Cooking is a fine (and tasty!) skill that takes practice to master. Some things are only achievable after making a dish a few times while other things might not be as evident. These tips and tricks will help elevate your cooking game to transform you from an ordinary chef into a culinary master.
Finish Pasta In The Pan
To really help the flavors meld, cook pasta and sauce separately like normal, and just before pasta is al dente add a splash of your salted pasta water to your sauce pan and cook for a few minutes. Bonus tip: right after draining pasta, but before adding to the sauce, grate fresh parmesan cheese on top. This will help the sauce stick to the pasta and will give it added yumminess.
Cut Onions Tear Free
The most important tip for keeping your eyes dry is to make sure you have a SHARP knife. A dull one will place more pressure on the onion causing it to release more juice, and thus more chemicals to make you tear up. Another suggestion is placing the onion in the freezer for about 15 minutes before cutting.
Clean Your Cast Iron Pans With Salt
Cast iron pans are a staple in the kitchen but can be tricky to clean. Soap will break down the precious layer of seasoning and make your pan rusty. Using salt instead is a fast and easy way to absorb the excess oils and help dry out any stuck-on pieces for easy removal.
Microplane For More Than Fruit Zest
This cheap and handy tool is perfect for quickly and easily grating garlic instead of painstakingly mincing by hand. It also works great for ingredients such as ginger, hard cheese, and whole nutmeg.
Fish Spatula Isn’t Just For Fish
The light, bendable metal that is perfect for carefully turning a filet of fish works wonders with other delicate foods. Use this tool to help flip the perfect omelet or pancake, remove a fried egg, or slip those gooey cookies off the baking sheet.
Add The Perfect Amount Of Salt
Salt is a staple mineral in practically any dish. Even sweet cookies have salt added to them. Although the exact amount to add is dictated by personal preference, a good rule of thumb is to add salt gradually and regularly. Adding it little by little helps to ensure you won't over-salt the dish. Also, adding it at different steps will enhance the cooking process and allow flavors to meld. Always remember: the more fat a dish has, the more salt you will need to add to really bring out maximum flavor.
Balance The Acidity
Just as keeping the right amount of salt in a dish is crucial to flavor, so is keeping a good balance of acidity. Something as simple as adding a splash of lemon juice to sautéed veggies or a dash of vinegar to soups can make a world of difference in keeping things tasting fresh and bright.
Fix An Over-Salted Dish
There is nothing worse than realizing you have accidentally over-salted a dish. The only real solution is to add more of everything else. Adding more starch or veggies can help absorb the excess sodium. You can also try adding a little bit of sugar or acid to counteract the salt.
Another Handy Use For Salt
Fresh herbs add so much to a dish but can be a mess when trying to chop them. To help keep the small pieces from flying all over your kitchen, simply sprinkle your cutting board with a little bit of salt to keep everything neat and tidy.
Easy Weeknight Meals
Next time you make sauce for a dish, double the batch then freeze leftover sauces in ice cube trays. When you're in a hurry for sauce, you can quickly reheat the exact amount you need in a sauté pan. This is perfect whether you want a fast meal for one or are cooking for a group.
Give It A Rest
Don't immediately cut into your meat after cooking, it is important to let it rest. While cooking, juice is drawn towards the center of the meat and if you cut in right away all that juice (and flavor) will immediately flood out. Instead, let the meat rest (around 5 minutes for steak and chops, and 10-20 for a roast) to let that juice redistribute itself and lock in the flavor.
Rinse Your Fresh Onions
If you want to take the edge off raw onions in your salads or atop your burgers simply soaking them in cold water will help take away some of the bite. If you're making fresh salsa or guacamole it is imperative that your rinse them in running cold water and blotting dry before adding to the dish. If you skip this step the onions will start to release a sulfurous gas that will completely ruin the dip.
Don’t Crowd It Up
Whether you're roasting veggies in the oven or searing meat on the stove, the most important rule is not to overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding will not allow for proper cooking and you won't get your desired texture.
Quickly Caramelize Onions
To quickly caramelize onions, add a little sugar to a dry skillet, cook until deep golden brown, add your onions with a pinch of baking soda (no more than 1/4 tsp per pound of chopped onions), and cook over medium-high heat, adding just a tablespoon or two of water anytime it looks like it's about to burn. You will have perfectly caramelized onions in no time.
Perfectly Pan Sear Steak
To get the most flavor out of the meat, hold with tongs and cook on its side first to render the fat into the pan to cook. Then you will have the perfect base to deliciously cook the rest of the steak in.
Perfectly Smoked Meats
Turn your grill into a smoker by placing wood chips into a foil, folding it into a pouch, and cutting a few holes! You can easily add that rich, smoky flavor to your favorite grilled meats.
Easily Cut Hard Squashes
Having trouble cutting through those giant (and delicious) squashes? Take a butcher's knife and, using a small mallet, pound the knife through the squash to get the perfect cut.
Milk The Corn On The Cob
When cutting corn off the cob don't forget the best part! Either use the back (dull) side of the knife or gently use the front (sharp) side to scrape down the cob after you have cut off the corn to release the sweet milk that will amp up the flavor whether you're eating the corn by itself or you're adding it into dishes.
Hone In Those Knives
Sharp knifes are one of the most important tools in the kitchen and it's a good idea to have them sharpened once or twice a year. Most people forget that they need to be honed before each use to remove microscopic dents that can throw your knife out of alignment. A straight knife is a happy knife!
Salt Your Salads
Salt is one of the most necessary ingredients to enhance flavor, so one dish you should be thinking about salting that you probably aren't is your salad! Adding this key mineral will add more texture and really help your dressing pop.
Check Those Seasonings
Seasonings are the difference between a bland dish and an amazing dish. We all have our staples that we use in practically every dish, yet we also all have that jar of seasoning we bought for one recipe and has been sitting in the cabinet for ages. Seasonings have a shelf life too, and if you can't really smell the spice anymore, chances are you won't be able to taste it either. As a general rule of thumb whole spices last about four years, ground spices about three years and dried herbs for about one to two years.
Taste Test Your Meatloaf/Meatballs
It's a no brainer than you need to taste your food along the way to make sure that everything is seasoned properly, yet for some foods, i.e. meatloaf/meatballs, this is a little more difficult to do. To ensure you have properly seasoned these foods simply roll a small amount of mixture together and quickly cook in a skillet or even faster in the microwave and adjust your seasoning as needed.
Perfectly Caramelize Veggies In The Oven
Turn your oven into an industrial oven to perfectly caramelize veggies with this simple trick. Heat up your oven as hot as it will go, place a roasting or sheet pan inside for 10 to 15 minutes, then add your veggies that are coated with oil, salt and pepper to the pan. This method provides the high heat necessary to caramelize the sugars in the vegetables quickly.