- I've been a chef for years and picked up some tips in culinary school that home cooks could use.
- Use a damp towel to keep your cutting board in place and prep ingredients ahead of time.
- Some dishes need butter while others could benefit from an acidic touch, like vinegar or lemon.
I've been a chef for 15 years, and even though professional kitchens aren't for everyone, there are tips and tricks I learned in culinary school that often come in handy.
Here are some of the most helpful tips to take your at-home cooking game to the next level:
Use a damp napkin or towel to keep your cutting board in place
If you're tired of your cutting board moving around, place a damp paper or dish towel underneath it for a stable work surface.
It doesn't matter if the board is wood or plastic, this trick will keep it in place.
Prep everything that you can in advance
The more you prep, the more you can sit back and relax when it's time to actually cook.
If you're having people over for brunch, crack all of your eggs in a container with a tight-fitting lid, mix them up, and keep them in a very cold fridge. Most restaurants strain scrambled eggs the day before, then pour out individual portions to cook.
Also, scallions and greens can be washed, sliced, and wrapped in paper towels or kept in an ice bath until used.
Keep your knives sharp
A sharp knife is a safe and effective tool, but dull ones can slip off food and cause all sorts of unintended injuries.
There are tools you can buy to sharpen your knives at home.
Salt each component of your dish
If the parts taste great, the whole will too.
Make sure to salt each individual component of your dish and not just the finished product.
Use water to thin sauces or soups
If your sauce is too dry or soup is too thick, you don't need run to the store for more stock or broth — simply turn on the tap.
Most restaurants thin dishes with water. If they can do it, so can you.
Just make sure to add a little bit at a time since you can always put more but you can't take it away.
Be mindful about which oils and fats you choose to cook with
Not all fats are created equal. Butter and olive oil burn at high temperatures, so use avocado or grapeseed oil for sautéing.
If you want to use butter, you can clarify it — or remove the milk solids by melting and pouring off the liquid — to keep the flavor high and the risk of burning low.
Don't wait to boil your pasta water
When making pasta, get that large pot of water filled up and on the stove first thing.
Everything else can be done while the water boils.
Add butter to dishes like risotto at the end
Butter is the secret to a rich risotto, since the ingredient tones down acidity, adds creaminess, and generally makes things taste really good.
Following the beurre monté technique, add a pat of cold butter to a saucepan and swish it around until the mixture is thick and emulsified.
To make the most of the fat, add it to your meal at the end.
On the other hand, some meals may need an acidic touch
If your sauce is boring, acid may be the fix.
Whether it's lemon juice or vinegar, just a splash can make all the difference.
Don't overmix your batters
For the fluffiest pancakes and lightest cakes, mix up all of the ingredients until they're just combined.
Don't worry about leftover lumps. They'll absorb and hydrate into the batter as it cooks, making those light-as-air baked goods a reality.
Let meat and fish rest at room temperature before cooking it
Pull meat and fish out of the fridge approximately 30 minutes before cooking to temper it, which will allow it to cook more evenly.
Also rest your meat on a paper towel, which will absorb surface moisture and encourage an evenly browned and cooked finished product.
Make sure you're properly using your oven's racks and settings
You shouldn't cook everything in your oven the same way.
Roast veggies at high heat on the bottom rack for the most browning, and finish dishes under the broiler for a crispy, melted look.
For baking, you should cook everything in the middle so the heat is evenly distributed from top to bottom.