Determining Doneness for Moist-Heat Cooking

Determining Doneness for Moist-Heat Cooking Methods

Steamed foods should be plump, moist, tender to the bite, and just cooked. Any excessive cooking will cause the food to take on an inappropriate texture. Vegetables that should have been just barely tender may become soft enough to mash, and they may well lose their best color. Foods meant to be pureed, however, should be cooked until they no longer offer any resistance when pierced or cut.  In some cases, it should be possible to mash them with a fork or spoon.

The desired degree of doneness, and terms used to refer to those stages include :

  • Blanched - foods are cooked just long enough to set colors or make them easy to peel.

  • Par cooked - foods are cooked to partial doneness, as might be appropriate for vegetables or grains to be finished by sauteing or stewing.

  • Tender crisp - foods are cooked until they can be bitten into easily, but still offer a slight resistance and sense of texture. There should be no audible crunch, and foods should not fly off the plate when a guest tries to cut them.

  • Fully cooked -  foods are quite tender, though they should still retain their shape and color.

Any juices from poultry should be nearly colorless. Meats and poultry should offer a little resistance when pressed with a fingertip and should take on an evenly opaque appearance. The flesh of fish and shellfish will lose its translucency when properly cooked, taking on a nearly opaque appearance. Mussels, clams and oysters will open when properly cooked and the edges of the flesh should curl. Shrimp, crab and lobster should have a bright pink or red color.

Vegetables and fruits should have a good color, with no dulling or graying evident. They should be tender to the bite, if they are being served directly from the steamer. Grains should be fluffy and tender to the bite. Beans should be tender enough to mash easily, yet still retain their shape.

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