Basics of Meat & Poultry

September 8, 2013


Basics of Meat & PoultryMeat Basics

Many people ask me how long they can keep fresh meat and poultry. You can refrigerate whole meat cuts for 2 to 3 days and raw ground meats for 1 to 2 days.  Raw poultry for 1 to 2 days.  If you’re not cooking your meat or poultry within these time frames, freeze it.  We never want to risk getting food poisoning. 

How do you know when your particular meat is done cooking?  The safest way is to use a meat thermometer, inserting into the thickest part of the meat, but never touching bone. 

Meat Cooking Terms

Braise: Moist cooking in a pot with a lid and a small amount of liquid. This method works well either on the stove top or in the oven, rendering tougher cuts moist and extremely tender by melting the tough collagen between fibers, but allowing the fibers themselves to retain moisture.  Examples: Pot Roast, Boeuf Bourguignon, Cacciatore, Most Curries. 

Brine: Similar to marinating, meat or poultry is soaked in a salt-water mixture prior to cooking to enhance flavor, moisture and tenderness.  Examples: Brined Turkey, Chicken or Pork.

Broil: Dry cooking under intense direct heat, sort of like grilling from the top down.  Great for tender steaks and chops, boneless chicken, kabobs. Example: London Broil.

Deep Fry:  Cooking pieces of meat, often coated with batter or crumbs, submerged in very hot oil.  Example: Southern Fried Chicken.

Grill:  Cooking over direct heat, usually outdoors.  Grill pans and electric grills don’t require much additional oil, and create nice looking char marks, but lack the crust and smoky flavor of outdoor grilling.  Grilling can be fast or slow.  Examples: Grilled Steaks, Barbecued Chicken, You Name It!

Pan-Roast or Pan-Fry: A technique that begins on the stove top and often ends under the broiler or in the oven.  Combination cooking creates a flavorful browned exterior and allows for finer control of doneness.  Great for thick chops and steaks or larger pieces of poultry.  Examples: Filet Mignon, Pork Tenderloin, Pan-Roasted Veal Chops.

Poach: Simmer at a point less than boiling to produce just a slight movement in the liquid.  Examples: Poached Chicken Breasts.

Roast: Dry cooking in ambient oven heat.  Creates a flavorful, browned outside and a tender, juicy interior. Ideal for larger tender roasts, whole poultry, most stuffed roasts.  Examples: Roast Beef, Thanksgiving Turkey, Crown Roast.

Sauté: Quick stove-top cooking in a skim of oil in a heavy, low-sided skillet, frying pan or sauté pan.  Great for tender steakhouse cuts and chops, chicken or duck breast, boneless cutlets.  Examples: Sandwich Steaks, Wiener Schnitzel, Chicken Cutlets.

Smoke: Food is cooked or flavored before cooking by exposure to smoldering wood, herbs or tea.  Examples: Tea-Smoked Chicken, Mesquite-Smoked Pork Chops.

Stir Fry: An Asian technique of cooking small pieces of food over very high heat, usually with oil, using constant stirring and tossing motion to prevent burning.  Examples: A Profusion of Meat, Seafood and Poultry Dishes From China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Simmer: See Braise & Also See Stew

Stew: Slow cooking, Submerged in flavorful liquid, usually after browning on the surface.  Stewing is similar to braising except that stews usually have more liquid, which is an important part of the finished dish. Best for cubes coming from tougher cuts.  Examples: Beef Stew, Chili, Gumbo.

Sous-vide: A method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for longer than normal cooking times (72 hours in some cases). The temperature is regulated and much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55° F to 60° F for meats.  The intention is to cook the item evenly, and not to overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same doneness, keeping the food juicier.  Examples: Beef Brisket and Short Ribs.



September 6, 2013



Oysters are a type of marine mollusk with a rough, irregular shell, found on the seabed of temperate coastal waters. Oysters have been cultivated as food for more than two thousand years; they are shucked and eaten raw, cooked, or smoked. The top of an oyster tends to be flatter; the bottom is more bowl shaped. On-the-half-shell oysters are left in the bottom half. 

The flavor of an oyster is determined by the species and by its home waters. Oysters are classified by their point of origin: Pacific or Japanese, Atlantic or Eastern, and Olympia.  Specific names usually indicate their exact point of harvesting.  In general, Pacific oysters, such as Hama Hama, Hog Island, Quilcene, Tomales Bay, Wescott Bay and Kumamoto, are known for their creamy texture and slightly mineral flavor. Atlantic oysters, such as Cape Cod, Chesapeake, Kent Island, Long Island, Malpeque, Wellfleet, and Blue Point, have a saline, oceanic taste and crisp texture. The relatively small Olympia (originally from Puget Sound) has been overharvested in the past, but is making a comeback. 

Fresh live oysters have a sweet, mild smell. The shells should be tightly closed and feel heavy. If an oyster stays open when touched, do not buy it. If you are eating them raw, the oysters should be fresh and shucked within a few hours before serving. Only buy shucked-for-you oysters that are plump with totally clear liquid.

Put live oysters out on a large tray and cover with a damp cloth. You can keep them in the refrigerator for one to two days, but make sure the cloth stays damp. Refrigerate shucked oysters in their liquor in an airtight container for up to two days. Frozen oysters can be kept for three to four months.

If you don’t have a Chesapeake stabber (an oyster-shucking knife), open the bivalves with an old-fashioned can opener, the kind some people call a church key. Scrub the oysters well with a stiff brush under cold running water. Rinse well before opening. Reserve the liquor.  If you soak oysters in club soda for about 5 minutes, the oysters will usually be easier to remove from the shells. Hold an oyster, curved side down, in one hand on a folded kitchen towel. Locate the spot where the top shell meets the bottom shell at the pointed tip of the oyster.  Holding the can opener, pointed end up, in your other hand, wedge the tip of it into the crack separating the shells, about 1/4 inch below the pointed tip of the shell.  Push the end of the can opener downward, and the shell should pop open from the leverage.  Run the can opener around the inside of the shell to open it completely.  To loosen the oyster meat from the shell, run a dinner knife under the meat.  

vintage Oyster Plate

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Fish & Shellfish Serving Sizes

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Fish & Shellfish Serving Sizes

Use these amounts as a guideline for how much fish or shellfish to purchase per person.


Whole Fish                            12 Ounces to 1 Pound


Drawn or Dressed Fish         8 Ounces


Steaks or Fillets                    4 to 5 Ounces


Shelled Shrimp                     3 to 4 Ounces


Live Crabs                            1 Pound


Whole Lobster                      1 to 1 1/2 Pounds


Lobster Tail                           8 Ounces


Cooked Lobster Meat           4 to 5 Ounces

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