Asian Recipes

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The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Do egg whites whip better in a copper bowl?

Yes, a copper bowl reduces the time and energy needed to whip egg whites. (The precise reason this phenomenon occurs is still being debated by scientists). Though this advantage is a welcome relief when you are using the arm-tiring, old-fashioned whisk method, it is of slight value with a manual or electric mixer. These efficient modern contraptions do their whipping chores almost as well in a stainless steel bowl.

A copper bowl also helps stabilize the beaten egg whites. If you are using a non-copper bowl, a pinch of cream of tartar whipped with the egg whites will stabilize your creation.

Next to copper, stainless steel should be your first choice. Aluminum grays the eggs. Plastic is too porous, and fat can easily lodge in it. Porcelain and glass have relatively slick surfaces that can slow down the whipping process because the egg whites tend to slip down the walls of the bowl with too much ease.

Whatever the bowl's material, it should be round-bottomed. This increases the likelihood that all the albumen will get its fair share of time in contact with the mixing blades. If you use an electric rotary mixer, be sure its blade moves around the bowl, at least to some degree. Fixed rotary blade mixers whip foam unevenly.

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08:17:12 on 05/31/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

At what temperature should egg whites be whipped?

Although egg whites separate from yolks better at refrigerator temperature, they whip to their maximum volume at room temperature. One reason is that the surface tension of the albumen is lower at room than at refrigerator temperature. Thus, small air pockets can be more easily incorporated into the albumen to form a foam.

A foam is a superstructure of bubbles. Each bubble is made up of a pocket of gas trapped inside a spherical film of liquid. Typically, the gas is air or carbon dioxide. The liquid cannot be pure water because its surface tension is so great that it's difficult to disperse pockets of gas within the water. Not so with albumen. Although it consists chiefly of water, it has enough other substances dissolved into it that its surface tension is sufficiently low to allow foaming.

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14:54:54 on 05/30/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should eggs be stored upright?

"Upright", in egg-storing terminology, means with the larger end up (tapered end down). Upright storage helps retard spoilage because it maximizes the distance between the yolk and the egg's natural air pocket. That gaseous space is potentially the egg's most prolific breeding environment for airborne pathogenic bacteria, and the yolk is more perishable than the albumen (egg white). It stands to reason therefore that you must keep the yolk as far away as possible from the air pocket.

The second reason is more complicated. The egg yolk is lighter than the albumen and will rise to its surface unless restrained, which nature does with chalazas. These are the two cords attached on either side of the yolk designed to keep the yolk anchored in the center of the egg. The cord connecting the yolk to the smaller end is tauter than the cord tethering the yolk to the larger end of the egg. Consequently, the yolk does not float up as high when the egg is stored small end down.

08:07:59 on 05/29/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which is better, a week-old egg of one fresh from the coop?

It depends, A week-old egg is preferable for preparing a hard-cooked egg because the shell is easier to peel. On the other hand, as an egg gets older, its yolk protein molecules gradually lose their binding abilities. This means that fresher eggs are the first choice when frying or poaching because they have a thicker egg white and firmer yolk, qualities that increase the eventual compactness and attractiveness of the cooked egg.

Fresher eggs are also superior when you use the yolk to leaven, thicken, or emulsify a preparation. Moreover, the recently laid egg is easier to separate because as an egg ages, the membrane of its yolk weakens. Finally an egg fresh from the coop has more flavor and nutritional value.

For the record, the egg nestled in a box in the supermarket display case is usually three to ten days old, though, two or three week-old eggs are not rare in municipalities that do not require open dating. Some firms extend the storage life of their eggs to six months by coating the shells with a light mineral oil that helps keep harmful bacteria out and beneficial moisture and carbon dioxide in. Another method of giving whole eggs super-longevity is storing them in carbon dioxide chambers.

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07:19:11 on 05/28/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes milk to stick to a pan?

