100 Tips, Recommendations, Quotes from the Best of the BEST, as seen on the Food Network.
1. If you’re cooking for someone important — whether it’s your boss or a date — never try a new recipe and a new ingredient at the same time.
2. The smaller the item, the higher the baking temperature. For example, I bake mini chocolate chip-toffee cookies at 500 degrees F for only 4 minutes. Perfect end result.
3. Store spices in a cool, dark place, not above your stove. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor.
4. Use a coarse Microplane to shave vegetables into salads or vinaigrettes. You can create an orange-fennel dressing by adding grated fennel and orange zest to a simple vinaigrette.
5. Always make stock in a large quantity and freeze it in plastic bags. That way, when you want to make a nice soup or boil veggies, you can simply pull the bag out of the freezer.
6. Taste as you go, particularly if you’re cooking with wine. Or beer. Or liquor.
David, A Bachelor & His Grill
7. Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.
8. After making eggs sunny-side up, deglaze the pan with sherry vinegar, then drizzle the sauce on the eggs to add another dimension to the dish.
9. After working with garlic, rub your hands vigorously on your stainless steel sink for 30 seconds before washing them. It will remove the odor.
10. Brine, baby, brine! Ya gotta brine that poultry to really give it the super flavor.
11. Remember schmaltz? Your mom and grandmother probably used a lot of it in their home cooking. Schmaltz, or chicken fat, has a great flavor and richness; it has a deeper flavor than duck fat and can be used on nearly everything. I also love poaching fish in it.
12. If you find you need more oil in the pan when sautéing, add it in a stream along the edges of the pan so that by the time the oil reaches the ingredient being cooked, it will be heated.
13. When you deep-fry, hold each piece of food with long tongs as you add it to the oil. Hold it just below the oil’s surface for five seconds before releasing it. This will seal the exterior and stop it from sticking to the pot or the other food.
14. For rich, creamy dressings made healthy, substitute half the mayo with Greek-style yogurt.
15. When chopping herbs, toss a little salt onto the cutting board; it will keep the herbs from flying around.
16. To make a great sandwich, spread the mayonnaise from corner to corner on the bread. People rush this step and just do a swoosh down the middle. Every bite should be flavorful. Now that’s a sandwich!
17. If you keep it simple and buy ingredients at farmers’ markets, the food can pretty much take care of itself. Do as little as possible to the food; consider leaving out an ingredient and relying on instinct.
18. Always season meat and fish evenly; sprinkle salt and pepper as though it’s “snowing.” This will avoid clumping or ending up with too much seasoning in some areas and none in others.
19. For best results when you’re baking, leave butter and eggs at room temperature overnight.
20. Homemade vinaigrettes have fewer ingredients and taste better than bottled ones. No need to whisk them: Just put all the ingredients in a sealed container and shake.
21. For an easy weeknight meal, save and freeze leftover sauces from previous meals in ice cube trays. The cubes can be reheated in a sauté pan when you need a quick sauce.
22. When making meatballs or meatloaf, you need to know how the mixture tastes before you cook it. Make a little patty and fry it in a pan like a mini hamburger. Then you can taste it and adjust the seasoning.
23. Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan, then place the chicken on top. The onion will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about 3 minutes on high heat.
24. Low and slow.
25. After cutting corn off the cob, use the back side of a knife (not the blade side) to scrape the cob again to extract the sweet milk left behind. This milk adds flavor and body to any corn dish.
26. Acidity, salt and horseradish bring out full flavors in food.
27. Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin.
28. Organize yourself. Write a prep list and break that list down into what may seem like ridiculously small parcels, like “grate cheese” and “grind pepper” and “pull out plates.” You will see that a “simple meal” actually has more than 40 steps. If even 10 of those steps require 10 minutes each and another 10 of those steps take 5 minutes each, you’re going to need two and a half hours of prep time. (And that doesn’t include phone calls, bathroom breaks and changing the radio station!) Write down the steps and then cross them off.
29. Recipes are only a guideline, not the Bible. Feel comfortable replacing ingredients with similar ingredients that you like. If you like oregano but not thyme, use oregano.
30. A braised or slow-roasted whole beef roast or pork shoulder can be made into several dishes all week.
31. Remember, y’all, it’s all about the prep. Take away the stress by doing the prep the night or day before.
32. Anytime you are using raw onions in a salsa and you are not going to eat that salsa in the next 20 minutes or so, be sure to rinse the diced onions under cold running water first, then blot dry. This will rid them of sulfurous gas that can ruin fresh salsa. It’s really important in guacamole, too.
