Someone Asks Chefs ‘What’s One Rule Of Cooking Amateurs Need To Know?’ And People Deliver 65 Useful Answers
Don’t tell me the pandemic hasn’t sparked the inner Gordon Ramsay inside of you. I, someone who’s not particularly renowned for their cooking abilities, have tried making at least two things from scratch, a marble cake and quiche Lorraine. Don’t ask me how it went but the fact that there’s no photographic evidence remaining speaks volumes.
I wonder how different my baby steps in cooking would have been if I'd known some know-how things, like working the oven or chopping those shallots. But thankfully, the dear chefs of Reddit have gathered for one noble purpose—to help us, miserable souls, to feel confident in the kitchen. And not just nibbling on the fresh cuts of a dish in process, but actually being in the middle of the whole cooking action.
So when someone asked “what’s one rule of cooking amateurs need to know?” the answers flooded in with some of the most useful, relatable and ‘where was I before’ tips and tricks. Get your notebooks ready and scroll down to see some really good advice.
Cooking recipe is a suggestion, baking recipe is an instruction.
While most of us only experience the joys of cooking in the comfort of our homes, for some, it’s something they do for a living. As you probably have seen on Gordon Ramsay’s TV shows, the restaurant industry is one hell of an industry where drama can fire up any moment. So we reached out to a Redditor IndigoHatter, who is an avid member of the r/Cooking subreddit, and they shared some very interesting insights about cooking, cooks, restaurants and all the misconceptions that we have about them.
If a recipe says 2 gloves of garlic it means 5
Stop cooking with extra virgin olive oil; it is not some 'better' version of olive oil.
Extra Virgin has an extremely low smoke point, so cooking with it often leads to burnt food and a smoky kitchen. It is intended for dressing and garnishing. Regular olive oil has a much higher smoke point and is meant for cooking. They are not the same.
Whoever has mastered a carrot cake at home and won the hearts of their family members shouldn’t expect to become an award-winning chef. “People think if they are great cooks at home, they'll be great cooks in the kitchen. Similarly, people think that great restaurant cooks are also great home cooks,” IndigoHatter said, adding that it’s not true.
“The skills do have some overlap, but working in a restaurant means making the same thing over and over, so you're more like an assembly worker. Cooks are taught how to cook something, but this doesn't mean they have the skill to make that same thing at home.”
Clean as you go! Done with the cutting board? Wash it or put it away before you move on to the next step. A clean kitchen makes your life way easier.
A lot of the time when people add salt to a dish because they think it tastes flat, what it really needs is an acid like lemon juice or vinegar
When a dish calls for a certain amount of wine, it is recommended to consume an equal amount of wine whilst cooking said dish
According to them, the real trick for the cooks is to practice making things correctly when they’re not busy, “so that when you are busy, you execute it without thinking.” Moreover, “While you're busy, you may realize some hacks you can do to make things easier (usually through frustration)... and then you go back and forth between busy and slow days and hone your practice,” IndigoHatter explained.
Not really a cooking tip, but a law of the kitchen: A falling knife has no handle
When you grab a pair of tongs, click them a few times to make sure they are tongs
And when it comes to the food in restaurants, it's not always made from scratch like you do it at home. In fact, most things you order in a restaurant are prepped or par-cooked beforehand, depending on the dish and expected pick-up time. “For example, if you order chicken alfredo, the pasta is pre-cooked, as well as the sauce. When the cooks start your order, they will likely begin cooking your chicken and slowly heating up some sauce (unless they're Olive Garden and sell it by the bucket, in which case it's already hot and held like a soup), and heat your pasta in the hot water (only for a minute), before assembling it together.”
The amount of garlic flavor is dependent on WHEN you add the garlic. Add it early for light flavor, add it late for bold flavor.
Tie. Your. Hair.
I've watched so many people cook and half the time they have their hair loose just flying wherever it chooses. God no, just tie it. Please
Former executive sous chef for a 3 star restaurant. I have also ran a bunch smaller kitchens during covid.
Get good knifes. I recommend Mercer Renaissance as a starter brand. $40 for the 8in Chefs knives, $23 for the 5in utility knife.
Shallots are used extremely often in restaurant kitchens but rarely at home. Use as a substitute for onions for a more mild taste.
Heat pans for 1min before using, use less heat when cooking. Rarely will you ever need to go higher than 75%.
Taste everything possible. Not just your finished product. Taste the spices, salt, pepper, etc all separately before adding them the first time you use it. A lot of people will buy a new spice then immediately add it to their food ruining it.
Knives should be lightly honed before and after each use. Hand wash and dry immediately.
Never attempt to catch anything that's falling. Not just knifes, if you drop a napkin your instinctive response should be to take a step back and put your hands up and out of the way. This trains your brain so you never attempt to catch something dangerous.
Want to make something more like a restaurant? Odds are you need more salt, sugar, or butter. We don't care if the carrots we serve are worse than eating actual candy, we just want you to come back.
Just because you like cooking doesn't mean you will like working at a restaurant. Pay is usually pretty poor unless you work at Michelin star restaurants and it is a hot, high-pressure environment. We lose a lot of people who couldn't handle the pressure of getting yelled at.
The Redditor also said that one of the easiest ways to make food taste great is to make it look great. “The first thing you eat with is your eyes, ears, and nose before it ever gets to your mouth. One of the easiest ways to do this is use contrasting colors... it's why so many dishes are sprinkled with parsley!”
They continued: “As for actual flavor... salt, chicken stock, and butter are your main culprits for deliciousness... and sometimes sugar, depending on what we're talking about.”
The secret that I was never taught growing up but has made such a huge difference in my cooking is thoroughly drying meat, fish, and veg with paper towel before cooking. My mom’s cooking was always too watery, not crispy or caramelized, because she missed this step, and to be fair, it isn’t mentioned in most recipes.
