The impressive move of tossing food in the air that Chefs do is, to some people, just that – done to impress. While this move certainly brings a panache or a certain air of coolness when executed, it is a culinary skill that serves a purpose.
Tossing food is an essential culinary technique used to move food around the pan, combine ingredients efficiently, and coat ingredients with oil, sauce, or spices, all without any need for utensils. It involves arm movement, particularly the wrist, to flick food into the air and redistribute it within the pan. The main goal of this technique is to ensure that the food is cooked evenly in the pan over heat.
Some may argue that tossing, while basic, is not an essential cooking skill since there are other ways to achieve the same goal of redistributing food in the pan that is less flashy,
Why use this method?
Tossing is a speedy way to mix food with a few quick moves. Chefs often can be multi-tasking in the kitchen, and when a swift need to ensure that cooking is even and no food is sticking to the bottom of the pan, all they have to do is to toss the pan quickly.
Reduces clean up
Tossing reduces clean-up by removing the need for cooking utensils. A practical and well-executed toss gives the same result as stirring, if not more.
In Chinese wok cooking, tossing is a vital technique. The goal is to achieve a hard-to-define flavour called “wok hei”, partly due to the vaporization of the liquid content of the food being tossed over very high heat.
The main movement in the tossing technique is the “push and pull motion”. The typical notion is that the pan should be lifted upwards or vertically when the correct direction is horizontal.
There are two main techniques for tossing food in the pan:
- Push Forward
The pan is pushed away from the far end of the pan. It is tilted slightly downward, so the food slides away from the chef. The pan is then pulled back in an elliptical orbit, and the lift is done with a little jolt of the wrist.
- The Snapback
The pan’s handle is angled upward as the pan is pulled back towards the chef. This movement will cause the food to roll against the far rim of the pan, catch air, and land back down.
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Other important things to note:
- To effectively execute this technique, the chef uses the right pan. The best pan for the job is one with curved sloping sides such as woks or frying pans. Because you will be lifting the pan, using one in cast iron material may be heavy.
- The handle of the pan should be gripped firmly as the pan is moved back and forth to check for food sticking in the bottom of the pan.
- While holding the handle, lift the pan about 3 inches above the flame tossing every 2 to 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.
Tossing is an efficient way to ensure even distribution and cooking of food in the pan. This technique is about the “push and pull” motion done to the pan without needing utensils. The move is all about “feel”, and chefs practice this simple motion until they eventually get the feel of it.
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That’s it for this week.
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Ciao for now,