Cooking is an art form, and with proper practice, knowledge, and skill, anyone can master it. But whether you’re a true food aficionado who can whip up Michelin-worthy meals at the drop of a hat or a passionate novice with a burning desire (or, more often, burnt pots or pans) to take your game to the next level, your inner chef can always use some tips and tricks that can help elevate your dishes.
Thankfully, friendly ‘Ask Reddit’ cooks are here to lend a helping hand. They have gathered in one popular thread to assist us, lost souls, looking for ways to make our home-cooked meals better, and instantly offered some of their best kitchen hacks that actually work.
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Below, we’ve wrapped up an illuminating collection of advice from people who know what they’re talking about. So continue scrolling to learn all about the cooking know-how, and get ready to create mouth-watering feasts that’ll make everyone squeal in excitement! Be sure to upvote the responses you found particularly useful, and then share your own tips with us in the comments.
Psst! For more pearls of wisdom from experienced cooks, check out Bored Panda’s earlier piece right here.
A blunt knife is **the** most dangerous thing in the kitchen
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Buy quality ingredients. You don’t have to buy *the best*. Just aim for somewhere in the middle.
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Try to let your refrigerated ingredients warm up a bit before cooking, if possible. Take them out and leave them on the counter for a little bit.
Also, soups taste soooo much better after they have cooled and had time to rest. Make it on Sunday and eat it the rest of the week.
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Fresh cracked black pepper is 100x better than pre-ground. Buy a cheap pepper grinder, they’re disposable in the spice aisle, and use that.
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Salt your water for boiling pasta or potatoes…and not just a pinch either, it should taste almost (but not quite) as salty as sea water.
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Don’t just fry something in oil. Chop up some onions, a bit of garlic (not too much), and use butter instead of oil. Cook until the onions are golden, then add anything.
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Work in a 5 star kitchen, get some olive oil in a pan and cook some garlic (a lot) and rosemary in the oil until its cooked to a point it will melt in your mouth. Strain the oil and you have a cooking oil that has an amazing flavor that will add to whatever you are cooking with it.
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Don’t throw out your food if it doesn’t look right or smell right or if it tastes a bit funny, because most times it is still edible, as in it’s not going to kill you if you eat it, so don’t throw it away, eat it. You’ll only learn what you did wrong by tasting it.
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Get your pan and oil hot before you put anything in it. The oil just absorbs into the food if it’s not hot. People coming out of culinary school make this mistake all the time.
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Be clean. Wash hands, work surface, and knives (and change cutting boards) between working on foods that will be cooked and those that will be served raw. Don’t even have them out at the same time. Nothing will turn you away from doing it yourself harder than making yourself (and others) sick.
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Clean while you cook. Don’t ruin your meal by slaving over it’s remnants on a full stomach.
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Be critical of your own food. How can it be better?
Way too many people swear what THEY just cooked is the greatest thing ever made. It’s clearly not. You’ll never improve if you blindly love everything you make.
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* Buy more produce and meat, less prepackaged food
* If the ingredients list includes sugar, try to avoid buying it
* Always have on hand: garlic, onions, lemons, limes
* Remember to use plenty of salt, and if it still tastes flat, squeeze a little lemon or lime on there
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Every protein gets a sauce. Learn to deglaze the pan.
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Smell your spices together and see if they smell tasty.
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Always start with cold/room temp water when boiling pasta.
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For the love of God, get your meat from a butcher.
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Sharpen your knife. It’ll make a world of difference
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Get yourself a meat thermometer. They’re hella cheap and it takes the guess work out of cooking meats to the correct temp.
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Don’t overcook stuff, except eggplant. Cook the f**k out of eggplant, then cook it some more.
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The best and easiest improvements everyone can make are:
Season your food.
Let all meat rest after cooking.
These 2 alone will make a drastic difference.
The best advice I’ve gotten was from Roberto Rodriguez’s 10 minute Cooking School. (can find on YouTube). He recommends picking just 5 of your favorite dishes and learn to cook those 5 dishes really well. Just keep making them over and over until you can do them perfectly. Then always have those ingredients on hand and if you have someone over you can wow them with your amazing skills.
After years of being a professional chef, my main advice to anyone;
Cookings not about eating, its aboot sharing experiences. No matter how bad you goof it up, its still a good time. Just go for it, cook and eat anything. “Oh whats that weird looking thing!?” yeah, buy that. “Chicken feet for 0.40 a lb” guess we’re googling chicken feet.
Put yourself outside those lasagne wednesday routine and you’ll be impressing your friends in no time.
Have fun 🙂
Follow recipes, but not to a T. Cooking is an art, not a science (baking, however, is a science). After your first recipe or two, stop measuring out 1/4 teaspoons of stuff, and start eyeballing it.
Practice. Practice deliberately. That is, look up a cooking technique or unfamiliar recipe and repeat it until you are somewhat proficient, then move on to a new one.
For bonus points, make *speed* and *efficiency* your measures of success. One of the biggest advantages the pros have over home cooks is that they can produce good food without having to “slave away,” constantly poking and prodding when it’s not needed. You’ll be amazed at how much unnecessary work your grandma puts herself through to make that show-stopping Thanksgiving dinner once you learn to cook efficiently.
Finally, focus on presentation. We eat with our eyes first, and a lot of what makes professional cooking more impressive than what people eat at home is that it comes out in an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. After all, there’s only so much you can do with a roast chicken. Thankfully, plating is super easy, and once you have it down, it doesn’t take any longer to plate things nicely than it would to plate them haphazardly.
Mis en place: everything in its place. Prep, chop, measure out, peel, organize everything before you begin assembly. With a bit of prep the day before I can put a full turkey dinner onto plates in a couple of hours…all from scratch. Because everything is out and measured/weighed.
