For a chef, cooking food that has great flavor and an appetizing aroma isn’t enough. When you’re studying in an accredited online culinary program, you strive to produce dishes with appealing texture as well. You can take your skills to the next level by understanding what goes into preparing food that feels as good to eat as it tastes. Here are some tips to keep in mind so every aspect of your dishes is fantastic:
Why texture matters
Most cooks discuss achieving just the right texture in the food you make far less often than finding the perfect balance of flavors. However, it can be just as important. Whether a piece of chicken is tender or tough or a sauce is grainy or creamy makes a huge difference and can make or break a meal.
“Texture can be just as important as flavor.”
For instance, as neuroanthropologist John S. Allen discussed in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, crispiness is a textural quality that many people find irresistible. Fried chicken, potato chips and tempura exemplify how crispiness can make a wide variety of foods especially satisfying. Chef Mario Batali even famously pointed out that writing the word “crispy” on the menu is the best way to sell a dish.
While stirring with the right frequency, getting the cooking time spot on and choosing appropriate sides are all major factors in creating a satisfying texture, individual preference also plays a role. Chances are you have at least a few foods you dislike more because of how it feels to eat them than their taste. John Reiss, a chef and cooking instructor, discussed these subjective reactions with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Nothing works in a vacuum,” he said. “Everyone has certain individual tastes. For some people, it’s soft, squishy foods they don’t like.”
Perfecting the texture of meat
Chefs must put a great deal of consideration into the texture of meat both when selecting a piece and cooking it. A careful meat buyer takes the appearance of muscle fibers into account, looking for a tight, even grain. As Eating Well pointed out, cooking slowly and to precisely the correct temperature can make even a tough cut of meat enjoyably tender.
When you skip the meat and make a vegetarian substitute, texture becomes all the more important. Nothing ruins a veggie burger like a mushy mess of a patty. Serious Eats recommended getting around this issue by using partially dehydrated black beans to stand in for ground beef.
Mouthfeel with fruits and veggies
Many fruits and vegetables naturally have firm, crunchy textures. Still, you have to think about how you take advantage of those qualities when using them in dishes. For instance, The Kitchn pointed out the importance of contrast when you are assembling a salad. Combine the crispiness of lettuce, cucumber and nuts with the creaminess of avocado or feta.
Cooking fruit leads to significant changes in texture because the heat kills cells, according to Fine Cooking. It’s important to consider the consequences for texture when you choose a cooking method. Cooking over high heat for a short time, as in boiling or or broiling, allows fruit to keep more of its firmness than slower methods. Ripeness also plays a big role, as does the amount of sugar you use in preparation.
Cooking pasta just right
It can be easy to lose track of time while pasta is boiling, but then you’ll have disappointing, mushy results. Al dente pasta calls for using the right tools and watching the clock.
Greatist advised using a large pot with plenty of water and salt. Stir frequently during cooking, and start checking for doneness about two minutes before you think the pasta should be ready. Bite into a piece to see if it’s pleasantly chewy. Then, pull the pot off the heat and drain – reserving some starchy water to make the sauce, of course – before it loses that springiness.
From choosing the right ingredients to presentation, a chef must take care with every aspect of the meal. By paying more attention to texture in the dishes you make for culinary academy, you’ll find that you are producing more appealing food and discover side dish pairings based on intriguingly contrasting mouthfeels.