"Timing is Everything," Jack Piccolo

Pros: All the information you tried to find elsewhere and couldn’t, in one book
Cons: More explanation of “why” would be nice, but that would make for a HUGE book
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 12/2/2000

On the back of this book it loudly proclaims: “The companion to every cookbook you will ever own!” And you know what? It’s right. How many times have you wondered how long you could store a fish in the freezer? How long it really takes to hard-boil eggs? What the cooking time would be if you decided to broil rather than grill your steak? And how many times have you pulled out a random cookbook to find the answers to these questions… and been left wanting? This cookbook calls itself “The Complete Timing Guide to Cooking,” and in many ways it was the answer to my kitchen prayers.

Part I of this book contains cooking times, and part II presents storage times. The cooking section has special sections on pressure cooking, and on microwaving, defrosting, and reheating. The storage section covers shelf storage, refrigerator storage, and freezer storage. And yes, this book is thorough! The first cooking section covers everything from dried beans to pasta to veggies to fruit to eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry, lamb, sausages, “variety meats,” and even – get this – game meats! And oh, that’s just a sampling of the topics.

Let’s look up “variety meats.” These are internal organs, like heart, kidneys, brain, and tongue. Oooh, tongue! I haven’t had that in years. Let’s see what it says about tongue. First there’s a general intro section, in which Mr. Piccolo explains that you really want a tongue of under three pounds for best flavor (although he gives more precise size ranges for the different types of tongue – beef, veal, pork, and lamb). Tongue can be cooked fresh, smoked, or pickled, served hot or cold.

Now let’s look at the actual cooking table. First there are good, thorough preparation instructions. F’rinstance, if it’s been pickled or smoked, you should blanch it in simmering water for ten minutes. It even explains that you should split the skin and peel it off after cooking. Then it goes on to explain three different ways to cook tongue: baking, braising, and poaching.

A Storage Example

This section starts out with some hints for warning signs to look for in stored food, things that indicate you should just throw the food out. Now that’s useful. We’ll start with “shelf storage,” which is storage of unopened packages. (There are also some hints on how to store things after you open them.) You can keep dried beans in an airtight container for a year. You can store bread in its original wrapper for 4-7 days. Cake mixes will last in a cool dry place for 9 months, unless it’s angel food, which will last for a year (I wonder why?). In the “refrigerator storage” section you’ll find hints on how to store things safely in the refrigerator. Apparently avocados should ripen at room temperature, and be stored in the crisper when fully ripe. They should last 10-14 days. You’ll even find details for broccoli rabe, chayote, kohlrabi, and sorrel. I wouldn’t claim that this book has everything, but it certainly has a lot!

There’s a special section on storing dairy products and eggs that includes clarified butter, whipped cream in an aerosol can, various types of eggs (uncooked, hard-cooked, just the whites (uncooked), and so on), and egg substitute. Ever wanted to know how long your baby food would last once opened? That’s in here too (answer: 2-3 days in the refrigerator, when stored in the original glass jar). And oh joy, notes on how to thaw frozen foods safely and efficiently!

This really is an essential book. It’ll make life easier for you, and make your food storage safer and simpler. It’ll help you to make sure your roast cooks evenly, and just the way you like it. You’ll find four different ways to cook a whole turkey, including approximate cooking times for different sizes. And all the information is in one, easy-to-navigate place, so you don’t have to run around wondering which cookbook you saw that set of instructions in anyway.

I can’t think of a single cook who couldn’t benefit from having this book!

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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