11 Culinary School Tricks You Can Use in Your Home Kitchen
It isn't necessary to go to a culinary school or work in a professional kitchen to arm yourself with some of the tips and tricks food professionals keep in their back pockets. Great cooking can be achieved without fancy equipment or a degree.
With a handful of simple pointers, you can navigate your way around your kitchen like a pro and save yourself valuable time. Here are 11 tricks of the culinary trade that will change the way you cook:
1. Secure your cutting board with a damp towel.
You need your cutting board to stay put when chopping and slicing, not sliding around your countertop. Place a damp paper towel or fabric towel under your cutting board to keep it in place before getting to work. This will not only keep your hands and fingers safe but it will result in cleaner cuts and more precise knife work.
2. Prep all of your ingredients before you start cooking,
If you've ever watched a cooking show, you've likely heard the phrase "mise en place" thrown around. It's a French saying that means putting everything into place, and it really is a necessary step in the kitchen. Getting all of your ingredients prepared and measured out before you begin cooking saves time and lowers the chance of any missteps.
3. Soak garlic cloves in water before peeling
Peeling garlic can be a maddening task, but soaking the cloves in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes before you peel them takes the headache out of the process. The water loosens the skins and helps prevent your hands from smelling like garlic afterwards.
4. Use a trash bowl.
Keep a big bowl or large empty can on your counter while you cook to toss egg shells, herb stems, trimmings and all manner of garbage in as you go. It will save you multiple trips to the trash can.
5. Get a microplane.
With a microplane in hand, you can kiss your box cheese grater and your garlic press goodbye. This is the tool to grab when you need minced garlic, grated cheese, citrus zest, and more. You can buy a great one for a mere $15 and it will be some of the best money you've ever spent on a kitchen tool.
6. Always, always reserve pasta water.
Don't toss out your pasta water! If you've ever wondered how restaurants get their sauces to perfectly cling to pasta, the secret lies in the addition of pasta water. Starch is released from the pasta into the water during the boiling process. Adding some of that starchy water to your pasta when tossing it with sauce will bind the two together and give your finished dish a more polished look.
7. Cold butter is the secret to glossy sauces.
Speaking of sauces, finishing them with a pat or two of cold butter at the end of cooking will give them a restaurant-level glossy sheen and richness. But taste your sauce first! If your sauce is already adequately salted, be sure to use unsalted butter so as not to over season your recipe.
8. Keep salt handy in a salt crock.
As for salt, keep a countertop salt crock handy for easy seasoning. You want to be able to grab a pinch of flaky salt right when you need it without having to reach into a spice cabinet or open a drawer.
9. Toast nuts and spices
Toasting nuts and spices unlocks their oils and brings out their flavors. Nuts become nuttier and crunchier, and whole spices become more fragrant. Toss them in a skillet over medium heat and keep a close eye on them while stirring constantly to make sure they don't burn.
10. Have a serrated paring knife on hand.
The serrated paring knife is a kitchen workhorse that professional cooks rely on. When it comes to slicing tomatoes, cubing zucchini, cutting eggplant, or trimming green beans, it's the best knife for the job. The serrated edge allows you to cleanly cut into fruits and vegetables with fleshy interiors without puncturing and damaging the outer skins, and you don't have to worry about citrus juice or acid from tomatoes damaging your nicer blades.
11. Don't crowd your pans.
Be sure not to overload your baking sheets or pans. Crowding food in a dish will cause it to become soggy and keep you from getting the sear or crisp you're looking for. Give it all some space to allow the heat and air to do their jobs.