Here are some tips sent in by Michael, who works as a Culinary Chef. They are designed to help make cooking at home easier for you, and more enjoyable!
- Read the recipe. Use it as guideline… not merely as a set of instructions. Most recipe books will give you only general instructions about the exact method they used to create the item pictured or described. I have come across many instances where certain measurements have been left out or a complete step altogether. While this may be frustrating please remember that trying new recopies is an adventure into new tastes and new cooking techniques. Though I wouldn’t suggest this with time-tested family recipes handed down though out the years.
- “mise en place”, A French cooking term for “to put in place”. This is a basic cooking term that means be prepared. Have a clean working area, have the correct utensils ready, have the correct ingredients, etc. Set yourself up for success. There is nothing worse than finding out you don’t have a crucial part of your recipe while in the midst of cooking and having to run to the local vendor to get it. Think ahead before you begin.
- Know your knife. This is fundamental for safety. Have a sharp knife! While it is a potentially dangerous tool it is not as dangerous as a dull knife. A well kept blade will easily slice, while a dull one will force you to put more pressure on the blade and may result a cut or even a trip to the hospital. In general if you want to buy a good kitchen knife that is relatively safe and wont dull I would suggest one with a serrated edge, or a high end forged blade.
- Get to know your appliances. What type of stove top range do you have? Gas or Electric? Convection oven or standard? Hopefully you have had the opportunity to know that not every stove top and oven distribute heat the same way. While a gas burning device is the best for conductivity an electric or ceramic range top can work just as well, just differently. Microwaves if you use them, look for one with a variety of settings and high wattage. Any other kitchen gadgets you may wish to own (mixers, food processors, i.e.) try buy the best that you can afford and go with a reputable brand. Quality is King. And If in doubt: always read the manual.
- Teflon(non stick)-vs-Metal pots and Pans. If you aren’t aware of this already please, and I mean please for the love of all that is holy do not use a metal utensils on a non stick pan! This is akin to scratching your fingernails on chalkboard only that you would rip off part of the chalkboard itself. Use either a heat tempered plastic or rubber utensil with non-stick pans. I may also add that if you get a non-stick pan too hot it will degrade the coating. Culinary professionals use metal pots and pans for 90% of their use and only use non stick pans for delicate items like eggs or crepes.
Experiment a little. Say you try a new recipe and you didn’t like a certain ingredient. Can you think of something that you would like to replace it with. Maybe you didn’t like the texture or didn’t like the method that it was cooked under. Well be free to take the liberty to create your own version of that particular dish. This is what cooking is all about. Practice, and you will find out you can satisfy your own taste buds.
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