Steamy Standing Time: How Food Size Impacts Carryover Cooking
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Abstract"What? My food needs some standing time? How can food stand? I don't see any legs on those baked potatoes!" Whether you're using a traditional oven or a microwave, standing time is an important concept in cooking or baking. When you remove a food from an oven or a microwave, the food retains heat and continues to cook for several minutes after it has been removed from the heat source. This process of the food continuing to cook, using the retained heat in the food itself, is called carryover cooking. It is the reason why many recipes call for standing time. The carryover cooking that occurs during standing time causes the internal temperature of the food to rise several degrees and allows for the temperature to become more equalized throughout the food. How much carryover cooking is possible depends upon the size of the food, its density, its heat capacity (ability to retain heat), and how hot its internal temperature is when you remove it from the oven. Foods that are high in water have a high heat capacity, and therefore, are excellent at carryover cooking. Thus, failure to allow for standing time results in food that is overdone.
In this cooking and food science project, you will explore how much the size of the food relates to its final internal temperature. You will roast different sizes of the same type of meat to the same internal temperature, remove them from the oven, and measure and record their internal temperature every few seconds over several minutes, using an electric probe or instant-read oven thermometer placed in the center of the roast, avoiding any bone. How much does the volume of the roast impact the amount of carryover cooking that can be achieved? What about the surface-area-to-volume ratio (or "compactness" of the roast)? Does that impact how much carryover cooking is possible, as well? As another variation, you could see how different types of foods with different densities, but the same volume are affected by carryover cooking.
Figure 1. This cartoon shows a roast experiencing carryover cooking outside the oven with an instant read thermometer in its center. (USDA, 2006.)
This source offers a discussion of standing time in microwave ovens:
- USDA. (2006, July 26). Microwave Ovens and Food Safety. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
This source shows how to place a thermometer in meat, avoiding the bone:
- USDA. (2006, December 15). Proper Thermometer Placement. Retrieved January 18, 2010.
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