Looking for some fresh ideas when it comes to cooking? Well, look no further. Really. Stop everything that you’re doing, close all of the other tabs that are currently open in your browser, and lean in and listen to this: 10 surefire tips to help you out in the kitchen.
Here are some simple rules and tips to live by, or to gradually introduce into your current kitchen practices.
First Off, Wash Your Hands:
This is a big one – a lesson that has been shouted by all caring mothers since the beginning of time. Just think of all of the places that your hands have been all day – pretty gross, right? And now you want to get into the kitchen and start handling food that is going to be shoved into your mouth? No way!
First things first, wash your hands. If you’re going to be washing your vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients, you might as well start with the source of most of the germs. Listen to your mother and protect your health.
A Sharp Knife is a Safe Knife:
To prepare your ingredients, you’re going to need a knife. Whatever you might dice, Julienne, chiffonade, Brunoise, or square-off, you want to be sure that your knife is sharp and firm. The handle should be sturdy and the blade should be able to be easily guided through most ingredients. If you have to force the blade through an item, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of having it slip on the board, thus making you more susceptible to cutting yourself. Take notice of your cutlery beforehand, for your own safety.
Chop With The Rear of The Blade, Not The Tip
Furthermore, when it comes to your knife, make sure that you are holding it properly. Gripping the handle with your full hand is improper, in that you have no motor connections that are guiding the blade. When you’re cutting, you want to have your hands pinching the rear of the blade, with both your thumb and index finger. With this pinching grip, your other fingers securing the handle, you want to roll the rear of the blade onto and off the cutting board, keeping a consistent, cyclical motion. Again, you are assuring that you have better control over the knife, rather than chopping at the cutting board like an 80s-horror film killer. Here is a video to better illuminate the process to ensure utmost safety while prepping.
Prepare All Ingredients Beforehand:
Before you even begin dealing with pans and other amenities, get your ingredients set and ready to go. Rather than having to jump back and forth between pots, pans, the oven, and your cutting board, prepare everything ahead of time to assure that you don’t overcook any items. It’s easier to be prepared than to be rushing from one item to the next, leaving little care for the finer details. Remember, you’re cooking at home, not a professional kitchen. Stress isn’t necessary.
Waste as Little Veggies as Possible:
While preparing your ingredients, remember to use as much as your food as you can. Most nutrients are contained in the skins and stems of vegetables. While recipes might call for you to remove them, try to clean them and use them in other ways. In terms of carrots or squash, you can leave the skin on without any issues. Just be sure to properly clean them. Likewise, the stems of broccoli, kale, and mushrooms are perfectly fine to eat. They may be a little firmer than the rest of the vegetable, but just finely slice/dice them and they’re good to add to your recipe. If you don’t want to use them then, save them for later, using them in a soup, stew, stock, etc.
Keep The Ingredients Simple:
Don’t over complicate the flavor profile of a dish. While you might think that adding as many spices and ingredients as possible will make a dish exquisite, it will just make it confusing. When there are too many ingredients to the dish, it turns from simple to overwhelming – there are too many tastes to focus on, too many to think about, and too many to try and figure out. Indian cooking, for example, is different, since they tend to use a variety of spices to create very flavorful curries, but it is done in a manner where the spices act in complimenting one another, creating a unique, specific taste. For the kitchen, try to stick to as few ingredients as you can, using only a few veggies in a single dish, and perhaps no more than four spices.
Take Your Time:
Don’t rush yourself. If you are short on time, don’t plan an intricate meal. You want to make sure that you don’t burn your food by having a pan being too hot or allowing all ingredients to soak and mix into the dish. If it takes a bit more time, and you have the time to give, do it. It’ll provide you with a more pleasant meal in the end.
Keep an Eye on the Food:
Whether you’re baking or cooking, be sure to keep an eye on what is being prepared. You may be following a recipe that tells you that a cake, in an oven. at a certain temperature, will take 40 minutes to bake. However, that person’s oven may be very different than yours, having a different plus-or-minus temperature setting to it. Likewise, you might be browning some vegetables, and while a recipe might say that it only takes 4 minutes to do so, it might take less time for your stove. Checking in on your food is important, primarily because you are making sure that it is coming out in the intended manner. Setting a timer or alarm to remind yourself to check in on the dish might be helpful. I know I have to do it sometimes, especially if I have a few things going on.
Taste as You Go:
Once you start throwing different ingredients into your dish, as well as various spices, you want to make sure that you are keeping equilibrium in the dish. Thus, taste with every addition you make. It’s better to realize early on that you need a little bit more salt, pepper, or dry herbs than at the very end. Because then, throwing it in at the last minute, you’ll throw off the taste of the dish, since the spices haven’t gotten the intended time to soak in with the other ingredients.
Learn Cooking Techniques, not Recipes:
This is an important rule of thumb. While recipes are a great way to create specific dishes for parties, loved ones, etc. they don’t properly teach you how to cook. Recipes are a fantastic way to understand which ingredients compliment each other, or how much time is needed to prepare certain foods. However, being led by the hand from one dish to another is not the proper way to experience the kitchen. Taking the time to experience the kitchen or testing some newer ingredients is a fantastic way to teach yourself and to ween yourself off of the reliance on recipes. That way, you are creating a unique kitchen experience, as well as dishes, of your own.