What foods tell you they are cooked?
November 7, 2008 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Gnocchi let you know when they are cooked (they rise to the top of the pan of water you are cooking them in). What other foods have simple, visual and unambiguous indicators of doneness?
posted by Tapioca to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Shrimp turn pink.
posted by ian1977 at 3:54 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Broccoli changes from dark green to bright, bright green when it's done. Then it turns a dingy olive green when it's overdone.

Cheese melts and bubbles, and when it's just started to brown it's done.

Scrambled eggs are done when they stop sloshing about in the pan.

If you put the right amounts of rice and water in your pot (two cups water to each cup of rice), and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer as soon as it boils, then you can turn off the heat and clap the lid on the pot as soon as the water level drops below the top of the rice. Then it's finished when the water has all disappeared.

Popcorn is done when the explosions have stopped.

It's easy to tell when steak is done if you're cooking it right. Put oil in pan; put steak in pan; apply vicious heat. When juices start to ooze from the top side of the steak, and not before, turn it over. When juices start to ooze from what is now the top side of the steak, transfer it to a warm plate to rest for a couple of minutes. Done.
posted by flabdablet at 3:56 AM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


But shrimp can still be overcooked or raw when pink on the outside, so that's not really an unambiguous indicator of doneness...
posted by Grither at 3:56 AM on November 7, 2008


Quinoa explodes kind of like popcorn.
posted by Frank Grimes at 3:58 AM on November 7, 2008


Toast jumps. If you're quick you can high-five it.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:08 AM on November 7, 2008 [36 favorites]


Lobsters turn bright red when done. A toothpick will come out clean from a cake that is done.
posted by proj at 4:27 AM on November 7, 2008


generally, when toast turns the color you want, it's done.
tortellini and ravioli also float.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:31 AM on November 7, 2008


Souffl├ęs and Yorkshire Pudding (if cooked correctly) puff up from their cooking containers.
posted by protorp at 4:35 AM on November 7, 2008


Clams open.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:38 AM on November 7, 2008


Egg whites turn from clear to white and opaque when cooked.
posted by badmoonrising at 4:42 AM on November 7, 2008


Again, lobster can be bright red on the outside and still raw on the inside.... just don't want anyone to ruin their delicious lobster/shrimp dinners over an askme thread...
posted by Grither at 4:46 AM on November 7, 2008


Coconut milk pudding (and probably many puddings made with cornstarch) goes from a milky, grainy texture to smooth and shiny when it's done cooking and ready to be set.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:46 AM on November 7, 2008


Pieriogies float like gnocchi when they're done.
posted by pokeedog at 4:56 AM on November 7, 2008


Pancakes and blintzes form bubbles on the surface.

Freeze-dried pasta begins to turn from yellow to white. A ghostly white hue indicates the overdone state.

Oil for deep-frying smokes when it's overheated.

No need to mention the golden brown of properly sauteed onions and garlic--or the brown of a properly made roux.
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:56 AM on November 7, 2008


Doh! I meant Pierogies.
posted by pokeedog at 4:57 AM on November 7, 2008


Clams open.

Not true. Throw away unopened clams, and you're likely wasting a lot of perfectly good food.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:53 AM on November 7, 2008


Water boils.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:56 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Many, many things brown as they cook.

Similarly, many baked things rise.

And, one more broad category--as greatgefilte, and maybe somebody else, notes, things reach the proper texture.
posted by box at 6:19 AM on November 7, 2008


Not true. Throw away unopened clams, and you're likely wasting a lot of perfectly good food.

1. Those are mussels.
2. Dude only cooked 30 batches.
posted by electroboy at 6:26 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Onions turn translucent.

Am I off in feeling like, during the cooking process, most things undergo a visual change--you just need to learn to be perceptive enough to notice them?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:32 AM on November 7, 2008


Chestnuts - when you roast chestnuts you put a cross in them. If you leave one without a cross, it will eventually explode. This indicates that the rest are ready for eating.
posted by chill at 6:53 AM on November 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pancakes bubble at the edge when they are ready to be flipped.
posted by kimdog at 6:53 AM on November 7, 2008


Water boils.

