While getting gas some years ago, the person driving my car made an observation. He pointed to the gas gauge on my dashboard and said, “Do you know what that arrow is next to the gas pump icon?”
I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I guessed. “The pump handle?”
“No, it’s an arrow showing which side of the car your gas tank is on,” he said, delighted to pass on such useful information.
You may already know this, but at the time, I didn’t. I was grateful to learn this bit of automotive trivia, that has since come in handy when refueling a rental car.
Always Something New to Learn
It occurred to me that sharing kitchen tips, as well as automotive tidbits, would be useful. So I began a search of the Internet. I questioned friends, cooks, and restaurateurs, who might have a favorite bit of advice to give.
Some of the ideas and comments listed below will already be a part of your kitchen routine, but maybe you’ll find a few that are unknown. If you already do all this stuff, you’re cooking like a pro.
Kitchen Tips from the Pros
- Master “mise en place.” (meez-on-ploss, French for “everything in place.”) That means you prep and measure all ingredients before beginning a recipe. It causes less stress. (Widely accepted technique in kitchens worldwide.)
- Read the damn recipe. Cooking is like alchemy, ingredients interact creating flavors and textures, depending on timing, amounts, and order of inclusion. (James Beard award-winning chef Joyce Goldstein and restaurateur)
- Clean as you go. Fill sink with warm, soapy water and slide used dishes and utensil into water as they’re used. (David Lebovit, blog and cookbook writer)
- If a dish is too spicy, sugar or butter should help the situation. Too sweet? Add lemon juice. Dish tasting off? Add a touch of salt. Seems flat? Add a few drops of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to bring out the flavor. ( Ina Garten, cookbook author)
- After boiling water for a cup of tea, pour the remaining water over the dish sponge to sanitize it. (Grace Young, food blogger)
- Use a coarse microplane to shave cheese or create a zest for vegetables, salads, vinaigrettes or baked breads. (Chef Paul Kahan, Blackbird Restaurant, Chicago)
- “Brine, baby, brine.” Gotta salt brine poultry for super flavor. (Guy Fieri, Diner, Drive-ins and Dives)
- When browning meat, blot the surface dry with a paper towel, so moisture isn’t released when meat hits the hot oil. Too much moisture will cause the meat to steam rather than sear and create a rich, brown crust. (Chef Charlie Palmer, Charlie Palmer Steaks, DC, NYC, Las Vegas)
- Learn one dish well. Keep notes when you make it and have a standard grocery list. It can be a simple dish (Lemon Ricotta Pancakes) or very complex (Beef Wellington), but practice until it’s perfect and easy. (Chef Cynthia Keller, cooking instructor)
- Buy from farmers’ markets and do as little as possible to fresh food. (Chef Tony Mantuano, Spiaggiare Restaurant, Chicago)
- When making meatballs or meatloaf, make a small patty—a “flatty”—and fry it so you can taste and adjust for seasoning. (Chef J. Kenji López-
- Take the heart (the part of your Romaine lettuce you didn’t eat) and place it in a container with a half-inch of water. (Give it some sun and in a few days it will sprout new leaves. (PureWow.com. Photo by Don’t Waste the Crumbs.)
- Do not use oil in the water when boiling pasta; it will keep the sauce from sticking to the cooked pasta. (Michelin-star Chef Missy Robbins, A Voce restaurant, NYC)
- Smash garlic cloves inside a Ziplock bag with the back of a knife for easier clean up and less smell. (Chef Laurent Tourondel, Brasserie Ruhlmann, NYC)
- Don’t peel a banana from the stem end. Pinch the opposite end and it will split, allowing you to peel it in two strips. Demonstration here. (A tip from banana-eating monkeys.)
- Cook and pass on the recipes you grew up with or learned from your culture. (Chef James Corwell, former CIA instructor)
- A falling knife has no handle. If your knife is about to hit the floor, stand back and let it fall. (i8yourpinkcrayon)
- Sharpen your knives professionally once a year. It minimizes accidents and improves basic knife skills. (Chef Tony Nogales, cooking instructor)
- Put a wet towel under a cutting board and it won’t slide. (goodhousekeeping.com)
- Sear meat, poultry and fish in a pan and then cook it in the oven for a moist result. (goodhousekeeping.com)
- Grate raw ginger with a spoon. Much easier than slicing. (seriouseats.com)
- To keep your cooking area clean, use a garbage bowl and bench scraper. The scraper moves small food items from one point to the other. (seriouseats.com)
- Use canola oil rather than olive oil for cooking chili. (Chef Jeffrey Saad)
- Partially freeze meat for 10-15 minutes for greater ease in cutting it up. (seriouseats.com)
- Freeze your Parmesan cheese rinds and use them to enhance the flavor of broths, soups and stews. Especially good for minestrone and bean soup. (BonAppetit.com)
- Extend the lifespan of washed herbs and greens several days by rolling them up in damp paper towels and placing them in zipper-lock bags with the seals left slightly open. (seriouseats.com)
- Use kitchen shears instead of a knife to cut off the ends of green bean. (goodhousekeeping.com)
- A wooden spoon balanced on top of a boiling pot will stop it from boiling over.
- If you’re using onions raw, put them in cold water and gently squeeze out the water to remove the strong taste. Pat dry.
- Try a new recipe on family and friends. According to Chef Victor Casanova, “There’s no finer thing you can do for people than cook for them.”
I’ll post more quips and tips from chefs as I collect them. Send me your kitchen tips if you have some that you’ve found useful and would like to share.