Going about your everyday kitchen chores will be a breeze with these basic tips.
1. Mise en place
This might be the most important tip of all. “Mise en place” is French for “everything in place”. What it means to a chef? Before you cook have everything measured, peeled, chopped, pans greased, etc. and within reach. This will keep you from running around looking for the dried basil while your sauce is on the brink of burning.
2. A sharp knife is essential
Sharpen it on a regular basis and hone in between sharpening. Dull knives are dangerous and make cutting much more difficult.
3. Taste as you go
You should know what the dish tastes like before serving it. Sometimes a little more salt or a dash of spice brings perfection. Which brings me to the next tip…
4. Salt as you go
Don’t be afraid of salt! Since you’re cooking a fresh meal instead of eating a packaged one, you’re starting out with much less sodium to begin with.
5. Tongs are an extension of your hand
Walk into any restaurant kitchen and you’ll see a set of tongs in almost every cook’s hand—usually gripped low down on the handle for maximum control. Use it to flip meat, pull a pan out of the oven, stabilize a steak while slicing, the list goes on and on.
6. Put a wet paper towel under a cutting board
Not only are cutting boards that slide on the counter annoying, they’re extremely dangerous when you’re holding a knife and trying to chop something. Wet a paper towel and lay it under the board and it won’t budge!
7. Sear chicken breast and finish in oven
Chefs sear a piece of meat, poultry, or fish in a pan and then place it in the oven. Not only does this free up burners, it results in a much moister result.
8. Don’t overcrowd your pan
When roasting or browning anything, the tendency is to cram as much in the pan as possible—resist! Do it in smaller batches instead. Crowding the pan leads to steaming and lowers the temperature of the pan so you won’t get the caramelization you’re looking for—and that’s where the flavor is!
9. Cook with a 1:1 ratio of butter and oil
Oil stops the butter from burning and the butter adds richness to the dish.
10. Cut the ends off onions, tomatoes, cantaloupe, etc. (any food that does not stay stable on the cutting board) to make a flat surface.
This allows you to have complete control of the item as you chop.
11. When baking, only mix until all ingredients are incorporated
Over-mixing causes toughness by developing gluten in the flour. For light and fluffy cupcakes, only mix until the batter’s come together.
12. Don’t forget the power of your nose
If something in the oven smells done but the timer’s still ticking, check on it.
13. Lose the salt shaker
Use a small bowl of kosher salt and add pinches as you cook and taste. It’s easier to control the amount and ensures even coverage.
14. Clean as you go!
An oldie but goodie—a simple tip that makes a world of difference. Wipe down your cutting board in between items. Not only is it hard to chop something that is swimming in tomato juices, it’s unsafe to chop on a wet surface.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.