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  • Make Ahead Vegetable Side-Dishes for Thanksgiving

    The large-capacity Convection ovens that are standard these days evolved in large part because of consumer demand for larger ovens to accommodate the cooking of a turkey and all the side dishes. However, despite the oven being larger, it's actually the Convection system that makes orchestrating the preparation of a Thanksgiving feast much easier. How Convection Makes Cooking a Large Feast Easier If you follow the steps I have outlined for roasting a turkey in Convection then you know that you will have at least 50 minutes for resting, carving and gravy-making after the bird comes out of the oven. Side dishes such as stuffing, roasted vegetables and other casseroles take approximately 40 minutes to bake and if you select a Convection mode then you can cook them at the same time. Imagine everything hot and ready to serve at the same time, nothing could be easier. Choosing the Side Dishes for a Thanksgiving Feast There are so many great recipes for side dishes to serve with a turkey it can be overwhelming to choose one. The best side dishes are of course ones that can be prepared in advance and baked in an oven to table serving dish. That way you don’t have to transfer food to a serving dish as it comes out of the oven and the less chaos and mess in the kitchen the better. This Potato Gratin with Swiss Chard is definitely a dish that is best made ahead and re-heated before serving. You will need a mandolin or sharp knife to slice the potatoes but otherwise it’s very easy to prepare and because it’s made with a combination of stock and cream it’s not too calorie laden. The potatoes may not be mashed but they do melt together beautifully and you can easily cut elegant portions for serving. The Harvest medley combines seasonal vegetables together with a wild rice blend and some nuts, in essence it’s part stuffing part roasted vegetables in one dish, most importantly it’s delicious. If you don’t have time to prepare any dishes in advance you can easily roast a medley of root vegetables to serve with the turkey and steam or roast some green beans, the important thing to remember is that you can cook multiple dishes at one time in your Convection oven. Which Convection Mode Should I Choose to Cook Oven Side Dishes? If your oven only has a Convection Bake mode then choose that mode for roasting the turkey and baking the side dishes. If your oven has a Convection Bake and a Convection Roast mode use the Convection Bake mode for cooking the side dishes. Tips for Cooking Multiple Dishes at One Time in Convection If you have loaded the oven up with several casserole dishes and a tray of vegetables to roast place the tray of vegetables in the lower part of the oven and the casseroles in the upper part. If you are roasting some quick cooking vegetables such as green beans or Brussels sprouts they can be roasted in the middle of the oven between the other two racks. When a large capacity oven is loaded with multiple trays you may get better results if you increase the oven temperature by 10 - 15 degrees. Just keep in mind your Convection oven is a great tool for roasting a turkey and cooking all the oven side dishes at one time, make a cooking plan, get as much advance prep done as you can so you can relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving. If you are baking during the holidays in my next post I will review some important things to keep in mind when baking in Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Step By Step Thanksgiving Cooking Plan

    Convection ovens are ideally suited for preparing an entire feast because, a turkey cooks much faster in Convection, remains incredibly juicy and all the side dishes can be baked in the oven at one time once the turkey is resting. In this post, I will outline the cooking plan I have used for over 20 years. Most prep work is done a day or even two in advance so that all the dishes are ready to cook, allowing you to enjoy this special celebration. Make Sure You Have All the Tools You Need For best results the turkey should be cooked on a rack in a shallow pan. A rimmed cutting board is important because a lot of juices will flow when you carve the turkey and need I remind you to make sure your knives are sharp. Also, have plenty of kitchen towels on hand, you will use them. Advance Preparation, 3 - 4 days Prior to the Feast If you can break the prep up into stages it will be much less stressful. Items that can be prepared several days in advance include. Turkey stock - preparing stock in advance is easy to do and so practical, just pick up a turkey leg or some wings at the butcher. Stock can be added to the stuffing to keep it moist and also to make the gravy and also added to soup. Croutons - making your own croutons is one of the little steps that makes a huge difference. All you have to do is cut the crust off some crusty bread, slice the bread into thick slices, cut the slices into cubes, toss them with melted butter, some garlic powder and seasoning and bake them at 350F until golden. Once cooled they can be stored in an airtight container. Cranberry sauce, again so easy to make but good to get it out of the way. Advance Preparation the Day Before the Feast When preparing the turkey, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to avoid contact with kitchen counters or cutting boards. Remove the turkey from the wrapping, remove the giblets from both cavities, make stock with the neck and the giblets. If the turkey is still icy in places then place it on a rack in a pan and use the Defrost mode in the Convection or Steam oven for approximately 20 minutes to dissolve any ice crystals The Defrost mode in a Convection or Steam oven does not cook the food it only dissolves the ice crystals which will ensure the turkey cooks evenly. The Defrost mode cannot be used to defrost a completely frozen turkey, only to remove any remaining ice crystals after the turkey has been defrosted in the refrigerator. Pat the inside dry with paper towels, and add aromatics such as onion, lemon, bay leaf etc. if using. Rub the turkey all over with Kosher salt, cover the turkey loosely with wax paper or leave it uncovered and place in the refrigerator. Prep any vegetables you plan on roasting or baking and store them in a ziploc or other container. Prepare the stuffing as per your recipe and place in an oven casserole dish, cover and refrigerate. Bake any side dishes that can be baked the day before then re-heated in the oven while the turkey is resting and being carved. Be sure to cool them completely before refrigerating. The gravy base can also be prepared in advance, it won’t have much color but once the turkey comes out of the oven you can deglaze the roasting pan and add the pan drippings for color and flavor. Cooking Timeline the Day of the Feast For detailed cooking instructions follow this recipe for cooking the turkey. Arrange the oven racks to accommodate the turkey before heating the oven. A whole turkey cooked in Convection cooks faster than in the traditional method so be prepared. Allow approximately 2 hours for roasting a 15-20lb turkey and 50 - 60 minutes for resting, carving and gravy making. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator a few hours before cooking so it loses the chill. Prepare a landing spot for the turkey when it comes out of the oven Organize the oven racks to accommodate baking the side dishes and allow the oven to come back to temperature before adding them in. Allow approximately 40 - 45 minutes for baking side dishes such as stuffing and baked or roasted root vegetables, potatoes or sweet potatoes. Where is the Juice? When you roast a turkey on a rack, the juices stay in the bird, so it basically self-bastes as it cooks. Once the turkey has rested for at least 30 minutes, pick it up with two kitchen towels and drain the juices into the pan. Now you can set the turkey aside ready for carving and deglaze the pan, skim off the fat and add those juices to the gravy. Turkey Cooked in Convection May Have Redness Around the Bone Don’t be alarmed if you see some redness around the bone, just make sure the meat is cooked through. More juice stays in the bird when cooking in Convection, so the bones don’t dry out as they do when the turkey is baked in the traditional Roast mode. I have cooked this feast in many different ovens. The turkey cooks faster in smaller ovens and make take a little longer in a larger oven but overall you should find that this plan works well. Obviously if you have several ovens you have more options, but I have successfully cooked this entire feast in one 24” oven, the key is using Convection. My next post will have some suggestions for oven side dishes that can be prepared a day in advance and only require reheating on the day. The turkey is the easiest part, narrowing down the side dishes is much harder, there are just too many good options. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Slow Cooked BBQ Pulled Turkey

