Okay, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not a chef in any sense of the word. I grew up on cold cereal and canned pasta, so I didn’t have a ton of training when it comes to cooking for myself, let alone anyone else. Here’s the thing though, when it comes to cooking, practice really does make perfect. The more you cook, the better things turn out. You just have to suffer through the burned dishes (and fingers) before you can get there.
Here’s the thing though, today you don’t have to tough it out as long as I did thanks to this beautiful thing we call the internet. Rather than reading recipes from a book and hoping for the best, you can Google just about anything and find help. So here I am, sharing some Chef secrets to help you have quick and delicious dinners! I promise that a little effort goes a long way when it comes to cooking, and these tips are proof!
Tip 01: Mise en Place
“Mise en place” is french for everything in it’s place. Let’s be honest, when it comes to cooking, the French know a thing or two (or possibly all of it). What does this mean for Chef Mom or Dad? It means having everything prepped before you actually begin cooking. This means doing all of the dicing, mincing, and cutting beforehand so that you’re not scrambling to do it all at the same time. It also means having your ingredients out and easily accessible so that when you’re cooking you’re not scrambling to find a spice in the back of a cupboard.
This one seems like a lot of work, but to be honest, it’s worth it. I prefer to do my prep after I get home from the grocery store rather than wait for a busy weeknight to do the washing and chopping. I’d suggest having some really good tupperware to keep your chopped/diced/minced goods in so that you can cook in minutes and not hours. These are great to use because you can do small amounts and not take up a ton of space. I’d also suggest getting something like this to help with all that chopping and cutting, it’ll make it a breeze!
Tip 02: Sharp Knives Matter
This one seems like a no brainer, but really, they do. There are few things worse than going to cut veggies or meat and having to use twice the effort to do it because your knife is dull. You can definitely take your knives to a store and have them sharpened, or you can pick up one of these and do it yourself!
Tip 03: Butter is Better
Yes, I know that a lot of recipes call for extra virgin olive oil and not butter. There is definitely a place for EVOO in cooking, but butter gets underestimated a lot. Butter has a higher smoke temperature than olive oil, which makes it better at high heats. It also adds a creamy flavor that can deepen dishes and add that extra oomph to your dinner. So don’t be afraid to try adding butter to your EVOO when you’re cooking a dish that needs a boost!
Tip 04: Taste the Process
If you ever watch a cooking show you’ll see chefs constantly tasting their dishes. Why? Because you never know when you need to add a little extra something. If you wait until your dish is done, chances are you will miss the opportunity to really finish your dish. This is one of the most important chef secrets!
Tip 05: Don’t Crowd Your Pan
I saw this on a movie once specifically referencing mushrooms and I decided to try it the next time I cooked. Guess what? It wasn’t a bunch of baloney. There’s this thing that happens when you put too much in your pan, especially with veggies that have a high water count, and it causes the temp of your pan to lower enough that you don’t get a good caramelization. Caramelization is what adds depth to your dishes and it’s an important part of the process. Do you need a good set of pans to test it out? I’d recommend these! They’ve been a life changer for my cooking.
Tip 06: Resting is Key
I’m not talking about the Chef taking a nap here, although that would be a bonus. What I mean is that when you’re cooking meat, it’s really important to let it rest. This means giving it five to fifteen minutes after it’s done cooking for the flavors and juices to settle and meld together. I promise that it’s worth the wait! The next time you finish cooking some steak or chicken, give it a few before cutting and serving.
Tip 07: Freshness Matters
If you look in your cupboard, chances are you won’t be able to remember when you purchased that container of basil or paprika. This can become a problem when it comes to cooking because freshness makes all the difference. Spices will loose their potency and flavor as time goes on. It’s a good idea to date your spices in an easy to see place so that you know when to toss and replace. I’d also suggest buying fresh when you can! Especially with herbs, fresh has better and stronger flavors than dried.
Tip 08: When in Doubt-Google
Seriously, I can’t stress this one enough! I keep an iPad in my kitchen specifically for cooking. You never know when you’re gonna have to rely on the internet for advice. YouTube is also a great place to go for tutorials on how to cut, chop, and dice just about everything in a proper manner so it cooks evenly. Having something like this on my counter has been super beneficial so my tech stays clean and I can see what I’m supposed to be doing.
Happy Cooking! I hope these chef secrets help you and may you find the chef inside and find the joy in cooking.