When you were a kid it is very likely that a parent took care of just about every meal you ate. From your first memories to moving out there was likely someone at least pitching in to make dinner. Suddenly you are on your own with a kitchen full of utensils, a fridge full of food, and a rumbling stomach. For a lot of people this is a crux moment in time: Do they try to cook, or bake, their way to a meal? Or do they reach for the take out menu. We are here to help the first group of people. Listed below are 10 delicious tips to cook and bake your way to a perfect dish. Get your apron on and keep reading!
Master the art of butter consistency.
You don’t need to be Paula Deen to appreciate a solid stick of butter. When it comes to baking, almost every single dish you’ll come across will require butter in some capacity. Butter, while fattening, is the cornerstone to an entire part of the culinary world. So you need to know how to work for it. Culinary institutes and cooking colleges all over the world will expect you to learn and be capable of reproducing consistent butter. The temperature that your butter sit at can dramatically change how your baked food tastes and feels. So be aware of these five categories: Softened butter, chilled butter, and frozen butter — along with melted or cold. If your recipe calls for chilled butter, don’t serve it frozen (or softened, or melted — you get the point).
Go the extra mile with your meat browning.
When you go out for fine dining and eat up a meaty dish you’ll typically notice how savory, juicy, and filled with flavor the meat is. In culinary arts schools you are pushed toward understanding the efficacy of browning your meats. Browning meats in your own home dishes is so much more than just shoving ground beef around a hot pan. You want to heat your meat at a high temperature and monitor as its color changes. Make sure to not overcrowd the pan and really give the meat time. Don’t let it burn, but don’t let the meat get away with coming out before it is ready. When you get that crispy, juicy bite you will know your plate is perfect.
Cherish the mixing bowl.
You don’t need a culinary arts degree to understand that the foundation of a good cake starts in the mixing bowl. Making a cake is literally playing with science as you employ chemistry in order to get a delicious dessert at the end of your work. The next time you approach a baking recipe you should understand that the recipe order and sequence of mixing instructions is precise. Don’t assume that since all of the food is going into one bowl that the order doesn’t matter. The order and method really matters and if you don’t adhere to them you are going to end up with a flavorless disaster.
Master the art of searing.
If you plan to serve meals for your carnivore friends then you are going to have to get comfortable working meat and a pan. Now, most people get through life just knowing how to roughly panfry chicken and steak and that’s the end of the story. For you, the one who looked for online colleges about cooking, you deserve better. Searing is the art of giving your meat a golden brown exterior that is crispy but hiding a juicy interior. So if you want to sear meat follow these steps: Preheat your pan on high heat before adding oil. Afterwards pat down your meet with a paper towel to limit moisture. When you see the oil is hot you can throw the meat into the pan and let it cook. You know the meat is ready to get flipped over when the corner of it can be lifted easily. Thin cuts of meat can do all of their work in the pan but thicker cuts need additional time in the oven. Go forth and impress your friends with crispy fish, chicken, and steak.
Appreciate the slow cook.
The hidden Holy Grail in your kitchen is probably tucked away in a cabinet somewhere, only making an appearance for the occasional pot of chili. The slow cooker can bring meals out that you never would have thought possible all while doing the work itself, hands free. Learn to appreciate slow roasting food in your kitchen and you can turn poor ingredients into powerful ones and great ingredients even better. Slow roast veggies and meat, or both, for 6 – 10 hours at a time. When you finally pull out your food you’ll have succulent, moist, pull-apart level food that will almost melt in your mouth — literally. Don’t feel guilty that you let the slow cooker do all of the work.
Guide your dish with chicken stock.
When you first start playing around in the kitchen and chasing after the fancy new recipes on the internet you will end up introduced to a world of different ingredients. One of the more common ingredients you will run across is: stock. Stock comes in a bunch of different varieties that include: beef stock, chicken stock, veggie stock and so on. While they all have a place in your kitchen you typically should reach for chicken stock above all. Chicken stock is the perfect way to work some flavor into a bunch of recipes without overpowering them. Veggie stock is typically spiced up to high heaven and beef stock is just too powerful to balance out easily. Unless you are cooking seafood, ditch fish stock almost completely.
Save your veggies and blanch them.
Vegetables are going to be a hard sell for young eaters but adults can appreciate a plate of nutrition rich greens. Do better than serve your house guests fried veggies and instead opt to blanch them. To blanch your veggies you will want to boil them in water for about a minute. After boiling them immediately put the vegetables in an ice bath. Doing so will shock the veggies into staying firm. Boiling the veggies only briefly will help to retain the majority of the nutrients that you need from the vegetables. It’s a little bit of work but oh so worth the pay off.
Save your leftover baked goods.
We love baking because we love eating great baked goods. There is just nothing better than having a piping hot plate of chocolate cookies on the counter and knowing you will have some for later. Yet inevitably they will get stale if you don’t eat them in time. We do have a little trick you can use to keep your baked goods nice and fresh for a little while longer. All you need is a piece of bread and a Tupperware container. Store your cookies in the container like you normally would and then add a slice of bread in it as well before sealing them up. The bread itself will give up the moisture it has and the cookies will suck it up, thus keeping your treats ready for a couple more days of soft, juicy flavor.
Oven temperatures are not gospel.
Every oven in the world will heat up to a slightly different degree than the one next to it. Much like microwaves (wattage may vary) the use of temperatures on a dial for ovens is more of a guiding hand than an exact science. As a chef you are probably better off thinking in three categories: low, medium, and finally hot. Monitor the food yourself rather than relying on temperatures and clocks and you’ll become a better cook because of it. Attune your noise and eyes to what food should look like and heave a food thermometer always on hand to give you an accurate temp reading before serving your dish. The food thermometer is far more accurate than your own oven.
Learn the ins and outs of measuring ingredients.
In some cooking realms you can get away with the ‘pinch’ and ‘dash’ method of incorporating your ingredients. What does a few extra granules of salt actually do, anyway? In baking, however, every little bit of your ingredient list is accounted for in a meticulous fashion. So in order to make sure that your baked goods come out right: learn to measure. You should have proper measuring spoons and cups as well as a kitchen scale. You should also use a spoon to fill up your measuring cups when working with dry ingredients. Using the measuring cup to scoop will lead to inaccurate readings as the compression of ingredients isn’t as strong and will thus leave you with an improper amount in your cup. When you scoop with a spoon you are able to pack down and level for a perfect dose.