    A magnificent roast turkey as the centerpiece of the menu for holiday gatherings is a much loved tradition. However, there are many other delicious ways to prepare a turkey and this recipe that is ideal for entertaining is one of my favorites. In my experience, this is one of those recipes that people always ask about, I am not sure if it’s the turkey or the sauce or the combination but it just works. What is “Pulled” Turkey? Basically, pulled meat is braised, that is to say, it has been cooked slowly in a sauce until it is meltingly tender and comes away easily from the bone, so that when cooled it can be pulled or shredded. As with all braises using bone-in pieces will add flavor and also results in a better texture. While the legs and thighs work best a smaller bone-in turkey breast can be used if you prefer. What is the Best Method for Braising Turkey, Convection or Convection Steam? When you read a recipe that says to cook something in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, then basically you are trapping steam in the pan that aids in the cooking process. The best modes to choose in a Convection oven are either Convection or Convection Bake as the circulating heated air maintains a consistent temperature in the pan. If you cook this dish in the Convection Steam oven, choose the Combination Convection Steam mode, you don’t need to cover the pan but make sure the meat is submerged in the sauce. I usually check it halfway through the cooking time and if it is developing a crust then I turn it. So basically the tight fitting lid on a pan creates steam or you can use the combination of heat and steam in your Steam oven. Two different methods but both are using the same science to cook the food. A low temperature and steam. If you have a gas oven or an oven with an exposed heating element you will have better results if you move the pan slightly higher in the oven so it’s not as close to the direct heat from the bottom heat source. If the pan is too close to a strong heat source you risk evaporating all the liquids in the pan. Braising Turkey This is one delicious turkey recipe that works well for more casual entertaining as it can be kept warm in a crockpot or on a very, very low simmer. However, turkey pieces can be braised with stock and root vegetables similar to a pot roast, or with a little added flair with some apples and apple cider. I like this Moroccan-inspired braised turkey, which also works well for entertaining that is finished with this flavor packed fresh herb, and lemon sauce. Remember delicious as that roast turkey and those turkey sandwiches are, there are many other good ways to cook this delicious bird. So while it's easier to find turkey at the market be adventurous and try a few new recipes. If you have never made good use of your Convection oven, be sure to check out my next post in which I will explain how to orchestrate a complete holiday meal and have everything cooked to perfection. I have done this many times in large ovens and small ovens and it always works well, the key is understanding how to use Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How To Roast A Spatchcocked Turkey in Convection

    Before we had Convection ovens the only option for oven cooking was radiant heat and while radiant heat can provide great results with baked items, it tends to have a drying effect on meats. To counter this drying effect the technique of brining lean meats before roasting became was the best option. Basically, the brine infused additional liquid into the meat to prevent it from drying out, an added bonus was the ability to add different flavors to the brine. Nowadays we have more options for cooking a turkey without having to brine or baste including the spatchcocked method. The Evolution of Turkey Roasting Techniques The first major change in turkey roasting techniques came about with the design of the V-rack. Instead of the turkey sitting directly on the pan and the heat of the pan leeching the moisture from the turkey, it could cook through beautifully and retain more moisture. Even when the V rack became popular and Convection ovens more common, recipes still didn’t reference using Convection and still recommended brining and using copious amounts of butter as well as frequent basting to prevent drying out the bird during the long cooking time. As people began to look for other options than oven roasting, techniques such as smoking and deep-frying became popular, and since the turkey didn’t take up all the oven space that made cooking all the oven-side dishes easier. Then Along Came Convection and a Better Way to Roast Turkey Convection is better for roasting because the heated air cooks the food from the edge to the center helping to keep the moisture in the meat. A benefit of cooking with Convection is a much faster cooking time, and no turning or basting is needed. Once the turkey is resting then the oven can be loaded with the side dishes so everything will be ready to serve at one time. In order to benefit from roasting in Convection it’s important to cook the turkey on a rack in a shallow pan to allow the heat to evenly penetrate into the bird. If Convection Does a Great Job, What is the Benefit of Spatchcocking a Turkey? There are many benefits to cooking a turkey in this method. Faster cooking time, a 12 - 15lb turkey cooked in this method will cook in approximately 1 hour and 15 - 20 minutes. Carving is much easier. Simply remove the leg and thigh at the joint then the breast meat can be sliced on the bone. The backbone can be removed a day in advance of cooking to make stock and the gravy made can also be made in advance so there is no last-minute gravy making. Then the pan can be de-glazed and the drippings added to the gravy for color and flavor. The turkey cooks more evenly when laid flat so the leaner white meat doesn’t become dry and the skin will be crisp all over. Roasting a Spatchcocked Turkey in Convection The hardest part about roasting a turkey in this method is cutting the backbone out of the turkey, to keep the turkey stable while cutting out the backbone hold it steady with a kitchen towel. Placing a damp kitchen towel or paper towel under the cutting board or a rimmed baking pan to remove the backbone will also keep it stable. Poultry shears are the safest tool for cutting out the backbone, but a strong sharp knife will also work. Begin by cutting along the backbone from the tail end to the neck cutting through the rib bones. Spread the turkey open slightly, then holding it steady with the towel cut out the backbone on the other side. Once the backbone is out press down on the highest point of the breastbone until you hear it crack, this will allow the turkey to sit flatter. Now it’s time to season the turkey and get it ready for roasting. Even spatchcocked turkey is best roasted on a rack in a shallow pan. If you don’t have a rack then place the turkey over some large carrots and other root vegetables. Ideally, season the turkey with kosher salt and your preferred seasoning a day in advance, and be sure to bring it to room temperature before cooking. Remember to add at least 30 minutes of resting time to the cooking time before carving the turkey. If your side dishes are ready to go into the oven when the turkey comes out everything should be hot and ready to serve at the same time. All the details are in this recipe. Cooking a spatchcocked turkey is one way to make cooking a holiday feast easier and in my next post, I will cover make ahead side dishes to go with the feast that will make the cooking easier and less stressful. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How To Roast A Heritage Turkey in Convection

