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By Chef Todd

10 Steps To Grilling Taught In Culinary College

I've been telling you for years that ALL cooking comes from step-by-step repeatable methods, not recipes. This is true for grilling as well. When I teach tomorrow's great chefs in culinary school, they are exposed to the very same things I teach you through this blog and my websites.

Professional quality grilling comes down to 10 basic steps:

1) Choose The Right Item To Grill - Grilling is intense, direct source heat. There's no time to tenderize something put on the grill, it just cooks too fast. Items to be grilled should be already tender and able to cook quickly. You can't grill a large beef roast. It would be charred on the outside and raw in the middle. This type of item is better roasted, smoked or braised with indirect dry or moist heat. The freshest ingredients are the easiest to grill and when you know how to choose the freshest foods, your cooking will be even easier.

2) Use Marinades Correctly - There may be no time to tenderize during grilling, but BEFORE grilling you can have a small effect on the food with a marinade. Marinades add flavor to grilled items, but if they contain an acidic ingredient they'll also break down connective tissue and tenderize your ingredient. Acidic ingredients like wine, citrus, or tomato are best.

3) Grill On HIGH - Grilling isn't for the faint of heart or the indecisive. There should be no lowering or increasing the heat during the process like saute'. The grill is the "rocket ship" of cooking. Let it blaze away to take advantage of the intense direct source heat.

4) Coat With Fat - Brushing your grilled item with olive oil or a high smoke point fat will aid in caramelization of sugars which will result in nicely browned foods with attractive grill marks.

5) Show Side Down - The presentation side of your item will be "up" on the plate so the diner can see it. That's the side that should cook the longest for the best plate appeal. Don't flip grilled items multiple times. They should cook as much as possible on one side and then finished on the other because nobody's ever going to see the second side. It will be facing down on the plate.

6) Sneak A Peek - After a few minutes you'll peek under the ingredient to see if those nice grill marks are developing. If they're not, leave it alone. If you see beautiful black caramelization lines, it's time to move the steak around.

7) Make a 90 Degree Turn - Move the item to a fresh hot spot on the grill and turn it 90 degrees from where it was previously cooking. This will develop the cross-hatched grill marks that look like a pro cooked it.

8) Cook 75 / 25 - Any grilled item should be cooked the majority on the first side and simply finished on the second side. As soon as you turn your steak, chicken or burger, you're just looking at a brown piece of meat. You've lost all the indicators of whether your item is done or not. Watch the changes in the food, the blood rising, the proteins stiffening and you'll make a better decision about turning it only ONCE.

9) Stick It To It - The ONLY way to quantify your grilling and tell when something is cooked to your liking is with a digital instant read thermometer. You don't have to guess when you cook to a precise internal temperature. You don't have to poke it with a fork or gash it with a knife. If your personal steak number is 140F for medium, as soon as the thermometer says so, it's done.

10) Bump And Run - This is what separates amateurs from professionals. If you've ever eaten a steak or burger from a bloody plate or a soggy bottom bun, you've seen a cook who doesn't bump and run. Because of the high heat, your food will continue to cook after it's removed from the grill. Juices will re-distribute and it's better if this happens for 5 minutes on a paper towel than on a bloody plate. Bump it onto a towel and run out to the dining room.

These 10 steps are what I teach in culinary school, but you don't have to be a professional chef to cook like one. Burn your recipes and cook with your eyes, your nose, and a little bit of science and your outdoor cooking will be a winner every single time!

By Chef Todd

Easy Cooking Ideas a Recipe Book Will Never Tell You

If you’re looking for easy cooking ideas, stop searching in recipe books! Instead, look at your cooking basics. One of the best basic cooking methods to employ for quick dishes is stove-top sauté. Sauté is a direct source, conductive cooking method that uses intense heat to cook and brown products quickly and easily. It’s the best way to get dinner done quickly, regardless of the ingredients you choose.

