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Welcome to MarcusBall.com.        This personal site features information about Marcus Ba.  You will find a variety of information ranging from customer service tips and  management strategies, to massage therapy techniques, and cooking. Feel free to browse and enjoy.                  

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Cooking Tips

 
•  Oven Temperatures and Conversions
Translate Celsius to Fahrenheit. Plus, test when meat and fish have reached their safe-to-eat stage.


 
•  Cooking Weights and Measures
Understand how to measure dry v. fluid ingredients, including less specific quantities such as "pinch" and "heaping."

 


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Cooking Measurements

If you are baffled by the differences between

  • Fahrenheit (Definition: [FEHR-uhn-hite] A temperature scale in which 32 degrees represents freezing and 212 degrees represents the steam point. The scale was devised by Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, an 18th-century German physicist. To convert Fahrenheit temperatures to celsius, subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit reading, multiply by 5 and divide by 9._

or

  • Celsius (Definition: [SEHL-see-uhs] A temperature scale (also called centigrade) in which 0 degrees represents freezing and 100 degrees represents the boiling point. The scale was devised by the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius. To convert Celsius temperatures to fahrenheit, multiply the Celsius figure by 9, divide by 5 and add 32. )

or by food safety temperatures, check our conversion tables below.
 

Fahrenheit to Celsius Conversions

FAHRENHEIT CELSIUS
250° F 120° C
275° F 140° C
300° F 150° C
325° F 160° C
350° F 180° C
375° F 190° C
400° F 200° C
425° F 220° C
450° F 230° C


Food Safety Temperatures

DESCRIPTION DEGREES FAHRENHEIT

Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures
Turkey, chicken 165° F
Veal, beef, lamb, pork 160° F

Fresh Beef
Medium Rare 145° F
Medium 160° F
Well Done 170° F

Fresh Veal
Medium Rare 145° F
Medium 160° F
Well Done 170° F

Fresh Lamb
Medium Rare 145° F
Medium 160° F
Well Done 170° F

Fresh Pork
Well Done 170° F

Poultry
Chicken, Whole 180° F
Turkey, Whole 180° F
Poultry Breasts, Roasted 170° F
Poultry Thighs, Wings 180° F
Duck & Goose 180° F

Seafood
Fin fish Cook until opaque and flakes easily with a fork
Shrimp, lobster, crab Shell should turn red and flesh should become pearly opaque
Scallops Flesh should turn milky white or opaque and be firm to touch
Clams, mussels, oysters Cook until shells open; discard any unopened

American recipes use dry and fluid measures. Volume determines fluid measures; weight determines dry measures. However, most U.S. recipes refer to ingredients in terms of volume. So don't worry too much whether the ingredient you're measuring is dry or fluid; just use the measure specified in your recipe.

Measurements and Conversion Table

TEASPOONS TABLESPOONS CUPS FLUID OUNCES MILLILITERS OTHER
1/4 teaspoon       1 ml  
1/2 teaspoon       2 ml  
3/4 teaspoon 1/4 tablespoon     4 ml  
1 teaspoon 1/3 tablespoon     5 ml  
3 teaspoons 1 tablespoon 1/16 cup 1/2 oz 15 ml  
6 teaspoons 2 tablespoons 1/8 cup 1 oz 30 ml  
      1 1/2 oz 44 ml 1 jigger
12 teaspoons 4 tablespoons 1/4 cup 2 oz 60 ml  
16 teaspoons 5 1/3 tablespoons 1/3 cup 2 1/2 oz 75 ml  
18 teaspoons 6 tablespoons 3/8 cup 3 oz 90 ml  
24 teaspoons 8 tablespoons 1/2 cup 4 oz 125 ml 1/4 pint
32 teaspoons 10 2/3 tablespoons 2/3 cup 5 oz 150 ml  
36 teaspoons 12 tablespoons 3/4 cup 6 oz 175 ml  
48 teaspoons 16 tablespoons 1 cup 8 oz 237 ml 1/2 pint
    1 1/2 cups 12 oz 355 ml  
    2 cups 16 oz 473 ml 1 pint
    3 cups 24 oz 710 ml 1 1/2 pints
      25.6 oz 757 ml 1 fifth
    4 cups 32 oz 946 ml 1 quart or 1 liter
    8 cups 64 oz   2 quarts
    16 cups 128 oz   1 gallon

Some recipes use additional instructions that require a specific amount of the ingredient. For example, a recipe might request "1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed", or "2 heaping cups flour".

Dash or Pinch
Generally considered to be less than 1/8 teaspoon.

Firmly Packed
With a spatula, a spoon or your hand, tightly press the ingredient into the measuring cup. You should measure as much of the ingredient as you can fit into the measure.

Lightly Packed
Press the ingredient into the measuring cup lightly. Make sure there are no air pockets, but do not compress it too much either.

Even / Level
Measure the amount precisely, discarding the entire ingredient that rises above the rim of the measuring cup. The back of a straight knife works well for this.

Rounded
Do not flatten out the ingredient to the top of the measuring cup. Instead allow it to pile up above the rim naturally, into a soft, rounded shape.

Heaping / Heaped
Pile as much of the ingredient on top of the measure as it can hold.

Sifted
Sift with a strainer or sifter before measuring to ensure ingredient is not compacted and there is no other foreign substance in it.
 

“How much?”

How much oil did you use?  How much salt?  How much pepper?  How much this or that?  Some ingredients I almost never measure.  With the exception of vinaigrettes, I rarely measure oil.  I just pour it in the pan until the bottom’s covered.  “Eyeballing” ingredients makes fledging cooks very nervous and understandably so.  Their skills and confidence have yet to reach the point where they feel secure enough to cook by sight.  Thus, having specific parameters reduces their anxiety. 

So is measuring necessary or not?  Well, at the risk of exacerbating your anxiety, the answer is sometimes no and sometimes yes, and sometimes when it’s yes it must be absolutely accurate and sometimes not.  OK, before you panic let’s peruse some culinary guidelines.  We’ll start with the flexible end of the continuum and work our way into rigidity.

There are times when measuring is not only unnecessary but actually contraindicated.  Salt is the best example.  Sure, you could add a predetermined amount of salt to a recipe but the actual perceived salinity can vary.  Other items in the recipe, cooking time, when you added the salt, the type of salt used, etc., can all influence how salty the final dish will taste.  Moreover, individual palates vary in terms of desired saltiness.  This is why most recipes say “salt to taste.”  The most prudent path for a chef to take is to introduce an initial amount of salt to the dish, taste it throughout the cooking process, and add more accordingly.  The same holds true for pepper as well.  Thus, in the case of salt and pepper, there’s barely any eyeballing of the proper amount since the tongue does more of the detecting than the eye. Many times herbs and spices are incorporated into a dish in the same manner.  After tasting your finished salsa for example, you might decide to add a little more cilantro. 

Then there are the items that are usually added by sight and not via a formal measuring device such as the cooking oil in my introductory example.  Prior to sautéing a particular food, most chefs will simply pour some oil in a pan, swirl it around and visually determine whether to add more or not.  This is because the amount of oil needed for sautéing is somewhat flexible.  A tablespoon or two more or less is not going to make any appreciable difference. 

Likewise for pan-frying.  By the book, the oil level in pan-frying should come about halfway up the food.  So how much oil do you need in a 12-inch pan with three breaded chicken cutlets a quarter-inch inch thick?  How about four pork chops three eighths of an inch thick?  See how crazy it starts to get?  Pour in some oil, heat it up, add the food, and adjust as necessary.  Seriously, no one is going to know your oil level was a little under or a little over the midway point.  There are countless other times in cooking, particularly when you become familiar with a recipe, where the ingredients are not measured. 

Next are ingredients that are measured but have a decent amount of leeway.  Let’s say your soup recipe calls for a cup of chopped onion and the onion you chopped equals three quarters of a cup.  I doubt that extra quarter cup of onion is so vital that it’s worth cutting another onion just to use a piece of it.  Or maybe your marinara recipe calls for 4 garlic cloves and you have three.  Not a big deal.  Or maybe your punch recipe calls for a third of a cup of sugar and your measuring cup set doesn’t have that size.  Putting in a quarter cup of sugar and eyeballing the remaining twelfth of a cup, (the difference between a quarter and a third of a cup), is not going to ignite Armageddon. 

Continuing, there are times when more careful measuring is required but still not with 100% accuracy.  Take roux for example.  Generally roux is made from an equal amount of flour and fat.  A doink more or less of either will not inhibit the roux’s thickening power.  I wouldn’t veer far from the basic formula but there’s no need to be obsessive-compulsive.  The same holds true for liaisons, slurries, vinaigrettes, and similar concoctions.  Follow the recipe’s guidelines but don’t get psychotic about it. 

And then there’s baking.  Baking is notorious for its insistence on properly measured ingredients.  That’s because baking involves more chemistry and science than regular cooking.  Baking formulas are not forgiving.  The quintessential example is recipes that require leavening such as when combining acids and alkalis to produce carbon dioxide.  Certain ratios are required or your baked goods may not rise properly.  Generally speaking, baking soda, baking powder, acids, yeast, and the ratio of wet ingredients to dry should not be approached in a lackadaisical manner.

When the situation does call for measuring, there are a number of gadgets at your disposal.  Dry goods can be gauged with handled measuring cups which usually come in sets.  Liquids are best quantified with a glass or plastic measuring cup with a spout for pouring.  Small quantities are most amenable to small measuring spoons, inevitably coming as part of a set.

All of the aforementioned devices measure volume, not weight.  Only a scale can measure weight.  This is a crucial point because depending on the substance, the two dimensions are not equal.  One cup is eight ounces but eight ounces of volume is not always the same thing as eight ounces of weight.  For example, if you measure one cup of water or sugar with a measuring cup and then weight it, it will be eight ounces.  But a measuring cup of vegetable oil will weigh about six and a half ounces.  Worse yet, a measuring cup worth of flour can have a wide range of weights depending on how tightly you pack the measuring cup.  Since weight is the most accurate means of evaluating an item’s quantity, most chefs and food writers prefer it to volume.  Depending on how serious a cook you are, I recommend having two kitchen scales:  one for weighing small amounts of ingredients in fractions of ounces and a larger one for weighing bulk items capable of multiple pounds.  Digital scales, although more expensive, are more accurate than spring-based scales. 

To summarize, there are times when measuring is unnecessary, times when it is flexibly performed, and times when it must follow the letter of the law.  Except for the most demanding of situations, with practice and experience you’ll come to rely more on your senses.  (Source: Mark R. Vogel)

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