We asked our regular contributors through e-mail What are some cooking tips everyone should know? We got many interesting responses. Here are some of them. We have just copied and pasted their responses, not editing them in any way.
1. The amount of garlic flavor is dependent on WHEN you add the garlic. Add it early for light flavor, add it late for bold flavor.
2. Oven mits can in fact catch on fire.
3. Learn basic cutting techniques for cutting vegetables.
Keep it simple. The number of ingredients doesn’t say anything about the taste of a dish. Go for dishes you can make in 30 to 40 minutes with 6 to 8 ingredients.
Keep a notebook. Gather a list of recipes and dishes you do regularly. Expand gradually with new stuff. Don’t just buy cookbooks you never really use.
Adding is easy, removing is hard. People here argue to liberally add butter and seasoning. Tastes differ, though. It’s totally fine to put in less if that’s what you fancy.
You don’t need a gazillion utensils. In your daily cooking, a basic kitchen knife already does a lot of the heavy lifting. Learn to use that properly.
Observe. How do ingredients act when you combine them? What happens when you put them in a pan or pot and apply heat?
Always be cleaning. Do you have idle time? Clean the sink.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes. Also, don’t pretend you know better than the recipe. Especially if you never made a recipe before.
4. Two things for beginners:
First, taste as you cook. At various stages of cooking, while safe (not raw meat) taste your food as you cook it. This lets you know if you have too much of something or too little. It also helps you develop your palette for what different seasonings do.
Second, if you’re just starting out and don’t know which spices to buy. Pick a specific cuisine you like. Are you a fan of Italian food? Focus only on Italian recipes for a while. Most use similar herbs and spices because the cuisine of the area used what they had available to them.
This will let you learn several recipes without having to buy massive amounts of spices to make it work. Eventually, you will build up a good stock and be set to handle it.
5. If you plan on using juice from limes, oranges or lemons, roll them around pushing on them (not too hard) before cutting them.
6. Sharp knives are less dangerous than dull knives.
7. Salt is seasoning. It makes food taste more like itself. Acids, like citrus or vinegar, can also do this. If your food tastes flat, or like it is missing something, try some salt or acid. Acid is also critical for balancing very rich fatty foods. The reason Americans love tomato ketchup so much is the fact that it adds acid and salt to their food. Adding a bit of “heat” like a pinch of cayenne can also accentuate the flavor of a dish. Spices are something else. They bring a new and different flavor to the dish.
In sweets, sugar often takes the place of salt and is usually balanced by acid – see passionfruit, raspberry, citrus, etc. But salt plays an important role in sweets as well – often in unexpected ways. Try putting a pinch of kosher salt into your next batch of whipped cream.
If you can master these concepts you will have a big advantage over most home cooks.
8. A falling knife has no handle.
9. Three or four times the amount of butter and salt is a big part of why your food doesn’t taste like restaurant food.
10. Your pan does not need to be on maximum heat.
You have to cook meat to a specific internal temperature to kill bacteria, anything more is just trying it out (generalized).
Lemon zest and garlic with a cream sauce makes anything delicious.
Wash your hands, tools, and area after dealing with raw meats. Watch the water splatter from the sink when washing aswell.
When a recipe calls for you to let something ‘sit’ or ‘rest’, do not rush this step. Good things happen to the food in that time.
Sifting flour, when adding it to baking recipes, can improve the results.
Test your yeast before commiting to using it.
When cooking for a group, season lightly, and use hot spices sparringly; they can both be done after its served.
Puree or fine grate veggies such as carrots or zuchinni into sauces, or even peanut butter, to get kids to get some nutrients.
Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.
Wet hand / dry hand while breading or coating food.
Never pry anything out of an electrical appliance. No metal in toasters or microwaves.
Dishwashers have a ‘gunk trap’ or general area where stuff collects. Clean this. Also, check the water outlets as lemon seeds and other things can clog them.
Herbs and spices can be annoying to eat, such as twiggy pieces of rosemary or peppercorns. Put them in a cheese cloth, or emptied out tea bag, drapped in the liquid, to give their flavours but not the textures.
Don’t pan fry bacon in the morning with no shirt on.
Buy local as often as you can.