10 Restaurant Tips for Home Cooks Slideshow
August 4, 2011
A former restaurant chef shares some helpful advice on how to cook and prep better in the kitchen
1. Have a No-Mess Clean-Up
One of my jobs at wd~50 was separating hundreds of eggs, with the whites often dripping onto the counter. To avoid a sticky mess, I lined the workspace with a few overlapping layers of plastic wrap. Try this when making cakes with dripping batter. When you’re done, simply pull off the plastic wrap, and your surface is totally clean!
2. Avoid Shell in Your Crab Meat
When I was working at Senderens in Paris, a main task was shelling crabs. No one wants to bite into a piece of shell when eating crab so I had to be extra vigilant about removing all the bits of cartilage from the sweet meat. Surprisingly a black light — yes, the disco-ish UV lamp — actually illuminates the little pieces of shell, making their removal easy.
Recipe Idea: Singapore Chile Crab.
3. Deseed a Pomegranate Quickly
In Tel Aviv, I learned a trick for getting the seeds out of a pomegranate in under five minutes. Simply slice the fruit in half lengthwise, then make several 20-degree slits around the cut-side. Place the pomegranate half, seed side-down, in your palm, all over a large bowl. Using a large wooden or metal spoon, whack the fruit as hard as possible. The seeds will fall right out into the bowl! Just remember to wash your hands afterwards, or else you’ll end up with pink fingers for the rest of the day.
Recipe Idea: Pomegranate-Herb Salad.
4. To Prevent Cross-Contamination
5. To Ease Chopping
Place a damp paper towel or dishrag underneath your cutting board when chopping anything. It’ll prevent the board from slipping around.
6. Save Money on Equipment
Don’t buy a knife set! Almost everything you do in the kitchen can be done with an 8-inch chef’s knife and a paring knife. Rather than go through several knives, invest in a single good knife and keep it sharp — remember, the sharper the knife is, the less it’ll hurt if you cut yourself!
Related Story: Chefs' 5 Favorite Kitchen Tools
7. Devein Shrimp Without Cutting Into Them
At Senderens, we served a dish of fried shrimp. We needed to devein them, but couldn’t do it the traditional way of cutting down the back, because then the crustacean would curl and butterfly out. So after removing the shell, we’d make a tiny slit at the base near the tail. Then using the tip of our paring knife, we’d gently remove the intestinal tract from the bottom out, leaving the shape of the shrimp intact. This also works for langoustines.
Recipe Idea: Ming Tsai's Shrimp Bouillabaisse.
8. Clean Delicate Herbs
The best way to clean delicate herbs like chervil or cilantro is to fill a bowl with cold water and soak the herbs. The dirt will drop to the bottom of the bowl; then lift the herbs up and let dry on paper towels. Rinsing under cold water might miss some dirt and could be too strong for the tender leave
Related Story: Simply Summer: Taking Advantage of Summer Herbs.
9. Store Spices Efficiently
This tip I didn’t actually learn in a restaurant, but it’s been so helpful I had to share it! Store your spices alphabetically in a drawer, and label the tops of the bottles. Rather than digging around the cluttered cupboard, you’ll be able to see all your spices at once.
Related Story: How to Revive Spices
10. To Save Time and Energy
Probably the most important tip I mastered was making sure to have your mise en place, or prep work, all done before you begin cooking. It might seem like it takes more time getting everything ready, but once you begin cooking, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress. And read through the whole recipe before you begin cooking!