Simple Kitchen Tips Served Up By Professional ChefsBy Liezel L
Most of the time, as long as people can cook up something edible, they usually think they’re doing well in the kitchen. After all, that is the only important thing, right? That may be true until the real experts, those who have been perfecting and spending extensive hours of their days in the kitchen, chime in. Because while we may be able to use our kitchens every day and whip up decent meals, that doesn’t mean we’re doing everything correctly or efficiently.
The best way to correct mistakes both big and small is to learn from people with knowledge and experience. Without further ado, here are some of the most common cooking mistakes you might be doing and how to correct them.
Follow The Recipe To The Tee For The Perfect Desserts
In the kitchen, there will always be happy mistakes that might even lead you to your very own original recipe. But with desserts, it’s best not to take any chances, especially if you are not completely sure what you’re doing.
As they say, baking is a science. You can’t just cut corners or improvise, and a slight change in measurements or ingredients can turn dessert heaven into a dessert disaster. So while a bit of spontaneity is good, you better ditch it when making desserts.
Follow The Order
Some recipes simply call for you to gather your ingredients, chop them up, and throw them all in a pan, not unlike making a salad. Yet some recipes are listed with ingredients in a specific order, which it’s best to follow.
Sure, just throwing everything together can work for some dishes, however, for some, it’s the deal breaker. This is especially so in baking. Following the order stated in the recipe, while sometimes tiresome, can get you the best results that are so worth the tedium.
Avoid Cooking When You’re Hungry
“But isn’t that the purpose of cooking,” you might ask. Yes, we cook to alleviate our hunger but it’s still best not to immediately head into the kitchen when our stomach’s rumbling. That’s because when you’re hungry, it becomes easier to cut corners, leading to cooking mistakes or less optimal results.
It’s very much like going to the grocery store without a list. You end up wandering the store for some time, mesmerized by certain foods, forgetting what you actually need, and ending up with weird cravings that you might regret. So, snack first, then cook your meal.
Spend As Much Time In The Kitchen As Possible
People usually think that, to become a good cook, you need to go to some fancy culinary school or be mentored by someone who really knows how to cook. And while those may help, the key to becoming a really good chef is to just keep cooking.
While there may be blogs and cooking shows to teach you techniques or stellar recipes, nothing beats the experience you get from working in the kitchen on your own. Build your confidence there, get to know your food, be creative, and you’ll see results.
Learn To Stop Seasoning
Salt is not your only friend on the spice rack. There are a variety of spices out there that can enhance each dish considerably. And discovering what each spice has to offer is one of the most fun things about learning how to make great food.
Just remember: don’t go too crazy, especially when you discover a new spice. There might a temptation to just throw a dash of everything into the pot, but you must resist it! Experiment with the spices, yes, but don’t overpower the good taste you might already have achieved.
Don’t Put Too Many Ingredients In One Pan
Sometimes, when you don’t have a particular dish planned, you might just stare at the contents of your fridge until you piece together what might work. You prep it all and think you got the best meal on the way, until you discover that you’ve overloaded your pan.
An overloaded pan means that all ingredients aren’t cooked evenly. So, if you have too many ingredients for your dish, it’s best to cook them separately or in groups and combine them at the end. That way, they all cook properly and you get all the best tastes out of each of them.
Use The Scale
You might think that using a scale limits your creativity or makes cooking more strict and less fun, but that’s not the case at all. Using a scale will help you make notes of what went well and what needs to be improved for future recipes.
That way, you have measurements you can always refer to if you’re repeating a recipe, making a bigger batch of it, or sharing it with your loved ones. Of course, you don’t have to use it with every single meal you cook, but you should use it when you can.
Enhance Your Dish’s Flavor With A Bit Of Acidity
More often than not, people think that salt will save the day. When a dish seems to be missing something, if it seems flavorless, or if the taste isn’t to their liking, they throw in salt. But salt is not your only solution.
