Cooking is a skill that can be mastered in different ways. Some go to cooking schools and approach cooking from a more formal perspective. Others rely on years of spending time in the kitchen and trying recipes themselves. There is nothing wrong with either approach.
There is, however, a third way to improve your cooking, and that is by learning from others. I’m sure you have some cooking secrets that you discovered while preparing dishes and trying new recipes; all of us do. I came across one or two cooking hacks myself.
I spoke to those who genuinely love spending time in the kitchen and asked for their best tips on improving as a cook. These next few tips and tricks are their secrets that I am now sharing with you. Let’s get started, shall we?
Fresh Ingredients Matter
There was a time when I cooked with any ingredient I could find. A frozen tuna is tuna, right? Well, as it turns out, that is not entirely true. Fresh ingredients add vibrancy to the flavors; vibrancy that cannot be replicated when frozen ingredients (or ingredients that have been stored for longer) are used.
If you haven’t tried cooking with fresh produce before – and I do mean proteins and vegetables that are still at their freshest – now is the perfect time to give it a go. Local markets, morning deliveries, and even farmers now make fresh produce available through multiple channels, including through e-commerce sites and apps.
Switch to Sea Salt
Salt is used in virtually every dish we cook every day, making it a must-have spice in every kitchen. Recently, I learned to use sea salt rather than table salt when cooking. I was as surprised as you when I first discovered that making the switch actually works wonders. Of course, you want to adjust your use of salt when you do decide to make the switch.
Sea salt blends with proteins and vegetables differently. You only need a small amount – according to your personal preference – to achieve that savory perfection that normally requires one or two tablespoons of salt. Sea salt is also coarser than table salt, hence the unique characteristics when mixed with other ingredients.
Try the Best
You don’t have to be a culinary expert to be able to cook. Today, recipes are everywhere, and you can give one – or a few – a try almost immediately. There are even apps that let you try cooking different dishes by following video tutorials and detailed guides. These tutorials certainly make learning how to cook easier.
That said, the best way to really refine your prowess in the kitchen is by tasting the dishes as they are cooked by others; by others, I mean more experienced cooks or chefs. If you are learning about the fascinating dishes of Punjabi cooking, for example, a trip to East Z East will be very fruitful. Check the restaurant’s site to learn more about the different Punjabi dishes you can sample there.
Learn to Concentrate Flavors
If you’ve been following a lot of recipes for sauces, you are most likely familiar with the phrase “reduce the sauce.” Reducing a sauce means leaving it to cook until it is thicker and more concentrated. Reducing the amount of liquid in your dish is a great way to concentrate its flavors and elevate them to the next level.
The approach works with other dishes too. When searing a piece of steak, limit the butter you use to prevent the rosemary and garlic flavor from seeping out. The next time you cook the traditional Thai Tom Yam, leave the stew on the stove longer until you get a thicker broth and a more vibrant sweet and sour flavor.
Let It Rest
It is also important, in some situations, to let the dishes you cook rest properly before you start doing other things to it. When roasting meat, letting the meat rest for a while before you start carving allows the juice inside it to be distributed evenly. When you cut through the meat immediately, you’ll see that juice flowing out of the meat.
With other dishes, letting it rest actually means allowing the dish to cook itself a bit more. The heat inside the pot or pan is enough to slowly cook your ingredients. This is true when cooking certain types of pasta; you should always remove the pan from the heat before your pasta is sufficiently cooked so that you’ll end up with the perfect pasta when it is served.
Make the Cut
A good set of kitchen knives is the best investment you can make as a cook. Yes, I’m guilty of settling for a less-than-stellar set myself just because the set was incredibly cheap. Any knife can carve through meat and cut vegetables, but good kitchen knives are actually very good at what they do.
Quality kitchen knives also stay sharp for longer, giving you more control when cooking; we all know how annoying it can be to start cutting meat, only to realize halfway through the first cut that the knife isn’t sharp enough. Use wooden or plastic composite cutting boards to avoid damaging your kitchen knives when cooking.
Lastly, make sure you use the right pots and pans when cooking. The last thing you want to do is overcrowd your pan because you try to fit everything in – in other words, you don’t always have to cook all of your ingredients at once if your pan isn’t big enough.
Overcrowding the pan introduces a cloud of flavor that makes your dish lose its distinct characteristics. It is much harder to distinguish between spices and ingredients when the entire dish is cooked in a rush, and in an overly full pan. Besides, cooking in a full pan also leaves you exposed to issues like uneven charring and heat not penetrating some ingredients.
These savvy tips will certainly make you a better master of your kitchen. Be sure to check out the recipes and other cooking tips here on deliciouslysavvy.com, and don’t forget to share your own cooking secrets and hacks in the Comments section below!