KITCHEN COMMANDMENTS! – 10 Tips to Help You Cook Like a Pro
“Of course, everyone knows that.”
It was just a good natured tongue-in-cheek jab from Grace Lee, host of the Kitchen Creations segment on Hawaii News Now Sunrise Show. My off handed comment had begged for a little sarcasm. She made a good point.
I was mixing up the batter for Banana Andagi and mentioned that the recipe emphasized not to over-mix. When I added “cuz then you can activate the gluten in the flour – right” I made it sound like something so obvious it hardly needed saying.
While it’s something a trained chef would definitely know, someone with a little less kitchen experience might still be wondering why their cakes always come out tough and chewy. It got me thinking about what other basic kitchen know-how has been buried under piles of microwave meals and fast food wrappers.
Here are 10 great tips to get started on the right foot.
1. Don’t Over-Mix the Batter – See above if you skipped it the first time.
2. Preheat the Pan Before Adding the Oil – This might not be recommended with some non-stick coatings but as a rule, using a regular pan, heat the pan dry and then add the oil. The oil has less time to break down or possibly burn. Add the food you are cooking immediately. The payoff is better flavor, the food doesn’t stick and you can use less oil because on a warm surface the oil is less viscous and coats the pan more easily.
3. Add Salt When Boiling Water and Use Plenty of Water – The water will boil faster and everything from al dente pasta to blanched vegetables will taste better. Get a big pot and avoid trying to stuff too much food into too little water.
4. Don’t Overcook – This is the cooking equivalent of the carpenter’s rule – measure twice, cut once. You can always go back and cook it a little more but you can never undo an overcooked dish.
5. Salt and Pepper Everything – Salt is a seasoning that brings out the flavor of food. Sweets are sweeter, beans are beanier and everything from cucumbers to caviar tastes better thanks to salt. Pepper adds a spicy heat and is better when freshly ground. Once ground, pepper can lose much of its flavor relatively quickly so get a pepper mill and buy the best peppercorns you can afford.
6. Taste Everything in Their Cooking Stages – Get in the habit of tasting as you cook and adding salt, pepper, and other seasonings as you go. You will really learn to appreciate the dimension that different ingredients and seasoning bring to your food. By tasting, you get to know how much is just right and you can tell right away if something is missing. This one tip alone will take your cooking from bland to BAM!
7. Keep Knives Sharp – A sharp knife is safer, keeps vegetables fresher and helps the meat stay juicier. The difference between a sharp knife and a dull knife is really the difference between crushing and cutting. If you are cutting delicate vegetables it quickly becomes obvious when you are using a dull knife. The edges turn brown and mushy. Meat cut with a sharp knife will retain more of its juices and a sharp knife is easier to work with. After a few hundred hours in the kitchen, that’s a big deal.
8. Let Steaks and Roasts Rest before Slicing or Carving – This tip will give you juicier, tenderer meat. When heat is applied to the outside of the steak or roast, moisture is concentrated in the center. By letting the meat rest after removing it from the heat, moisture is able to spread back into the entire piece. The rule of thumb is 3-5 minutes for a steak or chop depending on the thickness and 10-20 minutes for a roast.
9. Use a Big Bowl – This is one of those things that seem obvious after you’ve spent a lot of time in a kitchen. Then you see someone mixing up 4-quarts of cookie dough in a 3-quart bowl and you realize it isn’t obvious at all (this is something that even I forget–you can see this in the video clip below). Remember scooping water out of a pot crammed with pasta to keep it from boiling over? Sure you do. A big bowl or pot takes the same amount of effort to clean and saves you a ton of frustration. Plus think of the time you’re going to save by not having to clean up the overflow.
10. Don’t Scrape the Bottom of a Metal Pot with a Metal Utensil – Some people follow this advice because they are concerned with metal shavings in their food. While I haven’t actually seen that as a problem I have seen cooking surfaces becoming worn from using metal utensils and that’s not good. Worn surfaces can change heat conduction, make it more difficult to flip ingredients without sticking and are just more difficult to clean. If you’re going to invest in some good quality pots and pans (which you should), treat them right with silicon or wooden utensils.
Hopefully reading this gave you a nugget of wisdom to make your next meal tastier and easier. If you had sworn off baking but didn’t know about the dangers of over-mixing before why not give the Banana Andagi a try. Check out the recipe HERE and save my little infographic below: