1. This one’s kind of common sense, but hotter doesn’t mean faster – turning your burners up to 10 for everything will just lead to smoke and half-cooked food with a burned exterior.
2. Smell is very similar to taste, and if you’re not sure about combining various spices, open the bottles and smell them all together.
3. Preheat your pan, it’s a simple trick but it will improve your cooking.
4. Patience/planning: Brine your chicken. Let the rice dry before you make fried rice. Slow cook your meats. Overall the actual time you invest is about the same but it requires some foresight. Don’t expect to just grab a chicken breast out of the freezer and be able to make a delicious meal in 20 minutes. A lot of the best dishes take some time to let the flavors do their work.
5. Organization: It’s a lot more enjoyable when you can focus on cooking instead of digging around for things you need or clearing space on your counter. Have a good set of glass Tupperware to save leftovers. Get stackable matching cookware that’s easy to manage and store. Ziplock bags are great too. These things pay for themselves in giving you general sanity and making it more likely you will consume your leftovers and always have things in their place.
6. If you put a lot of effort into making a meal for your loved ones and something doesn’t come out the way you hoped for, don’t bitch and complain and apologize for it when everyone is eating. Otherwise, a crappy dish turns into a crappy experience for all.
7. Salt, pepper, and acid will brighten up almost any dish. If an otherwise wonderful dish is just… missing something, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then reassess.
8. You’re just going to enjoy cooking more if you have a SHARP knife. No clue how people can hack away at veggies and meat. No reason to go insane either, a $30 Victorinox and $5 sharpener will get you a very long way
9. Mashed potatoes… NOT blended potatoes. Don’t ever put potatoes in the blender, it will turn into glue. For anyone wondering the science behind it: potatoes contain a lot of starch. Mashing cooked potatoes gently by hand or with a ricer leaves most of the starch molecules intact. The butter and dairy you add to the mashed potatoes are able to coat each individual particle, making the potatoes creamy.
10. Shallots are used extremely often in restaurant kitchens but rarely at home. Use as a substitute for onions for a more mild taste.
11. Toasting dry spices in a sautee pan can really bring out the flavor of the spices. Don’t put BBQ sauce on until the end of cooking meat. The sugar in the bbq sauce can cause the meat to burn and char.
12. You should study cuisines. Don’t know how to make something Thai? Well if you study the culture you would know that they use coconut milk, turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime, etc. Don’t know traditional Mexican food? Well, they usually use chili peppers (a wide variety), corn, chocolate, almonds, cilantro, tomatoes, etc. You can use these ingredients to make something inspired by those cuisines. It also makes you more knowledgeable about food and where it comes from.
13. Tie. Your. Hair. I’ve watched so many people cook and half the time they have their hair loose just flying wherever it chooses. God no, just tie it. Please.
14. A long-cooked tomato sauce is not done until it’s sat in the fridge overnight. Neither is a lasagna.
15. Salt a little now, so the sodium can work its chemistry on the dish, but do not try to season with salt at the beginning of the dish. Check for taste when it’s almost done.
16. Generally speaking, vegetables grown above ground (peas, broccoli, etc.) should be placed in already boiling water. If it’s grown underground (potatoes, carrots, etc.) you should put it in cold water and bring it up to a boil.
17. Stop cooking with extra virgin olive oil. It is not some ‘better’ version of olive oil. Extra Virgin has an extremely low smoke point, so cooking with it often leads to burnt food and a smoky kitchen. It is intended for dressing and garnishing. Regular olive oil has a much higher smoke point and is meant for cooking. They are not the same.
18. Always salt your pasta water!
19. Don’t go for cheap store-bought cooking wine. Buying the real stuff adds much more flavor to the dish.
20. Want to make something more like a restaurant? Odds are you need more salt, sugar, or butter. We don’t care if the carrot we serve are worse than eating actual candy, we just want you to come back.
21. Taste everything possible. Not just your finished product. Taste the spices, salt, pepper, etc all separately before adding them the first time you use them. A lot of people will buy a new spice then immediately add it to their food, ruining it.
22. You don’t need to buy pre-made spice rubs. Look at the ingredients and build a well-stocked pantry.
23. LET YOUR MEAT REST AFTER COOKING.
24. DON’T FUCKING RUIN YOUR PANS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. I’ve seen so many instances of people talking about how “nonstick doesn’t work. It goes away a week after you buy the pans” when in reality they are treating the things like cast iron and using every metal utensil they can find on it.
25. Make your own salad dressings fresh. It takes no time, you likely have what you already need in your pantry and it tastes 10x as good as the crap in the bottle. You’ll be surprised even how much better Ranch dressing tastes if you get the dry seasoning packets and mix it with some fresh milk and mayo and let it set for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
26. Really think about what size you’re cutting your vegetables in relation to cooking time. It’s better to have a perfectly cooked larger vegetable that you have to use fork and knife a bit to eat at the table than a bunch of overcooked, mushy bite-sized pieces.
27. You can always add, but you cannot take away.
28. When you take steak or pork or lamb off of the heat or out of the oven, always give it time to rest, usually half the amount of time you cooked them.
29. Understand times and temps. It’s possible to stack times and ingredients so that your food is done at the same time.
30. A lot of the time when people add salt to a dish because they think it tastes flat, what it really needs is an acid like lemon juice or vinegar.