Smart Everyday Cooking Tips From 10 Celebrity Chefs
Learning from the best is the biggest life hack we know. The way we see it, why spend time stumbling through a new skill when you can go straight to the source for tried-and-true wisdom? In an effort to conquer the kitchen, we looked to 10 celebrity chefs for smart expert cooking tips that we can use every day. Read on for 20 gems that will improve your culinary game in a flash.
Preheat your skillet before adding oil.
“Home cooks never let their pans get hot enough. If you don’t see a wisp of smoke coming from the oil in your skillet, you’ll never get a proper sear on that steak or fish.”
Season before dressing.
“Season the greens and vegetables with salt and pepper before dressing them. It draws out their flavors. Never pour the vinaigrette right on the greens—that destroys them. Pour the dressing around the sides of the bowl, and then, using your hands, gently push the greens into the dressing to coat them. This way, you don’t have to use all the dressing. You want the greens glistening, not limp. Once the leaves are dressed to your liking, gently transfer them to a plate.”
Combine your mise en place ingredients.
"If the recipe tells you to add a list of particular ingredients to the pan at the same time, combine your 'mised' ingredients in just one storage container and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to cook them,” says chef Curtis Stone. “This consolidates the number of storage containers you use—saving time on washing up later—and consolidates your steps when it comes to prepping and cooking.”
Think of ingredients that can do double-duty.
“I can use broccoli in tonight’s dinner, which is dead simple—it’s just steamed broccoli with pan-fried chicken breast. But, then I could also use some of that broccoli or florets for the casserole I’m going to make on Wednesday,” says Stone. “It means you have to buy less, and you have less stuff in the fridge. Taking five minutes to write out what you’re going to do each night is important. It helps a lot—even if you just write out the five dishes that you’re going to make.”
Sample your olive oil.
“Choosing olive oil is like choosing wine. It always go back to what people like. Some olive oil is sweet. Some olive oil is very citrusy. Other olive oil has a bit of a bite to it, a little sharpness. But not everybody likes that. I think you need to taste olive oil. I think we should really treat olive oil the way we treat wine. It’s just as expensive. A good bottle of olive oil is going to cost you just as much as a decent bottle of wine,” De Laurentiis says. “There are so many different varieties that unless you sample a few different ones, you’re never going to find the one you really like.”
To make a recipe healthier, multiply your vegetables.
“Italian cooking relies on fresh vegetables, but I like to use even more than a recipe might call for,” the chef tells Cooking Light. “Roasted vegetables give off so much flavor, and they can keep a dish interesting. Plus, they're filling. You can enjoy what you eat and not overeat. It is possible―and a lot of fun.”
Follow the rule of threes.
“Use no more than three flavors in a dish, each well balanced with the other,” she tells Parade. “And it has to be clear what you’re eating. If it’s a plum tart, you should know there are plums in there, and I do something with cassis that enhances the flavor of plums. I’m always thinking, ‘How do I bring out the intrinsic flavors of this dish?’ You don’t want to look at your plate and go, ‘Oh, what is that?’ You want to look at your plate and go, ‘Oh, that looks delicious,’ and it is.”
Create a dinner-party game plan.
“I take a blank piece of paper and superimpose the recipes on the schedule. I work backwards, starting with the final recipe that has to be finished, then second, then third,” she tells The Kitchn. “Then I can look at the plan and see, ‘There’s nothing for me to do before 5.’ I don’t know how other people do it, but that’s how I do it. It just takes a little bit of thought and is really so simple."
Speed things up by chopping.
“Chicken doesn't take as long to cook as people think. The smaller you chop chicken, the quicker it takes to cook, so it can easily be used to make 10- to 15-minute meals.”
Use a teaspoon to peel ginger.
"For a quick and easy way to peel ginger, use a teaspoon rather than a knife or peeler. That way you can scrape away only the skin and not any of the ginger. If the skin is clean, you don't really need to peel it at all.”
Use as much water for cooking pasta as possible.
“Imagine that you’re dancing and want to be expressive, you need room. The pasta needs room to dance, too. If you’re cooking less than 2 pounds of pasta, 8 quarts of water is fine. But you don’t need to measure—just use your biggest pot.”
Go for the whole.
“Always use whole tomatoes, because then you are in control of the product and know exactly what quality you’re getting. Usually canned diced tomatoes are parts of broken whole tomatoes, and crushed ones are a mix of all of the leftovers. Crush the tomatoes for the sauce with your hands. The pieces should be the size of your thumb— pieces that are too big don’t let you get a bite along with other stuff. Everything should be in harmony.”
Keep your patties in fine form.
“When you make burgers, indent the center with your thumb—the patty will stay flat as it cooks.”
Your microwave is your secret weapon.
“Microwave citrus for a few seconds before juicing: You'll get more out of it. Microwave garlic cloves for 10 seconds: The skin will slip right off.”
Salt from above.
“Season your food properly—not by seasoning a piece of meat with salt when you’re really close to it, but by actually holding your hand up rather high, having the salt between your fingers, and letting it fall. As it falls through the air, it’s dispersed out evenly over the piece of meat, the vegetables, or whatever you’re using. Sometimes we tend to salt really, really close to our products. We therefore concentrate that salt in a specific area and don't get a uniform seasoning across the surface of it.”
Temper your food.
“Bring your food to room temperature before you actually begin to cook it. It helps the food cook evenly, at the right temperature, and for the right length of time.”
Towel-dry your meat.
“When you’re grilling outside, one good tip is to make sure you put (the meat) on a piece of paper towel and dry it off really, really well. If you put that wet steak on the grill, the water content is going to heat up, and you’ll steam the meat before you caramelize the meat. And steaming doesn’t really add any flavor; caramelization of the protein is where all the taste is. You’ll have 10 times better flavor results.”
Water your pre-cut store-bought herbs.
“When you buy that kind of thing, you really have to take it home and treat it like fresh-cut flowers. Trim that and stick that whole thing into a big glass of ice water and stick that in the fridge, and you’ll actually get another week, week and a half from it.”
Store tomatoes right.
“Store tomatoes at room temperature. Never put tomatoes in the refrigerator, as their sugars will cease to develop and their flavor will be muted.”
Get smart with your spoons.
“Choose wooden spoons made of olive wood rather than softwoods, like pine, because olive wood is not as porous and will last longer without splintering.”