Any one or more of the following mistakes can scorch milk and cause it to stick: heating milk too high a temperature; heating for too long; infrequent and incomplete stirring; heating in a thin-bottomed pan. And the staler the milk, the more likely it will scorch. Scorched milk gives preparations a burnt off-flavor and human dishwashers a time-consuming chore. What burns and tenaciously sticks are the milk's protein and lactose (milk sugar). When lactose caramelizes, it imparts an unwanted flavor and color to your heated milk.

04:46:38 on 05/27/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between light cream, light whipping cream, heavy cream, and heavy whipping cream?

Butterfat content determines the classification of a cream. The fat content of light cream is 18 to 30 percent, light whipping cream is 31 to 35 percent, heavy cream is 36 to 40 percent, and heavy whipping cream is 36 to 40 percent. Clearly, heavy cream and heavy whipping cream define the same cream.

Other cream types include half-and-half (a milk and cream mixture with 10 to 17 percent fat content), double cream (48 to 54 percent), and clotted cream (55 percent and higher). The latter two creams are popular in England.

15:13:24 on 05/26/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is Olestra calorie-free?

Olestra (a sucrose polyester) is a man-made product that is used in products like snack chips as a fat-free and calorie-free substitute for regular fat. In that respect, it does an effective job. A critical difference between Olestra and most regular fats is that the latter are small enough to enter the bloodstream (with their fat and calories) through the intestinal walls. Olestra is too large and dense to do the same, so it passes through the digestive tract, with fat and calories intact. One issue with Olestra is that it reduces the bodily absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) from foods that are eaten during the same period with products containing Olestra. And some people who have consumed Olestra-added products have experienced diarrhea and other gastrointestinal side effects.

03:39:18 on 05/25/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is saturated fat unhealthful?

Saturated fat forces the liver to produce more low-density lipoprotein (LDL), a microscopic vehicle that carries cholesterol through the arteries. LDL promotes buildup of atherosclerotic plaque - deposits on the artery walls that inhibit blood circulation. This buildup can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Cholesterol watchers are warned not to buy products with high oil content if the label merely states "pure vegetable oil" rather than listing the oil's specific name. "Pure vegetable oil" is likely to be made in large part from highly saturated coconut or palm oil because they cost less than the widely available mono-saturated or polyunsaturated oils. Nondairy creamers, in general, are another source of highly saturated oils parading under the "pure vegetable oil" banner.

11:36:27 on 05/24/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How much difference is there between sugar refined from sugar cane and from sugar beets?

Both are sucrose sugars. The difference between the two in taste and cooking properties is all but imperceptible to even an expert's palate. What's more, few brands specify on their labels whether the sugar was made from sugar cane or from sugar beets. There is, however, a significant difference in sweetness between sucrose sugar and the other leading forms of sugar. Sucrose is only about two-thirds as sweet as fructose, the sugar that is derived from plants (mainly fruits and honey). Sucrose is about twice as sweet as dextrose, a glucose sugar that is also known as corn or grape sugar. Sucrose is about thrice as sweet as maltose (malt sugar) and roughly six times sweeter than lactose (milk sugar).

08:43:10 on 05/23/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which is better, rock or sea salt?

Most of the salt (sodium chloride) merchandised in America is rock salt. It is mined from existing salt deposits that were laid down ages ago by now-extinct seas. In contrast, sea salt is harvested from existing seas by trapping the saline water in tidal basin pools and taking advantage of free solar power to evaporate the water until only the salt remains. It has a stronger flavor and a more interesting character than rock salt. Sea salt's alleged nutritional superiority over rock salt, however, is nonsense. The amount of the extra trace minerals it contains is just too trifling to matter.

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11:56:45 on 05/22/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the other ways to stabilize an emulsion?

