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Dec 2, 2011 06:41 AM

Spoon basting with oil... I don't quite understand it

I've seen this technique used on many cooking shows -- while sauteing, the chef uses a spoon to baste the top of the meat with the oil in the pan. I just saw a recipe in the December issue of Bon Appetit (Weiner schnitzel on p. 109) that calls for the same technique. Now, I could understand this if the meat doesn't get turned over in the pan so the second side can be cooked. But in the BA recipe, the instructions say to heat an oil/butter mixture to 350 degrees in a skillet and, "using a large spoon, carefully baste the top of the veal with the hot oil. Cook until breading puffs and starts to brown, about 1 minute. Turn and cook until browned, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to paper towel-lined [baking] sheet..."

Can someone help me understand the reason for the spoon basting, since the meat gets turned anyway? I don't think it's to get the breading to puff up -- wouldn't that happen regardless? What is the reason for using this technique -- in this recipe, and in general? Thanks!

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  1. Basting, in this manner, is not much different than, say, basting a turkey as it roasts or barding a lean cut of meat as it roasts.

    By adding fat/oil to the top, as it cooks, helps to keep the meat/fish/poultry a little bit more moist (or less dry). So, as a counter example, you probably would not do this to bacon as it fries.

    1. Spoon basting with butter has become a recent obsession of mine. After reading Michael Ruhlman's blog about roasting cauliflower, I've been trying it on everything. It intensifies the flavor & browns the food so well. A little bit of salt, butter & a hot oven, oh yeah, good things happen. I'm thinking I'm going to have to buy Ruhlman's Big Ass Basting Spoon from Open Sky.

      Try it just once, you'll be a convert.

      5 Replies
      1. re: jcattles

        Love that spoon! Did you watch the video? There's an odd "subtitle" at about 1:13 into it.

        1. re: CindyJ

          Ha ha yeah, read the following article, it'll make more sense.

          1. re: jcattles

            Ahhhh... so maybe those are "pre" and "post" basting demonstrations. Now that I've viewed the video again, I'm noticing that that roasted chicken is looking far more relaxed in the "post" basting. Thanks for the clarification. :-)

        2. re: jcattles

          Did you try the cauliflower recipe? It seems like an awfully long time at 425 degrees. I seriously love roasted cauliflower and basting with butter on top sounds amazing.

          1. re: monavano

            I didn't roast it whole. I only had a small amount & roasted it at the same time as a pork tenderloin at 350 degrees. I just let it start getting brown then added the butter & kept basting it until it was nice & brown & some of the pieces were getting crispy.

        3. I make what I call butter poached fired eggs. First I melt butter in the pan, when it starts to bubble I slide in the raw egg and add a few tablespoons of water. Then I baste the top of the egg with that hot liquid, adding more water as it evaporates. Soon, the top of the yolk begins to turn pink. Eventually, it is done to my liking and the liquid is reduced to a creamy butter sauce. The egg never browns on the bottom but it does get done perfectly.without turning.

          4 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            Your yolk turns pink?!

            What kind of eggs are you using?

            1. re: LaureltQ

              It is not the kind of eggs, but just something that happens when the orangey yolks get covered with a film of cooked white, they look kind of peachy pink. Try it and you'll see what I mean. The hot oil does cook the top.

              1. re: escondido123

                Yes, pink. But I just put a little bit of water into the pan, then put the lid on, it does the same thing. Cooked whites, with a runny yolk that looks pinkish, until you break it open.
                Like an "over medium" without the "over" part.

                1. re: wyogal

                  Ahhh, but for me it is all about the butter so that basting makes such it is everywhere.

          2. as has been said, it's a basting method.
            it coats things like eggs and gives them a nice finish without over cooking just to sort of finish off the cooking.

            not describing this very well, I just say it's a coating method.
            a quick flash coating method with hot oil or butter or fat of some kind or maybe you would call it a sealer.

            mind doesn't work this morning

            1. So if I'm understanding each of you, you're saying that this is a technique you use for basting/cooking the top side of whatever is in your pan. Basting the turkey is a good example for clarification; so is butter-poaching the eggs. Neither of those will be turned over for browning on the reverse side. But what I still don't get is why you'd use this if, as in the Weiner schnitzel recipe, you'd spoon baste it and then turn it over.

              1 Reply
              1. re: CindyJ

                Even for something that will be turned, basting with hot oil can improve the crust. Think of it as having each side spend more time in the oil, despite not spending any more time in the pan.

                This is especially useful when cooking in a flavorful oil with a low smoke point. The classic example is a thick steak. If you cook it in butter, the smoke point is too low to cook it hot enough to get a good crust. But you can sear off a thick steak on high temperature, put it in the oven, then add butter for the last stage of cooking (maybe some herbs and garlic too) and spoon it over the steak to both improve the crust and flavor the steak. Even if you skip the high temp sear and oven steps, you'll get a better crust basting with butter than you would just cooking it in butter on both sides.

                If you're cooking something in, say, rice bran oil or peanut oil heated up to near 500 degrees, then there won't be any reason to baste since the oil is hot enough to create a lot of browning and it doesn't add much flavor.