Cooking Times

It takes time to heat a food to a desired temperature, the temperature at which a food is "done" (meaning the desired changes have taken place).This time is affected by three factors:

1. Cooking temperature.

This means the temperature of the air in the oven, the fat in the fryer, the surface of a griddle, or the liquid in which a food is cooking.

2. The speed of heat transfer.

Different cooking methods transfer heat at different rates, as shown by these examples:

Air is a poor conductor of heat, while steam is much more efficient.A jet of steam (212F/100C) will easily burn your hand, but you can safely reach into an oven at 500 F (260 C).This is why it takes longer to bake potatoes than to steam them.

A convection oven cooks faster than a conventional oven, even if both are set at the same temperature.The forced air movement transfers heat more rapidly.

3. Size, temperature, and individual characteristics of the food.

For example:

A small beef roast cooks faster than a large one. A chilled steak takes longer to broil than one at room temperature. Fish items generally cook more quickly than meats.

Because there are so many variables,it is difficult or even impossible to determine exact cooking times in most recipes. Individual ovens, fryers, and steamers, for example, may transfer heat more or less efficiently or have different recovery times. Roasting charts that give cooking times for various cuts of meat can be used only as guidelines, and the cook must use his or her judgment to make the final determination of doneness. Cooking times are discussed again in the next chapter.

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