What's in your oven?
Heather Little-White, Contributor
The modern oven now tastefully graces almost every kitchen. The modern gas or electric stove has an oven which is used for baking, roasting and heating to prepare entrées, desserts, breads and side dishes. Some ovens come with a rotisserie for easy preparation of roasting poultry.
A good cook knows his or her oven by reading the manual that accompanies it. Although recipes may indicate certain temperatures, your own knowledge of how your oven works is vital and it is ultimately this knowledge, coupled with your cooking experience, that will determine the most appropriate temperature and cooking times.
Perfect familiar recipes before branching out into more complicated meals.
USING THE OVEN
Open the oven and check inside to see that nothing is in it. Remove anything you find so it will not be heated or possibly damaged.
It is not advisable to store pots, pans and other items in the oven.
Rearrange shelves. Make sure they are level and place them in the ideal position before heating the oven.
Preheat to the desired temperature. This will ensure the oven is at the right temperature when you add the item for cooking.
Wait until oven reaches the desired temperature before placing food in the oven. While it takes only a few seconds to turn on your oven, it may take several minutes to reach the right temperature. (
Most ovens have a setting that allows you to see the current temperature or beeps when ready. For older ovens, it is best to wait for 15 minutes to allow the oven to be fully heated.
Position product for best results. Understand the effects of oven positions as each level has a different cooking impact and best results from cooking.
Top level - this level is best for quick and high-temperature cooking.
Middle level - good for moderate-heat cooking.
Lower level - best for slow and low-temperature cooking.
So you want to cook healthy? The method of cooking adopted should relate to available kitchen appliances. One-pot meals have low maintenance, are easy to clean up and offer lots of great flavours in one vessel. Generally, we think of making one-pot dishes atop the stove, but your oven is also an excellent choice using a classic baking dish. The oven, so underutilised, is ideal for healthy, low-fat cooking. The oven offers options for:
A fast way to cook fish, meat and poultry, as the food is under or above a direct heat source. The fat from meat simply drains away into the bottom of the pan. This cooking method requires a broiler pan which has two parts: a slotted tray and a pan the tray rests on. The slots siphon off any fat that drips off the food. A wire rack can be placed on foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.
To avoid hours of soaking and scrubbing, line the pan or sheet with foil. This method works particularly well with thin, lean cuts of meat like chicken cutlets, thin cuts of pork, and fish, which cook through before they dry out.
Cooking food in an oven by dry heat. The accurate temperature of the oven is important to the success of the product.
Do not open the oven door just to check. You lose a lot of heat every time you open it, which means your food will take longer to cook. You could also cause your baked products to fall, ruining the finished product.
A great way to cook fish or chicken by gently simmering in a flavoured liquid in the oven.
This can be done without using a great deal of oil, or by using broth to baste instead. Foil wrap can also be used to seal in moisture for vegetables, skinless chicken and lean meats. Roasting is a simple cooking method requiring little attention and minimal equipment, for example, a shallow roasting pan, a roasting rack and a meat thermometer. Larger and less-tender roasts should be cooked at lower oven temperatures. Smaller roasts, such as tenderloin, may be roasted in high heat.
Also called oven steaming, this is a combination of steaming and baking. This cooking method works splendidly with fish and chicken, which dry out easily, because the paper pouch traps the moisture and the juices. Just place food on a piece of grease or other waterproof paper (like parchment), with a liquid or sauce, tightly wrap it up and put it in the oven on a cookie sheet. When it is ready, pull away the crinkly, slightly burnished edges of the parcels.
COOKING STEAK IN THE OVEN
The oven is effective in cooking steak. Combined with a baked potato and a salad, you can have an easy meal for that special dinner.
Grilling is a great way to cook steaks while socialising and having fun with friends. Cooking a steak in the oven, a few inches from the broiler, just on the broiling pan that comes with the stove, also works well.
Even without expensive steak, you can get a great product from less-costly steaks once you marinate the meat beforehand. Use longer marinating times for lower-quality or thick-cut steaks.
