Salt Is Everything
1. Salt Is Everything

"Seriously though, chefs use way more salt than the average home cook and they continue to add salt throughout the recipe, tasting it as they go. Here are a few tip videos that I like that help explain some crucial salting techniques: Pre-Salting Chicken - how salting your chicken before doing anything else makes it that much better. Salting While Sauteeing - how to season as you go to end up with a dish with more flavor and more balance. Why Chefs Taste Their Vegetable Water - how adding salt to your pasta or vegetable water makes the end result 100x more tasty. If your curiosity has been piqued, then you should also check out these videos that explain not only how chefs use salt, but why it actually makes food taste better. Sea Salt vs. Kosher Salt - pro tip: sea salt is much saltier than kosher salt, so use it more sparingly. Sweet, Sour, Salt, and Bitter - how salt helps balance dishes to create that umami flavor that all chefs are looking for. Bottom line: if you use more salt you will end up with better tasting, properly balanced food. Just don't use too much." Source

Fresh Is Always Better
2. Fresh Is Always Better

"The one thing every good cook knows deep down in their soul, even though many won't admit it is this: you can use tricks and shortcuts to make decent food out of mediocre ingredients, or mediocre food out of substandard ones. But for truly good food, you need high-quality ingredients, time and meticulous workmanship. Anything else will just be lipstick on a pig." Source

Looks ARE Important
3. Looks ARE Important

"Garnish can completely make or break a dish. I managed front of the house operations for a major dining commons at a major US university for years and observed how large of an impression garnished dishes made on diners first hand. It doesnt matter much how good a dish tastes if it doesn't look good and people are less eager to try it. Simply sprinkling some fresh diced greens or adding some contrasting colors to presentation often primes a diner to perceive the dish as fancier, fresher, and better tasting." Source

A Quick Marinade
4. A Quick Marinade

"I am not a chef, but I've reviewed hundreds of cookbooks for Publishers Weekly and operated a from-scratch bakery with my wife. Here's a tip I picked up from a Chinese cookbook: if you want to impart flavor from a rub or marinade onto a piece of meat quickly, lightly dust it with baking soda. Let the meat sit for about 15 minutes, rinse with water, pat dry and then apply your seasoning. Go about your other prep -- sides, preheating the grill, etc -- then cook your meat when it's ready. The baking soda tenderizes the meat and allows the flavor to penetrate the protein. I've done this on chicken breasts and tougher cuts like flank steak and it works like a charm." Source

Don't Be Afraid of Acid
5. Don't Be Afraid of Acid

"Folks have covered salt -- I learned to add salt until you can taste the flavor of the food evenly over your whole tongue, and then stop! Also, don't be afraid to add acidity. Cooks will rarely send out a dish in a restaurant that doesn't have a substantial hit of acid in it, even in places you might not expect it -- in the spaghetti sauce, and also inside the meatballs; in the salad dressings, of course, but in all the other sauces, too; in the soups and braises that taste so rich and hearty that you don't imagine lemon zest and a hit of lemon juice and vinegar will be in the ingredients list. Acidity tempers sweetness, so that you taste the more complex flavors of ingredients and not just their natural sugars. It also adds brightness to a dish -- the whole thing becomes perkier, and the other flavors step their game up when you add a small hit of lemon or just the right vinegar. In restaurants, we're also using a wider range of vinegars and acids than most home cooks tend to reach for. Maybe we're juicing a yuzu rather than a lemon for that sauce or vinaigrette. Or we know that using a red wine vinegar in a tomato sauce will have a totally different effect than using a balsamic, and we're making those choices carefully. I worked in a bistro that would often use three different vinegars -- like a champagne, a walnut, and a rice wine vinegar -- in a single salad dressing, to get just the right balance of flavor (and food costs!)." Source

6. ALWAYS Taste

"Taste CONSTANTLY!!! After every step in the cooking process you should taste everything that's safe to taste (please don't take a bite out of a raw piece of chicken). Everything won't taste yummy at every point of the process, but you really start to gain a feel for the evolution of seasoning and flavors through the creation of the dish. I taste my pasta water (should be only slightly less salty than sea water). I taste stocks (they should be bland, especially if they're going to be reduced, but I'll take a spoonful and drop a few grains of salt to open up the flavor and get a sense of how it'll taste in the end). I taste bread dough (it's easy to tell if you didn't salt the dough by taste, and a hundred unsalted loaves will look and smell wonderful but will be almost inedibly flat and will only be good for bread crumbs). If I'm doing the classic breading procedure I taste the seasoned flour and the seasoned bread crumbs I use to make sure I won't have bland stuff. One trick for tasting without going through a billion tasting spoons in the course of preparing a bunch of liquid items is to dip your stirring spoon into the liquid and then drip from the stirring spoon into a tasting spoon. If you're the only one tasting you'll only need one tasting spoon." Source

Sauté Your Seasonings
7. Sauté Your Seasonings

"Here's one I learned from watching Chef Paul Prudhome on Public Broadcasting years ago. When making soups, stews or sauces, instead of sprinkling in seasonings after the other ingredients are in the pot, sauté the seasonings in a little oil before you do anything else. This wakes up the flavor in the herbs, and you'll be able to taste the difference. I used to do this when I made chili, and I always got compliments on the flavor." Source

Bring Up Your Sweetness With...
8. Bring Up Your Sweetness With...