If you’ve already added in your salt and your food still seems to be missing something, try adding a dash of citrus or vinegar. That will enhance the flavors you already have in there and give you what you’re looking for.
Don’t Skip Preheating
Recipes always mention preheating your oven. Even when they do, many people only take it as a suggestion rather than an actual requirement, meanwhile, others innocently forget. And it can be one of the biggest reasons why your food didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.
Ovens need time to start working properly. So, if you heat it up and put in your food the second it hits the temperature, food in the oven for 30 minutes comes out as if you’d cooked it for 20. So give your oven that much-needed extra time to work properly before popping your food in.
Stop Drowning Your Ramen
Ramen is one of the ultimate comfort foods. It’s cheap, warm, and easy to make. The simplest version, instant ramen, takes only a few steps. You just fill up the instant ramen cup with water up to the line in the cup. So how can people screw this up?
Sometimes, people want to get a little bit fancier with their ramen so they opt to cook it on their stove. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, they tend to add too much water and drown their ramen. At that point, it’s just salty water instead of flavorsome broth.
Dull Knives Are Scarier Than Sharp Knives
The sharper the knife, the more dangerous it is, right? While that might be accurate in daily life, that’s the opposite of true in the kitchen. When it comes to cooking, a dull knife is more terrifying. That’s because they make it harder to work and cut smoothly which can cause more injuries.
Just think of cutting up tomatoes. Sharp knives make it go so easy while dull knives make a huge mess out of the tomatoes and can even slip on you. So, to make your cooking journey easier, always sharpen your knives.
Don’t Put Your Icing On Too Early
Icing is clearly the best part of baking. Making it, coloring it, smearing it, licking it — oh, there’s just so much fun to be had with it. That’s probably why people use the term “icing on the cake.” But you only get the best of it if you wait.
Sometimes, people can get too excited with the icing part of baking that they spread their icing on the cake right out of the oven. Sadly, if you don’t let your cake cool off first, your icing will just melt off and nobody wants an icing puddle.
What’s Done Is Done
In movies, you might have seen chefs just throwing away food that their customers didn’t want and no, that’s not just for the film effect. According to chefs, that’s the best way to go with ruined meals — as sad as it seems.
Also, if a meal is ruined, it’s ruined. You might be tempted to keep adding things to it to repair it but nothing can be done. If it doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to, just leave it alone, move on, learn, and do better next time.
Stop Pressing Down Your Burger Patties
You may have seen a lot of people pressing down their burger patties when cooking them but have you ever seen Gordon Ramsay do it in any of his shows? No. That’s because there’s absolutely no reason to do that.
Sure, it might cook the burger patty faster, but pressing down the patty pushes out all the juices and flavor leaving you with a bland, dry patty. Just leave it be, give it some time, and let it cook all meaty and juicy.
Follow Expiration Dates
Expiration dates are there for a reason. And if a food is expired, please stop clinging to it just because it looks fine. While they might look okay, their components might not be and will ruin a perfectly good meal.
Using expired ingredients can make your entire dish rotten or bland and might even cause tummy aches later on. So always keep checking the expiration date of your foods and use up those that are nearing their due dates to help avoid wastage.
Keep Tasting As You Cook
You might follow your recipe book up to the very decimal of measurements and still, your food won’t taste as you expected it to. That may be because you weren’t tasting it as you prepared your food, which is very important in cooking.
You can just throw everything in there, satisfied that you followed every measurement and hope for the best. For the best results, use the recipe as a reference, use your tastebuds as a guide, and season accordingly. That’s how you get the best flavors for your palate.
Be Open To Improvisation
Some recipes, especially baking recipes, require a very specific way of cooking for the best results. However, there are also many recipes out there that are meant to be played with. And that’s where you should welcome improvisation with open arms.
Many incredible, mouth-watering meals have been created because a cook improvised and changed things as they went. So if a recipe allows for this, think outside the box and you will be rewarded with a delicious new meal that’s completely your own creation.