The most important part of the sauté method is getting the pan hot first. This is one of the biggest mistakes home cooks make that gets in the way of easy cooking. Putting your protein product into the pan and then heating the pan and the product together actually makes cooking more difficult. If you don’t hear a distinct “sizzle” when you add something to the pan, it’s not hot enough. The first thing your protein product will do is release moisture and if you are heating the product at the same time as the pan, you will end up with a dried finished product.

After you’re sure your pan is ready, you’ll need a small amount of fat to transfer the heat from the bottom of the pan to the item you’re cooking. This is one of the cooking basics you can’t ignore. Keep in mind that the use of fat in sauté is meant only to help with heat transfer. This is different from pan frying, where you fill the pan with oil in a moist, convective fashion. So, use only a small amount of fat for sauté.

Once your item is cooked under the direct heat of the stove top, then you can add any type aromatics that you would like, such as onion, garlic, or ginger. Quickly cook them in the leftover pan-drippings or “fond” to combine the flavors.

Now comes the fun of sauté method and the best of all easy cooking ideas, how to make a quick pan sauce. Any type of cold liquid will quickly drop the temperature of the pan and lift the fond from the bottom, allowing you to combine flavors and leave a flavorful liquid that you can thicken or reduce for a sauce.

Quick dishes and easy cooking ideas always come from cooking basics. Once you have an understanding of these basic methods, you can use them over and over again to create dinner ideas from the ingredients you have on hand.

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!


The Complete cooking DVD collection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

If You Don’t Prepare for Daylight Savings Time Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Daylight savings time is the practice of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Although it was originally designed to reduce electric usage, there’s controversy over whether it’s actually had this effect. Now, daylight savings is primarily used a marker for the beginning of a season and to take care of certain items like changing your clock and changing your smoke detector batteries. You may be saying, "But, Chef Todd! This is interesting and we love the info, but what in the world does it have to do with the art of cooking?"

I'm so glad you asked!

Whether we change the clocks or not, the days get longer naturally. This is a signal for the plants to start getting ready to provide fruits vegetables, herbs and spices for us in the coming growing season. Now we're cooking!

If you have a love of cooking, there are some cooking tasks that you should associate with daylight savings time. The most cooking fun of the year is cooking outdoors. Some might say it's an art form.

As with any artist, some preparation is in order for you to prepare for the season of fun, outdoor cooking. First, to be able to practice the art of cooking outdoors, you will need clean cooking tools.

Let's start outside:

  • Inspect and clean the BBQ grill, smoker, and/or your outdoor cookers.
  • Look for spiders and dirt.
  • Check your gas tank for leaks (put some soapy water on a pastry brush and brush the liquid mixture onto the top of the tank, turn on the pressure...you don't want to see bubbles)

Cooking is a lot more fun when you have enough gas, charcoal or wood chips for your outdoor cooking. It's certainly no fun to run out of gas in the middle of cooking a steak.

As soon as you feel the last frost has come, spend some time preparing your herbs indoors and outdoors. Window box herbs will give you a small, quick start, but your outdoor garden should be tilled and fertilized for the coming season. If you start putting some love into your garden now, you'll be ready for some fun, tasty cooking early in the season.

But your outdoor herbs aren’t the only things that need attention for you to have some fun cooking. In my next post, we'll talk about how the art of cooking outdoors also requires some inside preparation.

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By Chef Todd

For People Who Want to Cook But Can’t Get Started

Today, I want to help eliminate the doubt that you don't know how to cook, because I know that you can. Now, don't shake your head at me, I know that I'm right! You see, today, I am going to give you information about cooking that will help you to understand that learning to cook starts with you. Not a recipe...not even with one of my lessons.

Look, everyone can make something to feed themselves, even if you consider yourself a lousy cook, you're eating something. And to prove that you can learn to cook, we're going to start without pots or pans and you're not going to touch a stove, food, look at a recipe or take a single cooking class.

Are you ready? Here's the first step...

Examine what you already know.

 

Seriously, what is the one thing that you can cook, that consistently meets your expectations? What is the one meal or dish that you can make with or without a recipe, just because you like it and you want it? It may be that you have two or three dishes like this, but let’s start with the one thing that you can make confidently.

