Consider this episode a crash course in cooking like a chef.
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Martie Duncan with cookies and butter in the background
Credit: Allrecipes Illustration

Becoming a better cook takes trial and error. Take advice from experienced cooks, however, and you'll soon make more progress than errors in the kitchen. On this week's episode of Homemade, host Martie Duncan revisits the cooking tips and baking tricks she's gathered from interviewing some of the most well-known chefs out there: Guy Fieri, Andrew Zimmern, Carla Hall, Justin Warner, Dorie Greenspan, Duff Goldman, and Aarti Sequeira. Their conversations cover cooling racks, pot liquor, sifting flour, Indian spices, and cooking with more salt and fat. Listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPlayerFM, and everywhere podcasts are available beginning September 8.

About Martie Duncan

Martie Duncan is an author, home cook, and "Next Food Network Star" finalist. The Birmingham, Alabama, native worked in law enforcement before catering and planning parties full time. Yet both careers prepped her for success on "Next Food Network Star." Duncan has since appeared on Food Network's "Star Salvation" as well as "The Oprah Winfrey Show." As host of Homemade, she gets to the heart of what cooking means to her guests through nostalgia, banter, and stirring questions.

Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and check out her website.

Episode Transcript

MARTIE: Welcome to Homemade, I'm Martie Duncan. I have learned so much from my guests on this show. Just about every day I find myself using or quoting something I've picked up from one of them. So today, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite takeaways and cooking tips that I've learned over the past fifty-something episodes of Homemade. 

Later in the show, you'll hear from Andrew Zimmern, Guy Fieri, Carla Hall, Justin Warner, Dorie Greenspan, and Duff Goldman. But kicking things off is my sister from another mister, the spice queen herself, Aarti Sequeria who gave me some great advice on which spices to use for what in Indian cuisine and what to add to the spice story to elevate my cooking game. 

AARTI SEQUERIA: There are seven spices that you should just keep on hand. A lot of them you probably already have.

So paprika is one of the chief ones. We call it red chili powder in Indian recipe writing. It's a little bit different. Our red chili powder is not like American chili powder. It's just these red chiles that are mostly colorful and a little bit spicy. So I mix paprika and cayenne to get it just to a heat level that I like.

The other one is turmeric, which now most people have started adding to their cooking. And listen, people always say to me, 'How do I add more turmeric to my diet?' And I'm like, 'Listen, if you want the same benefits that Indians are experiencing from eating turmeric, you gotta eat a teaspoon a day.' On average, that's how much an Indian is eating because it's in every meal. Right? A quarter teaspoon here...

MARTIE: OK.

AARTI: ...A quarter teaspoon there. So add it to your eggs in the morning. I don't know if you can add it to your bowl of Cheerios, Martie, that you had for breakfast this morning.

MARTIE: No, but I know I had a beautiful ginger and turmeric drink at Starbucks that was quite good. And I've gotten a little bit addicted to that. But I try to make it home with almond milk and turmeric and ground ginger.

AARTI: Yeah.

MARTIE: It's really good.

AARTI: It is really good. And the only thing I'll tell you to do with your almond milk is add some sort of fat to it because turmeric is fat soluble. The curcumin, which is the anti-inflammation aspect that you want to access, is fat soluble. And almond milk doesn't have a lot of fat. So add some coconut oil or something like that to it.

MARTIE: OK. So what other spices?

AARTI: Paprika, turmeric, cumin in the form of seeds.

MARTIE: OK.

AARTI: Because we use them whole. And we also use them ground. And the flavor is just unbelievable if you grind it fresh, or at least somewhat fresh. I'll grind a batch and keep it for a couple of weeks. So you don't have to grind it fresh every time. Same thing with coriander. If you're someone that makes a lot of Tex-Mex or Southwestern. You probably have a fair amount of coriander in your — but don't buy it ground, people. Please, please.

MARTIE: You buy the seeds and grind them.

AARTI: Yes, because it is night and day. The flavor difference is night and day. So that's four. Garam masala, I said. Five. I like to have some of the whole aromatics. So, I like having green cardamom pods around because I put it in my tea. I put it in my rice pudding.

MARTIE: Oooh.

AARTI: Yeah.

MARTIE: Yum.

AARTI: It's really good.

MARTIE: I love rice pudding. I'm a giant fan of rice pudding.

AARTI: And strawberries and cardamom are brilliant together.

MARTIE: Are they really?

AARTI: Yes. Blueberries and cardamom are amazing, too. So it just makes any berry dish that you make taste more berry-ish, if you put just a little bit of cardamom in it.

MARTIE: I didn't know that. OK.

