Monday, May 20, 2013

The Most Important Lesson - Heat Control

When I talk with my boys about their cooking, I asked them what they felt was the most valuable lesson in the kitchen. Both answered quickly and simply- heat control.

My rules were simple about the stove.
Handles in. I am a repetitive teacher. I repeat until I am sick of hearing it then I say it again. But it sticks. And I believe everyone should learn- handles in. It saves so many little ones from being burned! So simple- yet so important. First time learners can saves themselves a lot of pain as well, nothing sticking out cannot get caught up in shirts sleeves or aprons. Handles in. I started saying that and pointing it out to them as early as I could. I cannot really say an age- because there is a stage where they stop being babies and told no, stay away from the stove- to growing enough to see what's actually on the stove and being curious about how to do it. I guess about 10 -ish. If that makes sense.

Beyond this simple rule- I approached the stove like their father approaches tools out in the garage. I am teaching boys after all. And it worked.  I explained the tool (the stove) and we practiced together, then on their own.
 It went something like this:

How to control the heat….

  This was an observation first lesson- Then a hands on second.  I explained the parts of the stove, and oven. Then set down a small sauce pan, a med sauce pan, and a large pot - all filled a bit of  water on each burner-  on the last burner I put on a fry pan with a dab of butter.

 I started the stove starting with the small saucepan burner- I had them look at the flames/burners in comparison to the size of the pans. Up and down. I Compared pans to pots and small sauce pans – adjust flames up and down . Turn on, turn down, turn off. I did it- then turned everything off -and had them do it. Start to finish, one at a time. I asked for high, med, low, simmer, and off.  I had them turn the fry pan to med and then to low- melting the butter. They moved it around with a spatula to spread it around, and I had them watch the areas that heated first. We stopped and turned it off after that. I asked them what they'd do if it felt out of control, or over boiled. I made sure they had handles in and were spatially aware of their body when reaching over.
 We turned everything off. I then Turned on the oven . We got on our knees  for a second and looked at the heat source. We adjusted the racks, and in turn we learned the mitts. They explained it back to me- showing they understood the oven -where the heat comes from ,what’s broil and what’s heat. 

Then we went back to the pots on the stove. I shifted them, so the front two were saucepans - one already filled with water, and we filled one with milk.  They turned on the burners by themselves. We reviewed high, and low, quickly then began: lesson 2: How to Boil water and how to Boil milk- a side by side lesson  for comparison. I did this so they could understand what liquid looks like just before boil point- on both. Then they boiled.
They understood a simmer, and compared  it to rolling boil. We covered the saucepans with a lid and I showed them the steam, condensation, and how much faster a rolling boil occurs. I let the milk boil - and didn't say a word when it started to rise and foam like milk does. This displayed the difference- (Boiling over) when temp turned up or down. By allowing the milk to scald and spit out the lid so they saw  what not to do… worst case scenario. 

After they had proven they could boil, control, and manage the water without fear-we turned everything off and cleaned up the milk mess. 

Then together we made mac n cheese start to finish. They filled the pan with water, started the stove - handles in- watched for a boil, added the noodles....and READ the directions. They st the timer.  I strained the noodles but then returned the whole venture over to them to finish. They completed it with relatively few noodles hitting the counter! And felt pride in what they accomplished. We sat down together and enjoyed a bit for lunch. Their first cooking experience was a success. 

The way I relate this may seem tedious, and repetitive, but it worked. How you walk your child through their first lesson is up to you. My hope is that in relating my experience I can help to encourage others- or take the fear out of where to start for some, and maybe give a tip or two to others. 
Just have fun with it. If nothing else, the experience is worth the smiles at the end.  :)

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