  • If it’s just opening a can of soup and heating it up, start there.
  • If you can cook a really good grilled cheese sandwich, start there.
  • If you can grill a hamburger, but can’t cook inside, start there.
  • If you make great tomato sauce, but can make alfredo, start there.

With each of the above examples, what you may not realize is that you already understand a basic cooking method and not only can you learn how to cook, but you will be able to make amazing dishes!

If you start with what you can do, understand and what you like, then you just need a little confidence to attempt a variation. You might not realize that you’re already performing a basic cooking method, you just don’t know what it is. Hey, don't look now, but I think you're learning how to cook!

In my next post, I'll introduce you to a cooking method as a general concept and by taking a look at what you cook already, what you already know, I'll teach you to add variations. With this information within your grasp, you will learn how to cook!

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By Chef Todd

Eliminate Any Doubt You CAN Learn To Cook.

I help people every week to learn to cook and yet I'm approached all of the time by people telling that that they can't cook. I'm here to tell you that you can cook, in fact, I believe that you just don't have the right information about cooking. Think about it, saying that you can't cook is like saying that you've lost something, right? If you've lost a leg, then you might say, "I can't walk." But what have you lost to be able to say that you can't cook?

Listen, you’re not born knowing how to cook, none of us is and the fact that you don't know how to cook is not your fault. If cooking wasn’t a family hobby or if you didn’t have a mother or grandmother to teach you, then you've been left to get cooking information from recipe books and celebrity chefs. And I know that that means, they always let you down! They may have brighter colors, prettier to look at and be more entertaining than grandma, but cook books and celebrity chefs don't teach you how to cook.

I had a student come to class once and tell me a story about how wonderful her Grandmother's lasagna was. In an effort to ensure that the legacy of her Grandmother's lasagna lived on, she got the recipe from her Grandmother and went home to create the masterpiece making sure that she followed the recipe exactly. Lo and behold, it didn't hold a candle to the Grandmother's lasagna. When she confronted her Grandmother, she said, "Well, I never follow that recipe anyway."

Recipes let everyone down. In the end, when following the cooking information that a recipe gives to you and it doesn't come out right, you think you don't know how to cook...that you can't learn to cook. You have doubts creep into your thoughts, "Everybody cooks with recipes, right? I’m the only one who can’t make a recipe look like the photo in the book."

Wrong!

You’re not the only one who can't make a recipe turn out great, you’re one of everyone. Everyone can't cook at one point in their life.

Everyone can’t cook to one degree or another and to be a great cook:

  • You don’t have to be a celebrity chef
  • You don’t have to know the difference between escarole and escargot
  • You don’t have to know how to bake a cake
  • You don’t have to know how to open a clam
  • You don’t have to know how to make beef bourguignon

So what cooking information do you need to have to know to learn to cook? You already know it!

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By Chef Todd

Worst Cooks in America Ep 5

Finally! "Cook-fidence"!

Worst Cooks in America was back with their penultimate episode last night, leaving me conflicted. It’s a lousy show. Bringing family members to the cloistered can’t-cooks is a divisive tear-inducing tactic, but I’m still compelled to watch.

Why do I keep watching this Food Network show? It’s because I’m chuckling under my breath at the irony of Worst Cooks in America. Among all their celebrity chefs, new catch-phrases, and cross-promotion for product placement, the network is actually teaching someone to cook! I don’t think they expected THAT to happen.

While the MTV of Food has been focused on the juicy “reality show” clips of crying when cooking
for the past 4 weeks, something has happened. With the audience having been excluded, the 4 remaining contestants suddenly know all kinds of culinary terms and techniques.

What could possibly be the difference that turned off all the waterworks? It’s sudden cooking confidence. I’ll coin it “Cook-fidence”!

Cook-fidence is what the contestants of Worst Cooks in America suddenly have. It’s not because they’ve learned EVERYTHING about cooking. They’ve learned enough to leave the written recipe behind. It’s liberating! Tears of joy and accomplishment replace tears of frustration.

