Secrets From Cooking School Grads - Colliers Hill
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Secrets From Cooking School Grads

You don’t have to graduate from a top culinary school to learn a few tips and tricks from the world’s best chefs. Here’s a collection of a dozen secrets culled from cooking school grads that will help home chefs make the best meals yet!

Essential Tools and Hacks

Invest in a good set of knives that will last several years. Really good knives. Cooking school students and chefs all know a good knife is the most useful tool in your kitchen. And keep them sharp. Not only does it make chopping and slicing easier, you’re less likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife. Fact: dull knives can slip on food and land on flesh. Not good!

Epicurious chefs agree another essential tool in every home chef’s tool kit should be bench scraper AKA dough scraper. These little marvels can help you transfer chopped food, like herbs and onions from the cutting board to a bowl or pot much easier than with your knife. Not only do you avoid dropping bits in between, and possibly cutting yourself, you won’t dull your knife as quickly.

At Eat This, Not That!, the cooking team agrees that a rasp grater can be your new best friend. Not only can you zest a lemon with it, you can grate garlic, shallots, cheese, nutmeg – even chocolate. 

Prepping all the ingredients before you start to cook can cut down on culinary angst. The French call this mise en place. And you can also cut down on cooking time by destemming herbs, instead of plucking leaves. Just grab the stem of rosemary, thyme and/or cilantro and pull down in the opposite direction. The usable leaves will strip away easily.

Sauces and Seasonings 

Former culinary student Margaret Eby who studied French cooking says she always knew making homemade beef, chicken or veggie stock makes food taste better than the canned or boxed variety. Blogging for My Recipes, Margaret says she learned that all sauces are created from great stock and now with the Instant Pot, it’s easy to imitate the equipment found in restaurants and cooking schools. 

Another great sauce tip is to use all those browned bits in the bottom of the pan after you sear meat or chicken. Those bits have intense flavor and you can use them by degreasing and then deglazing your pan after cooking meat. Just add wine, stock or another liquid and scrape all those bits into the sauce for a great addition to your meal. And for restaurant quality sauces, finish them with a pat of cold butter to add richness and shine.

Her mantra for soups and stews? Reduce for flavor, and thicken later. When you reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, the point is to reduce to build flavor – that’s your top priority!

Chicken, Fish and Meat Magic

Dry meat and fish with paper towels, say the chefs at The Kitchn, before you cook it – no matter what. For skin to crisp, you need to get rid of as much moisture as possible or your mean won’t brown with that delectable crust. 

Resting your meat after it’s cooked is important too, and for a couple of reasons. Whether it’s chicken, pork or beef, when you carve too soon, the juices spill out and leave the meat tongue-click dry. All chefs recommend resting the meat to the point of letting it get almost too cool, then reheating for a couple of minutes in a hot oven. The liquids will reincorporate into the meat and leave it fat and juicy!

Quick Fixes, Great Results

Jesse Szewczyk, a chef on the food team of Buzz Feed, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and says if your food tastes bland, add a touch of acid – from a lemon or vinegar. He says the acid cuts through the fat an brightens flavors – it wakes up flat-tasting dishes.

Jesse learned early on that one secret to better tasting food is adding salt. The key, he says, is seasoning food at every stage of the cooking process and at the end. Another trick, he says, is to add a pinch of sugar which can enhance the taste of savory foods like roasted carrots, beets, and tomatoes by balancing flavors. 

And worth a quick scan: the 57 best cooking tips ever by Epicurious. You’ll learn everything from how to make water boil faster to why you should always toast your nuts and spices.

The Home Chefs of Colliers Hill

Shea3D-Plan403-KitchenThe brand-new kitchens in the master-planned community of Colliers Hill, have all the space the home chef needs to prep, cook and serve culinary masterpieces! Come and visit this master-planned community, with tons of amenities and beautiful model homes to tour. Home builders include Richmond American Homes, Century Communities, Shea Homes and Meritage Homes offering ranch or two-story designs, priced from the upper $300s to the $600s.