You don’t have to aspire to be a professional chef to know your way around the kitchen. In fact, just understanding how to follow a recipe is a good start. Sometimes, however, this isn’t enough to earn you the accolades, so we’ve put together a list of six simple secrets to improve your cooking. Committing these secrets to memory and putting them to use every time you’re in the kitchen is a sure-fire way to wow your friends and family at the dinner table.
Use the Right Cookware
There’s an old saying that goes: “For every pot, there’s a purpose,” and this is most true in a most literal sense when it comes to the cookware you use when preparing food. Rather than having a kitchen full of odd, mismatched pots, pans, and skillets; it’s best to have just a few specific quality pieces made of the right materials. Quality cookware gives you the flexibility and performance you need to cook whatever you want – better.
Make Friends with Salt
In recent years, salt has become the latest dietary bogeyman. However, the fact is that your body needs it to survive. While you can have too much of a good thing, when it comes to cooking, you have to make salt your friend and not be afraid to use it.
Salt enhances the flavor of food, plain and simple. To add some exotic flair to your dishes, switch to sea salt, kosher salt or Himalayan pink salt (they have more flavor than regular table salt), and use it liberally. There’s a reason most recipes say, “Salt and pepper to taste,” so dash away, taste test, and add some more as your palate demands.
Cook with Oil Correctly
Fried and sautéed foods taste good, but only when you cook them correctly. Always ensure that you heat the oil adequately before adding food for stir-frying, sautéing, or frying. If you don’t have the right temperature, the food will soak up the oil before it has a chance to begin cooking, and it’ll end up greasy. You know your oil is hot enough when you tip the pan back and forth and see streaks on its shimmery surface. For the best results, select an oil with a high smoke point such as coconut, avocado, or grapeseed oil.
Reduce Liquids for More Flavor
Anytime a dish calls for the addition of liquid (water, broth, stock, etc.) allowing it to cook down increases the flavor of the food. Don’t be afraid of a dry pan, just simply add a splash of liquid to keep it from burning, scrape up any brown bits in the bottom of the pan, and let it continue cooking. Avoid adding too much liquid, as it waters down the flavor.
Add an Acid to make Flavors Pop
If you want to seriously wow your diners, stock up on various types of acids and use them as often as you can. Acids such as vinegar and citrus, when added just before serving, bring out and enhance the flavor of many vegetables and meats. It doesn’t take much, but just before serving, add a few drops of a complementary acid and watch your family gush over how good the meal tastes.
Let Meats Rest before Cutting
The secret to juicy meat is letting it rest several minutes after cooking before slicing into it. The resting period allows juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Carving into a roast or other prime cut of meat too soon results in dry, hard-to-chew meat.
Cooking isn’t rocket science. Knowing some easy tricks can make you seem like an experienced chef. Use the six simple secrets above to improve your skills and impress the people for whom you love to cook.