Browsing Category: how to prep, store, & cook that

Keeping a rotisserie chicken SAFELY warm for a few hours

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I was looking this info up for myself; thought it was worth posting here.

What to do when you’ve bought a whole roasted chicken, still warm, but dinner doesn’t start for an hour or more? Even putting it in a low oven is going to dry it out — and they usually don’t start out all that great. Putting it in the fridge requires more oven time to warm it back up, which will also dry it out. But is it safe to leave them out?

Here’s what I found on a forum thread:

Original question: Dinner is about 1.5 hours away. The chicken was warm when I purchased it.

Normally, I buy earlier in the day and just stick it in the fridge. This time, though, it seems that it would be better to try to keep it warm. I keep picturing it lingering too long in the “bacteria growth” temp zone considering it won’t be in the fridge very long before I pull it out to start reheating.

Is my thinking off? If it’s okay to keep it warm, what’s the best temp for the oven?

Answer 1: I just leave mine on the counter until dinnertime. Then I cut it into quarters, stick it on a cookie sheet and reheat in the oven at 350 F. I’ve been doing this for years and we’re all still kicking.

Answer 2: It will be fine. It needs to sit out for a minimum of 2+ hours before you have to worry about getting sick.

Answer 3: Actually, you have 4 hours in the “temperature danger zone” from 40° to 140°F. If your store keeps the chicken at or above 140°, you have 4 hours after it is removed from the heater before it is considered unsafe. These are the numbers I was taught at culinary school and have followed without issue since.

Reply from original poster: Thank you all very much! Dinner was delicious! 

And a professional chef on another forum says:

Remember that the temperature danger zone is 40 to 140 F. When you buy a rotisserie chicken, it is being held at a higher temperature than that and they package them as such that they try to keep them warm for a decent amount of time. Then after that, once it drops to 140, it takes time for all those little buggies to grow, get married, and reproduce. The government states [the safe zone is] 4 hours to pass through the temperature danger zone. Add that to the 45-1 hour that it will take the bird to drop to 140, if left in packaging and considering the ambient room temp., and you have a considerable time before it becomes a microbe bomb. Of course, I probably wouldn’t try to stretch it that long but 1-2 hours, following government safety standards, should be more than safe.

So, I tried it. I kept two rotisserie chickens in a tote bag on the counter, with a folded dishtowel below (to prevent heatsink from my granite countertop; if you have wood or laminate counters, no need for this). I also took one of those big flat insulated foil-looking bags and folded it over the top of the closed chicken packages, then clothes-pinned the top of the tote bag shut. It sat for about an hour and a half before dinner.

Result? The temperature was a bit on the lukewarm side. It would have been better with a bit of oven time, I think. Although the breast was dry, and oven time would have made this worse. Maybe oven time sealed up with some extra chicken broth.
As for intestinal problems, that was three days ago, and we’re all good here!

Reheating rotisserie chicken

I later found this info on a forum comment on Chowhound:

Buy a Costco rotisserie chicken, the paler the better. Chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a rectangular baking pan place sliced carrots, whole garlic cloves (still in their “sleeves”), and very thinly sliced potatoes; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper: put in the oven for 10 minutes.

Place COLD chicken atop vegetables and drizzle the chicken drippings from the bottom of the container over the chicken and vegetables; place in oven and cook until the chicken is crisp on the outside, about 25 minutes.

The chicken will be crisp on the outside and moist inside. The garlic will be roasted and is delicious spread onto bread slices. The vegetables will have been infused with the chicken drippings.

I tried this method, with a few changes. I cut the chicken up into two whole-leg sections (thigh and drumstick still attached), and the breast as one whole section. (I discarded the wings because they were overcooked, and put the rest of bones in the freezer for future chicken stock.) I put the legs and breast over sliced carrots (didn’t have the other items on hand). Because it was in smaller pieces, it didn’t need nearly as much time. The skin crisped up nicely and the dark meat was pretty good, but the breast was dry.

I think it’s probably impossible to get moist breast meat from a rotisserie chicken unless you eat it fresh out of the oven at the store. But you can still use this meat for recipes that bring some moisture to the party: chicken enchiladas or mayo-based chicken salad (have you tried my orange-cranberry chicken salad?), for example.

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photo credit: terren in Virginia via photopin cc

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Thanksgiving and Christmas food prep FAQs

Holiday food prep tips and checklists; how long to cook turkey, ham, vegetables, and more.

Trying to plan a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal?