AARTI: Yes. And then the last one, I would have are whole black peppercorns.

MARTIE: OK.

AARTI:  Because — and most people have them in their pepper mill — we use pepper not as a seasoning but as a spice. So if you coarsely grind some peppercorns and you sizzle them in some oil with some whole cumin seeds, then you add some onions to that, maybe a little garlic, that is the beginning of an incredible dish.

MARTIE: I absolutely adore Dorie Greenspan, and I learned so much about baking during our chat. I felt like I was right in the kitchen with her. Her tip about making certain that your oven is preheated properly was a game changer for me. And, if you're a cookie lover, you're going to appreciate all her tips for better cookie baking.

Dorie, can you give us three tips for better cookie baking? 

DORIE: It's so easy, but there are things that you need to watch out for. Always make sure that your oven is at temperature. Often people will turn on the oven and just figure 15 minutes later it's time to put your cookies in. Cookies only bake for a very short time so it's really important that your oven be at temperature. Put an oven thermometer in there to be sure. 

I like to line my baking sheets with parchment or use a silicone baking mat. I think the cookies, they spread more evenly and bake more evenly on a lined sheet. 

When you're beating cookie dough, cookies are different from cakes. With cakes, you want to get all that air into the butter, sugar, and eggs. With cookies, you want to slow that down and cream the mixture more than beat it as fluffy. Often if you beat a cookie dough too much, the cookie would rise in the oven, look puffy, and then it just depletes when it comes out. 

Always try to make your cookies the same size so that they'll bake evenly. You only asked for three, I know, but I'm just thinking. 

MARTIE: You tell us every little tip you've got. I'd love to hear them all. 

DORIE: Give your cookies enough spread space. If it means going back and doing batches, listen to a good podcast. Listen to Martie! You want the cookie to grow the way it wants to grow and not to be twinged to the other one. I like to leave the cookies on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes just to give them time to get used to being out in the world before taking them off and putting them on a rack to cool. And racks are really important.

MARTIE: Yes, I've heard you say that that's one of the more important pieces of equipment with cookie baking. 

DORIE: A good cooling rack where you can get the air to circulate around the cookie. And then this is kind of controversial, but I — a chocolate chip cookie, a World Peace cookie, they're delicious warm. But there are some cookies that really are better at room temperature. And I think that for many cookies, I'm thinking of shortbread cookies, cooling is part of baking, that the cookie texture knits together and comes into its own while it's cooling. So, you know, taste a cookie hot off the sheet if you want, taste it warm, but think about letting that cookie come to room temperature. 

MARTIE: I think that if you put it, like you said, on the cooling rack then it has a chance to get that beautiful, crispy, brown, crusty bit of cookie that is always, to me, the most delicious bite. But if you leave it on the tray, they tend to get a bit soggy and don't have that buttery, caramelly baked goodness that you would want. 

DORIE: Yes. So, thank you. I don't like baked things that are pale. So, a pale pie crust. A pale galette. A pale cookie. Because, as you said, you want that buttery, caramelly flavor. And you really only get that when the butter and the sugar are well-baked and browned.

MARTIE: I always learn so much from my Food Network Star best bud Justin Warner. He just launched his own podcast, by the way, called Warner's World of Wonders. Certainly, we all try to eat healthier and for that reason we tend to use less oil, butter, and salt when we're cooking. But Justin has a great argument for why fat and salt is necessary for food to taste good, and how even the pros get it wrong sometimes. 

JUSTIN WARNER: I'll tell you the first thing that I think a lot of home cooks don't do, is use enough oil, butter, fat, whatever your lipid of choice is. I think we don't use enough of those as home cooks. I think people are nervous about the idea of like, you know, fat is bad.

MARTIE: Right.

JUSTIN: But I'll use the words of the great Guy Fieri, 'Fat is food lube.' And I think people are scared of using great cookware, i.e. cast iron, stainless steel, because they're afraid of sticking. But here's the thing. If sticking ruins your meal, then you have no food. So I'll take an extra tablespoon of fat, divided amongst the six people that I'm serving the food for to provide that lubrication to make sure that the meal gets on and that I have stress-free cooking. 

The next thing is salt. That's another thing people are terrified of, for some reason. Salt, you know, is a miracle. It's the only rock we readily eat. Of course, anything is edible if you try hard enough, but salt is a mineral that we actively consume, and it's a miracle. I think of salt as being like the corrective lenses for your tongue or the readers for flavor. I rarely in my life have food that is too salty. And I think that's because I have a good salt palette.

That being said, I don't know of any ingredient that I don't like, and that's because I think I've experienced a lot of ingredients cooked at a great level with the right amount of fat and the right amount of salt. So those are the first two tips.

Step it up slowly. Surely you'll realize that, wow, you can really push the limits of richness and saltiness as a home cook and people will love you for it.

MARTIE: When you judge a lot of these shows, even with top chefs, people who compete at the highest level every day in the restaurants or on food television, isn't that something that sends a lot of people home — is lack of seasoning? Lack of use of salt and of fat?

JUSTIN: Absolutely. And chef, I can't tell you how many times, and I think it's just people getting nervous and they forget about these core concepts. And really, fat and salt are the backbones of making delicious food. It really is. So I can't stress it enough. And truly, we send more cooks home on Grocery Games due to lack of salt or some sort of technical thing involving fat. It's a shame but that's what happens. 

MARTIE: You're listening to Homemade. After the break Carla Hall and I talk about her secret to great greens, Guy Fieri shares some advice for those new to cooking, Andrew Zimmern talks about a perfect roast chicken, and Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman shares his baking wisdom. So stay tuned. 

Welcome back to Homemade, I'm Martie Duncan. Today, I'm revisiting some past episodes for my favorite tips and cooking advice that guests have shared over the past fifty-something episodes of Homemade. 

Duff Goldman and I had a lengthy chat about baking, but his parchment paper tip for flour is my favorite — I use it just about every day and now the flour goes in my mixer instead of on the floor. Thanks Duff! 

DUFF GOLDMAN: The other thing with that yellow cake, that recipe that we were just talking about, I think is super, super, super-duper important is, if you can, go get some cake flour. It makes a big difference. If you use all-purpose it's going to be a little chewier, where if you're using cake flour it's just going to be fluffier and a little more tender. The other thing about the flour is absolutely 100% must, must, must sift it.

MARTIE: Right.

DUFF: You're aerating the flour, you're getting rid of all the lumps. You're going to mix it for less time because you've sifted it, which means you're going to activate less of that gluten. It's just, across the board, it's going to help make a better cake.

MARTIE: I have the sifter that my mother has always had in her kitchen, and I remember standing there sifting and sifting thinking, 'It's never gonna be a cake!' But now you can use like — I use like the little handle kind. You know, like just a little sieve, sort of but very fine-mesh sieve and sift with that and it takes a second.

DUFF: I use a tamis.

MARTIE: Oh really?

DUFF: Yeah. 

MARTIE: Tell everybody what that is. 

DUFF: So a tamis is a flat screen. It looks like a basically like a tambourine, almost, but instead of a drumhead, it's got a screen on it. So it's round and it has a screen. You dump all your ingredients in there and then you take a bowl scraper and just take your hand and just kind of mix it all up in there, and it sifts through the mesh that way.

So I take a piece of parchment paper and put it flat on the counter and then dump all the ingredients into the tamis over the parchment paper and then scrape it, so it all falls down onto the parchment. 

MARTIE: What a good idea. 

DUFF: And then with the parchment, you don't take the flour and put it in a bowl. When you're mixing, you can pick up the parchment from the corners and you create like a little envelope. And that way you can really get the flour into the mixing bowl, and you're not making a mess. When you go bowl to bowl, it doesn't work.

MARTIE: It's hard to get it in there. 

DUFF: It's hard. 

MARTIE: Because there's only a teensy bit — I always think, Kitchen-Aid, make that bowl bigger so I don't have to dump half of it on the floor. So now, I've got a great tip.

DUFF: Yeah. Take that parchment.

MARTIE: Oh great. Thank you. 

DUFF: Yeah, pro tip.

MARTIE: Carla Hall gave me so many great tips for cobbler, biscuits, and everything Southern. But her approach to cooking greens is something I'd never heard, but it is my go-to method now.

So when you're cooking up a big pot of turnip greens or collard greens or mixed greens, walk us through that process. What's that look like?

CARLA HALL: OK, the first thing that I do is think about the pot liquor. Back in the day, when my grandmother was cooking, she would throw everything in there and then let the greens cook down. But I want to focus on the pot liquor first. And my greens are actually vegetarian. So, lots of onions. I slice or dice the onions. Sometimes I slice them and they just melt away. Onions, garlic, chili flakes, vinegar, and of course a lot of oil because I'm not using meat. And fat is the flavor carrier.

MARTIE: Right.

CARLA: So then, I use smoked paprika.

MARTIE: That's a good tip.

CARLA: Yeah. And then I use water. So I have probably about 2 to 3 cups of pot liquor liquid. And when that is delicious and tasty, then I add in my greens.

