Tips Every Home Cook Should Know
As a professionally trained chef and healthy cooking expert, I am always eager to share insights from my own experience working in restaurant kitchens. These tips are perfectly fine for use in your kitchen and you don’t have to be a chef to pick these up — they are so simple, and yet they will make a big difference in your cooking. After all, restaurant cooks certainly know how to make food taste amazing!
The tips and techniques below have the biggest impact on boosting flavor, but by all means please post other questions in the comment section below so I can answer them for you.
Salt Is Not the Enemy
Proper seasoning is paramount for good results, so don't be afraid of it! I’ve noticed that home cooks rarely use enough salt, presumably because they are worried about their sodium intake (which is a valid concern for some people). However, to eat less salt, limit packaged foods as much as possible and use less than one teaspoon of salt per day.
So why is using the right amount of salt so important? The reason is that salt enhances the inherent flavors of food manifold, so by using a little more salt than you’re used to, you’ll be amazed how intense flavors can become!
Herbs Boost Taste with Hardly Any Calories
Herbs are another wonderful way to add flavor to food — start with parsley and basil, which work with so many dishes. While dried herbs can quickly overpower, opt for fresh herbs that perk up foods with their fresh flavor.
Plus, the oil components found for example in rosemary and thyme also have antimicrobial activity against many different bacteria and fungi. In fact, rosemary extract is used to help preserve ground turkey. Check out my blog post on more tips for cooking with herbs (which herbs to use with what ingredients).
Searing Is Critical
There are a few aspects that are critical to searing meats properly. Make sure the skillet is preheated, and use the right size skillet — too big and the food will burn, too small and the food will steam. Be sure to use the right amount of oil — too little and the meat sticks, too much and it fries.
The oil should lightly coat the bottom of pan and glisten when it’s heated through, and move around the pan like water when you tilt it. Start with a teaspoon of canola oil if you’re searing a chicken breast in a small skillet.
So why is searing so important? The reason is that nothing creates quite the same type of delicious taste than searing the outside of meats — so don’t miss out on another fabulous layer of flavor!
Preheating the Oven Does Make a Difference
Most ovens take between five and seven minutes to preheat and it’s well worth remembering to do it! Without preheating, the center of baked goods can come out wet or the meat may not cook evenly. So just start the oven before starting to cook. This is one of the easiest techniques that will instantly improve the deliciousness of your food…
Ready, Set, Cook!
"Mis en place" is a fancy term chefs use for preparing their ingredients before they start to cook, but you don’t need to be a chef to pull it off at home. When you prep your items first, it simplifies the whole process and makes for a less stressful cooking experience — it keeps the oil in your skillet from smoking or prevents food from burning simply because you’re not distracted by chopping vegetables.
Give It Rest
Meat — especially beef, lamb, and pork — needs to rest before it's sliced to allow the juices to redistribute. If you cut right into the meat once it comes out of the pan or oven, you’ll see the juices run out and the meat will taste dry. Most cooked meats should rest anywhere from five to 10 minutes. And if you are nervous that your food is going to get cold, you can tent some aluminum over it, but don’t cover it tightly or it may make the seared surface sweat.
As a trained chef, author, and health expert, Jennifer Iserloh has created thousands of delicious recipes, articles, and blogs posts for TV, print, and web publications — including The Today Show, Living Well With Montel, SELF, Prevention, In Style, People, First For Women, AOL KitchenDaily, and LiveStrong. Follow her healthy cooking advice at SkinnyChef.com.