    When I began to research how to cook a Heritage Turkey, I was surprised to find that the majority of recipes recommend high-heat cooking and to only cook the turkey to 140F internal temperature, but it was no surprise that not one recipe mentioned Convection. Most recipes also suggested brining the bird as well as using generous amounts of butter to help keep the bird juicy. Given the high cooking temperature in the drying radiant heat brining and adding plenty of fat made perfect sense, but I decided to take a leap of faith and use a method more suited to cooking with Convection. What is Different About a Heritage Turkey? Heritage turkeys are bred naturally, they take longer to develop and spend their lives in nature running around and developing big strong legs, and the meat that is mostly dark and very flavorful. They certainly look different from a factory-bred turkey, and while the taste is similar it is definitely richer and more flavorful. Heritage turkeys may not have such a large breast but there was still plenty of while meat and a 13lb turkey will easily feed 6 people and have leftovers. How Can I Order a Heritage Turkey? Heritage turkeys are mostly ordered online directly from producers; they are definitely more expensive and a shipping cost for 2nd-day air also adds to the cost. The producer may offer a selection of Heritage birds so you can try different ones. Cooking a Heritage Turkey in Convection Cooking a Heritage turkey in Convection is quite simple. The first step is to get the bird to room temperature. I defrosted my 13lb turkey for three days in the refrigerator, and it was still icy in places. To get that last icy bit out of the bird, I find using the Defrost cycle in my Convection or Steam oven for about 20 minutes works best. It is quite safe to use the Defrost mode as it does not cook the food, the fan just circulates the ambient air in the oven to dissolve any ice. However, large roasts like turkey should always first be defrosted in the refrigerator, and the Defrost Mode used only to get it to room temperature. When using the Defrost Mode place the turkey on a rack in a shallow pan to capture the ice as it dissolves. The next important step is to plan to roast the turkey on a rack in a shallow pan. You can see from the video I used a shallow-rimmed baking pan with a cookie cooling rack (Read my blog: Preparing for Holiday Cooking - All About Roasting Pans and Meat Probes) and it worked perfectly. Roasting the turkey on a rack helps keep the juices in the bird. And once the cooked bird has rested for about 30 minutes, you can pick it up with two kitchen towels and drain out the liquid to add to the stock for gravy. Be sure to carve it on a rimmed board as more juice will flow during carving. For extra drippings, I added two cups of chicken stock to the base of the roasting pan, once the pan was in the oven. When the bird came out of the oven I moved it to another pan to rest and deglazed the roasting pan adding those drippings to the stock for the gravy. Convection Temperature and Timing For best results, start the cooking at 400 F (204 C) degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 F (163 C) for the remainder of the cooking time. Remember in Convection, heat circulates around the oven cooking from the edge to the center, so the lower cooking temperature ensures even cooking. The turkey can be roasted in either the Convection Roast or Convection Bake mode if your oven doesn’t have a Convection Roast Mode. Timing the cooking is important because a turkey in the 12 - 15lb range will cook in just under two hours. If your oven is equipped with a meat probe then I would recommend using it otherwise check the bird after it has cooked for an hour and forty minutes with an instant-read thermometer to determine the internal temperature. Even though most recipes I read said to cook the bird to an internal temperature of 140 F (60 C) I found I needed to cook my bird to 150 F (66 C) but I wouldn’t go beyond 160F (71 C), remember the internal temperature continues to rise while the bird is resting. When poultry is cooked on a rack in Convection it retains more moisture and you may find the area around the bone will be red. Don’t be alarmed, if the meat is cooked this redness is perfectly safe, it is due to the turkey not losing so much juice during the cooking. You will find more specific details in the recipe but I hope this information will help guide you to success if you are planning on cooking a Heritage turkey this Thanksgiving. It is more expensive but very worthwhile and we were very pleased with the results. In my next post I will review the method for roasting a turkey in the spatchcock style, cutting out that back bone takes some work but the cooking and carving is so easy and the results are just outstanding. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Cook Low-Temperature Roast Turkey in Convection