Learn to use salt properly. Properly used salt should never make a dish “salty” but should enhance the flavors within the dish and bring them to the surface better. Start by adding a little salt, taste, add a little more, taste. You will quickly learn to tell the difference between something that is over or under salted, and something that is just right. Salt content can make or break any dish, even sweets.
Invest in a good kitchen timer. The reason most people burn things when they start out is because they don’t have a good sense of cooking time. You can use your phone but that’s pretty expensive to be using around hot liquids.
Cutting round objects but they’re rolling around? Cut off the top and bottom so that you have two flat ends. Now you can stabilize it firmly on the cutting board.
Always hold a knife half by the handle and the back of the blade. Nearly half your hand is supposed to be on the blade, including your thumb. People gripping knives by only their handles are asking to get injured. Very common misconception.
Get a crock pot, or better yet a pressure cooker.
Seriously, a digital pressure cooker lets you do all those crock pot recipes in 1/10th of the time. You can basically make the most awesome stews in less time than it would take you to heat up the oven.
Don’t crowd your food. One of the major reasons restaurant meals turn out so well and taste so good is the larger pots, pans, cooking surfaces allow the food to saute, bake, broil, etc without steaming/stewing itself to death.
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Learn how to build seasonings. Not just throw all of them in at once but when to put them in.
Learn to braise meats. It’s a slow process that the slower you take it, the more flavor builds. The best part is braising a ton of whatever and portioning it, then freeze. Now you’ve got fixings for whatever. Beef? Beef pot pie, beef stroganoff, beef nachos, or quesadilla. Its awesome. Then, take the braising liquid and the veggies, and toss it in a blender. Now you’ve got a sauce OR you can doctor it into a soup.
Then learn to make bread. Between those two, you’ll eat heartily.
Take notes. It’ll be infinitely easier to remember how you did something; or where you changed or needed to change something to make it better
Learn how to use flour, butter/fat, eggs and salt. Learn how they work separately and together. Most things can be made by adding other things to flour, butter/fat, eggs and salt from sauces to cakes and from fried chicken to beef wellington. I challenge you to think of a food that doesn’t use either flour, fat, eggs or salt (yes I know there are plenty but the number of dishes without either are in the minority is what I’m getting at).
If your garlic tastes bitter, you’re probably adding it too early. It can be easy to burn garlic– try adding it later next time.
Also, if your garlic has a bright green stem in the middle, take that s**t out. That part will ALWAYS be bitter.
Learn how to preheat the wok or pan so that it gets very hot before you put anything in (oil is fine). That’s how you get a good immediate sear and not wait for things to heat up while they sort of just simmer.
Saute everything in a 1/4 lb of butter.
Honestly there’s too many things to count. But if I had to choose one.
Being a chef starts WAY before the plate of food. It’s your tools, it’s your space, it’s how you think, it’s your technique. The plate of food is just a product of being a good chef. You always have something to learn and you can always improve.
There is no magic bullet to make you a good chef, it takes years of practice. But if you have a passion for it the skills will come in time.
A recipe doesn’t have to be complex to taste good. Some of the best food out there is dead simple to make.
Use fresh whole spices (not ground spices that’s been sitting in your cupboard for years). I use a mortar and pestle to grind up the spices. Learn which spice needs toasting to release the flavor first before grinding. I love The Flavor Bible to see if there are combinations of flavors I have not tried before; it’s helpful especially if you are new to cooking. It’s by no means an exhaustive list but it’s great and does include some exotic ingredients.
Learn from videos. Notice a tool that is in almost every video, but you don’t have one yet? You probably need it.
There is no such thing as too much garlic.
Because everyone already stated a bunch of s**t that’s rather relevant, let me just say: prep up.
I mean, do you think we slice s**t to order in the restaurant? We cut s**t in advance. Sometimes day in advance. Start learning what keeps fresh long and the answer is almost everything but the thing is your fridge is too cold.
That’s the Goldilocks zone for freshness.
If everything is already chopped up, you’ll cook fast and if you cook fast, you’ll start liking it and if you like it, you’ll do it more.
For f**k sake, try s**t.
If you have a favourite recipe, start by doing that.
Every week until it’s your specialty. After all it’s your favourite.
Take note on what you do so you won’t make the same mistakes. At first measure everything so you can actually write up or down the ingredients.
Son loves it.
Daughter likes it. With cheese.
Wife prefer toasted.
That way you can do the same dish for everyone but make it personal rather easily.
This is important.
YOU CAN ALWAYS ADD MORE BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE IT OFF ONCE IT’S IN.
So add slowly, taste, add again.
Watch a god damned video on how to hold a knife and how to cut. Fast prep = we went through this already.
Put music on.
For the ultimate “I’m lazy but this food is good and might impress people” — buy a slow cooker/crock pot and learn how to use it. The best part is you turn it on before leaving in the morning, and by the time you get home your dinner is ready.
There is a cookbook called Sauces. Get it, read it, and use it. A good sauce can take a mediocre dish, to a really nice dinner.
Disclaimer: not all sauces are easy to make.
Learn how to make the mother sauces. Once you know how to make those sauces, you can easily make a good start.
Something I call laddering.
Cook too much of one thing (eg.rice). Not that’s your base for tomorrow’s dinner (fried rice, or curry and rice) half as much cooking and you can always freeze any left overs.
Yesterday I cooked twice the chicken so tonight I just had to make a salad and put the chicken on top. Tomorrow I have left over salad and I’ll make tacos. The following day I’ve got left over taco stuff that I’m make huevos with and so on.
Half the cooking, super healthy, and you don’t get tired of leftovers.