Changing old ways in the kitchen

I’ve been cooking for a long time, and many of the kitchen practices I employed at the beginning of my culinary journey have gone by the wayside. I no longer cook pork chops to well done, I stopped putting oil in my pasta boiling water, I don’t use glass cutting boards anymore, the list goes on. In all cases, I learned that what I was doing was at worst harmful (glass cutting boards on knives), ineffectual (adding oil to keep pasta from clumping), or based on outdated information (trichinosis is no longer a major health threat).

One-pan steak with potatoes, mushrooms, and asparagus from The Ultimate Meal-Prep Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen

The older I get, the fewer changes I make to established kitchen practices. We can debate why this is happening, but I like to think it’s because I have landed on a really good method based on the most up-to-date scientific principles and/or after much trial and error. However, even after decades in the kitchen I can be convinced to learn new tricks. The most recent of those relates to preparing asparagus.

For years I followed the practice of snapping off the tough ends of asparagus spears, leaving only the more tender parts to roast or grill. Sometimes I would throw the cut ends into a pot of vegetable soup, but often then ended up in the compost or garbage can. I noticed that when I asked my husband to snap the spears they would end up shorter than when I did it. Despite this observation, I continued using this method. After learning about an allegedly better way to trim asparagus last year, I tried that method, which is a little more work but results in a lot less waste. Instead of bending and snapping (which can lead to inconsistent results and a lot of waste), I cut the spears about an inch from the bottom and peel the tough outside layer, exposing the tender core within.

I don’t know if I first learned about this through America’s Test Kitchen, but they do have an excellent article explaining why this works better. Why didn’t I discover this years ago? This change illustrates the fact that even after cooking for more years than I care to admit, there is always room for me to grow in the kitchen. That is one reason I enjoy cooking and baking: there is always something new to learn.

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  • StokeySue  on  June 8, 2023

    Interestingly I started with the trim and peel method for asparagus, which was normal in England in my youth (ca 1970) but moved to the snap method – I’ve checked a few times, and I don’t think I discard anything I’d want to eat. I tend to steam asparagus, and was taught to eat them with my fingers, a practice which I think was usual as the last bit was too fibrous to eat. Definitely better, in my opinion, to snap f you eat with a knife and fork.

  • anya_sf  on  June 8, 2023

    Peeling works great, but I find it to be a time-consuming PITA. So I almost always just snap off the ends.

  • ellabee  on  June 8, 2023

    With more time than money in my old age, I have a new/renewed interest in thrift; storing away this asparagus pointer in that category. Just yesterday made my first foray into doing something edible with kale stems. The leaves, fresh from the farmer’s market, were so vibrant and tasty in a gratin that I just couldn’t toss the stems in the compost.

  • Fyretigger  on  June 8, 2023

    When it comes to asparagus I’m an unapologetic snapper; I’ve tried the cut and peel method and I will stick with snapping. But I keep picking up new tricks. Just this past week I read an article about a better way to brown butter, and I was able to apply it this past weekend when my niece needed brown butter for an ice cream recipe.

  • gamulholland  on  June 9, 2023

    But the snapping is such a satisfying feeling! 🙂 😀

  • tbocly  on  June 9, 2023

    I’ve changed the way I grill or pan sear meat. They (the culinary Gods?) used to say to only flip the meat so that it cooks once on each side. I now continually flip every few minutes and find a much more even and moist cook and I can still get a nice sear on the outside.

  • artoeat  on  June 9, 2023

    My game changer has been adding a pinch of kosher salt to my mixed greens, massaging it in just before dressing. Very impressed with how much it brightens the greens! Also pour dressing around the edge of the bowl before tossing.

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