So you’re not a celebrity chef on Chopped, entertaining the world with your culinary masterpieces. Just because you didn’t go to cooking school doesn’t mean that you can’t delight your eager audience at home with your kitchen prowess, though. Professionals in the food industry agree that years of working in the industry have taught them the easy tricks for making meals look and taste fantastic. All the everyday chef needs to cook like a pro is to discover and apply the formerly secret tips these chefs use daily. Here are the top hacks that will help transform your meals from amateur to amazing…in less time and with less effort!
Never fry bacon.
When you fry bacon, you end up getting grease splatter everywhere—and the bacon can become crumbly and unevenly cooked. The best way to cook bacon is to bake it on a baking sheet at between 300 and 350 degrees. It’s foolproof and the result is a crispy product, cooked to perfection.
Sprinkle chopped garlic with salt.
This is a really helpful hack! When you’re chopping garlic, chop it really finely with your knife, then sprinkle salt on it and grind the salt into it with the flat side of the knife. It seasons the garlic and brings out the flavor, while at the same time helping you chop it more easily. Speaking of garlic, here’s how to peel it. (Eggs and onions too!)
Make epic mashed potatoes.
Everyone loves mashed potatoes! But making them can be really tedious. Try this hack the next time your family screams for them. Bake the whole potatoes on a bed of salt on a baking sheet. When you can easily poke holes in them, peel them. Save the skins. Fry the skins in some butter for about two minutes and then add ½ cup of milk to the frying pan. Strain the milk through a strainer and add it to your cooked potatoes with some salt and pepper. Mash or whip the potatoes to your desired consistency.
Buy a good knife.
You don’t need that electric juicer or all-in-one breakfast station to be a good cook. However, it is important to make sure you have the best of the basics. In the video below, learn about the most essential tool to have with you in the kitchen. Additionally, you must learn how to properly cut and chop with your knife. Check out these videos on how to slice and dice your favorite fruits and vegetables. In no time, you’ll be prepping like a pro!
What about kiwis, mangos, and other tricky fruits?
Get good tongs.
Next in line, and equally as important, is having a good pair of sturdy tongs. Most experts love the ones with the silicone tips because they can be used on any surface without scratching and are heat resistant up to 600 degrees. Tongs are the most versatile tool in the kitchen and can be used for many things, including squeezing juice out of lemons, toasting a tortilla over a flame, rotating your dishes in the oven, tossing salads and pasta, grilling, and rotating delicate food.
Cream the heck out of your butter.
For the best-tasting baked goods, the one rule of thumb is to cream the butter and sugar together for longer than you would ever think (4 to 5 minutes is the standard guideline). Well-creamed butter ensures that the ingredient will be evenly distributed throughout the batter, making your baked goods moist and yummy.
The video below demonstrates how to correctly peel an orange.
Citrus sections never looked so sweet.
Bacon makes everything better.
Have you got something bland that needs a little oomph? Add bacon (and don’t forget to bake it)! This ingredient is used by chefs the world over to add flavor, salt, and texture to plain potatoes, boring rice, and everyday veggies.
Save bacon fat for everything.
Speaking of bacon, the secret to making anything fried taste even better is to fry it in bacon fat (aka bacon grease) instead of olive or vegetable oil. It improves the flavor and richness of everyday foods so much that chefs often refer to it as liquid gold. Simply keep the drippings from cooked bacon and fry everything and anything in it!
Make the best stir fry ever.
Ever wonder why the fried rice at the Chinese restaurant tastes so good? The answer is chicken stock! Boil your rice in chicken stock instead of water and watch your guests’ mouths water! Another key to tasty stir fry lies in the temperature of the wok. Amateur chefs make the mistake of cooking the ingredients on too low of heat in fear that they’ll burn them. A wok must be cranked up to high heat (until it sizzles), and rocked back and forth to cook effectively. The result is a delicious stir fry that’s crispy where it counts without being charred.
Recycle leftovers for stock.
Homemade stock is simply scrumptious and makes a huge difference in the taste of dishes. Professional chefs make their own stock by collecting the unused parts of vegetables, such as carrot tops, onion stems, and celery ends. Leftover chicken bones and extra meat can also be saved for your broth. Just put all of these scraps in a Ziploc bag and store it in the freezer until you’re ready to make your stock!
Slice cake with a hot knife.
Ever notice how beautiful a perfectly cut piece of cake is? Have you ever attempted to cut a piece of cake perfectly? It’s nearly impossible if the knife isn’t hot! Run the knife under hot water for about a minute, wipe it dry, and watch it slide effortlessly through the cake.
Make the best chicken ever.
Everyone loves chicken! But not everyone can make it delicious. Chefs agree that there are two hacks to cooking the best-tasting chicken your family has ever had. 1. Season both the outside and the inside of the chicken. 2. Don’t overcook the meat! The way to tell if chicken meat is cooked to perfection is to slice a piece and make sure the liquid runs clear.
Form cookie dough into balls and freeze them.
Everyone loves homemade cookies. They taste so much better than store bought ones. But who has time to whip up a batch on the spur of the moment? Do what the pros do and make extra batter when you’ve got extra time! Form the dough into balls and freeze them on a cookie sheet. After they’re frozen, remove them from the sheet, place them in a Ziploc bag, and pop that back in the freezer. Preheat the oven, pull out the bag, and you can have delicious, hot cookies in 10 minutes or less anytime you want.
Microwave your baked potatoes for fast meals.
Do you love the taste of a good baked potato but don’t have the hour it takes to cook it? Cheat the clock! Set your microwave to the baked potato setting and cook it until it’s semi-soft. Crisp it up by placing your potato in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
Here’s the proper way to dice an onion.
First, trim the ends off the onion using a sharp knife. Then cut the onion in half lengthwise and peel off the skin. Working with one side of the onion, slice crosswise. Flip onion sideways and cut downward, finishing with a quick chop. Voila!