stock the pantry well. You use safe food-handling practices and are keeping your kitchen workspace bleached and pathogen free. You are doing great.
Now, you are ready for the fun stuff! Today's column will focus on equipping your kitchen with some basic tools, how to read a recipe and learning a few cooking methods utilizing that large appliance that some folks use for storing dishes - the ever so versatile oven.
Basic tools for any kitchen:
Fire extinguisher and first aid kit
A good basic cookbook
A medium-sized saucepan
A medium-sized sauté pan
Chef and paring knives
Instant read thermometer
Measuring cups and spoons
Vegetable peeler, tongs, whisk, spatulas, wooden spoons, mixing bowls
Baking dishes, sheet pan(s)
Plastic wrap, foil, plastic sandwich bags
Dishes and silverware
Cloth or paper napkins, towels, wash cloths
Dish and hand soap, household bleach, paper towels
How to begin cooking
When you are planning to cook several dishes, the goal is to have everything ready to eat at the same time. Read your recipes and determine which dish will take the longest to complete. Start with that dish and then go the next shortest, etc.
Prepare your mise en place. That means to prepare all the ingredients needed for the recipes in the form required. Chop what has to be chopped and measure everything out. Then reread your recipe and visualize what you will do with each ingredient.
Oven cooking methods
Ovens cook foods by surrounding them with hot air, a gentler and more even source of heat than the direct heat of a burner. Although many types of food are prepared in ovens, they are most commonly used for roasting and baking.
Convection ovens have a fan that forces hot air to circulate around the food, cooking it evenly and quickly. Some convection ovens have the capacity to introduce moisture.
The cooking methods we will cover are broiling, roasting, baking, braising and stewing. These are all ego boosting methods for even the beginning cook, easy to master with little effort.
The slow-cooking methods of roasting, baking and braising will fill your home with delicious aromas and produce succulent dishes - the scent alone will impress that cute student across the hall.
Broiling. The broiling element, found on the ceiling of the oven, cooks by radiating heat down onto the food. It produces results similar to grilling, which cooks food with radiant heat from beneath the food. It is an ideal method for cooking thinner, portion-sized foods such as chicken breasts, fish or steaks, and open face sandwiches. Broiling is a quick cooking method, so don't try to multitask while doing it. In older ovens, you have to leave the oven door slightly ajar to allow the smoke to escape. In newer models, this is unnecessary. Ask your landlord if you are unsure how to use your broiler.
n Roasting utilizes the dry, heated air held in an oven. Roasted foods are frequently seared first in hot oil on the stovetop or in the oven. As the outer layers become heated, the food's natural juices turn to steam and penetrate the food more deeply. The rendered juices, or pan drippings, are used to make sauces or gravies while the meat rests. Roasting is an effective technique for large pieces of meat, whole chickens or turkeys or fish. Small amounts of liquid and or fats are added to the roasting pan. Foods complete their roasting process in about an hour or more, depending on the size of the item roasting.
n Baking is similar to roasting, as it relies on dry heat in a closed compartment. Baking works best for portion-sized foods, such as fish fillets or large pans of lasagna, enchiladas, and of course, brownies, cakes and cookies. Baking times for entrees are usually under an hour, for cookies about 10 to 15 minutes.
n Braising is a technique that turns tough cuts of meat fork tender, as liquid and moist heat gently penetrates the connective tissue for several hours. Braised foods are often, though not always, left in a single large piece that can be sliced or carved into portions. It's a good idea to tie, or truss, meat you are braising to maintain its proper shape. Pulled pork and corned beef are examples of braised foods.
n Stewing is similar to braising, only the foods are cut into bite-sized pieces and are cooked in even more liquid. Stews can be cooked in the oven in a covered Dutch oven or they can be simmered on the stove top for several hours. A hearty Beef Stew is an example of wonderful dish cooked in this method.
Oven cooking methods produce some of our favorite comfort foods. The are perfect for fall and winter weather, but you might want to practice now before you head back to school.
What's simmering? That's a term we'll discuss next week when stove top cooking methods are the topic.
Bon Appetit! Discover the joy of cooking!
The recipes chosen for today use broiling and roasting methods of cooking. Practice these and then call the crowd to dinner!
Master this dish for satisfying Sunday dinners for the gang and use the bones to make soup stock. Need to know how? E-mail me at the address below.
1 whole body chicken, about 4 pounds
Salt and black pepper
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary
1 4-inch sprig fresh thyme
½ cup white wine
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Cut off the wing tips, leaving the last joint only. With fingers, remove excess fat from the chicken's inside cavity. Trim off the excess skin at the neck and remove the giblet packet. Wash the inside of the chicken thoroughly with cold running water. Allow to dry. Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper and place the lemon, half the onion, all the rosemary and thyme inside the chicken cavity.
Remove the giblets from the bag and place them and the remaining half onion in the center of the roasting pan. Place the chicken on top of the giblets and onion. Pour the wine into the pan and roast for 30 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan drippings.
After 30 minutes, turn the oven temperature up to 450ºF and roast for another 25 to 30 minutes. Test for doneness by poking a small knife blade in the fat part of the thigh. If the liquid runs clear - not pink or red - the chicken is done.
Allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Serve this with either roasted potatoes and carrots (peel and cut in quarters and add to roasting pan during the last 40 minutes of cooking) or baked potatoes (simply wash one potato per person and prick with fork tines all over. Add to oven during last 40 minutes of roasting time.
Moms, Dads and those experiencing success living on their own - do you have tips to share? Send them to me and we'll compile a list for the final installment of this series that runs on Aug. 21. I would need to hear from you no later 10 a.m. on Friday, August, 15.
A five-ingredient entrée ready in 30 minutes or less!
Autumn Spice-Rubbed Pork
Makes 2 servings
¾ pound pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat broiler. Line a baking tray with foil. Remove fat from pork and cut meat in half lengthwise, without cutting all the way through. Open like a book.
Mix pepper, cinnamon, oregano and salt together. Rub spice mixture onto pork, making sure all sides are covered.
Place pork on tray. Broil about 5 inches from heat for 7 minutes. A meat thermometer inserted in the center should read 160ºF. Slice and serve with warm applesauce.
Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at