If you've ever tried to whip up a chef-worthy meal in your kitchen, you've probably been left wondering what kind of wizardry goes on behind the scenes at five-star restaurants. While professional training and years of practice are partly to blame, a few little-known ingredients can upgrade a dish from three stars to five stars in just minutes. To make masterpiece-worthy dishes at home, Martha Stewart Living and ChefSteps recommend incorporating the following three chef staples into your favorite recipes:
While most amateur cooks are no strangers to lemon or lime juices, top chefs recommend cooking with citric acid instead. "Because citric acid comes in powder form, you can use it to add an intense pop of flavor without introducing extra liquid," writes Martha Stewart Living. "Try a pinch in next Sunday's hollandaise, or swap it in for lemon juice in a nice, gooey lemon curd."
The key to cooking with cheeses, melting salts such as sodium citrate enable you to keep the fats in cheese from separating from the proteins. They essentially allow you to "keep the flawlessly smooth texture of processed cheese products but replace their bland, oily taste with interesting flavors," they write. "With the help of these salts, you can use grown-up cheeses, from Gruyère to chèvre, wherever you'd normally be stuck with processed cheddar."
Marketed as Activa, transglutaminase is a naturally occurring enzyme that "binds high-protein foods together," like cuts of meat. "Chefs use transglutaminase to hold together roulades and surimi or to combine thin cuts of meat into thicker cuts that cook more evenly," writes MSL. "Sprinkle some on two separate cuts, stick them together, and let them rest in the fridge, and you'll end up with a single slab of meat."
Head over to MarthaStewart.com for the full list of secret chef ingredients, and add your little-known cooking tricks below.