Food chat: The best candidates for convection are probably going to be on a sheet pan


Each Wednesday, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Krystal answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers at Aaron and Becky write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Washington Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence. Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat.

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There’s an array of summer squash that are largely interchangeable in recipes. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman

Q: When should you use the convection feature on an oven, and what adaptations should be made to a recipe that simply gives a temperature with no guidance as to convection use?

A: Generally speaking, convection cooking is good for savory foods that you’d cook on a sheet pan. It’s also typically good for multi-rack cooking, such as when baking several trays of cookies. I would not use it for anything with any sort of leavening – like bread, cakes, souffles – unless the recipe specifically calls for convection. In terms of converting recipes, you’ll want to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees, and your items may be done 25 percent sooner.

– Aaron Hutcherson

Q: Is there a reason recipes call for alternating the flour and liquid when making a cake? And why start and end with flour?

A: It really ensures even mixing. If you do all the flour at once and all the liquid at once, you risk pockets of unincorporated ingredients. Based on my own experience, I find that ending with flour really helps bring the entire batter together. Occasionally adding liquid can make things look on the curdled side, but flour evens it out.

Here’s a bit more from King Arthur Baking: “Adding flour and liquids alternately ensures all the liquid (usually milk) will be thoroughly absorbed into the batter. If there’s a high amount of butter or other fat in the batter, it’s hard to get the liquid totally mixed in; the alternating technique helps reduce the percentage of fat overall (by adding some flour first). It also facilitates the formation of gluten, which binds the batter together.”

– Becky Krystal

Q: I want to buy summer squash and saw cousa and also a round green squash. How do I prepare them?

A: All summer squash are fairly interchangeable, so you can use it as you would more standard varieties.

– A.H.

Q: When buying in bulk and sealing/freezing individual portions, do I need to open and reseal the food before I sous-vide or should I wash and season the protein before the initial seal and freeze, so that I can just put it in the sous-vide without having to open and reseal?

A: Yes, you can cook items sous-vide without defrosting. (It’ll just take a little longer to cook.) So as you mention, simply season it before sealing and then it can go straight from the freezer to the water bath.

– A.H.

Q: I have a vacation rental house and try to keep the kitchen outfitted with a good selection of equipment. I have an old-fashioned slow cooker, and at some point it will need to be replaced, but I’m not sure with what. I can find slow cookers but I’m confused by what a multicooker is. I need something user-friendly that will provide slow cooking. Is my best bet just to get another slow cooker?

A: Multicooker is the type of appliance that an Instant Pot is. It has the name because it can sear, pressure cook and slow cook, among other things. I don’t own either, but I have a feeling that a multicooker would be more popular with renters than just a slow cooker.

– A.H.

A: I think the Instant Pot is popular enough to go that way, if you feel like you need some kind of appliance. The slow-cook function isn’t quite the same as a traditional one, but I imagine for what folks do at a vacation house, it’s probably fine. The multicooker gives them more options, whether they want fast or slow.

– B.K.



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