How to Cook: Lesson 1, What is Food?

I digress, as a university student I find that the majority of my meals are comprised of spam, rice, and instant noodles.  The bad thing is, I actually enjoy eating them.  I love the salty crunch of charred spam in my mouth, I love feeling the fat juice swirl around my cheek and make love to my whet palate.  Whew, is it hot in here or is it just me?

So if you’re as addicted to spam as I am, check out these cool cooking hacks with me.  It will be a long voyage with many a heartbreak and despair, but together we can get over this crutch one step at a time.

Good thing you drank all the beer

Good thing you drank all the beer

1. Cook your meat in a beer cooler: Sous-vide cooking is when you seal uncooked products in a bag and submerse it in a temperature-controlled water bath.  Although it takes much longer than basically every other way of cooking, it allows you to precisely control the final temperature of your food.  In addition, your meats and veggies will be noticeably more tender and juicy as a result of the increased enzymatic activity due to the elongated cooking time.  The only downside is that these water baths can cost hundreds of dollars.

J.Kenji Lopez-Alt from SeriousEats realized that not only do beer coolers keep your beer cold, but it can also keep things warm as well.  Thus, they double perfectly as a temperature-controlled water bath for sous-vide cooking:

  • Add water a few degrees higher than your final desired temperature (the water will decrease in temperature when the food is submerged)
  • Seal your meat in an air-tight bag with all the air squeezed out
  • Let cook for about 45 minutes to an hour

Your meat will be perfectly cooked, and be juicier than a Tropicana commercial.

Although eating iron grilled cheese sandwiches here seems a bit off-beat

Although eating iron grilled cheese sandwiches here seems a bit off-beat

2. Cooking kitchen-less: in a hotel room: Be it the Ritz-Carlton or the Termite Inn Motel, you’ll be sure to have fun cooking up these kitchen-less concoctions:

  • Make a panini or grilled cheese with the iron
  • Toast your bagel on the coffee warmer hot-plate
  • Use the hot water from the coffee pot to cook instant oatmeal

fat soup

3. Remove fats from liquids with ice: I personally find it appetizing when I see gobs of fat doing the breast stroke in my stews.  But if you’re normal and disdain the sight of the surfeit swimmers try dropping a couple ice cubes in your soup; the fat will coagulate around the colder areas and you can scoop it out.


4. Use frozen fruits to chill beverages instead of ice cubes: this way instead of watering down your beverage, it gives it an elegant flair with a sweet treat to top it off.  Chilled grapes and strawberries work well with white wines.  Apparently.

Don't flash these babies around gang territory

Meaty gang symbols

5. The finger test for meats: This one is new to me.  Using your palm as reference you can determine the exact doneness of a meat.  In addition, it makes you feel more Italian using these hand gestures when cooking. Check out the full details here.


6. Peel grapes without grandma: This is my personal favorite.  Unless your grandmother is as willing to sit there for hours on end and peel grapes for you (like mine) you’ll appreciate this hack.  Who doesn’t love the feel of popping peeled grapes in their mouth?

  • Remove stems from grapes and place in resealable plastic bag
  • Freeze the grapes for at least two hours
  • Remove grapes from freezer and rinse under warm water (most of the grapes should slide out of their peels as they thaw)


7. Stop empathizing with your onions: to minimize tear flow, freeze your onions 15 minutes before cutting them.  This way they have to endure a slower and more painful death through freezing.  You horrible person.

8. If you oversalt a dish, sometimes throwing in a slice of raw, peeled potato can soak up the excess sodium

Sure potato, he cut himself

Sure potato, he cut himself

9. Store onions and potatoes separately: they make each other go bad faster and they both fight over the carrots.

  • Also separate your bananas after bringing them home, they don’t play well with others
Don't know how I even found this

Don’t know how I even found this

10. Nuke your citrus: to get the most juice out of a lemon or a lime, put them in the microwave for 20 seconds, roll them around a bit, and then go save the world with it.


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