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on 30 Jan 2020 5:49 PM
  • Main Meal

You don’t have to go to cooking school to become a better cook. There are lots of easy, small things you can do every time you cook to get better, more professional results. Here are our top tips for improving your cooking:

Choke up on your chef’s knife

For better control, choke up on the handle to the point of putting your thumb and the side of your index finger onto the side of the blade right above the handle. Speaking of chef’s knives, invest in a good one (and keep it sharp). The longer, wider blade of a chef’s knife will give you speed, control, and confidence.

Use your hands

Hands are extremely sensitive and sophisticated cooking tools. You can develop this sense of touch by paying attention to how different foods feel at different degrees of doneness, even as you’re checking them with a thermometer, a toothpick, or a knife. Meat, for example, goes from being very soft when it’s rare to a quite firm when well done. Touch can also indicate when a cake is baked if the dough is kneaded enough and whether a pear is ripe.

Switch to kosher or sea salt, and don’t be stingy with it

Kosher salt and sea salt have a much better flavour than ordinary table salt. Though food shouldn’t taste salty, going to the opposite extreme and using little or no salt in your cooking results in food that taste flat. Even if a recipe suggests an amount of salt to use, your ingredients—as well as your palate—may be different enough from the recipe writer’s to necessitate adjustments.

Don’t crowd the pan when sautéing

Be sure you can see the bottom of the pan between the pieces of food. Too much food will lower the temperature of the pan, creating a lot of steam, meaning you won’t get good browning. It’s also important to dry food before sautéing it and to make sure the pan is good and hot.

Reduce liquids to concentrate flavour

If you’ve braised meat or vegetables, take the main ingredient out when it’s done and reduce the sauce a bit more before serving. When you deglaze a pan, be sure to reduce the added liquid by boiling it over high heat. Reduce homemade stocks before use, too.

Add a final splash of acid (vinegar or citrus juice)

to almost any vegetable or meat dish or fruit dessert at the last minute to perk up the flavour.

Trust doneness tests over the timer’s buzzer

When you try a recipe for the first time, look to those descriptive words you’ll find in a good recipe: “bake until golden brown” or “boil until reduced by half.” Don’t be so concerned that the time it takes to reach the desired state is more or less than the time suggested by the recipe.

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