Do you enjoy cooking, but wish you had a little more skill in the kitchen? If so, you might be wondering what small steps you can take to better your overall cooking skills. In reality, there are a few simple tips you can follow to cook like your favorite chef without any special training.
Have the Right Tools On-Hand
For starters, cooking like a pro is all about having the right tools available to you. For example, you’re not going to be able to whip up delicious, pan-seared steaks without the right pan. For the absolute best results, you’ll need quality pots and pans, such as stainless steel or even cast iron. Yes, this means spending a little bit more on your kitchenware, but it’ll be more than worth it in the long run when your meals turn out even better.
Some specific kitchen gear that you don’t want to skimp on include:
- pots and pans
- utensils (spatulas, tongs, etc.)
- small appliances (toaster ovens, panini presses, etc.)
Know Your Kitchen Terms
Ever found yourself reading a recipe, only to be thrown for a loop by some unfamiliar terms like “searing,” “emulsifying,” and the like? If so, then you’re not alone, as these are terms that are commonly used in professional kitchens but not so much by everyday home cooks.
Here are a few terms that tend to confuse home cooks, along with their definitions:
searing – cooking on very high heat in a pan to achieve a crispy outer edge, usually done on steaks and other cuts of meat before cooking completely.
sauteeing – cooking in a pan, usually with butter or oil, until slightly browned. This is typically done with veggies (such as chopped onions) and garlic.
julliene – a cutting method, used commonly on vegetables such as carrots. Entails cutting or slicing lengthwise into very thin slices.
reducing – allowing a liquid to burn off and thicken into a sauce of sorts; this is also common when cooking with wine, as reducing allows the alcohol to burn off.
Understand Meat-Cooking Temps
Finally, knowing your way around a cut of meat is vital when it comes to serving up delicious meals. Different meats need to be cooked to different temperatures, so having a quality meat thermometer on-hand is a must.
Steak is often the biggest challenge, as your dinner guests may have different preferences. As a general rule, rare steaks are cooked to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, 145 for medium, and 160 for well-done.
Some other meat-cooking temperatures to be aware of:
- Chicken and turkey – 165 degrees
- Fish – 140 degrees
- Pork loin or ribs – 150 degrees
- Pork shoulder – 190 degrees
As you can see, you don’t necessarily need to attend professional cooking classes to cook like a chef. All it takes is a little bit of practice and knowledge of kitchen basics. Of course, you can always check to see if your local community center or college is offering any cooking classes for you to partake in on the side.