Acid (if used sparingly) is one of the most effective emulsion stabilizers. It is principally for this reason, and not because of flavor, that you add lemon juice (or vinegar) to your sauce and mayonnaise. Think of lemon juice's tart taste as a delightful bonus. Other natural emulsifier-stabilizers include mustard, cayenne pepper, and onions, which explains why they are common ingredients in vinaigrette sauces.

At the expense of flavor and texture, commercial sauce manufacturers give their products hyperstability by throwing into their mixing vats such stabilizers as monogyceride and diglyceride. Many restaurant chefs also scuttle flavor and texture by indiscriminately adding gelatin or starches such as arrowroot.

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05:06:16 on 05/21/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why should unheated raw egg yolks never be added to a hot sauce?

The sudden change in temperature will curdle the egg yolks. This curdling does more than ruin the visual and tactile appeal of your sauce. It also prevents the beaten yolks from becoming uniformly distributed throughout the sauce, an essential for optimal thickening. The solution is that before adding the beaten yolks to your hot sauce, gradually raise their temperature by quickly blending into them small amounts of the heated sauce. Then you can add the yolks to the heated sauce without repercussions.

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05:07:13 on 05/20/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do some cooks leave the broiler door open when broiling meat?

They want to improve the flavor and crusty texture of the meat by maximizing the broiling and minimizing the roasting aspect of cooking. Pure broiling incorporates only radiant thermal heat, while roasting encompasses radiant, conduction, and convection thermal heats. With the door open, the pan and air inside the broiling unit do not become as hot as they normally would. This cooler temperature reduces the effects of conduction and convection cooking in the broiler. It does not reduce the intensity of the radiant heat emanating directly from the broiling element. Professional cooks use this open-door technique more than do home cooks because they tend to have a better exhaust systems.

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14:21:07 on 05/19/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is conduction cooking?

When hot molecules transmit some of their heat to cool ones in direct contact with them, the type of heat transference called conduction occurs. Pan-frying is a fish fillet exemplifies this principle. The heat of the flame is transferred - on a molecule to molecule basis - first through the pan, then through the thin oil layer, and finally through the fish. Another illustration is a metal spoon in a hot cup of coffee. At first the utensil's handle is cool. It then grows warm, and eventually hot.

The speed of conduction is relatively slow, and it varies by substance. Metal conducts heat more quickly than does wood, which helps explain why wood is a popular material for pot handles and cooking spoons.

Boiling or deep-frying is chiefly a process of convection, but since heat is simultaneously transferred directly from one water or fat molecule to another, conduction is part of the process too. Conduction heating takes place inside the food as well. When cooking a potato or other solid food in a pot of boiling water or hot fat, or in a hot oven, none of the circulating water, fat, or air molecules touch the subsurface molecules of the food. So if the potato's interior is to be cooked, conduction heating must take over where convection heating leaves off. In other words, the surface molecules of the potato pass along their acquired heat to the next layer of molecules in the potato, and so on.

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07:33:51 on 05/18/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is convection cooking?

You are cooking by convection when circulating molecules of a gas or liquid transfer their heat directly to your food. These gas or liquid molecules are set in motion by a heat source, which is usually at the bottom of your oven or pot. As the assemblage of molecules closest to the heat source is warmed, it becomes lighter and rises above the heavier, cooler batch of molecules, which is simultaneously sinking. The cooler molecules, upon reaching the bottom of the oven or pot, are heated and begin their journey upward, displacing the top molecules, which have cooled slightly. This ongoing process creates air or water currents, an essential for convection cooking. Food cooked in an oven or pot of liquid, incidentally, is also heated by radiation (emitted by the heated interior surfaces of the oven or pot) and by conduction.

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12:11:32 on 05/17/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are so many home-barbecued chickens black-crusted and bitter?

The main cause of these charred, acrid-tasting birds is the commercial barbecue sauce that backyard chefs slosh on the chicken. High heat readily burns sugar, a major ingredient of barbecue sauces. These sauces are also liberally flavored with spices that will become bitter when scorched or burned.