    In my role as a culinary educator in the appliance industry, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to cook in a selection of remarkable ovens, and a hot topic in every class I taught was how to cook a turkey. Working with so many people over the years I learned that everyone had different needs. Some wanted to cook the entire traditional feast, others just a turkey breast, some people needed to be able to cook extra turkey pieces and others just needed to reheat a feast they had purchased. It was my quest to help people needing to cook extra turkey pieces that prompted me to experiment with the Low-Temperature method. What Is Low-Temperature Cooking? Low-temperature cooking is a method of cooking tender cuts of meat at temperatures between 160 - 200 degrees (70 - 93C) until the target internal temperature is reached. The meat is then finished at a high temperature on the grill, in the oven or in a pan. During the cooking the heat gently penetrates the meat and because the temperature remains low there is no moisture loss and the meat cooks evenly. Once the meat is “finished” with high heat the crust or skin browns and crisps resulting in perfectly cooked meat with fabulous flavor and texture. How to Determine the Timing Because the cooking time depends on the cooking temperature, target internal cooked temperature and the weight of the meat, an oven meat probe is a valuable tool to monitor the cooking. However, if your oven is not equipped with a meat probe, checking the internal temperature of the meat with an instant read thermometer after 30 - 40 minutes will give you a good indication of the progress. What is the Ideal Internal Temperature to Aim For Turkey Pieces? It’s important to remember while the meat will be cooked at a low temperature for a long time it will continue cooking during the final high heat phase. For best results in the Low-Temperature cooking phase always aim for a slightly lower temperature than the final finished target temperature. That way the meat will not be overcooked during the final cooking phase. We aim for an internal temperature of 165 degrees (74℃) when roasting a whole turkey. During the resting time the temperature raises to 185 degrees (85℃) which is perfect for carving. Aiming for an internal temperature of 160 (71℃) in the low temperature phase will allow you to bring the turkey to 165 (74℃) degrees during the high heat phase. How To Coordinate Low Temperature Cooking with Higher Temperature Cooking Determining how to cook the turkey at a low temperature will depend on how many ovens you have and how many side dishes you need to cook in the ovens. There are several options. Cook the turkey pieces at low temperature and finish with the high heat cooking the day before, or the morning of the feast cool and refrigerate. Slice and reheat. Reheating sliced turkey can be done with great success in a Steam oven or covered in a Convection oven. Cook the turkey pieces at a low temperature the day of the feast or the day before and finish them on the outdoor grill or in the oven when the side dishes have been removed. Tips for Seasoning and Cooking the Turkey We learned many years ago that giving the turkey a dry rub with Kosher salt and your preferred seasoning the day before cooking yields the best results. Turkey pieces cooked at a low temperature can be cooked directly on a rimmed baking pan. Some juices will accumulate in the pan especially if you cook the turkey in a Steam oven. Those juices have lot’s of flavor and should be captured and added to your stock for gravy. Prior to the high heat cooking phase, rub the turkey with a little oil or softened butter to aid with the browning and crisping. What Causes Red Bone? If you notice there is redness around the joints of the turkey pieces, don’t be alarmed. If the meat is cooked, i.e. not fleshy, then you are perfectly safe. If the meat has a slightly rosy tinge it will disappear during the reheating process. Red bone occurs because there is more moisture retention when cooking in Convection especially at lower temperatures. Traditional Bake or Roast (radiant heat) is a very drying heat that pulls the moisture out of the turkey leaving the bones with a bleached appearance as well as drying out the meat. If you see some turkey pieces at the market in the weeks before Thanksgiving, I encourage you to give this method of cooking turkey pieces a try. After all you can use the bones to make stock for gravy or to add to casseroles, and you will be amazed at the ease of cooking and how delicious the turkey is. If you plan on cooking a Heritage turkey this Thanksgiving, please check out my next post, How to Roast a Heritage Turkey in Convection. I took a leap of faith and went against the traditional method, so I could share the results with you. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • A Delicious Meatless Convection Meal

    Meatless Mushroom Meatballs with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots When I first began teaching classes in Convection cooking, I found it interesting how many clients told me how amazed they were to find themselves eating vegetables that they normally didn’t care to eat. For many people, their dislike of a vegetable was based on a preparation such as boiling which basically robbed the vegetable of flavor, and they were stunned by the difference in flavor and texture of vegetables roasted in Convection and Convection steam. Planning a Convection Meal These two recipes are perfect for a Convection meal because they can both be cooked in the Convection Bake or Convection Roast mode at 375 (190℃) degrees. And if the vegetables are sliced on the thinner side the cooking time for both will be approximately 15 minutes. If you were baking traditional “meat” meatballs that would require an additional 5 - 8 minutes of cooking time just slice the vegetables a little thicker so they don’t cook too quickly. In most electric ovens, when the Convection Bake or Convection Roast Mode is engaged the top and bottom heating elements are active and the fan is circulating the heated air, this is great because both the mushroom meatballs and vegetables will crisp without drying out. Trays placed lower in the oven will receive more intense heat while trays placed a little higher in the oven will receive gentle browning. Remember in a gas oven the heat is generated by the heating element in the base of the oven and trays placed too close to the bottom of the oven may brown faster than desired so be sure to arrange the oven racks before heating the oven. Best Oven Trays for Sheet Pan Meals The type of pan you use does actually make a difference when baking and roasting. Aluminum sheet pans are the most popular choice for oven roasting and baking; however, there are many choices when it comes to pans. Investing in some heavier-weight pans will make all the difference when roasting vegetables and meats in the oven, but definitely try to avoid lightweight pans that will warp as they absorb the heat so that the food won’t cook unevenly. I find a selection of ½ and ¼ sized-rimmed baking sheets as well as the jelly roll size gives me a lot of flexibility when cooking oven meals. Sometimes I use a ½ sized pan for the vegetables and two ¼ sized pans on another rack, one for a small cut of meat and one for some fish. Of course, if you have a 30” oven or large range oven you can also accommodate a ¾ sized pan when cooking larger quantities of food. While aluminum does absorb heat well, it doesn’t do well in the dishwasher, it washes clean but the appearance is forever after changed. Foil placed shiny side down, parchment paper or silicone liners are all good options for easy clean-up. When I bake directly on the pan I usually wipe or scrape off any oily residue with a silicone spatula or paper towel. If there are some hard-to-remove stains, I pour some boiling water into the pan with a few drops of dish soap and let it sit for 10 minutes or so to release the staining. Tips for Preparing Mushroom Meatballs with Roasted Vegetables While this Convection meal cooks very quickly, preparing the mushroom meatballs and the vegetables will take approximately 30 minutes. If you are able to do most of the prep and cook the quinoa in advance it will of course come together faster. When preparing the mushrooms either wipe them clean with a damp paper towel or with a mushroom brush. Avoid immersing them in water so they don’t become waterlogged and be sure to let them cook long enough in the first step of the recipe, so they will release all their moisture. If you are hesitant to buy a bunch of parsley and only use such a small amount then you could either omit the parsley or use dried parsley, the other dried herbs, garlic, and Parmesan cheese add a lot of flavor to these meatballs. When the vegetables have finished roasting, I combine them with the cooked quinoa and sprinkle in a little golden Balsamic vinegar. This is a mild but full-bodied vinegar that balances out the flavors nicely. A sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper adds the final flourish. November is just around the corner, so it’s time to begin planning your Thanksgiving feast and how to get the best use out of your Convection ovens. In my next post, I will review How to Roast a Spatchcock Turkey in Convection. Not only is it extremely easy to prepare turkey in this style, the results will amaze you. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Preparing for Holiday Cooking - All About Roasting Pans and Meat Probes

    In the past twenty years, there have been significant changes in the design and function of ovens, all these changes were, of course, meant to be a benefit for the user. However, when it comes to cooking large roasts, especially turkey, many people are still roasting in an old-fashioned way rather than using the cooking modes and other technology in their ovens. The Evolution of the Modern Oven When appliance manufacturers held focus groups in the 90’s one of the main complaints from consumers was oven size. Overwhelmingly people wanted larger ovens for one reason only, so they could easily orchestrate the preparation of a Thanksgiving or other holiday feast. By the late 90's, the 30 inch wall oven had become a standard size, while range ovens offered even larger options. In order to increase the capacity of ovens the other major change was concealing the bottom heating element in electric ovens underneath the steel plate of the oven floor. Not only did this increase oven capacity, it prevented foods placed lower in the oven from boiling over. The most significant change in ovens was the addition of a Convection mode, known as the third element. This change was significant because the circulating heat of Convection changed how we could cook in an oven and significantly improved cooking results. Why the Right Roasting Pan Makes a Difference Turkey was traditionally cooked in a deep roasting pan in the Bake or Roast Mode using heat from the bottom and top heating elements. When the turkey sits directly on the pan, as the pan gets hot it begins to leech moisture from the turkey filling the pan with delicious juice but often leaving the turkey a bit dry. Also, turkey cooked in this manner requires frequent basting and a longer cooking time. Methods such as brining (infusing the meat with liquid) or roasting in a bag were developed to counteract the drying effect of this style of roasting in the traditional mode and both methods are very effective. If however, you decide to take a leap of faith and defy family tradition and cook your turkey using Convection then you will need a different type of roasting pan, and a whole new game plan because the turkey will cook much faster. However, using Convection will enable you to cook multiple side dishes in the oven while the turkey is resting and you are making the gravy and carving the bird. In my experience, it makes the entire process much easier. In order to benefit from the circulating Convection heat, large roasts are best cooked on a rack with shallow sides, ensuring the roast cooks evenly. When the turkey is roasted in this manner the juice stays in the bird, the cooking time is faster and there is no need for basting. Your biggest challenge will be finding a roasting pan with shallow sides. Some manufacturers have designed pans with a flared shallow edge but roasting pans are mostly at least 4” deep. Here are some options for creating a good roasting pan. A V-rack is a great option to support the weight of the turkey and elevate it from the pan. The V-rack can be placed in any shallow-sided pan or even on a rimmed baking sheet. A cookie cooling rack placed in a rimmed baking pan works really well. Because the juice stays in the bird there is no risk of it overflowing with liquid. My only issue with these racks is that they can be hard to clean. Cookware stores or hardware stores sell a variety of useful racks to fit a variety of shallow-sided pans. I know you will be wondering if the juice stays in the bird and you are roasting on a rack how will you be able to capture enough liquid to make gravy? It’s a different process, but it is all explained in this recipe and the accompanying video, How to Cook Turkey in Convection. Using the Oven Meat Probe Because large roasts like turkey cook so much faster in Convection, oven meat probes are a great tool to use to avoid overcooking. The probe will ensure the turkey cooks to the programmed internal temperature but in order to do so, it must be inserted correctly. Insert the meat probe into the thickest part of the breast making sure it doesn’t touch bone or that the tip is in an air pocket. The internal temperature of a large roast like a turkey will rise as much as 20 degrees during the recommended resting period of 30 minutes. So a lower target internal temperature will yield the best results. If your oven doesn’t have a meat probe, refer to the timing chart in this recipe and check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer or consider using a wireless meat probe. In some ovens, the receptacle for the meat probe has stainless steel cover that must either be lifted or moved aside before inserting the probe. The User Guide may state not to preheat the oven for roasting so you won’t risk burning yourself by moving the cover when the oven is hot. You will always achieve better results placing a roast in a hot oven and the receptacle cover can easily be moved aside with the blunt side of a knife. Just be sure to cover your hand with a kitchen towel to avoid touching the hot oven wall. Oven Thermometers, Do I Need One? Over the years I have met many people who have purchased an expensive new oven, and the first thing they do is buy a $10 oven thermometer to check the accuracy of the oven temperature. The problem with placing a thermometer in the oven is that it is impossible to place it in the same place as the sensor that controls the oven temperature. The reality is that while most ovens cook well, they all cook differently so there is always a familiarization process when cooking in a new oven. In my experience people who had perfected baking in their old oven often have issues when getting used to a new oven: the oven size, cooking mode, rack position, and type of pan being used can all influence the results. Learning about the oven you are cooking in can make all the difference, so dig out the User Guide or go online and find it; a quick review may make all the difference. Please check back for my next Blog Post that will cover preparing a delicious meatless Convection meal. Your Convection Enthusiast, Larissa