Here are some tips, calculators, and checklists.
roasted turkey; how long to cook, and other tips

Turkey

cave-tools-thermometerFor any meat, a meat thermometer is the essential gadget to make sure your meat comes out perfectly every time. 
Image from farmflavor.com

Ham

Image from campbellskitchen.com

Vegetables

  • Make-ahead crockpot green bean casserole. Save your oven for other things, and save some day-of panic: Here’s the classic green bean casserole that everyone wants for Thanksgiving, tweaked to work in a crock pot / slow-cooker, and with optional make-ahead instructions. Classic green bean casserole for crockpot.
  • Low-carb substitute for mashed potatoes. If you’ve tried mashed cauliflower and been disappointed, maybe you just didn’t add enough fat! Try this recipe.
  • Roasted vegetables timetable. The number one must-do side dish at our house — besides the turkey, of course. Oh, and pumpkin pie! Okay, the third-most popular dish: roasted vegetables. A slow roast works oven magic, turning onions, carrots and bell peppers into sugar-free candy-sweet goodness! Here’s a timetable for roasted vegetables: what goes into in the oven when, to make everything come out perfect.
This is my favorite pan for roasted vegetables, and anything else that can be made on a rimmed cookie sheet: USA Pan Jelly Roll Pan.* LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS PAN!!! Bakes evenly, rinses off like brand-new teflon every time. Everyone in my house has been threatened to not even think of co-opting this for some craft or garage project!
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All foods: How much per person?

  • Here’s a thorough chart from Good Housekeeping, showing per-person serving recommendations for 8, 10, 12, 16, 20 and 24 people, for 10 popular holiday foods. It includes turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie, and more. View the pdf.

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Holiday meal planning checklists and calculators

  • An Excel spreadsheet that you can plug your number of guests into (including how many are vegetarians!), and it tells you how much food to buy. The page where you download it is a little confusing; just scroll down until you see this:
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Would you rather have pictures?

Here’s a well-done info graphic from The Savory, showing turkey thawing time, brining time, brining recipe, roasting time, and more. This image is only one small part of it:
Image from The Savory
Pin it for later!
Here's all your holiday food prep and meal prep info: tips, checklists, recipe links, and more!
* Note: Product links in this post are to my Amazon store where I get a smidgen of the sales, but I truly use and fanatically love every product I link to.
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Tabletop photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo on Unsplash
Turkey photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash
Baking photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

7 ways to make lemons last longer

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how to make lemons last longer
The Kitchn featured a post on how to keep lemons from drying out before you can use them. Their solution? Sealed in a ziplock bag in the fridge. But there were so many interesting notes in the comments, I’ve edited and compiled the best tips to make lemons last longer here.
  1. I have another solution which works for me when I’m not too lazy: when I have several lemons, I zest them all in one go and keep it in a plastic container the freezer. I also freeze the juice in ice cube trays. That way I always have lemon juice and zest on hand.
  2. I keep all citrus in my crisper drawer (humidity set to low).
  3. For lemons I want to keep whole, for an extended period, I dip into very hot water (120 to 125F) to kill any surface mold. I then put them in a bowl of fresh water, submerged completely by using a plate and other weight, in the fridge. Changing the water daily or every other day seems to be enough. I can keep fresh lemons in the fridge for up to two months.
  4. I had a problem with moisture accumulating in the sealed bag, but solved that with a tip I read on another site: chill the lemons first in the fridge, then put them in a sealed plastic bag. Nowhere near the moisture you’d get putting them in the plastic bag at room temperature. Dunno why, but it makes all the difference!
  5. I have discovered by accident that, since I’ve put lemons into an apothocary type jar (not tight fitting lid) on the counter out of direct sunlight, the lemons have stayed for months.
  6. Lemons that have become hard while sitting in the fridge can be brought back to life by a day of soaking in cold water.
  7. I wipe them clean to remove any wax or dark spots, and then freeze them whole in a bag. When I need the zest (yellow part of rind) I just pull one out of the freezer and scrape it directly into the recipe mixture. In this way, no pith (the bitter white part of rind) will find its way into the recipe. Another benefit that I found was that I don’t lose any lemon rind oils, which defrost straight into the recipe mix and not spray all over the kitchen counter. If I need to use the juice, I’ll let the lemons defrost for a couple of hours and them squeeze them. Unfortunately, once totally defrosted, the lemons will be squashy and not good for slicing and decoration.

 

How to correct too-tart tomato sauce without adding sugar or sweetener

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how to correct tomato sauce without adding sugar

“Unless you are using sweet, height-of-summer tomatoes, chances are your tomato sauce will taste more tart than you might like. Many recipes call for adding a pince of sugar… but sugar doesn’t eliminate the tartness; it just makes the sauce sweeter. Nevertheless, I did that for years until my scientist husband reminded me that the way to neutralize an acid is with a base. He suggested adding a pinch of baking soda to overly tart tomato sauce.