33. Do not use oil in the water when boiling pasta: It will keep the sauce from sticking to the cooked pasta.
34. For safety, put a wine cork on the tip of a knife before putting the knife in a drawer.
35. When you’re going to sauté garlic, slice it rather than mincing it — it’s less likely to burn that way.
36. When you’re browning meat, you should blot the surface dry with a paper towel so the meat doesn’t release moisture when it hits the hot oil. Too much moisture makes the meat steam instead of sear, and you will lose that rich brown crust.
37. To cut pancetta or bacon into lardons, put in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will firm up the meat and make it easier to cut.
38. A cast-iron pan is a valuable kitchen ally. It offers an even cooking surface and is a breeze to clean.
39. Smash garlic cloves inside a resealable plastic bag with the back of a knife. That way, your cutting board and knife won’t smell.
40. To get nice, crispy caramelization on roasted vegetables, simulate the intense heat of an industrial oven: Bring your oven up as hot as it goes, then put an empty roasting or sheet pan inside for 10 to 15 minutes. Toss the vegetables — try carrots or Brussels sprouts — with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them on the hot pan. This method will give you the high heat you need to caramelize the sugars in the vegetables quickly.
41. Invest in a bottle of high-quality olive oil. Just a small drizzle can really bring out the flavor of pizza, mozzarella, pasta, fish and meat.
42. Marinating meat with citrus can give it a mealy texture. If you like citrus, a little squeeze of lemon or lime is always a good way to finish the dish instead.
43. Add cheese rinds to vegetable or meat broths for another dimension of flavor.
44. When seasoning a salad, use coarse sea salt mixed with a little olive oil. It will stay crunchy when combined with the vinaigrette.
45. Always use sharp knives. Not only is it safer but it will make your work much more efficient.
46. Always let your meat rest — especially off a hot grill!
47. Plunge vegetables in ice water after blanching (boiling) them so they maintain a bright color.
48. Invest in parchment paper for lining pans. It makes all of your baked goods super easy to remove, and it makes cleanup a dream (no butter-flour mixture or errant batter to scrape off).
49. After you drain pasta, while it’s still hot, grate some fresh Parmesan on top before tossing it with your sauce. This way, the sauce has something to stick to.
Giada De Laurentiis
50. Don’t overcrowd the pan when you’re sautéing — it’ll make your food steam instead.
51. When you roast a whole chicken, the breast always overcooks and dries out because the legs have to cook longer. This is a really simple way to keep a chicken breast moist: Separate the breast and the leg. Season as you normally would and roast as you normally would, but remove the breast sooner than the leg.
52. Buy fruit at its peak at a farmers’ market and freeze it in an airtight container so you can enjoy it year round.
53. Fresh basil keeps much better and longer at room temperature with the stems in water.
54. Season all of your food from start to finish. Seasoning in stages brings the most out of your ingredients and gives you the most flavor.
55. To cook a steak, I always start by cooking it on its side, where there is a rim of fat on its narrow edge. I render it down so there’s good, flavorful fat in the pan for the rest of the cooking.
56. Taste what you make before you serve it. I’m amazed that people will follow a recipe but not taste the dish to see if it needs more salt, pepper or spices.
57. Season fish simply and cook it with respect. The flavor of the fish is what you want. When it comes off the grill or out of the oven or pan, finish it with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Always. There is just something about lemon and fish that is heavenly.
58. If you’re cooking cauliflower, add a bit of milk to the water with salt to keep the cauliflower bright white. Shock it in cold water to stop the cooking and then serve.
59. When grinding beef for burgers, grind in some bacon.
60. Don’t go to the store with a shopping list. Go to the store, see what ingredients look good, then make your list.
61. When making mashed potatoes, after you drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pan, cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. This allows the potatoes to dry out so they’ll mash to a beautiful texture and soak up the butter and cream more easily.
62. If you want to make a proper Louisiana-style roux that’s chocolate in color and rich in flavor, remember slow and low is the way to go.
63. For better-tasting asparagus, cure the stalks: Peel them, roll in equal parts sugar and salt, and let them sit for 10 minutes, then rinse off and prepare as desired.
64. When you grill, pull your steaks out of the refrigerator one hour ahead of time so they can come to room temperature.
65. Always measure what you’re baking. No shortcuts in pastry: It’s a science.
66. When using fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley, add whole stems to salads and sandwiches, and chop and stir leaves into salsas and guacamole.
67. If you don’t have time to brine your chicken, use this simple trick: Heavily salt the chicken (inside and out) about an hour before you cook it. Then pat it dry and roast. This ensures crispy skin and juicy meat.
68. When made properly, risotto’s richness comes from the starchy rice and the stock. As the risotto cooks, stir it with a wooden spoon in rhythmic movements that go across the bottom and around the sides of the pan. The rice should constantly be bubbling, drinking up the liquid as it cooks.
