Now that you know the basics, go on and don that chef's hat!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 18, 2022. It has since been updated.
While food is a basic necessity, cooking to eat is something that divides people into two. While some cook to unwind themselves at the end of the day, some others find it an absolute chore that they can do without if possible.
But to be honest, cooking is not simple. There are dishes you can whip up in a few seconds, and then there are complicated recipes needing utmost care and attention. If you have always avoided cooking and are worried about making rookie mistakes, then here are 20 tips from chefs themselves about how to avoid these mistakes.
1. Instead of adding more salt, try adding an acid. A splash of vinegar or lemon/lime juice can make flavors pop without over-salting.
2. Never add garlic and onions at the same time. Onions take about 8 minutes to saute and garlic takes about 30 seconds. If you add them together you're gonna have burnt, bitter garlic.
3. Clean as you go. Throw away the trash, wipe up what you spill, get unnecessary utensils out of the way. If your kitchen looks like a tornado struck after you're done cooking, you f*cked up.
4. Salt your damn pasta water. Salt it liberally.
5. It is the fat that carries the flavor. If you're going to saute something, put the herb and spices with the butter or oil that is in the skillet. Don't put them in the flour you're using to bread the food.
6. There is a really simple rule when cooking a steak: Leave the steak alone. Stop f*cking with it. Stop poking and prodding and moving it and flipping it around. Let it cook. Let the heat do what it's supposed to do. Get to know your heat source and learn to trust it.
7. Not having things ready and in place. Having everything ready to go at the start lets you add the things when they need adding and helps put dishes out at the appropriate time.
8. If you want perfect roasted potatoes (oven-roasted, chopped pieces) with a crispy outside and fluffy insides then boil them for about 5-10 minutes in saltwater first. Then roast them.
9. Crack your damn eggs on a FLAT surface, not the side of a bowl or pan. Cracking on a flat surface makes it easier to open as well as preserve your yolk.
10. Sharp knives. Makes things a million times easier, and is actually sooo much safer in the end. Combined with the proper grip and a bit of practice, and suddenly cutting things for prep goes from the most hated step of everything to just another step, maybe even becomes fun for some people.
11. Putting oil in the pot when you're boiling pasta. If you do that, the sauce will just slide right off your pasta. The starchier the water, the better the sauce will stick.
12. Under salting your food! Everyone is so afraid of sodium but the vast majority of sodium in your diet is coming from processed snacks and fast foods not home cooking.
13. Practice your recipes. Don’t find one risotto you like and never make a different one. Cook 10 different risottos two or three times each over a long period of time. Doing this helps you understand the basics of how to make it and allows you to spot bad recipes, recognize good ones, and improvise without one.
14. Cooking too hot to speed things up. If the recipe calls for something to cook for one hour at 350 degress, cooking it at 425 degrees for 35 minutes is not a substitute. Some things just need to be cooked slowly and gently.
15. Leave your meat out to go to room temp before you cook it.
16. Not sanitizing your hands and work area after handling raw meat, especially chicken.
17. Pressing/squashing burger patties down as they cook on the BBQ.
18. Ex-chef here, and this is a dumb one but I've seen it so many times in student halls. Don't microwave a f*cking steak, or eggs, to cook it.
19. Toss your hardboiled eggs in an icewater bath right when they're done to make them peel easier.
20. Pouring water into a grease fire. That's actually SUPER dangerous.
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Morsa Images