Hmm...I am up early this morning and catching up on a few PBS cooking shows that I had had recorded on our computer. Something occurred to me. I can watch a great simple recipe being made and then try to replicate and end up with problems that really end up due to technique. This is something I'm trying to pay more attention to now so that I can know the little tips and tricks to actually have food brown properly, for example.
Here's an example of what occurred to me...it has to do with using cast iron or enameled cast iron in cooking. And no, it's not that fact that shows always show immaculate cookware that seems to be new out of the box every time. Sigh...that seems kind of fun though. Anyway, if you've tried cooking with cast iron you'll know that it takes it longer to heat up and once it does the heat is retained much longer than most other skillets, pots etc. You may have also noticed that getting the right temperature can be tricky which I believe has to do with how long it takes to heat up or cool down.
In watching numerous types of cooking shows (despite not having cable or satellite TV) I have noticed a common thread. They always cook on gas stoves. Oh, you've noticed it too? That happens to work great for me as I do own a gas stove and really hope to never be without one! (However, it does make me wonder how people adjust with electric stoves.) What I have yet to see though, is someone explain and show how high the flames should be at different temperature recommendations when they are cooking. Ok, I do realize that the knobs say Hi and Lo and have various points in between to choose from. Yet, when I cook I notice that the flame variations just aren't as simple. If I go too far on the knob I end up heating cast iron so high that while the first batch of browning meat, for example, may be fine, the second begins to get burned and all my great browned bits in the pan turn to black before getting a second batch down. Have you noticed this too? I'd love to hear someone's thoughts about how get the flames to the right heat to begin with. Perhaps it's a trick to heat up and then reduce heat just a little after starting the cooking process? Hmmm....
What I've done to compensate when this happens is to make sure the second batch begins where there was no meat prior and is thus almost surely to burn soon. I move the food a bit at first to pick up the bits there and then situate to brown. I know this isn't technically proper as the food should just be set on the hot oil or butter and not moved in order to get a nice caramelization. (Is that a word?)
I love cast iron and enameled cast iron and will continue to perfect my technique to get proper temperatures. It may just be one of those things that you have to practice and practice. Here's to happy cooking with cast iron!