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The Basics Of Two Essential Cooking Techniques - Sauting and Cooking Pasta Correctly

While you may chuckle at the thought of not knowing how to boil water, some people will tell you how they ruined their favorite pan when it boiled dry! Basic cooking skills are something that everyone should know, even if they have never set foot in the kitchen. From making a grilled cheese sandwich to creating a five-course meal, you really have to start somewhere! Below, you will find some information on basic cooking skills that can get you started in the kitchen.

Sizzling Saut

Literally meaning "to jump" in French, this basic technique requires the use of oil or fat to keep vegetables or meat from sticking to a hot pan. Meat is best prepared by cutting into small pieces and trimming the fat off since you will be using oil or butter anyway. Prepare vegetables such as onions and bell peppers the same way by dicing, chopping, or mincing.

Start by placing the pan over high heat and melting a piece of butter. You'll know if it's ready when the butter starts to foam a bit and turn slightly brown. Add the meat first so that the released flavor will infuse with the rest of the dish. Keep everything moving and add the vegetables in next. This is a great way to make steak toppings or soup bases.

Cooking Perfect Pasta

With more to it than just boiling water in a pot, how the pasta is cooked will be the deciding factor to any pasta dish. All your efforts towards making the perfect sauce and side dish will be undermined with soggy, sticky pasta. With this in mind, there are a few tips to get you going in the right direction.

Don't make the common mistake of using a pan that is several sizes too small. You can't cook an entire bag of pasta in something that is meant to hold a couple of quarts of liquid. A good rule of thumb is to use four to six quarts of water for every pound of pasta. And before you put it in, add a teaspoon of salt to the water.

To keep the pasta from becoming one sticky mess, add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. You can omit this if you watch it closely and stir continuously. However, it is still advisable to do so because a bonus to adding oil is that it keeps the water from boiling over.

Bring the water to a full rolling boil. Add your pasta and stir continuously for the first two minutes. This will give some of the starch a chance to boil off and you'll be much less likely to wind up with a clump of noodles stuck together. Cook for the recommended time, but stir every minute to two minutes while cooking.

Don't wait until the final minute to check if it's done. Variations in pan thickness, water volume, and stove intensity will produce different results. The time is just a rough estimate meant to serve as a guide. Check the pasta by taking a piece and biting it. Or you can just try to cut a strand by using the spoon.

You are looking for a doneness that is "al dente". This is how Italians call pasta that is done but still firm. Drain it an place it under running water to stop the cooking process. If you will be serving later, toss it with some butter or oil to stop the strands from sticking together.


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