By Chef K. Marie Paulk

I am currently studying to take the ServSafe test that every three years the chefs and leadership are required to take in order to be current. I am going to begin by telling you the easiest way to remember the five deadliest food-borne illnesses  –  H.E.N.S.S., which stands for: Hepatitis A, E Coli, Norovirus, Salmonella, Shigella. I always have a hard time believing that Listeria (another bacterium) does not make the top-five list based on what we all see and read about on cruise ships. Don’t worry, I’m not going to freak you out with all the facts about food-borne illness, but this got me to thinking about all the other fun facts I use daily like temperatures, cooking math, shelf life, cooking equivalents and, one of my favorites, substitutions.

Now you may think I am being silly, but a lot of this information is actually quite useful. I remember when I was just starting culinary school and my chef instructor said always just remember 125° for rare, and then add another 15° for each step of “doneness” that you desire, 140° for med rare, and so on. Just remember your food continues to cook once you remove it from the heat (carry over cooking), which means remove the meat from the heat 5 to 10° below what you desire so it will have time to rest and finish its carry over cooking.  Also, if you want to work using Celsius you would subtract 32 from 125°, multiply by 5, and divide by 9, which means a medium rare steak would be 52° celsius (round up).

Now chicken and pork is a different story. Chicken should be cooked to 165°, and 170° if your bird is stuffed. They should both be temped at the thickest part of the thigh. Pork I cook only to 140°, and let it carry over to 145° by resting, otherwise you get a very dry piece of meat, and applesauce can only hide so much.

Anyone that works in a kitchen should know 1 pound equals 16 ozs, which equals 453.6 grams and 1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, you never know when you are going to stumble on a great recipe all in the metric system. So, to convert liters to cups, multiply the number of liters by 4.22675. 1 liter = about 4 1/4 cups. To convert cups to liters, multiply the number of cups by 0.2368. Grams to ounces and pounds, divide grams by 28.35 and for ounces divide grams by 453.6 for pounds, and to covert to ounces multiply by 28.35, and pounds by 453.6.

The calculations I just mentioned are for weight for volume (liquids), just remember:

L > fluid oz             1000 ml = 1 L = 33.8 fluid oz.

Believe me you are going to want to save this information.

The following are my all-time favorites which I use daily:

1 tablespoon     =     3 teaspoons     = 1/2 fluid oz.  =     14.8 milliliters

1/4 cup             =   4 tablespoons   =  2 fluid ozs.    =     59.2 milliliters

1/2 cup             =   8 tablespoons   =  4 fluid ozs.    =   118.4 milliliters

1 cup                =  16 tablespoons  =  8 fluid ozs.    =   236.8 milliliters

1 pint               =         2 cups         = 16 fluid ozs.   =   473.6 milliliters

1 quart              =  2 pints (4cups)  = 32 fluid ozs.   =   947.2 milliliters

1 gallon            =        4 quarts        = 128 fluid ozs.  =            3.79 liters

(8 pints, 16 cups)

I don’t know why, but I just love knowing this. I guess because it makes recipe reading and converting so easy.

Another pretty important thing to remember is how long will these items be refrigerated, fresh or frozen:

Refrigerated             Frozen

Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Veal   3 to 5 days               4 to 6 months

Chicken/ Turkey                    2 days                      6 months

Ground Meat                          1 to 2 days               3 to 4 months

Bacon                                      1 week                     2 months

Fish                                         1 to 2 days               3 months

So with all this cooking and or baking you’re liable to run out of things or you just forget to purchase them, I absolutely hate when I have to make a quick run to the market. So here are some items you can use as substitutions:

Ground Allspice use 2 parts ground cinnamon plus 1 part ground cloves.

Capers use Chopped Green olives

Bittersweet Chocolate use Semisweet Chocolate

1 oz. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate use 3 tablespoons cocoa powder plus 1 Tablespoon melted butter

Brown Sugar – light & dark are interchangeable, but you can make your own: 1 cup white sugar with 3 or 4 tablespoons molasses placed in a food processor and pulse (yields 1 cup)

Fresh Vanilla bean 2” piece use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh Herbs use 1 teaspoon dry for each tablespoon chopped fresh

Tomatoes (1#)  use 14 oz whole peeled tomatoes with juice

Buttermilk (1 cup) 1 cup plain yogurt or 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon milk, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar

Heavy Cream use 3/4 cup milk, plus 1/4 cup butter (Not for whipping)

Sour Cream   use Plain Yogurt

I could go on and on with information like this, but I only have so much room. I will leave you with this—just remember a recipe is nothing more than a suggestion, so do not be afraid of trying new things!