Ten Not-So-Secret Cooking Tips

1. Salt

Most chefs use way more salt than you think.  Try using a little more than you’re used to, especially in sauces and soups, and you will notice the difference.  Don’t use a salt shaker.  Fill a coffee cup with salt and keep it by your stove for easy use.

2. Butter

Nutritionally butter has always gotten a bad rap.  This is bullshit. Butter is more or less just as bad/good for you as all the fats we cook with and it tastes so much better.  Clarified butter is made by melting butter and discarding the white froth.  The golden stuff left over can cook at a far higher temperature without burning.

3. Sharp Knives

If you learn to sharpen and maintain the sharpness of your favorite chef’s knife (and maybe one paring knife) you will save time, have more fun chopping, avoid tears while chopping onions, and  reduce the risk of accidentally cutting yourself.

4. Towels

Buy a 24-pack of chefs towels thick enough to protect your hands from really hot cookware and keep one or two of them on you while you cook.  Using your towel to wipe down your cutting board and counter top between steps is a calming exercise that reduces clutter and just feels good.  The  dish towel “look” also implies you aren’t fucking around and that you have some seriously important shit to do.

5. One Good Pot

Invest in one really nice dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pot.  The Le Cruset “French Oven” is excellent but its like $260.  Mario Batali by Target makes one that is virtually identical for around $100.  They are essential for so many great recipes.  Don’t use too much soap when you wash them, if any.  They’re supposed to develop a little bit of “character”.

6. Stock

So many recipes call for stock but making stock at home is a pain in the ass.  Many markets sell excellent frozen stocks but I really like Kitchen Basics.  Also, salt-free stocks can give you more control when it comes to seasoning your dishes.

7. Radio/Prep

Do all your chopping before you start cooking (if potatoes are in-play keep them submerged in cold water after peeling).  Thorough prep eliminates the panic factor that can ruin all the fun of a cooking project.  Turn off the T.V. when you cook.  Listen to the radio instead.

8. The Butcher

Make friends with your butcher.  Call him by name and ask him lots of questions.  I’ve never met a mean butcher in my life.  Ask him where the meat you’re buying comes from even if you don’t care.

9. Cheese

Familiarize yourself with a few cheeses you like and serve them on a cutting board with some crackers and bread.  Everybody loves cheese and it cheers up hungry after-work types when your dinner is taking longer than expected.  It is a simple but never taken-for granted gesture.

10. Screw Dessert

Women and some men love dessert.  Unless you are into pastries and cakes, its best to focus on the rest of the meal.  Heres a trick: buy some vanilla ice cream.  Heat up a little heavy cream in a pot.  Add some chunks of nice chocolate, stirring until melted.  Using a bread knife, slice the ice cream carton into 1/2 inch disks, remove the cardboard and serve on plates with the hot melted chocolate.  A mint leaf on top makes it even prettier.

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