MARTIE: That's so backwards, the way that the old-school cooks do it. But that's so smart because you're right, the pot liquor — for those of you who don't know what that is — that is the liquid in the pot you cook the greens in or used to be what was the residual effect of cooking.

CARLA: Exactly, right.

MARTIE:  But you're doing it reverse. You're getting your pot liquor where you want it, taste-wise, flavor-wise. Then you add your greens and cook them.

CARLA: Yup.

MARTIE: And you — I'm assuming you don't cook them to death like our old mamas and grandmamas did.

CARLA: I don't. And let me tell you why I don't have to. Because I also chiffonade my greens. And I don't wash them first. I stack them up like about six or seven greens. I roll them. I then cut them lengthwise of the roll. And then I slice them really thin.

And then taking at least one or two inches of the stems even thinner, because that's going to be the texture for my greens. And then I put that into the water. And so I clean them. You don't even have to spin them dry. I let all the dirt settle. And then I take those greens — shake, shake, shake — and put them into the pot liquor. And then as that pot liquor is cooking, I just take my batches and put them right into the pot liquor, and I just keep going like that.

MARTIE: Ooh, that's so interesting.

CARLA: It's about a bunch per person because greens really cook down.

MARTIE: They do. They surely do. And when people see me going through the grocery store with a whole cart full of greens, they're like, 'You must be cooking for an army.' I'm like, 'These won't make much.'

CARLA: If they're good. Right? You want to have them. I had an event in Nashville for the Nashville Food and Wine. And I had greens and hot water cornbread, and I had a whole bunch. I mean, I just didn't want to run out of greens. And so I was giving people like quarts of greens. And so my mom took a couple of quarts home. And just the other day she said, 'Carla? I've eaten these greens from when you were at the show.' And I was like, 'Oh, that's so amazing.' And they freeze so well.

MARTIE: They do?

CARLA: They do.

MARTIE: Wow.

CARLA: They do. They freeze really well.

MARTIE: That's good to know. So, after you cook them, you freeze them in liquid?

CARLA: Yup.

MARTIE: Oh nice.

Everybody needs to learn how to cook the perfect roast chicken and Andrew Zimmern is going to tell us how to do it. He learned this method in his bubbie's kitchen, so you know it's going to be good. 

Will you walk us through that roast chicken recipe really quick? I mean, everybody's got their way of doing it.

ANDREW ZIMMERN: Oh, yeah. Super, super, super easy. Although my grandmother had hers and I've, I've refined it now. My grandmother never put anything inside the cavity of a chicken but salt.

So I've changed up a little in the formal recipe is on AndrewZimmern.com. But I take my chicken, I wash and dry it, and then I let it sit overnight in the fridge. It really helps make the skin super tight and crisp and delicious. And I rub the whole thing down with butter, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and different seasonings. I put lemon and celery and parsley and other aromatics into the cavity.

I truss it. I tie the legs together and pull them up the back side by winding around the wings. And the reason I do that is the same reason that if I was cooking myself, I would cook faster with my arms raised. Right? It pulls your scapula, your shoulder blades up.

MARTIE: OK, I really thought you are going to say when I'm cooking myself. And I then thought, I hope he doesn't cook himself. But you're actually talking about cooking, yourself.

ANDREW: Yes. The, and here's the reason, dark meat cooks slower than white meat. Right? So what we're trying to do when we're cooking poultry is accelerate the time of the dark meat quarters and their attempt to reach 170 degrees.

When the connective tissue breaks down. And the white meat, which is dry and nasty at 170 degrees. So, I do that first and foremost. Anything under three pounds. It goes right into a rack. I scatter onions all around the pan. I take a few tablespoons of chicken fat because I always have leftover chicken fat in a little jar in the refrigerator and I drizzle that on top of the onions so that they start roasting and caramelizing after the first half hour of cooking. And the reason that I do that, people are like, 'why don't you baste?' Well, I don't baste. I never baste. I'm trying to preserve the moisture in the white meat of the chicken and at the crown where the keel bone meets the thinnest part of the breast, that's where you're basting. Why do I want to put 325-degree fat onto the place that I'm trying to keep it, 165 degrees, at most, so it's nice and moist and delicious. So I roast the chicken at 90 minutes, 110 minutes, depending on the size anywhere in between there until the dark meat is just cooked through because I already know the white meat is cooked. Then I pull it out, let it rest, which helps the dryness issue on the white meat. And while it's resting, I make a simple pan gravy with all of those browned onions and the chicken fat and everything that's in there. I emulsify the chicken fat into the gravy. It gives its richness and I use homemade chicken stock with that, so it has a really deep, delicious flavor. My grandmother never would cook with anything other than homemade chicken broth, and that's really the generic recipe. If you're cooking with bigger birds, I'll take a roasting pan. I'll put about a half inch of stock or water in it. And I'll actually get that boiling on the stove top and I'll poach the bottom of my turkey, let's say.

