These simple cooking tips will change every Home Cook’s life. You’ll not only immediately improve your cooking skills, but your food will also taste better and you’ll be more confident in the kitchen. All of which will lead to a more pleasant cooking experience.
By applying a few basic principles, this can all be at your fingertips, RIGHT NOW!
‘Mis-en-place’ is a fancy French culinary phrase that means ‘putting in place’. It’s the first thing you do when you cook and it refers to the setup and preparation of all the ingredients that you’re going to need to get ready for your dish. In every restaurant and professional kitchen, all the ingredients are washed, measured out, appropriately chopped, and gathered before the chef starts the actual cooking. That’s the very first and I think THE most important lesson I learned at chef school. When you have everything ready, you can concentrate on the actual cooking process, you make way less mistakes, and are able to add all the ingredients at the right time, without having to chop an onion last minute while the butter is already burning in your pan. Believe me, this will make your life so much easier and you’ll get better results and notice the consistency in your cooking.
2. Read through the entire recipe
This sounds super basic and obvious, but it is one of the most common mistakes that home cooks make, and I’ve been there so many times, as well. You happily start making a recipe and half way through you realize that you’re missing an ingredient or an important piece of equipment, or that you have to let something sit overnight – What? But my guests arrive in an hour…
Reading through the entire recipe is an absolute MUST and will help you better understand what you’re supposed to do and how to get organized. Speaking of organization, remember: a messy kitchen often leads to a messy meal. You need to have a clean and tidy kitchen before you start cooking and you need to clean as you go. This will prevent you from losing track of your recipe and help you stay focused on what you’re actually cooking. Take ‘little breaks’ in the recipes to tidy up, for example, when it says ’let it simmer for 10 minutes’. Of course, always keep an eye on the stove.
3. Season your food, early on and often
The majority of home cooks are scared of over-seasoning their dish while cooking. What they tend to end up with is a bland meal that they try to save by adding a ton of salt just before serving – I’ll admit it, I’ve been there too…
Seasoning your food throughout the cooking process will enhance the flavors of all the ingredients in your dish and prevent you from ending up with a tasteless meal. Add a pinch of salt every time you add a new component to your meal, mix in hearty, fresh herbs, like thyme and rosemary, to infuse your dishes with aromas, and use delicate herbs just before serving your dish to make it pop.
The same thing goes for cooking pasta.; You must season your boiling water with a lot of salt. Tip: it should taste as salty as the ocean does. The pasta will only be in there for a couple of minutes and the majority of the salt will be in the water, which will get strained once the pasta is cooked.
4. Balance flavors
There are five different flavor profiles that humans can detect: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Good dishes balance these flavors out and use at least two out of the five flavor profiles in every dish. When you cook, you should always be thinking about what you can add to counteract the main flavors. This will balance your dish and make it overall more pleasing to your taste buds. Even when making desserts, adding a pinch of salt to a sweet treat balances out the sweetness.
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5. Combine different textures
Do you want to make your dish more interesting? Think textures: crispy, creamy, chewy, juicy, hard, tender. It is way more pleasing to eat a dish that combines different textures. This is, for example, why my soups are never served naked; if you top a smooth cauliflower soup with crunchy garlic croutons or toasted sesame seeds, it will add another dimension to an otherwise rather one-dimensional dish. Also, the combination of hot and cold components make a dish more interesting, such as a fresh, cold salad topped with warm mushrooms.
6. Use your senses – all of them!
Check out the color of your onion to know if it’s cooked all the way through, touch your meat to determine its level of doneness, smell the roasted aroma of your toasted nuts, and taste the rich, complex flavors of your stew. Using all your senses is one of your most important cooking tools and you should make constant use of them!
This is especially true when it comes to touch. Home chefs often forget to use their hands while cooking. Your hands are an essential and sensitive cooking tool. You can develop a sense of touch by paying attention to how different foods feel at different degrees of doneness. Touch can also indicate when a cake is baked, if a dough is kneaded enough, and whether a pear is ripe, etc. So hands-on deck please!
7. Hot pan!
Chefs never ever cook with a cold pan, and you shouldn’t either.
Heating your pan before you add any ingredient will prevent it from sticking to the pan, it will sear your food nicely and evenly, and it also reduces the amount of oil that your food absorbs. Speaking of pans, be sure not to overcrowd them. If you add too much food to the pan, its temperature will reduce, the ingredients will release a lot of moisture, and you won’t be able to nicely brown your dish. So make sure you check out the bottom of the pan to make sure there are spaces between your food.
8. Start with Quality Ingredients
The quality of your ingredients matters massively! If you want to optimize the flavor of your dishes, you should start using better-tasting products. Fresh, locally sourced and in-season ingredients are key to a true, deep flavor for your meals.
9. Cook Beautifully
Presentation matters, even for home cooks. We all eat with our eyes, and if the food looks appetizing, we’re more likely to want to try it, and enjoy it when we do. When you start cooking your meal (remember Mis-en-place and reading through recipes?) you should already be thinking about how you want to present it. What is the look you want to achieve? Do the colors match or do you want to blend another color by adding another ingredient? Will you serve your dish in a large serving platter for everyone to serve themselves, or will you divide it into individual plates? Thinking about these questions will ensure that the meal not only turns out with the flavor you desire, but also, with the appearance with which you want to present it.
10. Don’t trust any recipe, not even mine
I know, as a recipe creator I shouldn’t say that, but you should never trust a recipe completely. You have different ingredients, different utensils, and also, you have your own, individual taste. So here is a simple guideline: while you cook, taste, and taste often, and trust your instincts. Adjust your dish by adding a pinch of this and that. Always use the recipe as a guideline, but never an absolute truth.
Are you ready to put all of these cooking tips into practice? Here are some perfect recipes to unleash your inner chef right now!
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