  • Baked Rosemary Chicken with Balsamic Glaze

    There are so many ways to cook chicken but when bone-in chicken is baked in the oven with ingredients to make a flavorful sauce it makes an ideal meal for cooler evenings. Many recipes call for searing the chicken pieces first but in this recipe, the chicken is simply placed on the vegetables and cooked entirely in the oven so very little prep is needed. Cooking an Entire Meal in Convection at One Time Because the chicken creates such a delicious sauce, it is best served over some grains or pasta. I served my chicken over polenta that I baked in the oven at the same time. I was really surprised when I learned that polenta could be baked in the oven, and I am so glad I tried it because it is so much easier than standing at the stove and stirring. Also, polenta has a nasty habit of spitting at you while you are stirring which is another reason to cook it in the oven. You will never get burned again using this method. Isn't that something? Polenta needs to be cooked in a covered pan when baked in Convection; however, it can also be prepared uncovered in the Steam oven in the Steam mode. Baking time in the Convection oven is approximately 40 minutes and approximately 30 minutes in the Steam oven. Other side dish options that would work well are, oven-baked risotto or orzo pasta and because you are using a Convection mode you could also add a tray of vegetables to roast at the same time if needed. Best Convection Mode to Use for Baking the Chicken This meal can be baked in the Convection Bake or Convection Roast Mode. Generally, if an oven has both options the Convection Roast mode generates a more intense heat suitable for roasting. Either way, plan to cook the chicken in the middle to upper part of the oven so the chicken will brown nicely, and bake the polenta or any vegetables in the lower part of the oven closer to the bottom heating element. Gas ovens don’t engage a top heating element in the Convection Bake mode, but they are powerful enough that even foods placed higher in the oven will brown well. Foods placed lower in the oven will definitely get more browning so the lower racks are best for roasting vegetables. For Best Results Use Bone-In Chicken Even though there is no liquid added to this recipe the cherry, both tomatoes and mushrooms give off juices during cooking; so by the end of the cooking there is actually a good amount of sauce in the pan. The honey and balsamic vinegar add flavor to the sauce, but for best results using bone-in chicken is essential. Also the texture of the chicken cooked on the bone is much juicier. Upcoming Blog Posts Since the holiday season is almost upon us it’s a good time to make sure your Convection ovens are in good working order and to work on your cooking plan. I will be devoting upcoming posts to help you get organized and ready so you can enjoy the benefits of your Convection oven. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Preparing a Delicious Brunch with a Convection or Steam Oven

    When I learned about the ability to cook a variety of foods at one time in Convection and Steam ovens my immediate thought was, what a fantastic tool to help orchestrate cooking a complete meal especially when entertaining. Not only does the circulating heat of Convection cook all the dishes evenly, but because there is no transfer of flavor sweet and savory dishes can all be cooked simultaneously. Even if you are just cooking brunch for the family knowing how to use the tools in your oven really can make preparing food easier. Brunch typically includes a variety of dishes and there are so many delicious options to choose from, success of course begins with planning. What is a Typical Convection Brunch Menu? A typical brunch menu can include a sweet or savory egg casserole, eggs baked with vegetables in a zesty tomato sauce, frittata, breakfast potatoes, bacon or breakfast sausage, and perhaps some muffins or scones. With the amazing options available in the frozen section these days piping hot fresh croissants are another great option. A breakfast casserole can include sauteed vegetables, and cheese combined with eggs and some cream; or it can be made with bread or croissants that are filled with a sweet or savory filling baked in a custard of eggs and cream. Best of all breakfast casseroles can be prepared the night before and ready to be baked in the morning. Tips for Baking Brunch Dishes in Convection Breakfast casseroles are best cooked at a moderate temperature between 325 to 350 degrees. Also, important to note is that when casseroles are baked in a glass dish a temperature reduction may be necessary. If you notice a dark ring forming around the edge of the casserole reduce the oven temperature by 10 - 15 degrees to ensure even cooking. The Convection Bake mode is ideal when cooking multiple brunch dishes at one time. Place the casserole in the middle of the oven, breakfast potatoes (cut into small wedges or ½” slices for faster cooking) sausage, and bacon are best baked below the casserole. Muffins or scones bake fairly quickly; and by measuring out all the ingredients in advance you will be able to get them into the oven faster, so they can be added at the same time as the casserole. When the muffins come out it’s time to add the potatoes, bacon, or sausage. Bacon is best prepared on a rack in a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. That way once the fat has solidified you can roll up the liner for easy disposal. Timing Breakfast casserole - approximately 40 minutes bake time. Muffins and scones - approximately 15 - 20 minutes. Breakfast Potatoes and Bacon - approximately 20 - 25 minutes. Tips for Preparing Brunch in the Steam Oven The Steam oven has several different modes that can be used when preparing Brunch dishes. Steam Mode Eggs can be poached in individual ramekins in this mode, and cooked vegetables and cheese can be added to the ramekin first for a more substantial meal. Eggs can also be steamed in the shell for a hard-cooked or soft-centered egg. Individual bowls of oatmeal can also be cooked in this mode. Combination Convection Steam Mode This mode can be used to bake breakfast casseroles, muffins, or scones or to cook breakfast potatoes. This mode also yields great results when baking yeast-based pastry or frozen croissants. Re - Heating Mode Breakfast dishes can be prepared in advance and reheated in this mode. Sous Vide Mode In the mood for sous vide eggs? If your oven has this mode the eggs can be cracked into a ramekin and slowly cooked sous vide within the temperature range of 140 - 180 degrees. Remember the best thing about cooking meals in Convection is the fact that it leaves your hands free, and in my experience that can make cooking when entertaining less stressful. Chicken cooked in Convection is so flavorful and juicy and in my next post I will review a delicious oven chicken recipe that cooks in a flavorful sauce. A perfect recipe for these cooler nights and of course because you can cook a side dish at the same time, it’s a perfect Convection meal. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Chinese Chicken Salad

    Chinese chicken salad is a generic term that covers a wide range of chicken salads with different ingredients but all have a distinctly Asian-flavored dressing. I first began making a version of this salad back in 1981 trying to replicate a dish that I had enjoyed in a Chinese restaurant in London. Over the years I have varied the ingredients but kept the dressing more or less the same, this is one dish I never get tired of. Making Chicken Salad at Home is Easy My original method for making this salad was to steam the chicken with aromatics in a saucepan. Of course, once I had a Steam oven I ditched that method and began steaming it in the Steam oven instead. Both methods yield incredibly tender, juicy chicken and at least 2 cups of chicken stock. Sometimes I freeze the stock in small portions to have on hand to add to my cooking or I freeze it in larger containers to add to soup. Cooking the chicken is easy, and the stock is definitely a bonus. Best of all you can flavor the stock to suit the dish you are preparing. The only real work involved once the chicken has cooled is to discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Can I Steam Boneless Skinless Chicken? Steaming boneless skinless chicken is poaching chicken. You should still add a little water and some aromatics to the pan, but the stock will not be as flavorful or plentiful as when you steam bone-in chicken. Boneless skinless poached chicken breasts are perfect to serve for an elegant cold salad with a fresh herb dressing. Can I Roast the Chicken? Roast chicken added to a salad is of course delicious if that is what you have on hand. Steaming the chicken is just a great method that I encourage you to try not only for the great chicken but also for the bonus stock. How Can I Steam the Chicken if I Don’t Have a Steam Oven? Easy, place the aromatics in the saucepan, place a steamer basket or insert in the saucepan, and cover with 3 cups of water. Place the chicken pieces on the steamer insert, cover the pan and bring the liquid to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 - 55 minutes until the chicken is very tender. While the chicken is steaming you can prepare the other salad ingredients and dressing and because this recipe makes a good amount of salad you can enjoy it for several delicious meals. Stay tuned for my next Blog Post for more inspiration for cooking great meals with your Convection and Steam ovens. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Chipotle Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes and Baked Acorn Squash

