A few simple cooking tricks can make a boring dish even more delicious or simplify your cooking process altogether. So here are 10 basic cooking tricks you should add to your chef repertoire!
1. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
You might think you have enough room in your skillet for an extra piece of chicken, but if it’s questionable, don’t risk it. There’s a chance the heat won’t distribute properly to the rest of the food in the pan, thus affecting flavor or, worse, creating a health risk. As a preventative measure, leave a few inches between each item to ensure they cook thoroughly.
2. Let red meat sit before cutting into it.
Even a well-done steak should never taste dry. To prevent a steak from losing its juicy interior, place it directly on top of aluminum foil after taking it off the stove or grill. Carefully wrap the steak in the foil and let it sit for approximately five minutes. This allows the juices to settle before you cut into the meat. The meat will continue to cook while it is in the foil so if you prefer medium steak, you should take it off when it’s medium rare.
3. Store spices in the right location.
To prolong the life of your spices, keep them in a cool, dark place. Don’t store them on top of the stove, as heat and humidity can alter their flavor.
4. Shut the stove off before eggs are done.
The trick to great eggs is to not overcook them! Whether you scramble, fry, or poach, always turn off the stove a few minutes before the eggs look done—even when they seem a bit runny. The remainder of the heat will cook them to fluffy perfection.
5. Chop herbs with salt.
To prevent herbs from flying all over the place when chopping, sprinkle a bit of salt onto the board. This will keep them in place.
6. Add salt to boiling pasta water.
When you make pasta, salting boiling water will add flavor from the inside out. The rule is about 1-2 tablespoons for a large pot of water, stir it until it dissolves, and once boiling, add pasta. It sounds simple (and it is!), but it will elevate the taste of your dish.
7. Use pasta water to create a pasta sauce.
If you thought your pasta tasted good before, wait until you try this trick. Before dumping used pasta water, add a cup of it to your sauce pan. Then, add the pasta directly into the skillet. The salty water will add more flavor to your dish. Reserved pasta water also contains starch that can be used to adjust the consistency of sauce. Your taste buds will appreciate it—and the texture will be spot on. Trust me.
8. Always keep a few essentials on hand.
We’ve all been there. You stare in the fridge, thinking there’s nothing to eat, so you order take-out and call it a night. Nope. Stop right there. Consult our list of pantry essentials and stock up on your next grocery store trip. It’s easier to get creative with what you have if you are stocked with the right tools. Bonus points if you keep meat (chicken breast, hamburger meat, salmon, etc.) and frozen vegetables in your freezer for last minute meals.
9. Use a paper towel to preserve vegetables.
It never feels good to throw away food you haven’t touched, especially produce. Prolong the life of vegetables by wrapping them loosely in a dry paper towel and placing them in a re-sealable plastic bag. Oxygen is not a friend of veggies, so get as much air out of containers and bags before sealing. Also, avoid washing until you are ready to eat produce. And make sure to leave ample room in your refrigerator and produce drawer. Overstocking can cause less air to flow through the refrigerator, which can cause uneven temps with food expiring faster.
10. Keep the root of the onion intact to help with slicing.
Onions can be difficult to slice into without making a mess. To cut them evenly, do not remove the root. While keeping it intact, peel the onion and slice in a horizontal direction. Then, cut down vertically to create perfectly minced pieces.