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Dry heat for juicy meat and a flavourful crust
Fried or roasted meat, fish and vegetables have a special flavour, which is enhanced by the right pans, oils and a little know-how.
Frying and roasting are two popular cooking methods that both use high, dry heat. Frying describes the preparation of meat, fish and vegetables with oil or fat in a pan, while roasting is particularly popular for larger cuts of meat and is done in the oven. Both frying and roasting cause the formation of the typical, aromatic crust with a nice brown colour. Caramelisation can also cause this crust to form on roasted or fried vegetables.
The juices that gather in the bottom of the pan or oven tray form the base of a delicious gravy, simply deglaze the pan or tray with water, wine or stock. It is important to ensure that the juices don’t burn, as they can no longer be used as a gravy base if they do. If the meat is left in the pan or oven tray after the liquid has been added, the cooking process is then called stewing.
The crust of fried or roasted meat provides a further advantage aside from the wonderful flavour: it keeps the juices inside the meat and prevents it from drying out. The best crust is achieved by searing meat in a hot pan and sealing it from all sides.
Frying and roasting both require the right pans, oils and fats. Particularly cast iron pans or pans with a non-stick coating are ideal for frying, which are both used in the same way for cooking but must be treated differently. Cast iron pans must be “burnt in” before the first use - this is often done by allowing some potato peel with salt and oil to burn in the pan. This ensures that nothing else will stick to the pan thereafter.
Before using your new pan you should read the instruction manual thoroughly. Some can be washed in the dishwasher, while others shouldn’t even be washed with washing up liquid. Coated pans can usually be submerged in water, but you should be very carefully not to damage the sensitive coating by scratching it with a spatula.
A roast thermometer is a useful tool for oven roasting. This type of thermometer is fastened to a long metal spike, which is inserted into the meat. It allows you to easily determine its core temperature and whether the meat is cooked to your liking, without having to cut into it.
Heat resistant plant oils like rapeseed oil or lard are ideal cooking oils and fats, however butter burns easily and is therefore less suitable. Oil and fat stop food from burning, enhance flavour and ensure even heat distribution in the pan. Placing the tip of a wooden spoon into the oil or fat will tell you whether or not the pan is hot enough to start frying – if small bubbles form around the wood, the oil is hot enough.
Generally speaking, the pan should be hot before adding fat or oil, which must also then be heated fully before adding the food. Some types of meat don’t need to cook for more than two minutes on each side – in this case, it is vital to observe the exact cooking time. You should wait to season your meat until you are almost finished frying, as salt will draw too much liquid out of the meat and herbs burn easily.
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