    When you are looking for ideas for a quick cooking meal pork tenderloin is definitely a good option. In addition to being quick to cook, it is lean and tender and adapts well to various seasonings. I avoided eating pork tenderloin for a long time because I found the results from the recipes I followed dried the meat out too much. I soon learned cooking the pork in Convection was the key to success. What are the Benefits of Marinating the Tenderloin A wet marinade is a great way to add flavor to food and can prevent the meat from drying out; however, marinades that include sugar can be challenging to cook at high temperatures as the sugar tends to burn. Tenderloin that has been marinated can be cooked in the oven without searing. A mix of seasoning for a dry rub together with some olive oil is a good option for adding flavor to pork tenderloin. When prepared this way, searing the tenderloin prior to cooking adds color and flavor to the meat. Flavors that Pair Well Together The marinade in this recipe uses some soy sauce which adds salt and depth of flavor. Chipotle chilies are the perfect ingredient to add to a marinade, they have a wonderful smokey flavor and a little spice, mixed together with some garlic, ground cumin, and fresh cilantro balances the flavors nicely. The clusters of grapes that are roasted together with the pork caramelize during baking and develop a full-bodied flavor that perfectly compliments the marinade. Winter squash pair really well with spicy food and cook very quickly. I chose some small dumpling and acorn squash that I cut into ½” thick slices. When cutting squash a sharp knife is crucial, and shaving a piece of the squash off so it sits flat on the cutting board will make it easier to slice. Even though the skin of the squash feels hard it is actually quite thin so once you get the knife in it’s fairly easy to cut. Convection Temperature and Timing This recipe calls for cooking the pork at 350 degrees in the Convection Bake or Convection Roast mode. Since the pork has been soaking in the marinade this higher cooking temperature works well and is also ideal for roasting the grapes and winter squash at the same time. Allow 15 - 20 minutes baking time for a 1lb tenderloin, the meat should feel firm to the touch when tested. When you remove the tenderloin from the oven, set it aside to rest for 5 minutes or so and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees so the winter squash gets a little burst of heat to caramelize the edges. Stay tuned for my next post on a dish I had enjoyed in a Chinese restaurant in London, Chinese Chicken Salad with Noodles and Cabbages. Of course recipe has my twist and the chicken is cooked in the steam oven which adds extra flavor. It is simple, yet delicious! Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Baking Delicate Items in the Steam Oven - No Water Bath Needed

    The ingenious method of baking delicate items in a water bath was developed at a time when ovens were less refined and lacked precise control. When ramekins of custard or a dish with flan are placed in a water bath, the heated water circulates around the pan tempering the direct heat from the oven heating element. This gentle indirect heat cooks the custard to perfection without curdling. While this method is still recommended when baking delicate items in a traditional oven, when baking your favorite custard, flan, or cheesecake in a Steam oven a water bath is not required. How To Bake Custard and Flan in a Steam Oven When we cook ramekins filled with custard in a pan of simmering water, we are effectively using steam to cook the food. In the Steam oven using the Steam mode set to 212 ℉ yields the same results but instead of placing the ramekins in a water bath, we place them in the perforated pan. I find placing the ramekins or a flan dish directly in the perforated pan makes it easy for me to move the dishes in and out of the oven and of course, the perforations in the pan allow the steam to circulate freely around the baking dishes. I don’t recommend cooking on two racks when making custard in the Steam oven because the top tray will drip moisture onto the lower tray. Do I Need to Cover Custard or Cheesecake with Plastic Wrap When Baking in the Steam Oven? No there is no need to cover these foods when cooking them in the Steam oven. What Type of Containers Can I Use? Any oven-safe ceramic or glass containers will work well when cooking custard or flan in the Steam oven. Cheesecake can be baked in a traditional spring form pan. Adapting Recipes for Cooking in the Steam Oven Foods that include a lot of custard such as Bread Pudding, Baked Rice Pudding, and French Toast Casserole can also be cooked in a combination of Convection and Steam using a moderate temperature of 325 - 350℉. Sweet and savory custards and flan can be cooked in the Steam mode at 212℉. While the concept of delicate baking in a water bath is ingenious I think you will find the ease and safety of baking in the Steam oven while achieving great results is definitely an improvement. I hope you will try your hand at making your favorite Creme Brulée or Flan soon and stay tuned for my next Blog Post a fall Convection Meal, Chipotle Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes, and Acorn Squash. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Cooking for a Crowd Made Easy with Convection