Knowledgeable barbecuer will not brush on the sauce until 15 minutes before the chicken has finished cooking. They will also use more time and less heat. If the coals are extremely hot and well packed, the barbecuer par excellence will keep the food 4 to 6 inches above the briquettes. The thicker the food, the greater the distance from the coals and, as a direct result, the longer the cooking period.

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04:47:46 on 05/15/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What causes tears when we chop onions?

When we chop or slice an onion, we release a gas, the lachrymator agent propanethiol S-oxide. It wafts upward and chemically reacts with the water in our eyes to form sulfuric acid. Our body then reacts defensively by producing tears to expel the irritant. Sweet onions cause fewer tears than standard cooking onions. Their higher moisture and sugar content lessens the quantity of tear-causing gas that is formed. Some people are innately more susceptible to the tear-producing chemical reaction than others. However, the more frequently we cut onions, the greater our tolerance. That's why the "crier" is more apt to be a person who cuts onions only occasionally.

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12:27:19 on 05/14/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are produce items like apples and cucumbers sometimes coated with wax?

The food industry does it for its own sake, not yours. A coating of wax helps seal in moisture and therefore extends storage life, as well as minimizing costly weight loss. It also gives the fruit or vegetable a sheen, which in the eyes of some customers is a sign of quality. Informed shoppers, however, know that it is an impossible chore to wash off all the wax. Even if food industry spokespersons are correct in their claim that the wax is safe to eat, it does give food an off-flavor. It also thwarts your efforts to scrub off pesticides that may have been sprayed on the fruit before it was waxed. The list of fruits and vegetables that are falling victim to the wax treatment is lengthy, and growing: Apples, cucumbers, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bell peppers, pears, cantaloupes, plums, and yams are among the casualties.

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20:35:33 on 05/13/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do some shrimp taste less of iodine than others?

A marine shrimp caught near the mouth of a river smacks less of iodine than one caught in unadulterated seawater because the seawater has a higher iodine content. Even marine shrimp that live far away from rivers can differ in flavor because iodine content in seawater and the food shrimp eat vary geographically. Shrimp acquire an iodine flavor when they eat algae. (These plants are iodine-rich because they concentrate within their cells the iodine in seawater). In addition, shrimp get iodine by eating sea creatures, such as sand-dwelling worms, that also eat the algae. Once digested, a fair portion of the iodine remains in the shrimp's bodies.

Sometimes the iodine flavor is intensified when processors use the additive sodium bisulfite. This chemical can amplify the iodine's effect on our taste buds. Although its use to prolong the storage life of shrimp is prohibited in the United States, it is no secret that some foreign processors surreptitiously taint their shrimp with it before exporting them to America.

00:26:47 on 05/12/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are scallops not sold in the shell?

A clam, oyster, or mussel can remain alive and healthy for days, and sometimes a week or two, out of its natural seawater environment because it can tightly clamp its shell. By doing so, the mollusk maintains its own liquid eco-environment within its protective case. A scallop, on the other hand, cannot snugly shut its two shells. Once pulled from the water, its juices run out and the coming of the three Ds - death, desiccation, and disease agents - is imminent. Professional scallop gatherers, therefore, usually shuck the bivalve on the boat, discarding the quick-spoiling viscera.

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13:25:20 on 05/11/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do crustaceans taste sweeter than fish?

Crustaceans like lobsters have a higher proportion of glycogen, a polysaccharide that converts into the simple sugar glucose. Glycogen is aptly named: It is derived from the Greek words glukus (sweet) and gen (a suffix meaning "capable of bringing forth"). Other substances, including the amino acid glycine, influence sweetness intensity too.

Among the three most widely eaten crustaceans, lobster is the sweetest, followed by crab and shrimp in that order. Fish flesh, though less sweet than crustacean meat, is sweeter than land animals muscles. Whatever the flesh, sweetness starts to diminish noticeably after a day or two of storage time.

