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:
- 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.
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.
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.