Water freezes.
posted by indigo4963 at 7:02 AM on November 7, 2008


I thought the closed mussels/clams were unhealthy and/or poisonous and shouldn't be eaten. Is that a myth?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:22 AM on November 7, 2008


Whipped cream. Just before you overdo it, it looks granular and gets a yellowish tint. When it is perfect, you can form sharp stiff peaks with the spatula, and leave clear markings on the cream.

Not just visual, but you know spaghetti is right when you throw a strand at the window and it sticks. You turn off the heat and let it rest for a minute.

Food that lie about being cooked? Hamburger. Hamburger can turn brown all the way to the center before being cooked enough to kill pathogens.
posted by dirty lies at 7:58 AM on November 7, 2008


Spatzle and most dumplings, like gnocchi and kopytka, will float when they are done.
posted by Seamus at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2008


Rice Krispees snap, krackle and pop. Delish.
posted by sdrawkcab at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2008


Clicked post too soon.

When cooking pasta, when the water turns more cloudy (you will notice), your pasta is about to get overcooked.

For shrimp: Pink is meaningless. When the shrimp turns into a C it is cooked, if it turns into an O it is overcooked. Mnemonic food doneness indicator.

With chicken, prick it with a fork or knife, pink juices are bad, clear juices are good. Fish is the opposite, when the flesh looks clear, it needs more cooking, when it looks fully opaque it is done.

I just got corrected on the whipped cream: Stiff peaks are for meringues, for other uses, you want to lift the whisker or spatula, and leave a peak with a tip that folds down on itself.

Sashimi is done as soon as it stops twitching, fresh oysters are done before they stop twitching.

Brownies separate from the pan at edges, and the edges of omelettes curl up 2.37 milliseconds before they are overcooked.

Another one that is not visual: Poke your steak with your finger and compare it to the flesh between your thumb and index finger. When it feels like it feels with your hand relaxed, it is rare. When it feels like when you touch thumb tip to fingertip, it is medium. When it feels like when you close your fist, it is well done.
posted by dirty lies at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi, that is a good point: most things do change perceptibly during cooking. I'm looking for changes that are almost as good as a kitchen timer - DING! And you are done.

Onions do change opacity, but cooking them past translucent isn't unusual. Also the change is gradual, and your threshold for 'translucent' may be different to mine. As such I'd class this as an ambiguous sign.

I should probably have worded my question more clearly. Apologies for that.
posted by Tapioca at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2008


Marshmallows catch on fire when done.
posted by donpardo at 10:31 AM on November 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you drop lemon juice or tabasco on the edge of an oyster it recoils, telling you instantly that it's alive, and (possibly) good to eat.

When you are pan-frying in butter, the butter is at the right heat to add the food as soon as it foams.

When deep frying tempura, the oil is hot enough as soon as a drop of batter will sink half-way under the surface before floating back again.

When deep frying fish fillets (as in "fish and chips") the fish is done as soon as the batter stops bubbling.

Weetabix are ready to eat (at least the way I like them) as soon as milk has osmosed from the bowl up throughout the uppermost surface, turning it darker all over.

Poached eggs are ready as soon as all the white turns opaque.
posted by roofus at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2008


Don't know if it's really accurate but I always find that cakes and cookies are ready when the smell fills the house...if I can smell cake in the lounge room, then the cake in the kitchen oven is probably done.
posted by robotot at 2:31 PM on November 7, 2008


Seconding smells. I use this for all kinds of things, really, but particularly baked goods.
posted by twiki at 2:53 PM on November 7, 2008


Matzo balls also float when done. (I guess that falls into the generic dumpling category.)
posted by Joleta at 8:25 PM on November 7, 2008


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