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Five Things TV Chefs Do That Are Wrong

As hard as it may be to swallow, the people who cook on TV are occasionally wrong. It's not just pronunciations (it's "broo-SKET-tah", damn it), it's techniques. Some of them are TV tricks using previously prepared food, and some of them are just plain errors.

1. How to hold a knife

Quick, what's the fastest way to tell professional chefs from rank amateurs? Watch how they hold a chef's knife. The second that index finger sticks out along the spine of the knife, it's a clear signal the person has never had to chop massive amounts of anything. It gives the illusion of control, but in fact the knife is less steady. Professional chefs hold both sides of the blade with the handle tucked under their wrist, from which vantage point it is impossible to slice one's finger off (see picture above). Sadly, this is more common than one would think on the television.

2. Oil in the pasta water

Mario Batali must have a heart attack every time some non-Italian puts a blob of oil in a pot of boiling water for pasta. It should be common sense. Oil floats on water, even boiling water; if it's floating on top of the water, it can't keep the pasta on the bottom from sticking, can it? Even putting the pasta through the oil on the way down won't help. If you want your pasta not to stick together, boil it in plenty of salted water, then save a bit of the cooking water for when you finish your pasta in the sauce (you do that, right?)
 3. Using cold tortillas

It's frustrating to try and replicate a TV show's recipe only to find that one crucial step was left out of the show and the accompanying recipe. As an example, trying to make burritos or enchiladas with cold tortillas is an exercise in frustration. Tortillas, both corn and flour, have to be warmed before they become pliable, yet somehow TV chefs near and far neglect to mention this. They don't have to be cooked in oil, either--the usual method in Mexican kitchens is to heat the tortillas directly on the stove burner. If that skeeves you out, use an ungreased skillet.

4. Mis-salting large pieces of meat

Yes, it's important to salt meat and salt it well; if you're making an enormous roast, however, salting the outside means the outside will be saltier than the inside. That's actually not bad, as long as slices include the salty crust and the less-seasoned insides, but many times, the meat is mis-cut as well as mis-salted. A better option, depending on what the final dish is, may be marinating, which gives the salt time to be absorbed further into the meat.

5. Eating baked goods straight from the oven

In the world of food porn, the "money shot" is the food-gasm face the chefs all make when tasting their just-ripped-from-the-heat food. This works perfectly when it's a pasta dish, but baked goods, especially bready baked goods, need to sit and cool nearly completely before the gluten sets. Fruit fillings, too, need to cool to set--the way to spot a switcheroo on the baked good is when the TV chef cuts into the apple pie she's just taken out of the oven, and it doesn't run all over the place.


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