To become a great cook, you have to try out different techniques and combinations of ingredients for yourself. By experimenting, you can create exciting variations on classic recipes and discover your own unique style. Still, whether you’re working toward a culinary arts certificate online or just making dinner for your family, there’s a lot you can learn from professional chefs.
Many of the world’s top cooking professionals have passed along a little kitchen wisdom over the years. By following these pieces of advice, home cooks can step up their game and consistently make better dishes:
1. Prep ahead
“Plan your meals in advance.”
You want the meals you create to be as fresh and delicious as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t do some of the work ahead of time. Planning your meals in advance and readying the ingredients makes it far more practical to cook consistently fantastic dishes on weeknights.
Real Simple pointed out that you can chop vegetables like peppers, broccoli or zucchini up to 12 hours in advance, covering them with a damp paper towel and refrigerating until you’re ready to use them. With a slow cooker, you can prepare items like tender barbecue pork over the course of several hours. By employing a strategic approach, you can save yourself a lot of time while making a variety of great food.
2. Gather all tools and ingredients before you start
One of the most vital lessons every chef learns is the importance of “mise en place,” or laying out everything you’ll need before cooking. Bon Appetit explained that setting every item within reach prior to turning on the heat often averts major problems down the line. Careful planning means you won’t be frantically running around the kitchen trying to find a key ingredient later on, and the process puts you in the proper state of mind to craft truly exceptional dishes.
3. Care for your knives
Knives are among the most important tools you have. With the right blades at the ready, you can quickly and easily accomplish everything from carving a chicken to mincing garlic. That’s why proper maintenance is a must.
Always clean your knives by hand to avoid the possibility of damage in the dishwasher. Regularly sharpen the blades to keep them working at their best. Work atop a quality cutting board or butcher block that’s gentle on your knife.
4. Season during cooking
Adding salt at the end of the cooking process is not enough. To maximize the taste of your dishes, you should add seasoning at multiple steps along the way. According to Epicurious, losing sight of the food’s flavor profile can result in a dish that is tasty on the exterior, but ultimately bland and unsatisfying.
5. Take your food’s temperature
To get the best results, you shouldn’t just rely on your eyes to tell you when food is done cooking. With an instant-read meat thermometer, you’ll know whether a steak is perfectly medium-rare without needing to cut into it. To find out whether the meat is really cooked through, Serious Eats advised looking for the coolest area by pushing the thermometer in near the center and slowly pulling it back out.
6. Consider presentation
You may be cooking at home, but you can still put care into the look of your dishes. Thoughtful plating with attention to textures and colors is often the difference between a good meal and one that people will remember for years to come. Present dinner like a pro by showing off the sear on the meat, arranging vegetables with care and adding tasteful splashes of sauce.
Anyone who loves food will learn a great deal from paying attention to the work of restaurant chefs, and culinary academy training can prepare a talented home cook for a career in making amazing dishes.