Your Most Common Cooking Questions, Answered

Here at Plated, it’s practically a job requirement that we spend our days talking about food: last weekend’s dinner party, the Plated recipe we loved making for our family, the best method for cooking bone-in lamb chops. But aside from our chefs, most of us aren’t actually trained, certified cooking experts. We know (maybe too well) that there are scary cooking disasters to avoid (like how not to overcook your steak to the point of being inedible), special requests to satisfy (some of us prefer not to be forced into eating mushrooms…), and new ingredients we’d like to cook with but just aren’t sure where to start.

We relate to every single question that our customers send in, which is why we’ve hand-picked some of the most asked questions, and reached out to our Culinary team for advice. Their answers have us feeling more kitchen-confident than ever:

Why is rolling out pizza dough so difficult?

The very first thing we do when making pizza is let the dough soften on the counter while we prep other ingredients. Fresh out of the refrigerator, it’s compact, stiff, and impossible to stretch. Softening at room temperature can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of flour.

Next, we clear a large, flat, sturdy surface—no shaky-leg tables. Make sure it’s completely clean and dry, so that when you throw down a little flour, it doesn’t stick and turn gummy. We also suggest rubbing a little extra flour between your palms, too, regardless of the rolling tool.

The final tip here is…perseverance! Keep going, applying consistent pressure and rotating the dough frequently to maintain an even shape. Don’t worry about getting an exact thickness, either. Over-rolling the dough can create holes, not to mention over-work the gluten and create a tough, chewy bite once baked.

What if I don’t have a grill, or can’t use my oven right now?

For all Plated recipes, we don’t generally test any method that isn’t the most efficient, useful, or tastiest way to prepare the recipes. We can, however, offer a few suggestions to help in those times you need to adapt recipes to your current kitchen capabilities.

Recipes intended for an outdoor grill can move indoors to a grill pan—they’re often made of durable cast iron, with elevated ridges that mimic the grates of a traditional grill. It’s also entirely possible to completely spin a grill recipe into a stovetop preparation, with any cast iron pan you have on hand. Just know that even at medium-high heat, it’s hard to get that same flavorful char—not to mention the beautiful grill marks—as you would on the grill.

Oven recipes, however, are trickier to move to stovetop, because roasting, baking, or broiling relies on trapping very hot air in an enclosed space. Casseroles, lasagnas, or really anything that’s made in a baking dish are the most difficult to adapt, so we don’t recommend fiddling with those. But if your recipe calls for juicy meat and tender vegetables, it’s useful to separate out those tasks so that you’re not trying to cook in two vastly different time ranges. For example, when you’d normally roast boneless chicken breasts alongside carrots in a delicious pan sauce, sear the chicken in its own pan first, and create the sauce in that same pan to capitalize on all of the flavors. Cut your carrots and sauté them in a separate pan. The great thing about moving to the stovetop is that you most likely have at least four burners, so you can create four different heat environments for controlled, simultaneous cooking.

If you’re trying to achieve the inverse—oven cooking without turning on your stove—keep in mind the hotter temperatures and longer cook times. When cooking meat, it’s best to put your empty ovenproof pan into the oven as it’s preheating. This quickly heats the pan so that when it’s time to add your oils, and then your meat, you immediately start building a flavorful sear. Dropping cold meat into a cold pan and sliding that into a hot oven makes it a lot harder to create that great color on the outside.

I want to prepare as much as possible, but finish cooking dinner later. What can I do ahead of time?

Our recipes almost always begin with prep. Starting that way is ubiquitous throughout the food industry—the cooks behind your favorite restaurant meals are mincing garlic, dicing onions, and butchering meats well before service. This is known in the culinary world as mise en place, a French term meaning “everything in its place.”

When working ahead, just keep in mind the amount of time between prep and when you’re actually going to start cooking. If it’s 30 minutes to 1 hour, it’s safe to prep everything, and even cook rice if it’s going to be reheated before plating.

If you’re working the day before you plan to serve up dinner, most produce can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, except anything that could oxidize (like the dreaded brown avocado) or herbs, which bruise and release moisture once cut. Meats can safely be marinated anywhere between 1 and 12 hours ahead of time.

How do I know that I’m cooking this rice correctly?

Honestly, we get a ton of questions about rice. And to be fair, we use it a lot and it’s nowhere near as simple as cooking pasta. Rice loves to be left alone—like baking, it involves a pretty exact science, and a fine-tuned water-to-grain ratio. Measure and set timers, seriously.

As crucial as exact timing is keeping the rice covered. Don’t touch that lid, even if you want to. Trust that you’ve got the pot over the right heat and set your timer. Once time is up, check how much liquid has evaporated or been absorbed, without stirring or disturbing the rice. If you still see water bubbling away around the rice, re-cover and keep cooking a few minutes more. If you don’t see liquid, remove the pot from heat and set aside, still covered, to help the rice finish steaming, again without disturbing the rice. Once it has rested for about 10 minutes, fluff the rice with a fork and continue onward.

Looking for more culinary advice and simple cooking tips and tricks? Here you go.

Love experimenting in the kitchen? Try Plated!

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