When this is the main object there is first a preliminary case-hardening of the albumin by intense heat; after which cooking proceeds at a lower temperature, rising in the interior of the meat just to the coagulating point of albumin. This object may be carried out by: -
In this method of cookery the meat is cooked by the radiant heat of a fire from a large glowing surface free from smoke. The meat is exposed to this heat, a few inches from the fire, for five to ten minutes, and is basted with melted dripping, the surface albumin being coagulated to the thickness of a sixpence. After this has taken place the meat is removed one-half to one foot farther from the fire, and the cooking process is continued slowly at a greatly reduced temperature, the meat being slowly cooked in its own juices.
If the heat is too great the hardened case is apt to crack, allowing the juices to escape. To prevent this the meat is basted with hot dripping, which prevents charring and cracking of the surface. If properly done, this fat does not soak into the meat. Although the surface heat is very great, the heat in the interior of the joint should not be much above the coagulating point of albumin, and any rise above this renders the meat less digestible, the albuminous matters becoming hard and horny. The inside parts of a properly roasted joint are the best for a weak digestion.
Joints of meat can be well cooked in the oven of an ordinary kitchen range or in a gas-cooker, and the results are very similar to roasting.
If the heat of the oven is not properly regulated the results are different, the meat being richer, more flavoured, but more indigestible. This is owing to the process being conducted at too high a temperature after the preliminary case-hardening.
This is a similar process to roasting, and is admirably adapted for quickly cooking a chop, steak, kidney, fish, fowl, or mushroom. The object is the same as in roasting - the formation of a surface skin of coagulated albumin, and the retention within this of all the juices of the meat. The effect of the heat on a thin piece of meat seals the surface, but also coagulates the protein throughout, so that the meat is practically cooked at once. This happens when a chop is cooked on a grill; the completeness of the sealing is shown by the fact that the water-vapour produced from the fluids is unable to escape, and causes the chop to assume the puffy form characteristic of good cooking.
A clear smokeless fire is required, and the process of cooking is carried on by holding the article to be cooked over the fire. To avoid breaking the coagulated layer of protein, steak-tongs should be used instead of a fork for turning the meat This form of cookery is so rapidly carried out that there is not much time allowed for softening the food, so that, unless the meat is very tender, this process is not to be recommended.
Boiling And Steaming, as described here, consists in cooking meat or fish, either with hot water or steam with a view to retain in the meat all the flavours, and is the opposite of soupmaking, which aims at withdrawing the meat juices. Here, again, the first step is to coagulate a surface layer of albumin by plunging the joint into a large pot of boiling water to which has been added a handful of salt. Salt is added on account of the boiling-point of salt water being higher than that of fresh water. The formation of this hardened case takes about seven minutes; the pot should then be withdrawn and kept at the side of the fire, the temperature not higher that 1800. This method is not only much more economical, but the meat is very much more tender if the cooking is slowly conducted over a period of five or six hours. The best method of slow cooking is by steaming the article of food in its own juice; this can be done most satisfactory in a Warren cooking-pot or Bain-Marie. This is a pot consisting of three compartments connected by a steam chimney. Water is put into the lowest pot, in the second the meat and its flavourings, and in the top the vegetables. The food is thus cooked by steam; less fuel is required, and therefore it is more economical; all the juices of the meat are retained; and the meat will be found to be much more succulent, tender, and digestible than if simply boiled in water. If the boiling is carried to excess and the water really boils, the meat is boiled to shreds. In these circumstances the connective tissue has become gelatinised, and the muscle fibre has become tough like leather, and may often be recognised in the faeces.
Steaming is an excellent way of cooking fish. It retains the flavour and also preserves the shape.
Frying is boiling in oil, but as practised in this country is a dirty and wasteful method, being usually a combination of broiling and scorching. There are two forms. In dry frying - which is our national form of frying - a shallow frying-pan is used, and the food is either cooked in its own fat or with the aid of sufficient fat to prevent burning. It is only suitable for fatty food like herrings and sausages, but the products of this form of frying are often greasy, and for many persons exceedingly indigestible.
Wet frying or sauteing is, essentially, boiling in oil. For this there is required a deep pan of clarified dripping, or of olive oil. If the process is properly carried out, the food is deliciously cooked and absolutely free from grease. The temperature of the fat is important. When fat is placed on the fire and reaches 212° F. (the boiling-point of water), it bubbles and makes a hissing sound, due to a small portion of the water in the fat becoming steam and being got rid of. Fat, however, does not boil until it has reached a much higher temperature. At a temperature of 3400 F. a slight bluish vapour is given off, and this is the time when, if a piece of bread be dropped in, it becomes brown in a second or two; on being taken out of the fat, it almost instantly loses its greasy appearance. If the fat gets hotter and begins to boil - a state of affairs to be avoided - it begins to smoke and decompose.
The principle on which the success of frying depends is that at the moment of contact with the almost boiling fat a thin film is formed over part of the surface of the fish or other object to be fried, and all the juices and flavours are retained. The food is kept in until it has a golden brown colour, when it is removed from the oil bath. It may look greasy for a moment, but this drains off very quickly if put on a piece of paper near the fire, and it is absolutely free from grease when it appears at table. If the object to be fried is coated with egg and breadcrumbs, the crumbs should be very fine, and firmly pressed down, to prevent the grease adhering to the surface and being absorbed by it.
The best substance to use is second quality of olive oil, or roast-beef dripping; clarified lard should never be used, as the other media for frying are as easily obtained, and are much better.