Following recipes is a great way to learn to cook, but not all recipes will be tailored to your liking. That’s why it’s important to use your senses in addition to following the recipe to get the best results. Our 5 cooking secrets are good cooking habits that anyone can adopt to become a real cook and not just a recipe follower.
These 5 cooking secrets are all simple and easy, but everyone will be asking, “Wow, how did you know how to do that? It wasn’t in the recipe.”
That’s when you know you’ve become a real cook and not just a recipe follower. As always, the more you put these secrets to practice, it’ll become second nature to you, and you won’t ever have to settle for blaming the recipe again.
Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to use salt. Salt is used to enhance the flavor of a dish. Recipes never explicitly state all the times you should be seasoning your dish as you cook, so here’s our tip: Season as you go. Add a small pinch of salt every time a new ingredient is added to the dish, so that flavors have time to build.
The earlier you start seasoning, the deeper and more concentrated the flavors will become in the final product. When cooking meats, make sure to salt and tenderize with a fork the night before. And for pasta, salt the water generously, because that’s the only time the pasta will really be able to absorb any flavor.
Heat is a critical part of cooking, and for the best results, make sure that the oil is hot when you add ingredients to saute, stir-fry, or fry. If you don’t, the food would just be sitting in oil rather than getting cooked in oil. When you add the oil to the pan, tip the pan back & forth. You can tell the oil is hot when you see striations in it (like legs in a wine glass) and it shimmers. It is best to use oils with high smoke points, like avocado, coconut, or grapeseed, for high-heat cooking.
Sometimes when you’re cooking, your pan might dry up. This is okay! Adding a few drops of water, broth / stock, or wine will add flavor and prevent burning. Remember to use your best judgment and keep an eye on what you’re cooking. If it ever looks like the food or pan might start to burn, add a splash of liquid. Scrape up all the brown bits that have formed on the pan (that’s good stuff right there), and you’ll add flavor to your dish!
You’ll never experience a bland dish if you learn to trust your taste. If something tastes bland, add some salt or spices. If it’s too tart, add some sweetener, like sugar or honey. If it needs some zing, add some acid or something spicy, like hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne. Remember, recipes are just meant to be guides; you’re the chef, and you get to determine how the final product tastes.
Finish your dishes with a bit of acid to really bring out all the flavors. Acid or sourness has the effect of highlighting other flavors, which can make the tastes of a dish so much more powerful and dynamic. Always keep lemons and a selection of vinegars around, and finish a dish with a few drops of acid. Do this towards the end of cooking as heat can dull the effect.
5 Cooking Secrets Every Home Cook Should Know
Discover our 5 cooking secrets that will take you from a recipe follower to a real cook.