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04:52:11 on 05/10/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it safe to eat sushi?

The flesh of healthy fish living in unpolluted ocean water is free of pathogenic bacterial contamination. If such flesh comes from a nonpoisonous fish, is properly stored for not more than half a day or so, and is correctly cleaned and prepared, eating sushi poses no more threat to your health than consuming a wholesome raw oyster or clam gathered from uncontaminated waters.

Unfortunately, many Japanese sushi bars serve less than perfectly fresh fish, and the seafood is not always hygienically handled. And to make matters worse, many of those sushi bars do not teem with customers during peak hours in the middle of the week. This increases the chances that the chef doesn't replenish his inventory on a daily basis. So it is recommended to enjoy sushi only at a quality Japanese restaurant that is busy every day and has a conscientious sushi chef with impeccable standards. You will pay more, but it is worth it.

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09:40:33 on 05/09/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to increase a charcoal grill's temperature?

Buy quality-brand briquettes. They burn hotter (and longer) than lesser-grade ones because the charcoal material is denser and thus more combustible. In addition, you can increase the heat that reaches the food by placing the food closer to the coals, using extra briquettes, and packing them more closely together.

You can also augment the heat by increasing the speed of the fresh air flow to the briquettes. (Open the air vents under the barbecue pan, if your unit has them). However, be aware that air flowing over the food will both cool the food and carry away some of the heat rising from the coals. (Try to shield the food from any passing breeze).

Another way to raise the temperature is to minimize the heat that escapes through the walls of the barbecuing pan. Buy a unit that has a pan made of thick-gauge metal, or insulated a thin-gauge pan by lining it with a layer of ashes or aluminum foil. The aluminum foil also reflects heat upward to the food.

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05:07:16 on 05/08/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is braising best done in the oven or on top of the stove?

Braising consists of browning a food in hot fat, then simmering it in scant liquid in a covered pan. In most circumstances, the oven is preferable for this operation. First of all, top-of-the-stove braising has an inherent drawback. If the liquid in the pot boils, the food's texture and flavor will likely suffer. If the fluid medium is kept below the boiling point, then the part of the food resting in the liquid will cook significantly faster than the portion projecting above it. This uneven cooking occurs because insufficient steam is generated in the pot.

In contrast, the heat of an oven more uniformly engulfs the pot. And because the need to generate steam is not as crucial, you can cook the food at a slower pace and lower temperature, two conditions that are essential for braising a tough piece of meat. Oven braising has yet another advantage: It requires less pot watching.

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14:01:36 on 05/07/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between sauteing and pan-frying?

Although both cooking methods fry foods in a shallow layer of heated oil in a pan, they are employed for different purposes. Sauteing is ideal for foods such as spinach and thin strips of meat that do not require more than a quick cooking over very high heat. To prevent the high heat from scorching the food that touches the pan's hot surface, you should frequently shake and/or toss the food in the pan. Sauteing is somewhat akin to stir-frying.

Pan-frying is used for foods that take longer to cook. (Pork chops and chicken thighs are two examples). You use a lower heat than you use for sauteing to prevent the food's exterior from over-cooking before its interior is done. You also use more oil, ranging in depth anywhere from 1/8 inch up to half the height of the food. Any deeper would be in the no-man's land between pan-frying and deep-frying.

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15:46:26 on 05/06/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is a small instant thermometer better than a traditional large one for checking the temperature of a roasting meat?

An instant thermometer is not only more accurate but also makes a thinner hole in the meat. Fewer of the meat's internal juices, therefore, can exit through that aperture. Although it is true that you make many holes when using an instant thermometer, as opposed to only one with the larger instrument, these holes are so small that they quickly seal themselves.

Because you leave the larger type of thermometer in the meat as it roasts, heat is quickly conducted to the flesh surrounding the metal spike. This rapid heat transfer cooks the meat surrounding the spike faster than it should, and, consequently, uneven roasting occurs. A small instant thermometer does not pose this problem because it is not left in the roasting meat. (If it were, the mechanism will be ruined).

