Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tips to Improve Your Cooking Skills....

There are many small things you can do every time you cook, to give you better results. Here are some tips:

1) Use a good chef's knife: a long, wide blade that is sharp will give you better control and speed. Grip the knife with your thumb and index finger on the blade right above the handle to ease the rocking motion when slicing, dicing and chopping. Many people tell me they hate cooking because it takes too long to prep. Then I find out they use a paring knife and a small cutting board to prepare all their ingredients. Switching to a proper knife and a larger size board made the difference.

2) Use fresh and the best ingredients: preparing food with in-season asparagus will taste better than in recipes during the off-season. High quality dark chocolate will stand-out in a cake and premium extra virgin olive oil will enrich the bread dipping experience.

3) Don't crowd the pan when sautéing: otherwise, liquids from the food will steam out since there is no space to cook it off not allowing for even browning. Rather cook in batches on high heat to get great results. 

4) Season your ingredients: use kosher salt instead of table salt. And when in doubt, use chicken bouillon. Kosher salt is more flavourful and is not "salty" like table salt. When stir-frying Chinese food for instance, I like to cook by flavouring one ingredient at a time in the skillet/wok, seasoning shiitake mushrooms with salt, ground white pepper and sugar, removing it, then sauté say, celery, adding chicken powder, before tossing everything together to cook. Chicken powder gives food an instant savoury flavour, umami depth and aroma. Cooking in layers gives each ingredient it's distinct taste that contributes to the overall flavour of the dish.

5) Let roast meats rest before carving: always loosely tent your roasts with foil such as whole chicken or roast beef to let the juices redistribute for ten minutes before carving or the meat will be dry. Set the roast on a cutting board with milled grooves to collect the juices.

6) Trust your doneness tests over the cook time: Use a skewer to pierce the thickest part of roasts, or read qualifiers in recipes such as "cook until crust is brown" rather than relying on recipe cook times. Ovens and convection ovens vary, and so can cooking over the stove with different heat elements.

Watch cooking shows or read cook books to inspire your recipe repertoire and to learn a new thing or two. Better still, take cooking classes to fill in your knowledge gap in cooking techniques, or information about a single subject such as sauces, shellfish or pastry-making. Then go home and practice, practice, practice. Test out how the new recipes or techniques work for you. Cook something and pay attention to the process and results. If you find there is something to tweak, take a note and retry it next time you make it! In time, you'll see yourself improve in the kitchen, and this will give you the confidence to take your cooking to the next level!


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