Sharpen Your Cooking Skills With These Tips

Apr 16, 2024

“No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.” – Julia Child

Older couple cooking together in the kitchenPerhaps you’re a veritable celebrity chef, renowned for your signature towering soufflé and perfect Baked Alaska. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who enjoys a fine meal – in the comfort of your favorite steakhouse.

No matter your comfort level in the kitchen, there are always skills to learn that can make your cooking more delicious, more creative and more fun.

Knife Skills and Tips to Improve Your Cooking

Many chefs say they think of their knives as extensions of their arms. Watch any kind of cooking show, and you’ll notice how deftly they use knives to slice, chop, julienne and more. Learn to handle yours safely and effectively, and you’ll be well on your way to culinary prowess.

Assess your knife situation

While professional knife sets can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, most home cooks can get away with three types, according to The New York Times’ guide: chef’s, utility and serrated.

Make sure you’re holding your knife safely

That means keeping all 10 fingers as far from the cutting edge as you can. You should have full control at all times – don’t try to use the knife with wet, slippery fingers.

Practice your cuts

There are a few basic moves that can help even the most novice cook in the kitchen:

  • Chop – Like cutting up carrots for a stew
  • Slice – Like segmenting an apple into wedges for a pie
  • Dice – Like cutting a potato into small cubes for hash browns
  • Julienne and chiffonade – Like creating small curls of basil for a soup or pasta dish

Take care of your equipment

Smaller utility knives with thin blades might need to be replaced every so often. But larger chef’s knives can last a long time if you properly care for them. Don’t put sensitive materials into the dishwasher; get them sharpened regularly; and don’t store knives in a drawer with other utensils, where the blades could be scraped.

Save Time and Cook Better Dishes

When a recipe says the prep time is 30 minutes, do you automatically double it? Ever wonder how restaurant chefs manage to cook perfect dishes every time? Cook more efficiently and produce higher-quality food with this set of tips.

  • Season your food in “layers” – while you’re prepping ingredients, while it’s cooking and when it’s finished. And if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, follow the same rules when using spices and herbs to punch up the flavor of your food.
  • Place a wet towel beneath a cutting board to prevent slippage.
  • Don’t overcrowd a pan. It might seem like a faster way to cook more food, but it only lowers the temperature of the pan and leads to steaming instead of browning.
  • If your hard-boiled eggs always end up with blue-ringed yolks, it’s because they’re overcooked. For a perfectly-boiled egg, add the eggs to cold water, bring it to a boil, and remove the pan from the heat, keeping it covered. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes, and voilà  – no more blue ring.
  • Take a tip from the diner and warm your plates before adding food – your dish will stay warmer longer. Just put the plates into a low oven before serving. If food is to be kept cold, like a frozen pie, stow your plates in the freezer for a few minutes first.

Tips for Plating Your Food Like a Chef

Finally, remember that we eat with our eyes, too. Create a feast for all the senses by following some of these presentation tips from the pros.

  • Think about the food in terms of color and height on the plate. Vary these elements to create a more exciting dish.
  • Add a pop of color and taste with fresh herbs, citrus or sauces – but be sparing to let the flavor of the dish shine through.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of cooking each ingredient properly to enhance its natural taste. For example, lightly steaming vegetables will keep them bright and crispy; roasting them will darken their colors and bring out an earthy taste; boiling them…won’t do much for your palate.
  • Experiment with different plate colors, shapes and sizes. Pick one that showcases the food, not steals attention from it.

Finally, never be discouraged if your food doesn’t turn out looking like it came from a Michelin-starred restaurant. Practice makes perfect – and if it tastes good, it’s always a success in our book.

Get More Cooking Tips with Your Smart Speaker

Do you own a smart speaker, like Google Home or Amazon Echo? If so, cooking tips and ideas are just a query away.

There are a wide variety of skills and commands these speakers can access, including those that can help you find a recipe, use what’s in your pantry, add items to a grocery list and more. Give it a try – you might find that a smart speaker is your new helpful, hands-free companion in the kitchen.

Keep Learning with The Admiral at the Lake

At The Admiral at the Lake, we believe learning – whether it’s perfecting your cooking techniques, finally trying out sailing or discovering something new about yourself – is a lifelong pursuit that can benefit people of all ages.