Most people enjoy cooking. Some don’t because they don’t have the time, don’t have the proper ingredients or worry that acquiring the right skills to be a good cook won’t be as easy as winning a jackpot at the Slots Play casinos.
In truth, it’s fairly easy to learn to cook. Cooking is mostly a matter of trial and error but it’s helpful to have some help. You don’t have to sign up for an expensive cooking class or hire a mentor to guide you in order to create tasty dishes.
Check out the top cooking tips shared by a group of five-star chefs.
Regardless of whether you’re cooking for your family or a crowd, you need to chop, dice, cut, and carve. The only way to do that is with good knives.
You should have
- A paring knife for small, controlled cuts
- A boning knife that you use to separate meat from a bone
- A chef’s knife for all-around cutting
- A carving knife
- A bread knife
Professional chefs are very careful to use the right knife for the job because each blade is specifically adapted to accomplish a specific culinary task. Knives should be sharpened regularly to allow quick, efficient cutting, slicing, mincing, and julienning.
Even the recipes in the best cookbooks aren’t always suitable for all tastes. Perhaps your family likes things spicier, juicier, better cooked or pared with a different salad. You might notice that a recipe lacks ingredients that you’ve added as an experiment and found to be tasty in that dish or needs to be cooked for a longer or shorter period of time.
It’s not only expert cooks who can make those changes. You can too. But as you make substitutions and alterations in your recipe, you should keep notes. Jot down your ideas in your cookbook or add them to a page that you bookmark in the recipes section of your computer. Not only will those notes help you in the future, but they can be passed down from one generation to the next.
You can pickle just about anything for almost no money. Take a quarter of a cup of white or apple cider vinegar and add some salt and sugar (to taste). Fill up the cup with water and add your vegetables. Stick in the fridge for a few days and …. Voila! Pickles!
You can pickle just about anything – cucumbers, carrots, beans, zucchini, peppers, etc. The crunchier the better but you don’t have to limit yourself to crunchy veggies.
You can jazz up the pickles with pickling spices, garlic, and other tastes but there’s no need. Your family and guests will like the simple pickles too.
Herbs and Spices
Good cooks use herbs and spices liberally when they cook. Don’t be afraid of herbs and spices. Sprinkle them in your dishes liberally. Some suggestions for using herbs and spices:
- Try growing your own. Get a few window pots, research which herbs grow well in your area and plant. You will probably do better, at least at first, if you start with plants, rather than with seeds. Seeds take a long time to sprout and waiting can be a bit frustrating.
- If you’re using fresh herbs, you need about 4x more than you would use if you were using dry herbs
- You don’t want to over-season your dishes with herbs and spices but you don’t want to under-season them either. Start with a minimal amount of seasonings and then add more as you see fit.
- Store fresh herbs in the refrigerator
- If your spices or herbs seem a little on the sleepy side, wake them up by heating them up in a dry pan. A quick stint in a dry skillet over medium heat releases the oils and flavors. Everything tastes fresher and more pungent. Stir the spices/herbs while they’re heating until they smell fragrant and then take them off the fire immediately.
Grains and Legumes
Grains and legumes make great bases for salads. Rice, bulgar, quinoa, lentils red beans…..all of these mix up nicely with almost any vegetable and a nice dressing. Some of these — such as quinoa, a grain-like dish which has so many vitamins and minerals that it’s known as a “superfood” — freeze well so you can make a huge batch and then just pull out small portions as they’re needed.
Dressings are also easy to make. You can go a web search for a dressing that goes well with whatever salad you’re preparing, or just start with some good olive oil and salt and move on from there.
Parchment paper is underrated. It’s cheap, easily accessible, and makes clean-ups easy. You can line your pan with parchment paper when you prepare big first courses, roast vegetables, bake bread or other baked goods, and so on. Each time, after you remove the food into the serving dish, you just pull off the parchment paper and throw it away, leaving you with a quick clean-up job that would have otherwise have kept you busy for a lot of time.
Keep your fruits and vegetables in the fridge to keep them as fresh as possible for as long as possible. The produce should be kept in plastic bags. Don’t refrigerate potatoes, onions, or garlic. They should be kept in a room-temperature environment and should NOT be kept in plastic.
Lettuce should be wrapped in a paper towel in order to keep it as fresh as possible in the fridge.
Onions and Garlic
Often, you can and should add more garlic and onions to a recipe that is called for. The extra onions and garlic add more flavor. When you’re cutting the onions and garlic up, cut up more than you need. You can always freeze them – either raw or after they’ve been sautéed – but you’ll have them if you need them.
Speaking of garlic, you should always have garlic olive oil in your fridge. Pour a jar (coffee glass jar works well) of olive oil and add salt and cloves of garlic. Then, store it in the fridge and you can pour a tablespoon on your salads whenever you need it. When the amount of garlic olive oil gets down to the bottom, take out the cloves of garlic and roast them with the remaining olive oil. Roasted garlic cloves are delicious on bread and mixed in with pasta or other dishes.
Regardless of what you’re serving, you should have some good bread on the side. And nothing goes as well with bread as herbed butter. You can make herbed butter in about 2 minutes and store it in the fridge for weeks. Let the butter soften and mix in chopped herbs – fresh are better but dry can be used in an emergency. Add some lemon juice and butter, blend and you have a great dish for any occasion!
Herbed butter is also a great way to season roasted vegetables, pastas, etc.