    Entertaining at home for the most part is less formal than in days gone by and now that the kitchen is often integral in the living space, it’s easier to participate in the party while keeping an eye on the cooking. Many homes are equipped with amazing appliances and spacious islands perfect for setting up a buffet; however, the key to making it all work is understanding how your appliances can work for you. How Does Convection Make Cooking for a Crowd Easier? The best entertaining recipes are the ones that can be prepared in advance and brought directly from the oven to the table. Here are some things to consider when planning a menu for entertaining. When using Convection foods have better moisture retention, you can cook on multiple racks at one time and there is no transfer of flavor. Many ovens can accommodate two 9 x 13” casserole dishes or braising pans, side-by-side on the oven racks. Large capacity rimmed baking pans in the ¾ size are perfect for roasting large quantities of vegetables or chicken pieces or for baking appetizers and they fit perfectly in 30” ovens. Larger range ovens can accommodate two ½ size rimmed baking pans side-by-side. Convection and Steam Ovens are ideal for reheating foods such as pulled pork or braises and casseroles that have been prepared in advance. Many ovens feature an electronic meat probe that will ensure accurate results when roasting larger cuts of meat. Because meats need to rest before being carved, side dishes can be placed in the oven when the meat is removed so they will be piping hot when the meat is ready to be served. Many ovens have a Keep Warm mode or you can set the oven to the Convection or Convection Bake mode at 140 degrees and keep multiple covered dishes warm until ready to serve. Adapting Recipes for Oven Cooking If you usually are cooking for 4 people and plan to cook a dish to serve 20 people then chances are you might not have large capacity pans for cooking that amount of food. Before you rush out to buy new pans first consider if part of the meal can be prepared in your Convection oven. For example, Arroz con Pollo is a wonderful dish perfect for entertaining but you would need an enormous pan to accommodate enough food for 20 people. I have found that a better option is to prepare the rice on the cooktop and the chicken in the oven with no sacrifice of flavor. Once the chicken pieces are cooked through, I cool them slightly then slice the meat off the bone and add the chicken and pan juices to the rice. The results are delicious and the food is easy to eat with a fork. This recipe provides shows how to cook Arroz con Pollo in the traditional method or the Convection method. Dishes such as Jambalaya and Paella can also be prepared the same way with the meat or shellfish cooked in the oven and added at the last minute. Be the Conductor - Give Each of the Appliances a Job When you are planning the dishes you want to cook, keep in mind how you can benefit from the Convection features of each oven. For example, a delicious feast of Stuffed Pork Shoulder Roast, with Baked Peppers, and a White Bean Casserole can be prepared in advance and set to cook in Convection. Once the roast has rested it only needs to be sliced and a fabulous feast is ready to serve. A menu that might include Asian Pork Meatballs and Chili Garlic Sauce Chicken Wings baked in Convection can be complimented with a dish of Steamed Eggplant, together with steamed rice and vegetables that can be cooked all together in the Steam oven. When you plan your menu with the knowledge of how your ovens can work for you a lot of stress can be avoided but it does take planning. Also, when multiple dishes are cooking in the oven you can focus on any last-minute cooking that has to be done on the cooktop more easily. I hope you will find these tips helpful when you are planning your next event and please check back for my next Blog Post, Baking Delicate Foods in the Steam Oven Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How to Cook Fish in Convection

    A great feature of Convection and Steam ovens is the option to cook foods using a variety of different cooking modes. Since most of us eat the same foods on a regular basis being able to vary the preparation is definitely one way to keep our taste buds from becoming jaded. When a client who has a Convection and a Steam oven asks me, “how do I cook fish in my oven?” there is no easy answer because there are so many options. Which are the Best Convection Modes to Cook Fish? Convection has a less drying effect on food, so foods cooked in Convection have more moisture retention and there is no transfer of flavor when cooking a variety of foods in Convection. The modes most suited to cooking fish in a Convection oven are: Convection Roast or Convection Bake 350 - 375 °F (180 - 190 C) These modes are ideal when cooking the meatier fish or portions cut from the thickest part of the fish. For an easy complete meal, vegetables can be roasted at the same time and the fish added to the oven for the final 10 minutes of cooking. Convection Broil 425 - 475 °F (220 - 250 C) Broiling is ideal for quickly cooking thinner fish fillets for fish tacos or for broiling fish and shellfish to serve with pasta or rice dishes. Quick cooking vegetables such as asparagus, sliced peppers, onions, and mushrooms can be broiled at the same time. Low-Temperature Cooking 160 -200 °F (70 - 93 C) There is no mode for Low-Temperature cooking in a Convection oven but you can set the oven in the Convection or Convection Bake Mode with a temperature range of 160 - 200°F (70 - 93 C). First sear the fish to get a nice crust on one side, carefully flip the fish and place the pan in the oven to finish the cooking. This technique ensures a lot of flavor from the searing as well as a fabulous consistency from the slow finish in the oven. Thicker meatier cuts of fish are best when using this technique. Which Modes are Best to Cook Fish in my Steam Oven? A Steam oven offers even more modes for cooking fish and shellfish and there are added benefits of cooking with steam. Steam inhibits the cellular breakdown of food, so the flavor, texture, and nutrient value of foods cooked in steam are enhanced. Steam Mode 180 - 212 °F (350 - 100 C) This mode can be used for steaming or poaching fish. The fish is placed in a solid pan with the desired aromatics and approximately ½ cup of water and maybe a splash of wine. Timing will depend on the weight of the fish, a whole fish can take up to 20 minutes while fillets may only take approximately 12 minutes. This mode can also be used to steam shell-on shrimp or lobster tails, and to steam mussels and clams. Combination Convection Steam Mode 350 - 375 °F (180 - 190 C) This mode can be used for baking or roasting thicker meatier cuts of fish. Low-Temperature Mode 160 - 200 °F (71 - 93 C) This mode can be used as described above to finish the cooking of fish that has been seared on one side. Convection Broil with Humidity (Not Available in all Ovens) 425 - 450 °F (218 - 232 C) Broiling with Convection and added humidity is a tool streamlined to preserve the flavor and moisture in fish and shellfish while under the powerful direct heat of the broiler. Sous Vide Mode 125 - 200 °F (52 - 93 C) We have successfully used the sous vide mode to cook octopus, shellfish, and fish. The long slow cooking time is of course a factor but the results are worth the effort. So you can see there are many options and we have a selection of delicious fish and seafood recipes on the website to guide you to success in cooking fish and shellfish in your Convection and Steam ovens. In addition to recipes for baking, roasting, steaming, low-temperature cooking, sous vide, and broiling fish and shellfish, we also have recipes for creating wonderful meals. Learn how preparing dishes such as Paella, Fish Pie, Italian Seafood Salad, Grilled Shrimp Jambalaya, Cioppino, and Seafood Pasta are made easier using Convection and Steam. Stay tuned for my next Blog Post, Easy Convection Recipes to feed a crowd. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

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