Cooking is a skill. If you want to get better at it, you need to practice. If you want to become great at it, you should take advantage of all the knowledge of the more experienced people. Here are four tips from professional chefs to help you step up your own cooking game.
Use knives correctly
Correct technique will speed up your cooking process as well as help you avoid injury. Place your thumb and forefinger on either side of the knife, near where the blade flares out. Wrap the other fingers around the handle. Hold firmly, but don’t be stiff.
Hold the food you’re chopping by curling your fingers like a claw. This protects your fingertips, and your knuckles guide the knife.
Utilize seasonal ingredients
Whenever you’re having trouble choosing what to make, consider what’s in season. There are some general trends, but the specific product might vary a little depending on your area. Consider asking the regulars at the local farmer’s market for some pointers.
To develop your own eye, compare appearance and prices. Fruits and veggies can be multiple times more expensive when they’re out of season. They’re also likely to be discolored, too small or too large, taste bland, and have strange textures – powdery, sponge-like, etc. By contrast, when they’re in season, they will have rich flavor and vibrant colors because they’re naturally peaking in nutrients.
The one obvious exception to this is meat. There’s no season for it, per se. Instead, plan the meat around the other ingredients. Choose a dish based on seasonal veggies, see which meat would complement them nicely, and buy the appropriate amount. You can also find quality bulk meat online if you prefer to stock large pieces over shopping for individual recipes.
Taste-test more than once
The “season to taste” part should come up at every stage of the recipe. If you only taste-test your dish at the end or once mid-cooking, you risk being too late to add something. Instead, check-in throughout. Some flavors can fade out during the process while others can become overpowering. You have to be able to adjust in real-time.
Also, as you accumulate experience, you’ll develop your palate and seasoning skill. You’ll have sharper instincts for recognizing flavor profiles and how they interact. This gives you much more freedom to experiment and have fun. You can stop following recipes to the letter and develop your own unique variations on favorite foods.
Salt is famous for making flavor stronger, but it’s easy to go overboard. What makes it especially tricky is that saltiness itself is a taste. If you’re cooking for a group, you could end up with a wonderfully flavorful dish, but too salty for some and still too bland for others.
To avoid all that hassle, use acid instead. Acidic accents can make a world of difference, especially in savory foods. They brighten up the entire dish without becoming overbearing. Popular sources of acid in cooking include lemon or lime juice, the zest of any citrus fruit, and vinegar.
For a fun twist, add pickled produce as toppings. Pickled cucumbers, onions, and cauliflower are great options. Even fresh veggies or fruit can be a nice source of zing, e.g. tomatoes or tart apples.
Let’s recap: practice correctly using a knife to keep your hands safe and speed up prep work. Use seasonal ingredients whenever you can. Swap salt for acid, and test-taste your dishes throughout the cooking process. These simple tips will elevate your cooking in record time.