Remember The Rules Of Stirring
When we learned that too much stirring can actually ruin our food, many of us started becoming wary of stirring. However, stirring is still an important part of cooking. It just has to be done purposefully for the best results.
Only stir your food for these reasons: to thin out or thicken the liquid of your food, to combine your food better, and to even out the temperature in your dish. That’s it. Remember these the next time you get confused if you should stir or not.
Heat Up Your Pan
Much like your oven, your pans also need time to prepare and heat up before you get the temperature your recipe calls for. And most of the time, people ignore this rule with pans, thinking the fire would quickly heat it up anyway. But that’s not the case.
For instance, if you need to cook on medium heat and you place your food on the pan right after putting it on the stove, that’s not really cooking on medium heat. So if you want your food to cook right, make sure your pan is at the right temperature first.
Patience Makes The Best Dishes
When you start smelling all that baked goodness or that savory scent of your meats simmering in their juices, you might just want to pull them out of the oven and just shove them in your face. But please, don’t do that.
It’s not just for safety reasons, of course, but opening your oven even just for a little sniff can let out all those good fumes and leave your food undercooked. Of course, you still need to check your food ocassionally, but limit it to only once in a while.
Do The Dishes While Cooking
Many great cooks will say that the chore they hate the most is washing the dishes and we completely understand that. After devouring all that good food, who wants to face a mountain of work in the sink? Certainly not us.
The best remedy to this is to do the dishes while cooking. Unless you’re preparing an entire feast, there will surely be downtime while cooking your food. So use that time wisely to avoid the headache when you should just be chilling and letting all that settle food down.
Canned Mushrooms Aren’t Worth It
A lot of foods, like beans and corn, are also sold in canned forms, easily available for our convenience. They save us a lot of hassle and still give us the same delicious taste. With canned mushrooms, however, it’s just not the case.
Mushrooms are amazing when bought and prepared fresh. They’re also versatile and can be put in many dishes. However, canning them strips them of almost every good thing about them. Using canned mushrooms would just be an injustice to your dish and yourself.
Use A Thermometer For Your Meats
Cooking meat to perfection seems like a magic trick only the best cooks know how to do, but you can also do it with just one simple appliance: a meat thermometer. This will help strip all the confusion and doubt away.
You just have to stick your thermometer into your meat and check to see if it’s in the desired temperature for the way you want your meat to be. No guessing, no cutting off pieces, and you’ll get good meat.
Take Care Not To Over-Mix Or Under-Mix
Mixing is the easiest thing to do in the kitchen but it’s not the most straightforward. Why? Because of the tendency to over-mix or under-mix. Some recipes call for a certain consistency in their mixtures and they don’t come just as recommendations.
Under-mixing or over-mixing a batter might be harmless at first, but it can ruin the whole thing once it’s cooked. Read the recipe carefully and only mix up to the mentioned consistency. Also, be careful to follow the recipe if it says fold, stir, or the like.
Slow Down The Chopping
Watching cooks on TV shows chop so fast without slicing off a finger might make you want to imitate them and speed up your chopping, but rushing it will only lead to accidents. It’s a skill they took years to master and it should be the same for you.
Much like everything else in the kitchen, mastering skills like chopping like a seasoned chef will take some time and plenty of practice. You won’t just get it by forcing it. So start from the basics and keep working up to upgrade your cooking techniques.
One Flip Is Enough
Cooking any kind of meat is a delicate art that could only be learned through time and plenty of practice. Take cooking patties, for example. You might be tempted to keep flipping them on the grill to ensure both sides are evenly cooked, but that’s not the trick for a perfect burger.
Too much flipping actually causes your meat to be unevenly cooked. If you want it to be perfect, flipping it once will do. Of course, this will require some experience in cooking patties, but the practice and patience will pay off.
