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Basting usually refers to a culinary technique in which the dish is cooked using the natural juices from the ingredients. This is usually applied for meat dishes that are roasted, baked, or grilled. Aside from the meat’s own juices, other types of prepared sauces or flavored liquids can be used when cooking the dish. The word “basting,” or the root word “baste," can also refer to a sewing technique of temporarily stitching together two pieces of fabric.
One of the purposes of basting is to make the meat moist and tender. During the cooking process, the very high heat from the oven or the grill causes the meat’s natural juices and fats to come out and collect at the bottom of the pan, making the meat dry. Collecting the juices and pouring them over the meat will help the latter reabsorb the liquid and make the flesh inside tender.
Basting will also give the meat more flavor, as the juices drawn out from the meat are packed with natural “meaty” flavor that will make the dish more delicious. The cooking technique can also make the dish look more appetizing as the sauce will coat the outer surface and give it a glazed appearance. For fowl meats such as turkey and chicken, the outside skin will come out golden and crispy when basted.
Aside from the natural juices and fats, other ingredients commonly used for basting include melted butter, meat stock, and Worcestershire sauce. They can be infused with different herbs and spices such as garlic and onion, salt and pepper, rosemary, and even some wine. The basting technique also involves some tools and methods, the simplest of which is using a spoon to scoop up the sauce or the meat juices and pouring it over the meat. A brush is also commonly used, although cooks suggest patting the sauce on the meat instead of doing sweeping motions as the latter method just transfers the sauce away from one area to another. Another tool often used is the “baster,” a stick-like instrument that has a bulb on the top that the cook can squeeze to suck in and release the juice over the meat.
One of the frequent mistakes cooks make is basting their meat more often than they are supposed to, especially when the oven is used. Opening the oven door every time the meat is to be basted decreases the oven temperature, so the cooking time may take longer. One technique is to wait until the meat is cooked halfway before basting, at most, twice. Many recipes include time intervals between basting, depending on the meat and the cooking method.