"Here's a quite interesting tip for your sweets or deserts, where you use sugar to sweeten the dish. If you are making a sweet dish, add a pinch of salt in the dish, it enhances the sweetness of the dish almost 2x times. Its actually unbelievable but most of the chefs in the star hotels do the same. Be it a pastry, sweet or a cake, just a pinch of salt would enhance the sweetness. Hope it helps." Source

The Maillard Reaction
9. The Maillard Reaction

"Knowing about the Maillard reaction. It's the browning of the meat, the 'caramelising' of onions, the roasting of coffee beans, the brown crusts of bread, which makes the flavor of many foods come alive, bringing out the umami and deliciousness. When you make a casserole, scrape the sticky brown bits on the bottom of the pan that are left after browning the meat when you pour in the liquid and make sure they stay in the pan. Your tastebuds will thank you. Not deglazing should be made illegal!" Source

The Perfect Meat
10. The Perfect Meat

"Some really good answers here, and maybe you'll like this as well. Buy a freezer bag that will also stand high temperatures. These, for example are good to 125 Celsius, 260 Fahrenheit: Freezer & Cooking Bags. If you don't already own a cooking thermometer, buy one. I use a radio grill thermometer: Maverick ET-732 Wireless Barbecue Thermometer mit Funk, deutsche Version. Now take a reasonably large pot, fill it to about three quarters with water, and bring the temperature of the water to 55°C/131°F. Find a setting on your oven so it stays at that temperature. When you're happy you can maintain the water bath at a reasonably constant temperature (within about a degree or two - the more accurate the better), then pop your steaks into your bags, squeeze them really tightly to get as much air out as possible, seal, then drop the bags into the pot. Leave to cook for about two hours. Remove the steaks from the bags. Heat a frying pan very hot, and quickly brown the meat on each side for flavor. Season and serve! This technique, which approximates sous-vide, will give fantastic, flavorful meat. If you enjoy it, then you will want to invest in a vacuumizer (about €200), and maybe even a sous-vide cooker, but this approach lets you experiment before shelling out for a lot of equipment. (I know the answer is a bit long for a simple cooking tip, but if you look at it, all it is is bunging some meat in a bag and letting it warm through for two hours)." Source

The Secret to Dried Herbs
11. The Secret to Dried Herbs

"When using dried herbs -- and none of the ones in your pantry should be more than a year old -- don't just sprinkle them in. CRUSH THEM HARD between your fingers as you add them. This helps release aromatic compounds. Try it sometime; take a pinch of dried oregano and smell it. Now crush it between your thumb and forefinger, and smell it again. It should be much more potent." Source

Mise en Place
12. Mise en Place

"I am not a chef but I have seen them work. The chef is responsible for the business of running the kitchen. He helps plan the menu and he orders the equipment, the food, and the staff so the menu can become real. Chefs think ahead and plan out the cooking process so they reduce wasted time, reduce wasted food, and can get everything served at the right time and the right temperature. The refrigerator is your friend when doing prep for a meal. It is not just a place to put leftovers while you wait for them to slowly rot. You can peel and pare vegetables, thaw meats, chill salads. Many things can be prepared ahead of time so you don't need to interrupt your cooking to take care of them. Mise en place is a wonderful idea. Get some small cups and bowls to measure things into before you start cooking. Measure out all your ingredients and set them in order where you can reach them when you need them. Then you won't end up watching things overcook while you are searching (fumbling in) the cupboards for those spices you thought you still had. Another thing they know about is proper food storage and safe food handling." Source

Invest in High Quality
13. Invest in High Quality

"Some general tips i can give that might improve your final products:
1. Try to learn the difference between bad, average and good quality ingredients (and aim for the best possible)
2. Invest in a few good quality cooking tools: one sharp knife, a cooking pot, a pan, some rings to put food in, a oven, burner, etc. lists can be found on the internet
3. Use different types of textures in a dish to create contrast: soft versus crispy, smooth versus grain, etc
4. Use different types of consistency in a dish to create contrast: wet / dry, hard / soft, cold / hot etc
5. Create exciting combinations of tastes that go well together, but don't seem obvious at first hand: foie gras / chocolate, strawberry / white pepper, fish / meat etc
6. Practice and try to give a lot of attention of cutting everything in the same size: equally sized and shaped squares, chinese diamond, strips, etc
7. Experiment
8. Learn from other cooks / books / internet / enthusiasts"


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