Dateline: January 3, 2004

Happy 2004, one and all!

We are going to start the year a little different. We will start with the good Doctor asking you a question.

The Doctor says: "Friend Scott and I are having trouble with fried foods sticking to the bottom of our stainless steel skillets. Does anyone have any information on the care and feeding of stainless skillets"?

Okay, on to the line in the waiting room.

George writes: Howdy. A cheesecake recipe's directions mentioned water bath(ing) a pan that was hot out of the oven. Can you explain how one "water baths" such a pan, please? Thank you.

Hi, George: Without seeing the recipe, I'd guess what they are talking about is baking the cheesecake in a pan of water. In other words, you need a big pan (where you'll put the water) to set your cheesecake pan in. You want the water to come about two-thirds of the way up the cheesecake container. You start with boiling water and a hot oven. It's easiest to heat the water in a teakettle or whatever and then pour it into the big pan while it's sitting on the oven rack. Prevents a lot of spillage. The purpose of the water bath is to keep the sides and bottom of the cheesecake from overcooking before the center is done. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Emily writes: I have never made fudge before. Can you tell me if I can make it if it's raining or cloudy? Thanks.

Hi, Emily: As long as you are cooking inside the house, I don't think it makes any difference. Just kidding. Most important thing in cooking fudge is to get it to proper temperature. Be sure and use a candy thermometer and cook to proper temperature. It takes a long time. Good luck. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Robert writes: My question this morning is, how do restaurants prepare their corn on the cob to have it so tender all the time?

Hi, Robert: Just throw it in boiling water for a few minutes. The secret is in the corn. The fresher the better. As soon as corn is pulled from the stalk, the sugars start to turn to starch and toughen. Also there are varieties of corn grown just for the table. The restaurants just get the best corn they can find. Thanks for reading and writing.
Dr. John

Krista writes: My question about cooking may or may not be one you answer. I'm wondering when I add which spice, to make sure I'm not obliterating the flavors by adding them too soon or too late in the cooking process. Thanks.

Hi Krista: You've got a subject here that could take days to discuss properly. Most recipes tell you when to add what spice. If you're doing a cut of meat on the grill, all the spices would go on together at the beginning of the prep. However, there are those who think meat should not be salted until it comes off the grill. In dishes with lots of liquid, the milder spices would be added toward the end of the cooking process so as to not get lost in the mix. One of the secrets of the competition chili cookers is to save back a small portion of all the spices and add them about 30 minutes before the pot is finished. That insures that the spices won't get lost. You might try something like that and see how it works. Thanks for reading and writing.
Dr. John

Catherine writes: I really enjoy your newsletter and the recipes are wonderful. I have a question. I cook with a lot of venison through the year and, frankly, I am tired of having to clean up the splatter from tenderizing with a mallet. Is there a countertop home use meat tenderizer that you would recommend? Thanks so much for your newsletter and thank you ahead of time for any recommendations.

Hi, Catherine: There is a device called he "Jaccard" meat tenderizer. It punches tiny holes in the meat. You just set it on top and press down. Check with your restaurant supply or kitchen specialty store. Or you might want to try chemical tenderizing on steaks. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar and a cup of water. Soak the steaks at least two hours. Remove and dry, and then soak in milk 2 hours or, better, overnight. Thanks for reading and writing.
Dr. John

Mike writes: Well, the hordes of in-laws and outlaws just finished the Deep Fried Turkey I made for T-day! It came out perfect and is now a staple on the menu each holiday. I worked up enough energy after the eating, cleaning and football TV, to fire up the cooker again and do a turkey breast. My question is this, I'm also thinking about dropping in a 5-pound fryer chicken. Is it unwise to mix the two birds in the same oil? What about going the full gamut and dropping in a Sirloin Tip Roast? And last, where do I find cooking times for deep-frying beef?

Hey Mike: I don't see a problem with mixing the poultry. Just blindfold them so they can't see who they are sharing the pot with. I don't know of a chart for deep-frying beef or similar. I would think five minutes a pound at 350 degrees would get it done. I'd check with meat thermometer in the center of the cut at four or even three and a half minutes to get an idea of where it's going. Lemme know how it works out.
Dr John

[Follow up: In a day or two I got a report from Mike. Here the results of his sirloin deep-frying experiment.]

Hello Doc. Well I tried the deep-fried sirloin. I prepared a rub for the meat and applied it. I then injected some Cajun marinade and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. I put it in the oil at 380 [to allow for the cold meat] and cooked it for 4 minutes per pound. The result was a very charred outside, but a juicy and tender inside. I used a meat thermometer and noticed my temp in the center was 180. Halfway to the edge it was 200, and on the edge was 210. When I cut it, I had a medium well on the edges, down to a rare in the center. Thin slices were okay, a thicker slice gave more of the charred taste from the "skin". Overall, very tasty. But needs some refining! ;}

If you would like to direct a question to Ask Doctor John, e-mail it to John Raven, Ph.B.