“It works like a charm. You don’t need much baking soda to have an impact, so start with a pinch. The sauce will foam briefly as you stir it in. Let the sauce simmer for a minute or so, then taste again. Add a little more baking soda if necessary. Be careful not to add too much or your sauce will taste soapy.”

From the cookbook Four Seasons Pasta, by Janet Fletcher, p. 26.

Image source: Wikimedia

Timetable for roasting vegetables

roasted vegetables
I have previously posted this in recipe form, but since I work out a detailed timing schedule for all of my cooking on Thanksgiving and keep it in a file on my computer,* I thought I’d share my schedule for making a large batch of roasted vegetables for a crowd.

This schedule assumes you’ll be serving the meal at about 12:30. Adjust as needed.
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Roasted vegetables cooking schedule

earlier** – chop carrots, onions, peppers and zucchini
10:30 – preheat oven to 400 F; cut potatoes
10:50 – put carrots and potatoes in oven; snap the asparagus
11:10 – turn carrots and potatoes
11:35 – take carrots and potatoes out; put onions and peppers in
11:45 – turn onions and peppers
11:55 – take onions & peppers out; put zucchini in
12:05 – add asparagus to zucchini; toss; put back in
12:15 – take veg’s out of oven

The full recipe.

Make-ahead tip: The vegetables can be roasted and kept at room temperature up to 2 hours in advance or refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Reheat from room temperature at 350° F to 400° F. Do they taste as amazing as roasted veggies fresh out of the oven? Not quite, but still delicious!

*This makes me sound super organized in the kitchen. Ha! The REASON I spell all this out carefully and keep record of it is because, while I can (and do) get by with winging-it in the kitchen for daily cooking, holidays and parties require more organizing than I can do in my head. And I find that the less info I try to store in my head, the less wigged-out I get trying to stay on top of it all!

**For all the veggies except the potatoes, you can chop them earlier that morning, or do them the day before and store in the fridge, grouped according to what goes into the oven together.

Truly the best & easiest way to cook bacon!

best way to cook bacon

I’ve tried ’em all — stovetop, grill, microwave, and oven on a slotted broiling pan — but this method makes crispy, evenly-done, flat bacon with substantially less mess than any other method.

Here’s the summary:

  • use good quality, fairly thickly-cut bacon (I like Wright brand, at Dillon’s)
  • preheated 400 F oven
  • good quality cookie sheet: half sheet for 8 oz of bacon; full sheet for 16 oz.
  • cover the cookie sheet with aluminum foil completely; up the sides and around the edge, for the easiest clean up
  • lay the bacon on the foil, close but not touching
  • bake for 12 minutes, pour off excess fat (save it for another use), return to the oven
  • check every two minutes till done to your liking, minus a bit (it will continue to cook a bit after being pulled from the oven)

Clean-up consists of carefully draining off the rest of the grease, wadding up the foil and tossing it in the trash!

For more details, check out the original article from The Kitchn. (Photo from The Kitchn.)

How to quickly thaw meat without a microwave

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This simple trick defrosts steaks, chops, chicken breasts and other small cuts of meat in 10 to 12 minutes, without the microwave. And it’s approved both by the FDA and America’s Test Kitchen. (But it shouldn’t be used on larger items like roasts or whole chickens.)

Place each individual cut of meat in a zip-sealed plastic bag. Heat a large pot of water on the stove till the water measures 140 F. If you don’t have a thermometer,* the water will be steaming, with just a few small bubbles on the bottom.
Remove the pan from the burner, and place the meat in the water. According to the Test Kitchen, chicken breasts should take about 10 minutes, and cuts of pork or steak about 12. They recommend not leaving any cut it the water more than 45 minutes (I’d recommend even less).
*P.S. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, you really should get one. Learning the proper temperature for different cuts of meat will improve your cooking like nothing else! It can also be used for making sure water is the right temp for meat, green tea, or yeast doughs, or even to make sure a loaf of bread is done in the middle. This is the cooking thermometer we use. It’s handy because it has a remote, so you can put your food in the oven or on the grill, then go do whatever you need to do elsewhere, but still keep an eye on the food’s temp. Love it!

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Meat image and info from America’s Test Kitchen.

 

Peel, cut, core, dice: Tips for fruit and veggie prep

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The Kitchn has compiled a super-handy list of 20 tips and how-to’s for prepping various fruits and vegetables. Some of the more interesting entries:

How to peel a head of garlic in 10 seconds. Two bowls, a solid surface, and you’re 10 seconds away from a bunch of naked garlic cloves.
How to peel roasted red peppers.
How to cut a mango.
How to dice an avocado.
How to dice an onion.
How to core a head of iceberg lettuce.
How to seed a pomegranate.

See the full list of 20 items.

Also, here are a few short, helpful videos from Domestic Geek: