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.