Five Tips To Improve Your Cooking Now

Feb 28, 2018 | Cooking Tips

 

It is very easy for me to sit here and tell you how easy cooking is. How you just do this, this and this and it’s done. It is much more difficult for me to put myself in your shoes, to remove the years of accumulated knowledge I have in my head, and imagine I am a person who rarely cooks and doesn’t know all the tips and tricks that I do. Even though it’s difficult for me, I think it’s important that I try my best to put myself in your shoes so I can give you practical information that you can use right now. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Here are five practical things that if you keep in mind will help improve your cooking, and make you a more confident cook.

Garlic and Onions don’t cook at the same speed so stop adding them to the pan at the same time.

One thing I notice a lot while reading recipes is that they often say to “saute onions and garlic together until the onions are cooked”. If you saute onions and garlic together until the onions are cooked, your garlic is going to be burnt to shit. No one wants that! Instead, saute your onions then add your garlic when the onions are 90% cooked. This way, the onions and the garlic will both be cooked, but the garlic won’t be burnt and you won’t have burnt, bitter tasting food. The only time it would be okay to saute onions and garlic together is if they were pureed together, likely with ginger, and you were using a considerable amount of fat like in a curry. Otherwise, keep them separated until the last few minutes.

Preheating your pan means that food is less likely to stick.

When I first really started cooking, I often found myself impatiently waiting for pans to heat up. If I placed something in the pan before it was hot I would usually get yelled at and the food would usually stick in the pan. It is important to use a hot pan for most things, especially meat because the heat on the surface of the pan will sear the surface of the meat. This creates a chemical reaction on the surface of the meat (which we will get into in the next topic) which will let the meat (or what ever your cooking) release from the surface of the pan. Ie. It won’t stick. If you did preheat your pan, and you notice something is sticking anyway, it generally means that you are trying to flip it too early. Let it sit for another few seconds, or minutes, and it will likely release on its own allowing you to flip it without destroying your food.

There are a few things that are generally started in a cold pan such as bacon and duck breast but these are the exceptions to the rule. 

Searing meat in hot pan in order to brown the surface will help develop flavour and will allow for more even cooking. No colour, no flavour.

There is something called the “Maillard Reaction” which Wikipedia describes as;

“…a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor.”

No colour no flavour. When you are cooking meat, no matter what you are doing with it you should brown it. If you are making a stew, brown your meat first. Making pulled pork, brown your meat first. Making pork chops, brown them! It is an important step in developing flavour. So, how do you do it? Well, it starts with a hot a pan. Preheat your pan, add a touch of oil, season your meat with salt and pepper, and place it in the pan. Let it sit for a minute or two. Flip it, and do the same thing. Do this on all sides. If you are searing a pile of diced meat or strips, do it in batches. If you put too much meat in your pan, you can cause the temperature to drop too drastically. When this happens the meat will let go of it’s juices and instead of searing your meat, you will end up boiling it. Nobody wants boiled, grey meat. If you are working with a larger piece of meat, you can sear it in the oven under the broiler for a short amount of time.

The only time your burner should be on high is when you are boiling water.

It is incredibly rare that you would want a burner on high unless you are boiling something. Imagining the dials on your stovetop go from 1 to 10, 6 would pretty much be the max you would generally want to go. Any higher and you are just going to burn whatever you’re cooking. As long as you let your pans preheat, and you don’t overcrowd them, you will not have any problems at all. Most things can be cooked at medium (5) or lower as long as your pan is preheated.

Almost everything that you cook in your oven can be cooked between 350°F – 450°F.

People often get way too caught up in what temperature their oven should be on. As long as you are paying attention, it doesn’t really matter that much. Bigger things are generally cooked on lower temperatures, while smaller things are generally cooked on higher temperatures. If you are braising something, or cooking a turkey or a full ham or something over 4.54 kgs (10 lbs) you might want to lower the temperature to 325°F or even as low as 300°F, other than that this 350°F – 450°F is fine. Don’t sweat it, just keep an eye on it.

These are simple things that really will improve your cooking. The key to all of it is really just mindfulness. You want to be present when you’re cooking, conscious of the things you are doing and why. This alone will improve your ability to cook.

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