Just a small amount of knowledge, just a pinch of basic cooking methods, and the permission to create things on their own has inspired them with great confidence. They don’t possess every cooking secret, they’ve learned a simple few that then allows their creativity to take over.

Cook-fidence has taken the place of written recipes and all the results are better on Worst Cooks in America. It can happen in your home when you learn to cook with basic methods over cooking recipes.

Previous Posts about Worst Cooks in America:
The Flavors in Jennifer Cross' Head Saved her Butt
Cooking is About Crying and Salt
Worst Cooking Instructors in America
Are You the Worst Cook in America?

Burn Your Recipes!
Cook with Basic Cooking Methods over written recipes!

Get the complete 3-DVD series HERE!

By Chef Todd

Best Chili for your Tailgate Party

It takes a long time to cook chili and develop the flavor to make it the best chili. So, the best chili for your tailgate party must be made ahead of time, in the kitchen and kept warm through game time. I shared my brick-solid secret for keeping foods warm earlier this week. Now, I want to share a few ideas on WHAT we're keeping warm, my favorite chili recipe.

Your expression of chili shouldn't have a recipe. Your best chili should be the chili recipe that comes from your imagination and favorite combination of ingredients. It's a fantastic opportunity to use basic cooking methods and create something that has no rules.

I advise people who want to learn to cook to start with something like soup, stew, or chili. This is where there's great freedom to explore different ingredients while using basic cooking methods.

A great chili recipe starts like a saute procedure, with a hot pan and some fat to conduct the heat.
The protein product you choose doesn't have to be ground beef. In today's video, I create a filet mignon chili, using the scraps from a whole tenderloin we cleaned in a previous lesson at WebCookingClasses. Rather than beef, you can choose chicken, turkey, roasted vegetables, even shrimp or lobster chili.

The best savory flavors in chili are combined during the initial saute. Here's where the rendered fat from your protein product combines with the onions, garlic, peppers, or dried herbs you choose. A deglazing liquid is needed then needed to add texture, only to evaporate most of it, leaving its flavors behind.

Your chili recipe is now ready for a long, low, and slow simmer
to tenderize, reduce, and combine flavors. Here's the time to let your chili breathe. Don't cover your chili pot unless you want to steam rather than reduce.

To bean or not to bean? You can debate whether the best chili recipe contains beans or not. This divides all people in their expression of a personal best chili. The important part is to learn to cook with basic methods and instill your personal desires to make the best chili recipe you've ever had.

Yesterday's post from the parking lot:
Beer Shrimp Scampi

Previously:
Football Food for Your Tailgate Party

When you BBQ Grill, are you using the
Great Male Excuse?
(Burned outdoors is no better than burned indoors)

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!


The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

Beer Shrimp Scampi for Football Food

My top secret for keeping your tailgate party food hot was revealed yesterday, but today I want to cook my football food right in the parking lot. With a portable camper saute burner rather than a small charcoal grill, I'll demonstrate how to cook Beer Shrimp Scampi saute from Carter/Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

If you've been following my videos over the past two years, you know how I feel about outdoor grilling. It's the great male excuse. If you're trying to learn to cook, and were to cook a steak on your indoor stove top to a black char, it would be unacceptable. However, if you cook a steak outdoors, on a barbeque grill, and it's charred black, it's "nicely blackened". Burnt is burnt, indoors or out. I don't know why men think it's easier to cook outdoors than indoors. I believe the exact opposite.

If the outdoor barbeque grill you have at home is for natural charcoal, it's the most difficult heat in your house to apply consistently. If your grill is propane gas, it's hard to learn how to barbeque grill because it's probably the hottest element you have in your home.

Since controlling heat is the key to cooking, the barbeque grill is the most volatile cooking element you have at your disposal. You can compound this cooking challenge by trying to use a portable barbeque grill. The smaller grills are even harder to control, and more difficult to get even heat.

The most reliable source of heat will be direct, conductive heat as applied in basic saute. Bringing a portable camper stove and saute pan to your next tailgate party gives much greater variety in cooking. You can heat a saute pan more evenly, apply fats and compound flavors better than a barbeque grill, and deglaze the pan with liquids to make pan sauces. Your tailgate party saute will have more moisture and flavor than the 2 hour old grilled hot dog.