Keep it simple. I see so many young chefs coming into the kitchen fresh out of the classroom going hell for leather to make some strange gels, jellies, dehydrated this and that. Yes it can taste great, but just chill out. Show me if you can make a proper Jus, properly cook a joint of meat, know how to bring the best out of a simple, humble vegetable.
Just keep it simple.
And when it comes to the actual term ‘chef’ that so many of us use, Indigohatter said that it’s not true of every cook. They explained: "'Chef' is French for 'chief,' which stems from the brigade de cuisine, created several hundred years ago. It's largely been deviated from these days, but the spirit and structure still holds true. The original brigade structure is something to marvel over, and some restaurants supposedly use structures like this still... but in my local fine-dining restaurant experience, it's usually just a handful of positions, and even some of these may not be present, depending on how the kitchen is structured.”
“Chef, Sous Chef, Chef de Garde-Manger (tends to be salads and desserts), KM (Kitchen Manager), Line Lead, Cooks. These are the only positions I've ever seen in a restaurant,” they said.
Smell is very similar to taste, and if you're not sure about combining various spices, open the bottles and smell them all together.
If you still wish to become a good chef one day, there are a set of key skills you wish to strengthen. “To become a good cook, you need to be a hard and fast worker, you need to be clean and organized (this is so important), and you need to be capable of splitting your attention all over the place without losing focus on any of it,” Indigohatter said.
They continued: “You need good knife skills, and you need great discipline (always use a towel to hold a pan handle, because when you're cooking that much, that fast, there's a chance one of the pan handles is hot, and you don't want to drop it).”
“Most importantly, though, you need to be able to follow directions, know how to ask the right questions, and know when and what you can put in your own personal creative spin on things, vs when you need to follow directions to the letter,” they concluded.
This one's kind of common sense, but hotter doesn't mean faster - turning your burners up to 10 for everything will just lead to smoke and half-cooked food with a burned exterior.
Not a prof chef- Mashed potatoes… NOT blended potatoes. Don’t ever put potatoes in the blender, it will turn into glue
For anyone wondering the science behind it: potatoes contain a lot of starch. Mashing cooked potatoes gently by hand or with a ricer leaves most of the starch molecules intact. The butter and dairy you add to the mashed potatoes are able to coat each individual particle, making the potatoes creamy.
Never ever EVER throw water on a grease fire
Don’t try moving it either. Turn off the heat, place a lid on it or smother it with baking soda, if you don’t have a fire extinguisher.
Also, consider buying a fire extinguisher if you don’t already have one.
Toasting dry spices in a sautee pan can really bring out the flavor of the spices. Don't put bbq sauce on until the end of cooking meat. The sugar in the bbq sauce can cause the meat to burn and char.
You don’t need to buy pre-made spice rubs. Look at the ingredients and build a well stocked pantry
Celebrity endorsed cookware isn’t always good, a lot of it sucks
Don’t cheap out on knives, buy forged, not stamped.
Store raw meat accordingly, don’t cross contaminate your fridge
Knife magnet strips are better than knife blocks
This is obvious, but never put a cast iron in the dishwasher
Don’t boil the s**t out of potatoes to make mash
Rinse raw rice before cooking
Mise. En. Place.
Salt, pepper and acid will brighten up almost any dish. If an otherwise wonderful dish is just... missing something, add salt, pepper and lemon juice, then reassess.
Pre heat your pan, its a simple trick but it will improve your cooking
a small amount of oil will go a long long way
when you take steak or pork or lamb off of the heat or out of the oven, always give it time to rest, usually half the amount of time you cooked them, and i tend to loosely cover them in tinfoil
If you're using a steel/hone on a blade, ALWAYS RUN THE BLADE THROUGH A FOLDED UP PAPER TOWEL A FEW TIMES AFTERWARDS! If you don't, there are small steel particles that cling to the blade that can and WILL come off in the next thing you cut.
Not a chef but I'm having a beer with one. I posed this question to him and he said. "You know the knob on the stove that makes the fire come out? There's a whole range of settings between off and all the way on. Temperature control. grabs my shoulder Temperature... control."
you’re just going to enjoy cooking more if you have a SHARP knife. No clue how people can hack away at veggies and meat. No reason to go insane either, a $30 Victorinox and $5 sharpener will get you a very long way
Tell people you're behind them when cooking is involved.
When you take something out of the oven, a pot, pan, skillet, sheet, tray, whatever; drape a towel or oven mitt over the handle/edge of it. That way you or anyone else understands that it’s hot and not to be grabbed bare handed.
From a Homecook who has grabbed handles in excess of 400 degrees literally 30 seconds after taking them out of the oven…..more than once
Not a chef but avid bbq smoker. LET YOUR MEAT REST AFTER COOKING
I've had the great fortune of knowing some pro cooks in my life, and the most memorable piece of advice I've gotten was when there were several of them at my place during a housewarming and they had, of course, taken over the kitchen.
One was searing a pork loin and was pissy because I had a liquor dispenser top on my olive oil and just a grinder for salt (no pig). After he ripped the top off the oil and found my box of kosher salt, he explained
"dirtymick, do you know why restaurant food tastes so good?" he asked, while liberally dumping oil and salt on the pork, "It's because we cook like we hate you".
Turns out the best home cooking aide is self loathing.
The digital meat thermometer is hands down the best $10 I ever spent. It has a temperature alert setting that takes the guesswork out of when to take something out of the oven. The only time I have had dry poultry in the last five years or so is when I go to someone's house to eat that doesn't use one. 90% of people suck at Thanksgiving turkey
After cutting an onion into half, soak in cold water before slicing to avoid tears