You’ll pick up nearly everything you need to be a successful chef during your culinary arts program. Yet the world of cooking is so much more vast and complex, with loads of methods that you may only ever hear about while still enrolled in school. Truly adventurous chefs love treading out of their comfort zones, and mastering new techniques that improve their kitchen skills and the dishes they serve. If you’re just such a culinary daredevil, here are a few advanced cooking techniques, devices and ideas you just might find of interest:
Almost every chef is familiar with the griddle. This flat, metal surface generates localized heat, which is perfect for cooking everything from pancakes to grilled cheese. But as you might have already gathered from the name, the anti-griddle instead relies on cool air to create a slew of decadent desserts. The anti-griddle works by generating an extremely cold surface – as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit – which flash freezes the desserts into a semi-solid state. The results are crunchy outer shells covering cool, creamy centers. Most anti-griddles also freeze a number of non-dessert items, including vinaigrettes, purees and even certain cremes. It takes a certain level of skill to use the anti-griddle without ruining your desserts or sauces.
Also referred to as baghar or tadka, this is a cooking method with origins across India and parts of the Middle East. To give dishes a unique flavor, chefs fry spices either in oil or ghee, a clear butter variation. The chaunk is usually added in the very beginning, though some chefs make it the final step. There are a number of spices used in the chaunking process, but most chefs opt for cumin or mustard seeds. Making chaunk is a rather straightforward process, but it is one where timing does matter. The spices should be added to the oil as soon as possible, or else the flavor will be off. To check if the oil is ready, drop two test seeds in; the sooner these seeds pop, the hotter the oil.
Over the last 30 years or so, a new holiday meal trend has emerged: the turducken, or a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. Yet this trend of placing food inside other food, officially called engastration, has existed for several hundred years, all the way back to the Middle Ages. As such, the turducken isn’t the only food hybrid that’s been cooked over the years. Other engastration creations include Pandora’s cushion – a goose stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a quail – and the Tudor Christmas pie, which features chicken goose, pheasants and turkey. Engastration comes down to de-boning each animal, which makes it more pliable, and then using stuffing to replace the structure provided by said bones.
Chefs of all skill levels love smoking meat, as it gives your cuts of beef or pig a nice, especially subtle flavoring. And while many people focus more on the rubs, not enough kitchen gurus pay close attention to the pellicle. This refers to the tough outer layer that forms when you’ve let meat air dry for some time – a week at the very minimum. This shell, as it were, is responsible for protecting the meat from various spoiling agents – bugs, bacteria, etc. – but also for keeping in that smoky flavor once everything has been cooked. The key to the perfect pellicle is hanging the meat on hooks, which ensures every side is exposed to enough air to dry out properly.