If you want to cook like a chef then you have to prepare like a chef. Ditch the packaged meat and canned vegetables and learn how to enhance your cooking skills
Have you ever seen a chef perusing the aisles of a grocery store, looking for the perfect ingredient for their next creation? We might not see Gordon Ramsey or Wolfgang Puck wearing a white double-breasted jacket and following a shopper through the store, telling them what and what not to purchase. But we can learn a thing or two about what professional chefs do before and after entering the kitchen that separates their expertise from the Average Joe.
Let’s take a look at some super easy tips to implement next time we find ourselves grocery shopping or in the kitchen. Not only will these cooking tips save us time, but they’ll also add more flavor to our meals and ultimately help us cook like a chef!
1. NOT ALL OILS ARE CREATED EQUALLY:
“Each cooking oil has a unique flavor profile and different smoke points. That means some oils (like canola or peanut oil) are better suited for high-temperature frying, while fats like butter or lard are best for stir-frying and sauteing. […] Super fragrant oils, like extra-virgin olive oil and sesame oil, are best used raw as finishing oils or for salad dressings.” –Taste of Home
2. SAVE BONES AND VEGETABLE SCRAPS IN THE FREEZER TO MAKE HIGH-QUALITY HOMEMADE BROTH:
This is a two-in-one tip. Nothing beats the flavor of homemade stock. The easiest way to make broth at home is to have a stockpile of ingredients, prepped and ready to go in the freezer. Toss onion tops, carrot peels and mushroom stems in a freezer-safe bag, and have a separate bag for meat scraps and bones. When you have a free moment, put them in a pot and cover them with water. Simmer away and you’ve created tasty broth!
3. TOAST DRY SPICES BEFORE USING THEM:
Dried spices are an essential pantry item, but adding them at the end of the cooking often does a disservice to your food. They can turn out dry and chalky tasting if you don’t activate their essential oils and aromatic compounds. Let spices bloom by toasting whole spices in a dry pan before you grind them, or add ground spices after you sweat your onions in oil, about a minute before deglazing the pan.
4. USE FRESH HERBS WHENEVER POSSIBLE:
This might be a no-brainer, but it’s still an important tip/reminder. At Redlands Ranch Market, we know a thing or two about fresh herbs. Fresh herbs add a world of difference to your cooking, and elevate flavor in a rather normal dish. Flavors like pungent chopped green onions, piney rosemary, or herbaceous cilantro can really heighten a dish. Add them as a finishing garnish, or turn them into a topping like gremolata. If you don’t have access to fresh herbs, grow your own!
5. BRIGHTEN UP YOUR FOOD WITH A SPLASH OF VINEGAR:
Vinegar might not be everyone’s favorite with how pungent the smell, but it’s recommended that if your food tastes dull or lifeless, you shouldn’t be afraid to add a splash of vinegar to brighten things up! Its strong acidic taste brings other flavors to life and adds a slightly sweet, mildly fruity flavor to the dish.
6. SOME BEEF CUTS AREN’T MEANT FOR THE GRILL:
Take it from our meat-loving customers who have been purchasing meat straight from our carniceria for years: Not all meat is meant for the grill. Some briskets and steaks just aren’t well-suited for the grill. Some are too tough for high-temperature cooking methods but do well with low-and-slow braising or smoking. Such low temperatures coax out the gelatin from the connective tissue, turning the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender.
7. DRY MEAT AND FISH WITH PAPER TOWELS BEFORE COOKING FOR EXTRA-CRISPY SKIN:
You should be drying meat and fish with paper towels before you cook it regardless, but for the skin to get extra crispy, get rid of as much moisture as possible — the moisture and steam kill any chance of crisping and browning. Drying the skin will also prevent sticking to the pan when cooking (we hate that, too). – The Kitchn
8. PUT SOME THOUGHT INTO HOW YOU CUT YOUR VEGETABLES:
Those fancy vegetable cuts you see in nice restaurants aren’t solely for looks. Smaller cuts cook quicker than big ones, so using a mix of both can vary the texture of a dish. And vegetables cut on a diagonal will be al dente on the thicker end and soft on the thinner end, which can make for a more satisfying eating experience.
9. SALT, TOO MUCH SALT, AND ACID:
There’s no denying that the most popular seasoning, salt, brings out flavor. So a well-salted food tastes more like itself than under-salted food. But to maximize all the flavors in a recipe, season with a bit of salt every time you add a new ingredient. But what happens if you add too much salt? Add acid. If something tastes too rich or heavy, a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar can liven it up and introduce a more balanced palette. This is because acid also cuts through salt.
10. ADD SOY SAUCE TO YOUR BARBECUE:
“Soy sauce: It’s not just for dunking sushi. It’s actually in some of the best barbecue sauces, because it gives depth of flavor and umami to meats. Dark soy sauce is ideal for cooking, sauces, and marinades because it has a robust flavor, intense color, and a lower salt content than light versions.” –Greatist
11. MAKE FLAVORFUL SOUP WITH SHRIMP AND LOBSTER SHELLS (NOT MEAT):
Similar to our broth tip earlier, steeping the shells of lobster and shrimp in soup, then grinding up and strainng out give an intense lobstery flavor without having to use any of the actual meat. Similarly, shrimp shells are perfect for making seafood stock, which can be made into chowders, curries, and soups. The takeaway? When you’re cooking at home, never toss leftover shells. Stash them in a zip-top baggie in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
12. USE LEMON AND FRESH SALT TO CLEAN:
That fishy smell ain’t pretty. For an all-natural cleaner (that even chefs use to wash their hands and cutting boards after working with fish), mix some fresh lemon and salt and use it to wash up; it’s just one of many natural cleaning tips for your home. –The Daily Meal
13. ACIDULATED WATER TO COMBAT OXIDIZATION:
To prevent certain fresh produce like avocados, apples, and celery from oxidizing and turning brown, turn to acidulated water. Though it may sound like some complicated culinary term, it’s quite simple — just mix water and lemon juice (or some other kind of acid, such as lime juice or vinegar) and sprinkle your produce with this mixture for longer-lasting food!
Learning how to cook like a chef doesn’t have to break the bank or your back! These are tried-and-true tips that even the pros use. And the great thing is that these tips only require a trip to your local grocery store.
At Redlands Ranch Market, we have an extensive variety of a full-service butcher shop, fresh produce, a growing inventory of international ingredients, and other departments that make cooking easier. We won’t be surprised if we’re becoming a favorite source for local chefs, home cooks, and pros around.
Be sure to stop by the marketplace for all your cooking needs.