Recipe for Success: 5 Basic Cooking Skills Everyone Should Know
Throughout my culinary career path I have always enjoyed learning a new tip or trick to help me along in the kitchen. Today, there are millions of videos and websites dedicated to exposing the secrets a chef will use in their fast-paced cooking headquarters. While there are a plethora of tips out there to help you out in the kitchen, I think nailing down these top 5 are all you will need to succeed in making tonight’s dinner.
Tip #1: Invest in a good set of pots and pans
It’s my number one tip on this list because it truly is a staple I will say to anyone who wants to learn how to cook. If you invest in a good quality set of cookware, you will save yourself years of tossing out cheap pans, burning endless dinners, and also from burning yourself when you go to grip those cheap plastic handles. Always look for cookware that ensures outstanding heat conductivity, is durable, and is within your price range. Spending a bit more money on a cast-iron pot is well more valuable than spending way less on an aluminum pot. Just make sure that you properly maintain your cookware by following the cleaning instructions and never put them into your dishwasher. You’ll end up keeping your cookware for a lifetime and even a lifetime after that.
Tip #2: Learn how to use your knives properly
I used to teach a knife skills class when I was working as an assistant chef at this home cooking school. I would soon learn that not one person who signed up for these classes would even know how to hold the knife correctly. I was almost afraid for the safety of these individuals who thought they were masters in the kitchen, but would end up hurting themselves without proper guidance. I highly suggest watching a tip video on knife skills or even attending a knife skills class (which is usually taught at your local cooking school for a reasonable price). You will not only learn how to handle the knife, but how to make the most use of an ingredient when it comes to chopping, dicing, or slicing.
Tip #3: Organize your recipe first
In the kitchen we call it ‘Mise en place’ which translates in French to ‘put in its place’. When you gather and measure out your ingredients prior to beginning a recipe, you set yourself up for success in the kitchen. It’s a simple task and you will be amazed at how smooth your cooking experience will flow once you have everything alongside you as you make dinner tonight. When you have chaos in your kitchen from not being prepared, you will have a dinner that will follow suit. Moral of the story….organize your recipe ingredients.
Tip #4: Spices and Seasonings
I’m sure you have a cabinet full of spices and seasonings you haven’t even touched in ages, yet you’ve used them for a dash of flavor here and there right? Well first off, toss out any spices or seasonings that have not been used in a year. Smell for freshness in any others you might be curious about and purchase the basics but use fresh herbs in dishes wherever you can. Having a couple staples like paprika, a good quality sea salt, and cumin are my top three that I always have fresh and on hand. I would rather draw flavor from a fresh bunch of parsley over some dried out, heavily processed little jar that sits in the dark for who knows how long. If you really do love your spice cabinet and can’t live without dried dill, then might I suggest at least buying those spices organic so they are not sprayed with pesticides.
Tip #5: Take meat out of the fridge
When getting ready to throw some steaks on the grill or a chicken into the oven, we tend to take it out of the refrigerator and toss it right on the fire. Big mistake. You should always leave proteins out at room temperature for one hour so the meat has had time to rest. I know you hear about resting the meat after it’s been cooked, but you should do it prior as well as this will ensure the most crispy and seared meats around. Here’s a quick example…when you take a piece of steak and immediately sear it in a hot pan it will turn grey. Now if you let the meat rest first, it will have a golden brown crust which yields a tender and juicy steak.
Kari Karch is a 19-year veteran of the culinary industry, creator of Kiss the Cook, and the head chef and spokesperson for the Kenmore brand. She has made many notable appearances on ABC Morning News, on WGN, on the Cooking Channel and as a judge for the World Food Championships.