Even if you’re the master of all things Cajun in the kitchen. Even if you’re known for whipping together restaurant-quality food like Gordon Ramsay and Rachel Ray.
And yes, even if you have a signature dish that everyone insists you bring to holiday parties, get-togethers, and dinners, you still might be missing some cooking techniques that can take your food from good to great. These skills aren’t typically taught in home economics, but all outstanding chefs share these skills. Here’s a look at five fantastic cooking techniques you absolutely must learn in order to take your cooking to the next level:
Mise en Place
It’s French, and it means “things in place.” All great chefs are organized—even if they’re simply cooking for friends and family.
Before you start pouring, chopping, and trimming, make sure you have everything you need. Prep all of the ingredients ahead of time. Sure, it might add a few extra minutes on the front end, but all of your dishes will be much more likely to come out of the oven in spectacular fashion on the back end.
You know the dish and you know the recipe, right? You’ve made it a million times. So why bother taking the time to read the recipe one more time? Why bother, right?
Because you’ll know with precision how to cook to perfection, even if you’re the one who wrote the recipe! You’ll know what temperature the butter needs to be before you pull it out of the refrigerator. You’ll remember to chop rather than dice. And it will make your cooking process a lot easier.
The knife is as important to every home cook and professional chef as a basketball is to LeBron James.
Knife skills are actually one of the very first things they teach aspiring chefs in culinary school because they make that big of a difference.
Know your knives. Know how to use them, sharpen them and properly store them. It can mean the difference between struggling to trim a chicken breast or dice an onion and doing it with ease. Having exceptional knife skills can also help keep you safe in your kitchen. No one wants their meal ruined because they have to make a trip to the emergency room.
Being able to properly season a sauce (or anything else, for that matter) can mean the difference between positive and putrid reviews from friends and family members. Unfortunately, a lot of aspiring chefs—and especially home chefs—don’t know the trick that leads to exceptional sauce almost every time—and that’s to season it after it has been fully cooked. As sauces cook, they reduce, which enhances the flavor of every ingredient. This means sauces tend to become more salty, for example, as they reduce.
By waiting to season the sauce until it’s fully reduced, you can season it to perfection because you’ll be able to taste it before you season it. Properly seasoning a sauce is really about developing the willingness to taste everything you make at every stage of the process, which is something all great chefs do, which means you should do the same thing in your home.
Working the Pan
You want the perfect seer. You want the crust that keeps people craving. You want perfection. This means you are going to have to learn how to work the pan.
You’re going to have to learn to properly heat the pan for the specific food you’re planning to cook. And then you’re going to have to learn to keep the pan at the proper temperature—and move the food around accordingly.
It seems incredibly easy, but it can be difficult. Working the pan involves heat, space, and movement. You can read about it, you can watch YouTube videos about it. But at the end of the day, the best way to perfect the art and science of working the pan is to practice it on a regular basis.
Learn These Cooking Techniques—and More
If you’re an aspiring home chef or someone who just wants to make the perfect meal for the special people in your life, connect with the experts at Casual Gourmet. You will learn these five critical cooking techniques—and a whole lot more!
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