Cooking by Feel: Use Your Ears!

We talk a lot about tasting during cooking, how an ingredient should smell at a certain point, or what a dish should look like when done. This leaves out our sense of hearing. Believe it or not, you probably use this sense more than you think! What aural cues do you listen for while cooking?

As kitchen multi-taskers, we often have our backs to the stove while something is cooking away on one of the burners. Listening for changes in how the contents of our pots and pans sound can let us know when to turn around to adjust the heat, add the next ingredient, or any number of things.

We pick up a lot of these little cues without realizing it and come to rely on them almost subconsciously. Lately, I've been trying to pay attention to what aural cues I use most regularly. Here are a few:

• When a pot of water is about to and then has come to a boil
• When a pan is hot and a small piece of food or a drop of water sizzles
• When a loaf of bread is done by thumping the bottom on listening for a hollow sound
• When onions or mushrooms are almost done cooking by listening for changes in the sizzling as water cooks off
• Likewise, listening for the quality of the sizzle at different points in cooking to know if the heat needs to be turned up or down
• The changing sound of something in the food processor to know when it's pureed
• Listening for popcorn to finish popping on the stovetop

It's surprisingly hard to pick out specific things to listen for, especially since we're often using other senses to pick up clues at the same time. What other ways do you use your sense of hearing in the kitchen?

Related: Favorite Sounds in the Kitchen

(Image: Flickr member jordanfischer licensed under Creative Commons)