1. Crack your damn eggs on a FLAT surface, not the side of a bowl or pan.
2. Never put knives under soapy water EVER. I once saw someone put one in and they sliced their hand pretty deep.
3. Salt your damn pasta water. Salt it liberally. Also don’t add oil to the water unless you want your sauce to slide off your noodles.
4. Toss your hardboiled eggs in an ice water bath right when they’re done to make them peel easier.
5. Don’t cook too hot to speed things up. If the right time and temperature for something is 1 hour at 350 degrees, cooking it at 425 for 35 minutes isn’t a substitute.
6. Even on the Food Network I see chefs cut the top off of bell peppers and then pull out the seeds. Bell peppers are shaped like a cube, just slice from the top down on all 4 sides and you will end up with easily chopable or sliceable pieces. The only time you chop the top off is if you need rings.
7. Thinking you need more salt when the dish just needs an acid like vinegar or citrus.
8. Never add garlic and onions at the same time. Onions take about 8 minutes to sauté and garlic takes about 30 seconds. If you add them together you’re gonna have burnt, bitter garlic.
9. How about simply chopping onions. It’s literally one of the easiest things to do if you use the natural anatomical structure of the onion in your favor. Most people hack it into oblivion, which not only takes much, much longer, but also results in unnecessarily sad-looking onions. Plus it makes you cry.
10. Practice your recipes. Don’t find one risotto you like and never make a different one. Cook 10 different risottos two or three times each over a long period of time. Doing this helps you understand the basics of how to make it and allows you to spot bad recipes, recognize good ones, and improvise without one.
11. Don’t press/squash burger patties down as they cook on the BBQ (you’re just making them drier by squeezing out the juices IMHO).
12. Iodized salt (table salt) is not the same grade as kosher salt. Makes things taste way salty and metallic. Go for either Morton’s kosher salt which is a dense salt or Diamond Crystal which is a lighter flaky salt. And keep the salt in a bowl, makes it easier to just grab a pinch and season whatever you’re cooking with.
13. Don’t buy tomatoes that are pink and have no smell. Fresh, good heirloom tomatoes should have a distinct smell and be nice and red/solid yellow. The Walmarts and Safeways of the world are selling you these horrific non-tomato tomatoes devoid of flavor and frequently unripe. Don’t do it.
14. When making stir fry or frying food in general, don’t add aromats (ginger, garlic, chili etc) to blisteringly hot oil. Gently fry them first otherwise they burn almost instantly. If this happens your dish will get a burnt/bitter aftertaste that will always show through.
15. Salt should be added at various stages before and during cooking. Not from a shaker at the table after the food is cooked.
16. Don’t put your knives in a drawer. It ruins the edge. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. (Because you can’t slice through the food and you struggle, this results in an injury.)
17. Cover the pan when you’re frying eggs and you get perfect sunny side up.
18. Use fresh lemon, not that crap in the little yellow bottle.
19. There is a really simple rule when cooking a steak: Leave the steak alone. Stop fucking with it. Stop poking and prodding and moving it and flipping it around. Let it cook. Let the heat do what it’s supposed to do. Get to know your heat source and learn to trust it. Almost everybody I know violates this rule.
20. Don’t put raw onions in a casserole or meatloaf and expect them to cook properly.
21. Use a mandolin for all your veg. A good one, not the cheapo plastic ones.
Where it can take a good 45 minutes to matchstick fine dice your carrots, courgette, red onion, garlic, red, green and yellow bell pepper and ginger…. All this will take about 15 minutes with a nice quality mandolin.
Make sure you get a finger guard and use it, and always use the utmost caution with the beast and go slowly until you gain confidence through repeated uses.
Once you’ve mastered the mandolin, your knives won’t leave the butcher block as often as they used to.
Get one with the V configuration, not one that’s just a slant, those are rubbish.
Seriously, mastering the mandolin changes everything in terms of prep time. It’s amazing how fast tomatoes get sliced, how blissfully paper thin fine you can get your onions in just a few seconds!
I love that thing. I have one with a handle and a knob that adjusts the depth of the blade, all in one. I think it cost about 70 bucks.
22. Get the biggest cutting board that will fit on your countertop. You can always put other prep work on top of a cutting board, but if you need more space to slice you can’t cut on your countertops (at least, not if you want your deposit back).
23. Let meat rest.
24. Not using a thermometer when cooking meat. By using a thermometer, even a novice cook can be sure that they are cooking their meat to the desired level of doneness. You may not need to use a thermometer after you’ve cooked a certain cut of meat a few times, but for new recipes and types of meat, a meat thermometer gives you confidence and precision.
25. It is the fat that carries the flavor. If you’re going to sauté something, put the herb and spices with the butter or oil that is in the skillet. Don’t put them in the flour you’re using to bread the food.
26. Not sanitizing your hands and work area after handling raw meat, especially chicken.
Can’t count the number of times I’ve been cooking with friends or family and have to stop them from chopping salad veggies on the same cutting board as raw meat, or running their hands under cold water for a second to ‘clean them’ before going to grab stuff out of the fridge or drawer or even just going about their day.
Same goes for giving your slimy raw-chicken cutting board a quick scrub to wash it using the same sponge you use for everything else.
If it’s touched raw meat, it needs to be throughly cleaned and sanitized with hot water and either soap (your hands) or bleach (everything else).
27. Keep sharp knives.
28. Most people suck at roasting vegetables. Brussel sprouts are the number one fuck up and most people lose their shit when I serve them properly done brussels.
Toss with olive oil (more than you think), salt (more than you think), and any other herbs/spices (e.g. curry spices with cauliflower), lay cut side down on a baking sheet, and throw that shit into a 200C/400F oven until it’s visibly browned. Depending on the veggie (e.g carrots) you’ll probably want to turn over to the other side and continue roasting for a bit. Once they’re done you can toss with pepper or fresh/delicate herbs before serving (e.g. mushrooms with tarragon or parsley).
Just because it’s fork tender and cooked through doesn’t mean it’s delicious. Yet.
29. Just finished that awesome, wholesome, home cooked and hot delicious meal? Don’t put it on a cold plate from the cabinet. Some ovens have a warm plate setting or even keeping a stack in hot water and drying them off right before plating can keep a hot meal hot. I always hated cooking an awesome dinner and then by the time I’ve served everyone and sat down my food is cold because its sitting on an ice cold plate. Hell even some of the newer dishwashers have a plat warmer setting.
30. Have things ready in place.
Have you ever been halfway done with a dish and realize you didn’t have the cheese grated? Now everything is on hold (and over cooking) while you grate cheese?
Having everything ready to go at the start lets you add the things when they need adding and helps put dishes out at the appropriate time
31. Ex-chef here, and this is a dumb one but I’ve seen it so many times in student halls. Don’t microwave a fucking steak, or eggs, to cook it.
32. If you want perfect roasted potatoes (oven roasted, chopped pieces) with crispy outside and fluffy insides then boil them for about 5-10 minutes in salt water first. Then roast them.
33. Clean as you go.
No matter how busy you are, throw trash in the trash, wipe up what you spill, get unnecessary utensils, plates, etc. out of the way.
If you’re done cooking and your kitchen looks like a tornado struck, you fucked up. Instead the kitchen should be 3/4 clean (at least) by the time the cooking is finished.