Salt Needs Balance
Salt is one of the easiest seasonings to use but getting just the right amount of it is not so easy to do. One dash too much or one pinch less can greatly affect the taste of your dish. And technically, there’s no easy solution to it.
The key is to always experiment and taste while you cook. It’s also great to start with a small base and then just keep adding as you go if the dish needs more. With that, just keep practicing with your dishes until you get the right balance for each one.
Low Heat Is The Key For Eggs
When it comes to the perfect eggs, whether that’s scrambled or cooked sunny side up, low and steady wins the race. Unlike other dishes that might require the pan to be smoldering hot, eggs are a little more sensitive and can burn easily.
Cooking them at a low heat would not only bring out the best aesthetics but also the best tastes. Only when you’ve mastered cooking eggs perfectly this way can you say that you’ve mastered some kitchen basics and are ready to move to the next level.
When you watch cooking shows or competitions, you often see contestants setting their meat aside for a few minutes before actually cutting into it. And you might be wondering why they’re wasting all that warmth on the meat but there’s actually a pretty good reason for it.
Letting your meat rest allows it to fully absorb all the juices that have come out of it while cooking so when you cut into it, it retains its moisture and juiciness. That’s how you can get those irresistible bites of perfect meat.
Make Sure Your Cookie Dough Is Cool Before Baking
There are a lot of factors that go into making the perfect cookie and one of the most important ones is making sure that your cookie dough is cold before sticking them in the oven. But why? Wouldn’t that interfere with their cooking? No.
Cooling your cookie dough would actually make richer and chewier cookies that brown better and spread less. So, if the recipe calls for you to put your cookie dough, especially homemade ones, in the fridge for 30 minutes, you should follow the instructions.
Safety First No Matter What
No amazing mouthwatering dish will matter if you end up injuring yourself while cooking it. You might enjoy the taste, but you’ll still be in trouble. That’s why kitchen safety precautions should never be taken for granted even if you think you’re completely safe.
A simple mistake can lead to cuts and small injuries, but in more serious cases, it can lead to a big disaster. So take the extra time to make sure that everything is safe and always be mindful when you’re working in your kitchen.
Stop Cooking Cold Meat
Usually, in our rush to prepare our meals, we just grab our meats from the fridge, chop them up, and throw them in a pan. But did you know that that’s not the way you should do it? Because doing that is actually the reason why our meat ends up dry and tasteless.
You see, when the cold meat suddenly meets the hot pan, all the juices flow out which means the meat loses taste. In addition to that, the meat might not get cooked through. So always wait for your meat to reach room temperature before cooking it.
Don’t Store Your Tomatoes In The Fridge
Each vegetable has a method for keeping them nice and fresh for longer. And for tomatoes, that method is not storing them in the fridge although, that is likely what most of you might have probably been doing for a long time now.
Tomatoes actually have an enzyme that causes their cell membranes to break down in cold temperatures, leaving you with yucky mushy tomatoes. This also zaps their flavor away so if you want crisper tomatoes for longer, store them at room temperature.
Make The Microwave Your Friend
Many people look down on the microwave because they feel it’s only for the people who only get takeout or ready-made meals. But in reality, the microwave is actually helpful and can even help make your cooking easier — if you know how to use it properly.
While you can’t use it for everything, there are particular recipes that call for it. You can also use it to heat up or melt ingredients quickly. So don’t throw it out just yet once you’ve got a little better with cooking. Use it to your advantage.
Sift Your Ingredients
“Who’s got time for sifting,” you might say. You can just fluff up your dry ingredients with a fork or a mixer anyway and it’ll be just the same, right? Nope. That’s completely wrong. Sifting is actually a very important step that you shouldn’t skip.
If you’re partial to the lumpy or chunky dough, then go ahead and skip the sifter. If you want your mixture to be smooth and evenly mixed though, you’ll grab that sifter every time. It’ll just take a second that you’ll be thankful for.