MARTIE: Really?

ANDREW: For 15, 20 minutes, then take it out and stuff it and put it in a rack and roast it. Yeah. Because I want to, I want to give the place that's going to cook last a head start. Right? So that my white and dark meat all comes together at the same time. My grandmother's roast chicken recipe, she would shove, and I mean shove, three chickens into that roasting rack that inserted into that roasting pan. It's a tight squeeze. And so she would always cook it a little too much because she needed to make sure that it was all connected, it was like this big block of chicken. And I do my gravy usually ahead of time with onions and lots of wings and backs in the sauté pan, and I just let them roast until they're all brown and caramelized for like three hours. At 250/275 and then hit it with stock and boil it, reduce it. And I make this concentrate that I just can quickly thicken and use for gravy for when I'm entertaining. 

MARTIE: I'm coming to your house. I'm coming like right now.

To wrap up, I wanted to go back to the very first episode of Homemade for some pearls of wisdom from the mayor of Flavortown himself. My buddy Guy Fieri talks about building confidence in the kitchen and not biting off more than you can chew or, in this case, serve. And that's especially important for the holidays or when you have guests over.

What advice do you have for all the beginner cooks that are finding recipes to try on the Internet?

GUY FIERI: The first time you rode a bike, did you just go 20 miles? Is that what you did the first time? The first time you went roller skating? Did you just — the first time you drew a picture of a bunny. The first time that you got in the pool and went swimming. All the times when the first time, second time, third time, we do something, it's not like instant success. And granted, you watch me and Martie and different chefs do something, you're like, 'how hard can it be?'

MARTIE: It's easy. Yeah, it's easy.

GUY: You know? How hard could it be? And then you go ahead and do it. You're like, wait a second. It's like me playing hockey. Ice skating looks really cool, calm, and collected. Hold the stick. Hit the thing, like that's so difficult. You go to swing that, you get off balance and you fall on your ass in the ice. You know?

So cooking is a lot — I think cooking, more than anything, is timing. Timing is the key. When do you flip? When do you stir? How much time do you let that pan get hot? All of these factors of timing. So please, don't be so hard on yourself. Realize that not the first time that any great musician picked up a guitar and started to play a song, did it go to an album.

MARTIE: Right.

GUY: Cooking is timing, training, development, growth. I mean, there's just so many facets to it. But don't be so hard on yourself. People are so devastated. I suck. Listen, Martie will tell you. I'll tell you that time and persistence, get back after it. Try it again.

And here's another. This is one of my favorite tips. If you're going to make dinner for the family, don't make Bobby Flay's new recipe, Guy Fieri's new recipe, Rachael's recipe, and Martie Party's recipe. That's like trying to learn four new songs for your opening concert. Make a starch that you know. Make a vegetable that you're consistent with, and go and get adventurous with your protein or vice versa.

MARTIE: Right.

GUY: But don't make everything new because you're going to inevitably burn something, screw something up, and then you're going to get off-kilter. So, my best recommendation is, do yourself a favor and make sure that you have a little bit of experience in some of the things you're doing and then take one leap of faith.

MARTIE: Thanks for listening today. I hope you picked up something you'll use in your own cooking. You can dig into past episodes of Homemade for more tips and quips from my other guests including the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, Rachael Ray, Aarón Sánchez, Nadiya Hussain, Michael Symon, Jacques and Claudine Pépin, and so many more. 

Next week on Homemade, food journalist and founder of Un-Plated, Sabrina Medora, will talk to Queer Eye's resident food and wine expert Antoni Porowski about his new book, Let's Do Dinner

ANTONI POROWSKI: My mother: excellent home cook. I think that's where I get my obsession with food and thinking about it and talking about it and constantly learning. She really instilled in us, you know, since we traveled as kids, whether it was my parents going off to some far away place and coming back, and then we would have food from that place or us traveling as a family together, it was always like, 'okay, what's our like hit list of restaurants, which markets are we going to go to?' Everything always revolved around food.

MARTIE: Be sure to keep up with me via my website martieduncan.com or @martieduncan on Instagram. And remember, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-to's from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. 

This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and is produced by AllRecipes with Digital Content Director Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Jim Hanke, Maya Kroth, and Andy Bosnak.

I'm Martie Duncan … and this is Homemade.