I'd rather saute any day. Whether at home, indoors, or in the parking lot preparing my football food for the tailgate party, the direct heat of a saute pan is easier to control and gives me greater options than a barbeque grill can.

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!


The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

GET THE COMPLETE COOKING DVD COLLECTION HERE

By Chef Todd

Football Food for your Tailgate Party

Planning football food for your tailgate party can mean bringing your tailgate recipes with you, or creating them at home. If you choose to bring food, I've got the secrets to keeping your football food hot until the game starts.

My first secret to successful tailgate food is to always bring two coolers to my tailgate party. One is a cold cooler to keep my ingredients for on-site cooking below the temperature danger zone of 40f - 140f (6c - 60c). This way, when I choose to make a saute of shrimp scampi tomorrow, all my ingredients will be fresh and safe.

The second cooler I bring is the hot cooler. The hot cooler is filled with the football food items that I've made at home, but am bringing to the tailgate party. Again, the challenge is to keep these hot items ABOVE the same temperature danger zone mentioned above. How do you keep items in a hot cooler as hot as possible? You can't have an open flame or charcoal in a plastic cooler.

I'm going to share my #1 caterer's secret for keeping food hot on-the-go with you, and it involves something that you look at every day. This household item will put out heat for hours if you prepare it correctly. Today's video will explain.

Throw a tailgate party before your favorite game and you have two choices
: prepare food at the game, or bring it with you. If you decide to prepare your football food before the game, you'll want to assure the tailgate food stays safe and hot until game time. If you choose to cook at the game, tomorrow's video will give you a new idea for football food at your tailgate party.

Cook like a chef at home in 16 weeks, guaranteed with my online cooking classes.

By Chef Todd

Worst Cooks in America, Ep 4


The Flavors in Jennifer Cross' Head Saved Her Butt

Thank you, Food Network for proving that the Worst Cooks in America are those forced to follow recipes. I’ve been saying it for years! I’ve seen it in my cooking school, and I hear it from thousands that also know it’s true. I’m thankful to have the MTV of food finally admitting it in their programming.

Worst Cooks in America is starting to confuse me more than Jenn Vecchio with half a fig. “You’re reading it off a recipe card and just going blindly”, Jenn explains. It can’t be her fault that she doesn’t know what “done” looks like because she’s relying solely on the written recipe.

The show is supposed to be about duplicating a Chef Beau or Chef Ann dish to fool restaurant critics. If so, why the heavy reliance on written recipes? Why not teach them how to cook in the STYLE of Chef Beau?

There are constant recipe problems in week 4, but the contestants are left to figure it out themselves.
“I don’t know what to do”, laments Marque. “Why is it doing this”? It’s all critique from the chefs, there’s no help, no secrets of WHY something is happening or HOW it’s supposed to look. Yet, everything is about the written recipe, someone else’s’ opinion of how something should be cooked.

However, it all changed when the six survivors of sauté were told they could invent their own crostini.
Eyes widened, mouths smiled at the sudden freedom they were given. “I’m already thinking of great flavors in my head”, says Jennifer Cross, revealing the inspiration that would be her savior, despite a complete logistical and emotional boil-over.

The artistic interpretation of flavors in her head was the best dish of the day. Her problems came from the pressures of following a recipe under time constraints. She couldn’t hang with the time-task that’s mandated to increase the emotion for the cameras, but blew them away with her art.

For a moment, a small part of the show had realized a goal for me. In a blink of an eye, it showed the excitement, confidence, and superior results of making up your own recipes. It’s a message I’ve been trying to bring to a mass audience for years. Jennifer Cross proved it. Cooking is joyous expression, not jealous competition. It’s accomplished with full heart, not fast clock. Unfortunately, the message was only a blip on a show that doesn’t teach anyone to cook, Worst Cooks in America.

Previous posts about Worst Cooks in America:
Cooking is About Crying and Salt
Worst Cooking Instructors in America
Are You the Worst Cook in America?

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