A frequently overlooked advantage of a small instant thermometer is that it allows you to test-probe the meat in more than one place.

** Types of Thermometers **

12:53:49 on 05/05/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Should we buy a charcoal or gas outdoor grill?

If you relish grilled foods imbued with rich, sweet, woodsy, smoky flavor, as most serious barbecuers do, then a charcoal grill is for you. But remember that serious barbecuers use hardwood charcoal, not briquette charcoal. Hardwood charcoal normally consists of whole chunks of seasoned wood, such as hickory, apple, or mesquite. They produce clean, faintly sweet, richly flavored smoke. Briquette charcoal is manufactured in a process that compresses minute pieces of wood charcoal (normally not the best) into the briquette shape.

A gas grill may be your best bet if you are a casual weekend barbecuer and you do not require a grill that's portable. It produces a decently pleasant smoke from the drippings. You do not need to make as many fuel-restocking trips to the store. You wait 10 to 15 minutes instead of 25 to 40 minutes for the grill to reach its ready-to-cook temperature and you have greater control over the grilling temperature. You cleanup is quicker and less messy.

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13:36:39 on 05/04/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are budget-priced food processors seldom a good value?

If you are planning to use your food processor only for tasks that require relatively little power (such as slicing a cucumber or other soft vegetable), then a budget-priced model may serve your purposes. Chances are, however, that you also want your machine to perform more arduous chores, like chopping meat, in which case a budget model is no bargain.

A key reason that a budget-priced food processor is ill suited for chopping foods like meat is that it does not have enough horsepower. If the motor is not powerful enough, it is apt to balk momentarily, or even permanently, when you process a heavy load.

Another reason for poor performance is that many budget-priced models are belt-driven. In other words, the motor turns a belt, which turns the cutting-blade unit. The belts in inexpensive models tend to slip when you process a heavy load. This problem doesn't occur when the motor's drive shaft directly rotates the cutting blade, as is the case with most of the better food processors.

Motor-balking and belt slippage are major mechanical deficiencies because they make it impossible to chop a batch of food uniformly. What inevitably happens in the case of beef, for example, is that when some of the meat is properly chopped, the rest of the meat is too lumpy (underchopped) or too pasty (overchopped).

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14:15:29 on 05/03/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How does a microwave oven work?

A tube within the oven, called a "magnetron", emits high-frequency electromagnetic waves (similar to radio waves). This radiation is scattered in the oven by a fanlike reflector (called the "stirrer"). When the waves penetrate the food, they reverse the polarity of the water and other liquid molecules, billions of times a second. This oscillation causes the molecules to vibrate and bounce against each other. These collisions create friction and, as a by-product, the heat that cooks or warms the food.

The microwave's heating element does not heat the circulating air, the oven walls, or the vessel holding the food. When a bowl or plate becomes warm in a microwave oven, either it absorbed the heat from the cooking food or the surface of the vessel not touching the food was wet before the oven was turned on.

13:41:19 on 05/02/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is a convection oven better than a traditional oven?

Both the convection ovens and traditional ovens depend on convection heating. The salient difference between the two is that the convection oven uses the principle of convection more effectively. It has a built-in electric fan that increases the circulation of hot air molecules within the oven. This increase in air circulation is a boon when you roast meat or bake breads and pastry (but has no effect on covered foods). Since the oven temperature is uniform throughout, the food's surface will be more evenly cooked and browned (though the outside of a meat does not develop as appealing a crusty texture). Another advantage of the convection oven is that it reduces the required temperature and cooking time and therefore meat shrinks less. Furthermore, most meats do not require basting, and so the cleanup chore is less bothersome because there is less splatter. Energy cost savings are often realized because of the unit's efficiency and generally more compact size.

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15:09:57 on 05/01/07 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -