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Quick Tips for Line Cooks

Aug 17, 2007
A little list of the tips for line cooks that they tend to glaze over in culinary school...

How to steam milk
Start with a cold metal cup with a handle on it, a steam wand on an espresso machine, and some cold milk. The colder the steaming cup is, the better. Next, pour your milk into the steaming cup, and then put the wand in the milk. Once the wand is submerged, turn on the steam and hold the cup in such a way that the tip of the wand is about one to three inches below the surface of the milk, and hold it still. Once the cup is warm to the touch, lower the milk cup so the milk starts to rumble a little bit, but not to the point where it starts whistling as that can ruin the foam too. Just hold the milk there for about about fifteen seconds, and then raise the milk again to finish steaming it.

How to quickly pour liquid from a bottle
Invert the bottle, then quickly swirl the whole vessel in small horizontal circles of a few inches' radius. You should only need to perform a few of these circles before the liquid leaving the bottle forms a funnel shape so it will stream out of the bottle only from the rim of the neck, leaving a channel in the center through which air can flow upwards into the bottle.

How to separate eggs
First, wash your hands thoroughly. Then take two bowls, one each for the whites and the yolks. Crack open an egg over the whites bowl. Hold out your left hand, fingers together and palm up, over the whites bowl. Pour the egg out of the shell and into your left hand, while opening your fingers slightly. Gently jiggle your hand so that the egg white dribbles through your fingers into the whites bowl. Finally, deposit the yolk in the yolks bowl.

How to determine if an egg is hard-boiled or uncooked
To determine if the egg is cooked, lay the egg over on its side and spin it quickly. Let it spin for a few seconds, then gently stop it with your fingertip and release it again. If the egg starts to spin again, it is raw. This is because the liquid inside is still in motion, and when you stop and release it, the yolk causes the egg to return to spinning, since it kept it's momentum.

How to condition an omelet pan
After each use, let it cool, then use table salt and a paper or cloth towel to clean it, then rinse and dry it. An omelet pan needs to be sealed with a layer of baked-on oil for a smooth finish, so after drying it coat the bottom of the pan with a few drops of vegetable oil, heat over a medium temperature until the pan is very hot but before it smokes, then let it cool and put it away.

How to break a coconut
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Make two holes anywhere in the coconut, using an ice pick. Drain the water and put the coconut in the oven for 15 minutes. The shell will contract. Now hit the coconut with a hammer or mallet. The shell cracks open like a walnut. If not, hit it again!

How to Frost a 2 Layer Cake
Place the bottom layer on the serving platter and use a knife to spread a generous coating of frosting on the upper surface. Next place the second layer on top of the frosted surface. If the layers are slightly unlevel, make sure the larger sides are opposite one another, so the top is level. Just so it doesn't slide apart. Cover the top of the cake with frosting, without worrying about effects yet. Using a knife, start to frost the sides, creating a solid cliff face of frosting with no visible crack where the layers join all around the side of the cake. Finish the top off with the rest of the frosting. Use the back of a spoon in swirling patterns along the top of the cake to make peaks and troughs in the frosting.

How to boil a fresh crab
To humanely cook the crab, first put it in a freezer for about 30 minutes. The cold will put the crab in a dormant, unaware state. Then move it immediately from freezer to boiling water. It will be dead before it wakes up. Besides being more humane, the reason we don't hurl it directly into the water (or "drown" it in fresh water, as an old wives tale has it) is because crustaceans under stress secrete a chemical which taints the meat.

How to remove a cake from a baking pan
Wait for the cake to cool before removing it from the pan; a good rule of thumb is that if you can't handle the pans with your bare hands, the cake is too hot to come out. Next, run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, then turn the whole thing over. Hold one hand under the cake and grip the edge of the pan with the other. You should strive to keep the cake supported so it doesn't tear while avoiding taking all of its weight for very long or it will sink. Tap the edge of the pan sharply all around the side until the cake starts to peel away from the pan. Don't try to use the cake's weight to pull it away from the pan or it is very likely to tear. Be sure to let it cool all the way before frosting it.

How to use chopsticks
Start with whichever hand you write with. Point that hand sort of like a gun, with the thumb straight up, the index pointing forward, and the middle finger straight down. Lay the first stick in the crook between your thumb and index, and partly on your middle finger. Grip this stick with the ball of your thumb and pressure from your middle finger. Then place the other stick so you're gripping it like a pencil between your thumb and index. Flexing the second joint of your index finger only, pivot the top stick back and forth; the bottom stick never moves. The motion is very much like a crab's claw. Tap the ends so they are even and practice picking up small lightweight objects until you get the hang of it; round objects are the hardest!
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