Create less clean up by knowing which foods shrink and swell

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You might be thinking that today’s post has a rather odd topic: who really cares whether foods shrink or swell? You should care though because an informed cook is a better cook.

Cooking is really an activity in time management, juggling and creativity, and the more informed you are about the foods you cook with the better you are at the time management, juggling and creativity.

Knowing which foods shrink or swell will help you determine:

  • How long to cook foods for.
  • How much liquid you should add.
  • Whether you can make substitutions or additions to a meal.
  • What else to make at the same time, or using the same pan/dish.

So to help you build that knowledge here are two lists of ingredients. The first are foods that swell and the second are foods that shrink.

Foods that swell

The foods that swell quite a bit are:

  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Polenta
  • Pasta
  • Freekah
  • Quinoa
  • Dried fruit
  • Beans (dried beans you soak then cook – tinned beans have already swelled and wont swell with further cooking).

As you may have noticed its usually the carbohydrates, or the grains, that swell. Most grains swell to double or triple their volume (i.e. 1 cup of dry rice swells to 3 cups of cooked rice).

Some foods swell a small amount, such as vegetables, especially carrots and potatoes.

Rice swells to 3 times it’s original size

Foods that shrink

When I talk about foods that shrink I mean they lose some volume. The below ingredients tend to shrink a small amount due to loss of water or fat during the cooking process.

The foods that shrink are:

  • Meats like beef, lamb, goat, etc.
  • Fish such as all types of white fish and white fish fillets as well as salmon and trout.
  • Seafood such as prawns, scollops, calamari, mussles, clams.
  • Poultry such as chicken, turkey, duck and pidgeon.
Meat tends to shrink from loss of fat

So next time you plan a meal, or are having trouble with a recipe, remember that some foods swell and some shrink so you’ll need to take these into consideration. Experiment with the foods you use and you’ll become a better cook in no time.

If you need some extra food knowledge, check out the food knowledge category or the other cooking tips posts on this blog.

2 thoughts on “Create less clean up by knowing which foods shrink and swell

  1. Miesha Eilbeck says:

    hello, thanks for this awesome post. I’ve been trying to lose weight for about 6 months and I’ve come to the conclusion that it all depends on eating right. I found this video that gave me a great diet plan, and I actually lost 12 pounds. All I did was follow the plan completely. If you want to view the video, here’s the link: I hope this can motivate people to lose some weight. Good luck!

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