Cooking is a skill that improves and develops over time with practice. No one is a fabulous cook from day one. I taught myself a lot through trial and error before I went to culinary school. In the beginning, I had a few successes and a ton of fails. I don’t want you to struggle and get frustrated as I did, so I have some helpful tips for you.
1. Use herbs and spices
There is more to seasoning than salt and pepper. Embrace the power of fresh herbs and dried spices! Herbs and spices are magical and essential for adding flavor and depth to any dish. Using herbs and spices takes your taste buds on a culinary adventure. They can transform plain chicken into an Italian feast or an Indian smorgasbord. Herbs and spices are also a great way to boost the flavor of a dish without adding calories.
2. Mise en place
No, I am not speaking English. Mise en place is a French term used in culinary circles that means “putting in place.” If you hear some fancy foodie say that they got their mise ready, it means that all ingredients have been gathered and prepped for cooking. Potatoes are peeled, onions are cut, rosemary leaves stripped from the sprig—everything is ready to go. If you wait to chop that onion while the skillet is heating up with oil, you will run the risk of smoking the oil. When it comes to cooking, timing is everything, and it’s best to have everything ready and in place before you turn on the stove.
3. Take care of your knives
A sharp knife is everything. There is no tool more important in the kitchen than a good knife. It makes your time in the kitchen easier, more efficient, and, believe it or not, a sharp knife is safer. A dull knife is a dangerous knife, because the force needed to make a dull knife cut makes you more likely to injure yourself than if you used a sharp knife.
There are a few important tips to caring for your knives. First, do not put your knives in the dishwasher. The heat from the dishwasher will dull the knives. Hone before and after every use to keep your edge straight and sharp. Knives bang around if left loose in a drawer, dulling the knives edges. It is best if they are stored in sleeves, in a block or on a magnetic strip. Finally, use only plastic or wood cutting boards. Do not cut on glass or marble! This is guaranteed to dull, chip or break your knife, not to mention the horrible sound it makes. Whenever a knife hits a surface, microscopic burrs form on the metal, causing the edge to dull.
4. Harness the power of acid
Have you ever taken a bite of food and thought to yourself, “That tastes good but it’s a little blah.” Not blah in that it taste bland but blah in the sense that it lacks pizzazz. It’s almost like your food is … lethargic. It’s likely that what it needs is a touch of acid in the form of citrus or vinegar. Adding acid to a dish will instantly brighten it up, giving it life. Acids, especially citrus, are best when added at the end of cooking.
5. Read the recipe
Reading the recipe through is especially important if you’re a new cook. Process and technique matter and to successfully execute a dish, it’s important to know what to expect and not miss a step. There is nothing more frustrating than needing a dish to be ready in 30 minutes and realizing that something has to marinate or cool for an hour. Reading a recipe first all the way through will help you avoid a lot of frustration and make cooking a positive experience.
6. Use a thermometer
Stop cutting your meat to check if it is done! Cutting into proteins when all of the delicious juices are bubbling at the surface will cause the juices to pour out and dry the meat. Invest in a dependable digital thermometer to check the internal temperature.
Salt is a natural flavor enhancer and can pull out amazing flavors from the simplest recipe. If you’re using iodized table salt, consider switching to kosher salt. Kosher salt has a cleaner flavor, and the large flakes make it more difficult to over-salt. Also, salt as you cook, which goes hand in hand with tasting as you go (see below). Salting as you go builds and layers flavor. Do not be afraid of salt—unless you have health concerns, of course.
8. Taste as you go
Flavors change and develop as you cook. For example, something may get saltier as moisture evaporates, or the dish may lose acid the longer it cooks. It’s important to taste as you go so you’ll know if you need more salt, acid or any spice.
9. Temper your protein
Normally, the term tempered is applied to adding something hot to eggs, but it’s also important to do it with your proteins. Before cooking, leave your protein out on the counter for 10–15 minutes to take off some of the chill. Tossing cold protein into a hot skillet causes it to seize, which results in a tough steak or cut of meat. Leaving it out for a bit helps the protein cook more evenly, keeping it tender and juicy.
10. Dry your protein for a good sear
Pat your protein dry with a clean towel or paper towel before adding it to a hot skillet. If a protein is wet when added to a hot skillet, it will steam instead of sear. To get a nice crispy sear, it’s necessary to remove any moisture. Searing protein seals it and helps keep in all of those wonderful tasty juices.
11. Rest your protein
I know you’re hungry but give that protein a minute to rest. It’s been working hard to become delicious. When protein cooks, all of the juices bubble and boil on the inside. If you cut into it right after taking if off the heat, those bubbling juices will pour right out. Give that steak time to rest so the juices calm down and redistribute into the protein.
12. Toast nuts
When I sit down to write a recipe, I think about not only flavor but texture. When I am looking to add some texture to a recipe, especially fall recipes, I love to use nuts. They are an easy way to add texture and complexity of flavor. However, nuts can get pricey, so it’s important to get the most out of them. Toasting nuts makes them nuttier, amplifies their natural flavor, and makes them crunchy.
13.Shred your cheese
To save time, we are all tempted to grab that bag of shredded cheese. But pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt like cheese shredded straight off the block. Packaged shredded cheese is coated with a light starch to keep it from clumping. That starch messes with the meltability of the cheese and dulls the flavor. Taking the extra time to shred cheese yourself will guarantee better melting and flavor.
From thepioneerwoman.com by Meseidy