Most home chefs don’t aspire to create a five-star meal; they just want to get a flavorful and healthy dinner on the table at the end of each day. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot we can learn from professional restaurant chefs about preparing food.
The training that professional chefs get from their time in culinary school and the years they spend in restaurant kitchens could actually have practical application for the Saturday-morning pancake flippers and those just throwing something together quickly after work.
Don’t miss out on these 12 cooking hacks shared by expert culinary artists. They just may change your taste buds for good.
1. This sweet idea will add more flavor to your food.
Health-conscious cooks will love this tip, but cutting back on processed sugar isn’t the only benefit to getting creative with sweeteners. The truth is, alternative sweeteners can add new and unexpected flavors to your food, and we’re not just talking about desserts.
“Try maple syrup instead of sugar for a delicious, rich, nutty flavor that pairs well with savory foods like sweet potatoes, squash, and apples,” executive chef Ryan Kikkert of Roanoke Restaurant in Chicago advised. “It’s excellent in vinaigrettes, pancake batter, or for making sweet compound
In addition to maple syrup, Kikkert suggested agave nectar, which is both sweet and tart and is amazing with fruits, yogurt, and even in chili. Honey has floral notes and a malty taste and is perfect for baking, making granola, or throwing in a sauce for chicken or pork.
2. Never accidentally crack a hard-boiled egg again.
“Rather than dropping the eggs in the water one by one or by the handful, use a towel as a lowering device,” he explained. “Place all of your eggs on a thin towel, grab the corners of the towel, and lower it into the boiling water. This will help to prevent cracking when eggs hit the bottom of the pan, and it also helps to increase efficiency.”
3. Avoid a visit from the fire department.
Leaping flames may be exciting if you’re visiting your favorite hibachi restaurant, but a fire is something no cook wants to face in their own home. There is one step many home cooks skip that puts them at risk for burning their food, according to Birnbaum.“Soak your skewers! Home cooks always forget this crucial step. Soak your skewers overnight so they don’t catch fire on the grill.”
4. Holy guacamole, that was easy.
If you’re one of the avocado obsessed, you’re going to love Chef Wigglesworth’s hack for simplifying your guacamole prep, especially since a recent epidemic of avocado-related injuries has become a source of national concern.“People often have a hard or messy time cutting the avocado and scooping it out of the skin,” he said. “A trick for expediting that process is to use a metal wire cooling rack, one that has a crosshatch pattern. Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed, keeping the skin on for now. Place the metal cooling rack over [a] bowl…place the avocado halves on the top, flesh side down…apply a little pressure, pushing the avocado against the cooling rack.”Voila! Perfectly cut avocado without the trip to the emergency room.
5. Shake it up, baby.
Peeling garlic can be a time-consuming task that leaves many home chefs reaching for garlic salt instead of putting in the time to mince up the real deal. With this shortcut from Chef Wilde, garlic peeling doesn’t need to be a hassle.
“The easiest way to peel garlic is to put the garlic in a sealed container and shake,” he said. “You can also press on it with your palm or the back of a kitchen knife.”
7. Streamline food preparation.
Coming home from work to a home-cooked meal is one of the most comforting practices of a busy week, but cooking from scratch each night simply isn’t realistic for most working parents.Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to eat microwave dinners Monday through Friday. With enough planning, home-cooked meals can be simplified. When you cook on your days off work, double or triple your favorite recipes.“Make big batches and freeze small batches,” encouraged Birnbaum. “Big batches of marinara, pesto, Bolognese, etc… Pack them into small, tight-fitting Tupperware and thaw as needed.”
8. There’s a simple trick for fresher meat.
A lot can be said for the flavor of never-frozen meat that you’ve sourced from a butcher in your own hometown. Keeping meat fresh can be a hassle for busy working parents, but there is one little-known hack that keeps meat from spoiling before you have time to use it in your home-cooked meal.
Instead of wrapping meat directly in plastic, Wilde instructs home cooks to wrap it well in paper towels and then cover it in plastic. This eliminates excess blood, which actually spoils much faster than the meat itself.
9. Stop spending so much on fresh herbs.
Confession time: When recipes call for fresh—instead of dried—herbs, I find it seriously tempting just to stick with what’s in the spice rack. Fresh herbs are pricey, and they’re packaged in large quantities, more than can generally be used before they go bad.
The solution to this dilemma is simpler than it may seem. Todd Birnbaum, owner and menu creator at the New York restaurant Clancey, believes growing your own herbs is an opportunity home chefs shouldn’t pass up.
“It’s easy to do and they pay for themselves,” he said. “Stores package herbs in a way that you generally only need 20 percent. When you grow them, you can snip as needed.”
10. Enjoy the luxury of homemade pizza without all the work.
There is no doubt about it; made-from-scratch pizza puts frozen options to shame. Of course, making pizza dough at home requires a lot of time and effort. Home chefs shouldn’t let this keep them from treating their family or guests to really great pizza from time to time.
“Buy pizza dough from your favorite pizzeria,” suggest Birnbaum. “Grill some pizzas, wrap hot dogs in it, or let the kids make their own pizzas!”
11. The fluffiest scrambled eggs are within your reach.
Scrambled eggs are a staple for breakfast lovers and a healthy enough option to became a part of the daily menu. Most home cooks, however, are adding an unnecessary step to the process, and it’s robbing their eggs of their fluff.
“People add cream, milk, butter, or some kind of dairy to the eggs before cooking. It will result in a creamy texture, sure, but it will not be as fluffy as it could be,” explained Dustin Wigglesworth, a sous chef at the Candy Apple Café in Jacksonville, Florida. “The extra proteins in the dairy actually weigh down the egg, making it denser.”
Instead of adding dairy, Wigglesworth suggests pulling out your blender to add extra air to your eggs. Crack them straight into the blender, turn it on for 15 seconds, and you’ll notice your eggs appear to multiply. Follow this by cooking them as normal—slowly, over low heat.
12. Here’s an
eggscellent approach to your next egg salad.
Don’t put your cooling rack away just yet; it just might make your egg salad prep easier than ever before. According to Wigglesworth, the exact approach described above can also be used for preparing an egg salad.
“Just hard boil the eggs, peel them, and push the whole egg through the wire rack.”
13. Speaking of hard-boiled eggs…
Let’s all be honest: Chopping hard-boiled eggs is hardly the biggest inconvenience when you’re making egg salad. Peeling eggs is a headache. Simplifying and cutting back on the mess requires an understanding of how to cook perfect hard-boiled eggs.
Fill a pan with cool water and add your eggs right away along with a heaping teaspoon of baking soda. Cover with a lid and bring the water to a boil. As soon as it reaches a rolling boil, turn it off and set a timer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, get an ice bath ready. As soon as your timer goes off, halt the cooking of the eggs by transferring them to the ice bath right away. This recipe yields perfectly cooked, easily peeled eggs every single time.
There you have it: the best of the best cooking hacks straight from the people who know their way around a kitchen. Whether you’re planning a family get-together or simply preparing your next meal, these little nuggets of advice should prove to be invaluable.