Select the flavours of meat and steak marinades to satisfy various tastes. I always keep a teriyaki-style marinade handy in the fridge to use for meats.
Oven-fried Chicken Strips
The oven is great for preparing this dish, served with a tangy barbecue dip. Boneless, skinless chicken is cut into strips and dredged with seasoned flour and breadcrumbs. The chicken is then dipped into an egg mixture of whisked egg whites, milk and pepper to taste. The strips are placed on a rack and baked for 5 minutes in a preheated oven. Serve with dip made from apple juice, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce.
Cooking rice in the oven
The oven is so versatile that you can have less worry about cooking your rice and getting it right. It is advised that you use an oven-safe pan, pour in the desired amount of rice and add twice the amount of boiling water to the rice with salt to taste. Add 1/8 cup of oil to every four cups of rice. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand with cover for 10 minutes. Use fork to fluff the rice and serve hot. (
Clean your oven regularly. Aside from kitchen hygiene, doing that also ensures the heat is directed at cooking the food and not burnt remnants which can also emit an unpleasant odour. Some ovens have aids such as a catalytic coating in the oven chamber for continuous cleaning. In self-cleaning ovens, pyrolytic decomposition (extreme heat) oxidises dirt. In the absence of these aids, chemical oven cleaners are helpful.
Heather Little-White, PhD, is a nutrition and lifestyle consultant in Kingston. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 922-6223.
Fish in paper
A quick, delectable recipe, ideal for supper
2 tbsps butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
cups shredded carrot
4 (6oz) white fish fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 tsps fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsps olive oil
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut four large rectangles of parchment paper and fold in halves; unfold.
In small skillet, heat butter over medium heat, garlic and carrot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until carrot is crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Divide carrot mixture among parchment paper. Place fish on top of the carrots and top with salt and pepper, lemon slices, thyme, and olive oil. Fold top half of parchment paper over fish and crimp to seal; place on two baking sheets.
Bake at 400)F for 12-16 minutes, switching baking sheets halfway through cooking time until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Serve immediately.
Recipe: About.com: Busy Cooks:
FISH ON A BED OF TOMATOES & POTATOES
Guidelines for Cooking Fish
Measure fish (dressed or stuffed, fillets or steaks) at thickest part.
Allow 5-7 minutes cooking time per cm of thickness (10 minutes per inch) for fresh fish.
Allow 10-12 minutes cooking time per cm of thickness (20 minutes per inch) for frozen fish.
Fish is ready when fish is opaque and flakes easily.
DO NOT OVERCOOK
Fish can be roasted with tomatoes, onions, and potatoes tossed with olive oil, oregano, and herbs. Before you cook it, marinate the fish in the herbs. While that sits, layer yellow potatoes, a chopped onion and tomatoes in the baking dish. Roast until fork-tender. Add the fish and its marinade, top with breadcrumbs, and continue roasting until the fish is flaky and crumbs golden.
Be able to make temperature conversions in both Celsius and Fahrenheit so you quickly and efficiently use recipes from any cookbook. The most common conversions are:
Learn temperature ranges
- 110-140C | 225-275F | Gas 1/4-1
- 150-160C | 300-325F | Gas 2-3
- 180-190C | 350-375F | Gas 4-5
- 190-220C | 375-425F | Gas 5-6
- 220-230C | 425-450F | Gas 6-8
- 250-260C | 475-500F | Gas 9-10
If the temperature gauge of your oven doesn't work, or works improperly, you can purchase an after-market one to hang inside the oven.
For older-style ovens, place the item in the oven and extend the cooking time by approximately 10 minutes.
Make sure you close the oven door properly. Some ovens have doors which are hard to tell if they are closed completely.
These oven-proof serving pieces from Lodge are perfect for appetisers, small entrees or desserts. They include a 10- or 12-ounce (divided) rectangular pan, a 14-ounce round and a nine-ounce oval that are safe for indoor or campfire cooking.