Culinary art is not for everyone. However, if you like to cook but think there’s nothing left to learn, think again. There are lots of tricks and techniques that can take your at-home cooking to the next level and they’re all waiting for you in culinary school.
Sure, it might be a bit intimidating to sign up for classes after you’ve already established yourself in the kitchen. But don’t worry: You won’t have to pick up any heavy knives during class (they’re not allowed) and you probably won’t even get messy! Here are 7 things chefs wish they could teach home cooks but rarely do.
Aiming for the Perfect Steak
Steaks don’t come any better than this. Grilled to perfection and served with a chunky chimichurri sauce, this is one dinner you won’t be able to resist. The biggest mistake people make when grilling steak isn’t using enough heat or placing it too far away from the coals or flame. Another common mistake is that they turn it too soon, overcooking the outside before it has a chance to cook all the way through. Unnecessary flipping will also dry out your meat in no time! So what do you do? Patience and a good digital thermometer, are key for getting juicy medium-rare steaks every time. Follow these simple guidelines and tips for the most perfect grilled steaks, chops, and chicken every time.
Getting Juicy Meat All the Time
Get a pan that doesn’t react with acidic foods! You can neutralize the acidity of vinegar or lemon juice (both of which cause metal pans to rust) by adding something like cool-aid or pancake syrup (which have high sugar content) or baking soda (which has an opposite charge to acids). This works because the two chemicals balance each other out. The pancake syrup works particularly well with lemon juice.
I find it helps when cooking meat to keep fats and juices from running off of it by putting a sheet of aluminum foil on top of it. Aluminum is a good conductor of heat so you should not have any problems because your nice juicy steaks will stay nice and juicy.
Never Be Afraid of Salt
This chef uses his hands not only to cook and craft dishes but also to teach students about flavor. He sprinkles a little bit of salt in one hand and massages it into the other, explaining how the more you use your hands for cooking, the less you need added seasoning… Culinary Institute of America graduate Jesse Szewczyk told BuzzFeed that during her time at the school “we learned pretty quickly not to be stingy with the salt. For the first several months of school, I kept getting docked for serving under-seasoned food.” A sprinkle of sea salt on a dish can make all the difference in flavor… If you’re hesitant to ramp up your salt addition, use this trick to avoid over-salting: garnish your creation with salt continuously as you cook, rather than salting it heavily at the beginning and/or the end.”
Try Sugar as Good Seasoning
Sugar makes a great seasoning. It is the perfect blend of sweet and sour, and it won’t destroy your health. The only ingredients you have to worry about are sugar, mother nature’s best flavor enhancer, salt, and some spices if necessary. Let’s start by looking at how sugar can be used as a natural preservative for food. Food stores are full of products that contain sugar; from sweets to canned fruits to peanut butter (a food staple invented by none other than Thomas Jefferson). Sugar preserves wonderful flavors like banana in a jar of brandied fruit or strawberry jam fresh off the shelf! Sugar gives tomato paste that amazing taste without using any chemicals or preservatives. Try using sugar in sauces and glazes for meat, fish, and vegetables.
Shaping Up Patties for Perfection
To produce a perfectly shaped burger patty, you must start out with a perfectly shaped patty. Here’s how to get it:
1. Gently press down in the center of the meat with your finger (but don’t flatten it completely). This will cause all the air in between each slice of beef to rise to the surface and escape. The fat should also push itself up a little bit from between slices of meat. It’s important that this first step is done gently, as you want to keep all those lovely juices inside your patty; if you smash it too much, some might come out during cooking.
2. Now take another look at your patty; whichever side is most obviously concave is the top. Place your thumb on that side and make a little cut into the patty, all the way to the bottom. Be careful not to poke through!
3. Flip over your patty and make a similar cut into its underside (the bottom). This will cause meat juices to flow evenly across both sides of each slice, so when it’s cooked, both sides will be as juicy as the middle!
That’s it, now you’re ready to throw that puppy on a cooking surface and enjoy one helluva sweet burger! Have fun!
Preparing Clear Broth Every time
The trick to making the cleanest and tastiest chicken broth involves lots of chicken and lots of patience. Take your chicken meat and bones, if you’re using them, and cook them in a small amount of water (just enough to cover them) for at least three hours. Cook on low heat, and make sure to skim off any suds that float to the top. This will make the stock clearer and tastier. Don’t add your vegetables right away, wait to add them after about an hour and a half to two hours. For the clearest broth possible, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth.
The Only Thing to go in a Non-stick
As a rule of thumb, if you’re looking for crispy food, think fried chicken or steak, avoid nonstick pans like the plague. Here are some things that should always go in a nonstick skillet: pancakes, omelets, sautéed vegetables (including chopped garlic!), and eggs that are going to be scrambled or made into an omelet. This is because eggs generally aren’t sticking to the nonstick surface anyway! A lot of people think these pans are perfect for making pancakes without leaving any sticky residue behind, but it turns out its better to not have that non-stick coating in the first place.
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