How to Select Fresh Produce and the Best Ingredients

How do you choose your vegetables, fresh greens, eggs, meat and other ingredients? What are the factors to consider when choosing vegetables? How do you decide which packet of chicken or frozen food you will buy?

Selecting the best ingredients is the key to a delicious meal; how hard you work on them afterwards has a lesser effect on the outcome.

Fresh, Ripe, Overripe, Fouled, Rotten, or Simply Bad?

Good food is prepared with good ingredients

We all know top chefs and restaurants work with the freshest ingredients they can find to prepare their top-notch dishes. You may not find or buy the best due to many factors, including financial reasons, but you can choose the best among what you can buy.

If you can learn and establish a good standard at choosing better ingredients, you can add your skills on top of that and successfully cook good food to amaze friends and family. Yes, you know you need to buy the firm vegetables with correct, vivid colors, but it doesn’t end at vegetables. You need to choose beef, lamb, chicken, fish, shrimps, and spices to cook them in. The list goes on. So, let’s start. Here are the tips to identify if an ingredient is fresh and ripe or old and fouled.

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Easy Navigation: 

Banana – Blackberry/Raspberry – Butter – Carob – Chicken – Chocolate – Egg – Eggplant – Fish – Fresh BeansFrozen FoodMeat – Melon – Mince Meat – OnionPotato – Quince – Shrimp – Tomato

Green, Yellow, Brown. How To Choose Bananas?

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Ripe bananas are bright yellow all over. “Ripen at home” ones come green with some parts turning yellow. As the banana ripens it turns to yellow and then proceeds to overripen into a brown color. Also, as the banana ripens its skin gets thinner. You can identify the stage of the banana simply by looking at its skin color.

How to know if the Butter is fresh or if it has turned?

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Let’s start from how it looks and go closer. If the butter doesn’t have the same color everywhere, it means it has started to get old. The butters differ in color due to production techniques and the type of milk used, but they have to be the same color everywhere.

If you are not sure, you will have to get closer. Butter has its distinct smell. The stronger the smell, the fresher the butter. If it has a sour or acrid smell, it means the butter has turned.

If you are still not sure, you will have to taste it. If the butter has gone bad, its taste is bitter. You should not use it.

If you see any kind of mold on it, you don’t have to try anything else. Throw the whole bunch away as something went wrong on the way it has reached you and it has been fouled badly.

How to know if Carob is fresh?

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Fresh carobs look thicker and more curvy as seen in the photo. When you break them you can see the thick, sweet liquid. As time passes, the liquid dries out and the carob becomes more brittle and hard.


How to identify Fresh and spiny Beans?

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Best way to understand if fresh beans are fresh and without spines, is to break one into half. If the fresh bean breaks without bending much, it is fresh. If it bends a lot or doesn’t break, it is old. Also, freshest beans break with a distinct sound.

The spine becomes tougher as the bean gets older. When you break the bean, the spine will not break and you will easily see it.

If you don’t want to break the fresh bean, look at its color. Darker shades of green mean that the bean is fresher.

Frozen Food?

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You can understand the freshness of frozen food by the printed best before date, but can you understand if the cold chain has broken somewhere in the line? Yes, you can. If there are ice crystals on or inside the package, you may assume the cold chain has been broken at some point and the product may have thawed and frozen back again. The safety of the refrozen food depends on its type and how much of it was thawed, but at least try to choose ones without ice crystals.

How to identify if Meat is turned?

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You can understand if the meat has turned by looking at its color and smell. If it looks gray, or if you can see green or black patches on it, the meat has turned and you should not use it.

If it feels sticky to touch and has an acrid smell, it is spoiled. Meat usually keeps it freshness for 2 days in the fridge. I do not recommend using the packaged meat bought from the market beyond its printed “use by” date.

On a side note, dice the meat right before you use it. Keeping them in one piece helps them retain their freshness longer and taste better.

How to select best Onions?

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When you are selecting onions look at their skins and always give them a nice squeeze. If it is hard they are good. If they don’t feel tough, they will go bad at home in a short while. If they have sprouted or the color has changed, don’t buy them. But sometimes outer skins may hide the inner color changes, therefore take a sniff, if they smell it means they have started to turn from the inside.

How to know if Potatoes are fresh and usable?

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The potato should be firm and hard. Softer it gets the worse it has gone. Look at its skin. If they look greenish in color, it means you have kept them in light and it has started to produce solanine.

Solanine is poisonous and has different effects in varying amounts, so why risk eating it?

Sprouted potatoes also have adverse effects if consumed. It may cause headaches, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea.