You don’t have to go to cooking school to become a better cook.
Everyone is looking for the simple things they can do to make their cooking as good as it can be. For the most part, the cooking tips that make the biggest difference are practice-based: confidence in the kitchen, knife skills, sense memory. But those things take time, and sometimes what we're looking for is a quick trick that will help immediately.
The quickest way to eating better-tasting food is to use better ingredients. But which ones? And what does better really mean?
Do you know what cheap olive oil tastes like? Oil. Do you know what good olive oil tastes like? Olives, flowers, sunshine. Good olive oil doesn't have to be insanely expensive. In fact, we don't even use the ultra-expensive stuff. What you want is something somewhere in between that can still do the heavy lifting of sautéing and marinating, but also tastes good as a finishing drizzle over soups, vegetables, pasta dishes etc.
Good, European style butter will make everything from pancakes to grilled cheese to plain old bread and butter taste even better. Usually, the more yellow the butter, the better it will taste because cow's milk turns yellow when the cows have been grazing on grass. Which is what you want. Good butter is usually a little bit more expensive than the regular stuff, but it's totally worth it.
There is one simple, true answer to why we prefer kosher salt: it's easier to work with. The big salt crystals make it easier to pick up, control and also melt slower for more even seasoning. Some of us swear we can detect the iodine in table salt, but we'll leave that up to you. Also, table salt is still best for baking since it disperses better. The best news is: it's not expensive, so free upgrade.
Fresh herbs will make your food taste better almost immediately. Dried herbs have their place, but ground up, dried basil leaves will never compare to the taste of the fresh ones. Same goes for parsley, oregano, thyme, almost everything. Fresh herbs are often less expensive than dried ones, and you never have to worry that they've been sitting in the cabinet for three years.
Just like olive oil, the difference between good vinegar and the generic stuff is pretty staggering. This is especially true when talking about red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar and balsamic vinegar.