Learning how to cook can be daunting to someone who’s never exactly been skilled with a skillet or knowledgeable about knives. But no matter what level you start out at, mastering the culinary arts can be incredibly empowering – now you have total control over your meals and are poised to wow your friends and family.
Culinary school will teach you all about how different flavors meld together and what properties different fats will give a dish. But it’s not all fancy lessons that make you a better cook. There are some simple techniques and tactics you can adopt to take your cooking skills to the next level.
Have you ever seen someone dice an onion in under 30 seconds? Impressive, isn’t it?
Don’t worry, though. Those aren’t the knife skills you need to become a stellar chef. Actually, the best thing you can teach yourself is how to cut vegetables, fruits and meat into the same size and shape, The Kitchn explained.
Uniformly diced or chopped food will cook evenly. Conversely, if you cut your potatoes into radically different sizes, for example, some pieces may come out burned while others might not get enough time on the heat to cook thoroughly.
Diving into a new recipe can be fun and exciting. But don’t start blind. Read through the whole recipe before you begin; Do you have all the ingredients (or at least a decent substitute)? Just as importantly, do you have enough of all the ingredients? No one wants to make a grocery store run in the middle of a recipe.
Reading the recipe ahead of time will also tell you whether you’re supposed to split up certain ingredients. You wouldn’t want to dump all your flour in at once if you’re supposed to save some for later in the recipe. Also, this gives you a chance to plan ahead and measure everything out. For example, if you’re making chili, measuring all your spices and setting them aside in a small container makes them easier to add later on.
Replace the water
Liquid is an essential ingredient in many recipes, but all too often people assume water is the way to go. Water doesn’t taste like anything, though. Instead, choose something with more flavor. Next time you’re cooking pasta or rice, steaming vegetables or making soup, skip the water and try broth, stock or wine instead, The Spruce suggested.
Know your salts and acids
Your final dish shouldn’t taste salty, but a hint of salt is generally a good idea to include in most dishes. Even though your options might look alike, which type of salt you choose makes a difference. Reach for the sea salt or kosher salt before you go for table salt; these have a much cleaner, more palatable taste, Fine Cooking explained.
Don’t be afraid to salt to your own taste and go off-recipe a little bit here. Everyone’s preference is different, and when a recipe calls for a specific amount of salt, it’s usually more of a guideline. The exception here is when you’re baking. Here, salt plays a very specific role, and it’s important to measure out.
If, once you’ve added all the salt you desire, your dish still tastes like it’s missing something but you can’t quite place your finger on it, it’s probably acid. Toss in a splash of lemon juice, plain white vinegar or wine. This will liven up your flavor and brighten up your veggies.
Cooking can be fun, but it’s even better when you know the little tips that professional chefs use to make amazing dishes. Uniform cuts, fun flavors and a little bit of salt and acid can go a long way.