Everyday Culinary Tips For Beginners To Professionals
It doesn’t matter if you’re learning to cook for the first time or you’re a seasoned chef, there are a few basic things that you should get under your belt that will make your life in the kitchen so much easier! Here are just a few that you can knock off that list.
1. How to cut an onion without crying
One thing every level chef knows is that cutting onions is no fun. Here are just a few quick tips to keep the tears at bay.
- Use a sharp knife when cutting onions. Less rough edges mean that the onion will release fewer irritants.
- Chill the onion. A cold onion will also release fewer irritants. Be sure not to freeze it however, that will cause the onion to become mushy as it thaws.
- Keep cuts away from you. Place the onion cut side down on the cutting board and be sure to prep your onion right when you need it. No need to have onions sitting around under your nose while you are trying to prep other veggies.
2. How to sharpen a knife
Keeping your chef knife sharp is not only safer but will make your life in the kitchen so much easier. Depending upon frequency of use, you should sharpen your knives every few months to once a year so it’s important to get a handle on how it’s done.
- Use a whetstone. A whetstone is a rectangular block that works sort of like sandpaper. Normally it has a rough and fine side to refine your edge. Most whetstones should be used when, you guessed it, wet! So, make sure you read the instructions before use.
- Use a knife sharpener. This is a quick way to sharpen a knife in a pinch. However, save your fancy knives for the whetstone. Knife sharpeners may damage certain types of knives. For example, most western style knifes are angled on both sides of the blade and can be used in a knife sharpener. Japanese style blades are only angled on one side and could be damaged by the wrong sharpener.
- Honing rods are what most people picture when thinking of knife sharpening. However, these steel rods are not actually for that purpose. Honing rods are used to maintain the knife between sharpening and does not actually wear the knife down. These tools are used to keep the cutting edge straight for smoother cuts. Both sharpening and honing are necessary for knife care.
3. How to properly mince vegetables
Recipes often call for minced garlic, onion, and other vegetables. Mincing in the culinary world means that your food should be very finely divided into uniform pieces. This is the smallest chopping size before a pulp or puree.
- After washing and peeling your veggies (when appropriate), the first step to mincing is cutting your veggies into thin strips. Once you have cut the strips, gather them together in a bundle, all facing the same direction.
- Chop veggie strips, holding the bundle of veggies down with curved fingers in one hand to keep your fingertips clear of the knife. After chopping the strips into small uniform pieces, gather those pieces into a pile.
- With one hand resting with outstretched fingers on the blunt edge of the knife, rock the knife back and forth in alternating directions through the pile. Stop occasionally to re-consolidate your veggies into a pile and continue rocking until the desired consistency is reached.
- For garlic and other small vegetables, consider using a garlic press or a cheese grater.
4. How to fry a perfect egg
The perfect egg is elusive and takes practice. Follow these steps to nail it down and add this simple yet essential skill to your repertoire.
- The first step to frying the perfect egg is choosing the right pan. We recommend a well-seasoned cast iron pan because it heats evenly and can be non-stick. Really any non-stick surface pan will do in a pinch. Get the pan nice and hot before you begin.
- Grease the pan with a fat of your choosing. If you’re feeling really decedent, bacon fat is the way to go. Butter is always a favorite go-to but any cooking oil will do. You don’t need too much, just enough to lightly coat the surface of the pan.
- Crack your eggs and cook until the white is set and edges are crispy and try not to let the eggs touch. That crispy browned edge is what we’re trying to achieve here and it requires just a little extra attention to make sure they don’t crisp too much. This shouldn’t take long, only a few minutes. The rest is according to your preferences. You can flip your eggs and continue cooking for a short time to achieve over-easy eggs. You could also use a tight-fitting lid and cover your eggs for a few additional minutes without flipping to achieve sunny-side up eggs. Top your eggs cooked to the desired consistency with some salt and cracked pepper and you’re ready to serve.
5. How to peel garlic quickly
Garlic is a central ingredient to many recipes, but such a pain the peel and process. Here are a few shortcuts to move it along.
- Separate your garlic bulb into individual cloves. Place those cloves into a bowl or mason jar. Now cover the bowl with another or put a lid on your mason jar. Shake vigorously for several minutes or until you see the peels start to fall off the cloves.
- Alternatively, cover an individual clove with the wide flat side of your knife. Strike the back of the knife with your palm hard enough to break the garlic apart and the peel will fall away easily.
- Both methods can be improved by slicing off the “butt” end of the garlic clove with a sharp knife before beginning. This is the rough tip on the clove that connects it to the base of the bulb.
6. How to thaw frozen meats quickly
If you ever have a moment of panic around dinner time when you realize that your main ingredient is still in the freezer, don’t freak out! There are a few ways to remedy the situation.
- Place your frozen meat in a resealable plastic bag and squeeze out as much of the air as possible before sealing. Simply submerge this bag in a bowl of water. Remember to check on the meat periodically, small cuts should take under an hour to thaw and large cuts may take 2-3 hours depending upon its size. Be sure to replace the water every thirty minutes or so to ensure the meat remains cool.
- The microwave is another option for smaller cuts of meats to thaw even faster. By using the “low power” or “defrost” mode on your microwave, you can defrost meat in as little as ten minutes. Make sure to use one of these modes and to check on the meat frequently to ensure that it does not begin to cook.
- You can cook some meats frozen if you adjust your cooking time. Ground turkey and beef are ok to throw into a pan frozen, just keep an eye on it and make sure you’re cooking them thoroughly.
7. How to open a stuck jar lid
It seems that everyone has their own go-to method for this, here are just a few tried and true methods for an age-old problem.
- Brute force. Call your strongest friend, maybe a climber or someone with some grip strength.
- Wrap the jar in a dish towel or a rubber glove for some added traction.
- Run the lid under hot water. The heat causes the metal to contract and may make opening a bit easier.
- Break the vacuum seal. There are a few methods to this, with varying amounts of success. You can tap the rim of the jar on the counter, or flip is upside down and give it a few smacks on the bottom.
8. How to keep herbs bright and fresh
Fresh herbs are a chef’s best friend! Whether you’re finishing off a meal with a garnish or whipping up a quick chutney, fresh herbs are essential to keep on hand. Here are a few methods to keep them fresh and bright just a little bit longer.
- Keep your herbs in a glass of water like you would a bouquet of flowers. Cut the bottom of the stems off with a sharp knife and try to keep the leaves of the herbs out of the water. Not only is this a beautiful and fragrant addition to your counter, it also helps the herbs last longer.
- Wrap your herbs loosely in a damp paper towel and stick them in the crisper drawer of the fridge. This is a preferable method for woody herbs like oregano or rosemary and can help stay fresh for up to ten days.
- Fresh herbs keep very well in the freezer. Chop them up and add them to an ice cube tray with a little water and oil for individual servings you can pop out whenever you need them. Alternatively, you can store them whole in a freezer bag and keep them for several months.
- All methods for herb longevity can be improved by washing and drying your herbs thoroughly after you bring them in from the garden or the grocery store. Removing dirt and bacteria with a good rinse and a few revolutions in the salad spinner should do the trick.
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