Home Cooking

Understanding heat


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Home Cooking

Understanding heat

meggers | | Feb 24, 2009 11:28 AM

I'm a slave to the dials on my stovetop, the ones that say "medium", "low", "medium high", etc. If a recipe says to cook something at "medium high" that's the setting I use, without question. But I often burn things, or things take longer to cook than the recipe says.

Is there a way to guage heat without relying on stovetop dials? If I didn't have them, how would I know when my pan had reached low, medium, high heat? Is there a way to tell by the way the oil looks, by how water reacts to the pan, by how meat or other ingredients react?

I've read tons of cookbooks but haven't found any that help me understand how to guage heat, on my own. I want to be a cook who understands why things cook at certain temperatures, and not one who follows recipes to the letter because I don't trust my own understanding of how heat works.

Any suggestions out there for really practical cookbooks or other references that will help me with this? I'm looking for something that's going to give really good tips on the visual/olfactory/sensory clues that will tell me when something is at the exact right temperature.

BTW, I have an electric stove.