We all want to be known as “that cook”. That person who can make the best brownies, or pancake breakfast or beef stew dinner, or the best barbeque. Some of us even dream of the more exotic and difficult sounding meals: Paella, Coq au Vin, Moroccan Tagine, or Indian curry. We all want our families and friends to sigh with delight and anticipation, their mouths watering, when you announce you are cooking dinner, not running and hiding in the basement rather than eat your food. We all want to improve our skills, and abilities. Here are three techniques you can use to vastly improve your skills and the favors and presentation of your food. These are three things that can take your cooking to the next level.
Head Chef, Bill Carbone, of the successful and acclaimed DISH restaurant group located in metro Hartford, offers this advice to novice home cooks, and chefs like.
1 – Knives
“Always make sure your knives are sharp and free from defects.” Knives are more important than you think. Not only does a good knife make clean cuts that look beautiful, a sharp knife is safer. A sharp knife will allow you more creativity and precision. More kitchen blunders and accidents are created with a dull knife.
2 – Heavy Pots and Pans
“Use the heaviest gauge (thickness) pots and pans you can.” There’s a reason why women for generations have cherished their cast iron pots and pans. This can make all the difference in cooking properly and creating great flavor. There is also a subtle dance between the types of heat that occur in a pot. There are two kinds: Convection, which is heat lost to air and Conduction, which is the burner to pan transference of heat. The heavy thickness allows for better heat distribution and retention. This heating will create a better taste in your food.
3 – Prepare
“Read all recipes completely before you begin and organize your mise en place (prep) before you begin.”
There are reasons why restaurants have prep cooks and sous chefs. These are the people, in a large kitchen, who handle everything that needs to be prepared or what is known to chefs as “mise en place.” Simply put have everything prepared and in place and ready to go. This includes knowing what you are cooking. First, read all recipes completely before you begin. Nothing is worse than getting half way through the recipe and discovering you are missing key ingredients or you aren’t sure what a term means or how to execute it. Once you make sure you have all the ingredients then organize your mise en place (prep) before you begin. Make sure that the meat, or chicken is cut to the correct size for your recipes. If you are cooking fish, cut and de-boned before beginning. If, it needed to be in marinade, make sure you do so for the proper amount of time. Have the fresh herbs for seasoning ready, and know when you will add them. Any sauces that need to be prepared ahead of time should be ready. Make sure the vegetables are diced, sliced, minced or julienned to the correct size before beginning.
Cooking is sustenance. But it is also an art and a craft of skill. With these three techniques you can vastly improve your cooking.