69. Use a cake tester to test the doneness of fish, meat and vegetables. It’s my secret weapon — I use it in the kitchen to test everything.
70. Serving cake:
1. Serve at room temperature.
2. Don’t “pre-slice” cake more than 20 minutes in advance. It dries out too quickly.
3. You don’t have to eat the fondant. It’s really pretty, but if you don’t want a mouthful of pure sugar, peel it off.
71. To optimize the juice you get from a lemon or lime, roll it hard under your palm for a minute before juicing. (Or — never say I told you this — microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds.)
72. For perfect vegetable soup, start with diced carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes sautéed in oil or butter before you add any liquid. This brings out the taste and caramelizes the sugars.
73. Have your mise en place ready: Do all of your cutting of vegetables and meat and make your sauces before you start cooking.
74. Try smoked fleur de sel: Use it sparingly to finish a dish and bring another layer of flavor.
75. Clean as you go. (Dorky, but I swear it really helps.)
76. Shoes off, music on, favorite beverage in hand — enjoy your time in the kitchen.
77. Always buy the freshest garlic you can find; the fresher it is, the sweeter it will be. The best garlic has firm tissue-like skin and should not be bruised, sprouted, soft or shriveled. If you find cloves that have green shoots, discard the shoots — they will only add bitterness.
78. Keep flavored vinegars near the stove so you won’t always reach for the salt. Acid enhances flavor.
79. Don’t be too hard on yourself — mistakes make some of the best recipes! Keep it simple.
80. Fry eggs the Spanish way: Get a good quantity of olive oil hot. Before you add the egg, heat the spatula (if it’s metal) in the oil first. That way the egg won’t stick to it. Add the egg and fry it quickly, until it gets “puntillitas,” or slightly browned edges.
81. Prolong the lifespan of greens by wrapping them loosely in a damp paper towel and placing in a resealable plastic bag. That local arugula will last about four days longer.
82. Want to know if your oil is hot enough for frying? Here’s a tip: Stick a wooden skewer or spoon in the oil. If bubbles form around the wood, then you are good to go.
Aaron McCargo, Jr.
83. When a recipe calls for zest, instead of grating it into a separate container or onto parchment paper, hold the zester over the mixing bowl and zest directly onto the butter or cream. The aromatic citrus oils that are sprayed into the bowl will give the dessert a zesty finish.
84. Use good oil when cooking. Smell and taste it: If it doesn’t taste good alone, it won’t taste good in your food.
85. Cook with other people who want to learn or who know how to cook.
86. Cook more often. Don’t study; just cook.
87. Make sure the handle of your sauté pan is turned away from you so you don’t hit it and knock it off the stove. It happens all the time.
88. Don’t dress the salad when having a big party. Leave it on the side and let the people do it themselves. I’ve had too many soggy salads because of this.
89. For crispy fish skin, rest the fish on paper towels skin-side down for a few minutes before cooking (the towels absorb moisture). Then sauté skin-side down over medium heat in oil and butter. Flip over for the last few minutes of cooking.
90. When cooking eggplant, I like to use the long, skinny, purple Japanese kind because you don’t have to salt it to pull out the bitter liquid like you do with the larger Italian variety.
91. Caramelize onions very quickly by cooking them in a dry nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. They will caramelize beautifully in a lot less time than with traditional methods.
92. To help keep an onion together while dicing, do not remove the root.
Jean-Robert de Cavel
93. Whenever you cook pasta, remove some of the pasta-cooking water (about 1/4 or 1/3 cup) just before draining. When you add the sauce of your choice to the pasta, add a little of the cooking liquid. This helps sauce to amalgamate; the starch in the water adds body and a kind of creaminess. An old Italian friend of mine instructed me in this finishing touch early on, and I would never, ever leave it out. It makes all the difference.
94. Making the best ceviche is simple: Use freshly squeezed lime juice and glistening fresh fish.
95. When making caramel, use a nonstick pot. That way, when you pour the mixture out, there is no waste, and cleaning the pot is a breeze.
96. Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher or fishmonger to see the products up close and to smell for freshness. Fish should never smell fishy.
97. Always start with a smokin’ hot pan!
98. When baking cookies, be sure your dough is thoroughly chilled when it goes on your baking pan. This will allow the leavening ingredients to work before the butter flattens out and your cookies lose their textural distinctions.
Norman Van Aken
99. My general advice to home cooks is that if you think you have added enough salt, double it.
100. Reduce the heat of chiles by removing the seeds. My method is making four straight cuts down the sides. This will create four long slivers, and the cluster of seeds will remain in the center of the chile. The result will be less heat and more great flavor.