There are generally two types of chefs: those who cook in addition to cooking all kinds of savory dishes, and those who don't.
There's a reason many chefs don't want to cook. It's not as foolproof, it doesn't always leave you the same room for creativity, and it's a lot more scientific. If you forget an ingredient in your favorite pasta dish (unless, of course, you forget the salt), it might not be as good, but it will still be edible. Forget something in the birthday cake for your nephew's birthday party? Chances are, you'll stop by your local grocery store on the way to the party.
Pastry is much more scientific. It involves precise measurements, fresh ingredients, and temperature control. If you've ever tried to raise a loaf of bread in a cold winter kitchen, you know that if you don't give yourself a lot of extra time, your bread may never come out the way you expect.
When making a savory meal, you can easily adjust the seasonings, make your sauce as thin or thick as you want, or add a little extra cheese. While you can definitely ruin a dish, there is a lot more room for error. When baking a cake, even an extra teaspoon of cinnamon or vanilla can change the texture of your cake. This won't always make it inedible, but you might be disappointed that you don't get the light and airy product you are hoping for.
This is why canned mixes are so successful. They are formulated to make cooking foolproof. In most cases, even if you add an extra egg or too much liquid, the results will still be good. It won't taste as good as a product made from scratch, of course, but you don't have to worry about precise measurements and fresh ingredients.
If you are looking to try your hand at baking or want to learn how to make your own supermarket staples like bread, there are definitely some rules you need to keep in mind to ensure success. Success in baking doesn't come so much from knowing how to follow a recipe as it does from understanding the science behind why certain things are important.
Tips for a successful next culinary adventure:
Read the recipe
This is an important step in any type of food preparation, but especially when it comes to baking. Read your recipe carefully so that you know not only what ingredients you need, but also how they are supposed to be used. Many ingredients like butter and eggs need to be at room temperature, and in some cases, like making a pie crust, cold flour is preferred.
Reading the recipe will also tell you how much time you will need from start to finish. Bread will taste best when risen in the refrigerator overnight, and some complicated pastries can take days to prepare. Never assume that a recipe is a direct project.
Follow the instructions precisely
If a recipe says your eggs should be at room temperature, cold eggs won't do. If it tells you to cool your dough for 30 minutes, set an hour and let it cool for 30 minutes. Mixing too long, using ingredients that are not at the right temperature, or not giving yourself enough time for the dough to rise will affect the result of your recipe. It might not seem like a big deal, but if you want soft cookies, chewy brownies, or a flaky pie crust, it definitely is.
Use fresh ingredients
If you don't cook often, you may have a container of baking powder in your pantry that you don't remember buying. If it does, it probably won't do what you hope it will. The same goes for baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, and even flour.
To raise cakes and puff up cookies, many ingredients are used in certain combinations as leavening agents. If they are old and cannot do their jobs well, there is no point in having them. Make sure you use fresh produce and store it properly.
Be careful when making substitutions
You might be thinking that you can substitute white flour for something like wheat flour, and in some recipes that might work. In others, you may end up with a more difficult outcome. Even something as harmless as replacing all-purpose bread flour can make a difference; different flours have different protein numbers, which affects the texture and result of your finished dish.
Some swaps may be fine, like using pecans instead of walnuts or raspberries instead of blackberries, but make sure the ingredient called for in the recipe doesn't have a specific function. If you're not sure, it's best to wait until you have the right ingredients or prepare for the worst.
Make sure you have the right equipment
Mixing the dough, measuring the flour, and cutting the fat into flour require all the right tools to get the job done quickly and efficiently. You can of course, so some tasks by hand, but once you've tried whipping the egg whites with a whisk, you can quickly change your mind.
Again, read the recipe before you begin to make sure you have everything you need. If the recipe says beat the eggs with a stand mixer and you only have one hand mixer, it will work; it just won't be that easy. Know what you're getting yourself into before you begin, but also keep in mind that some tasks, such as waffles or muffins, may require an exact tool to do the job.
Learn how to measure the ingredients
If a recipe calls for a cup of flour, all you have to do is pull out your trusty measuring cup and get to work, right?
Did you know that according to How? 'Or' What you put this flour in the measuring cup can have dramatic results on your dish? It is true. If you take the spoon and dig into the container of flour, you'll end up with a lot more flour than if you put the mug on the counter and put the flour on it (that's the right way to do it). a big difference when your cake is baked. The same goes for brown sugar. If the recipe calls for packed brown sugar, be sure to squeeze the sugar into the measuring cup.
The best way to measure ingredients is to get a digital scale and measure by weight. This way you are sure to have the exact amount of flour, sugar, butter, and anything else in your recipe.
Gluten-free cooking is a topic in its own right
Even if you're an accomplished baker, baking gluten-free breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods isn't the same thing. Gluten is what gives baked goods their light texture and flavor, and you can't just swap it. This will produce heavy, dense, and prone to crumbling products. You will need the right mix of flour to achieve a taste and texture similar to traditional products containing gluten. When trying to cook gluten-free, sometimes it's best to forget what you know and learn everything from scratch. You'll be glad you did when you can't tell the difference between your gluten-free products and their counterparts.
Baking is a very different aspect of cooking and should be treated as such. It's more than just following a recipe; there are many cooking principles that require the right ingredients in the right amounts, at the right temperature to be right. Learning these rules will help you whether you want to become an accomplished baker or just make some decent desserts every now and then.
Whether you regularly whip up Michelin-worthy meals at the drop of a hat or your cooking skills are best described as “fine, ” you can always benefit from the helpful little tricks of others. Here, 14 of our friends’, families’ and coworkers’ most-used cooking tips.
There’s a time and a place to whip out that complicated coq au vin recipe you’ve been dying to try. A dinner party isn’t that time. With a new recipe, you’ll likely be chained to the kitchen the whole time, plus, when you’re trying something for the first time, there’s always the possibility that it could go horribly wrong. When cooking for a group, we always err on the side of tried-and-true crowd-pleasers.
You do hours of prep work on an intricate dish, only to be totally disappointed once you taste the final product. Bummer. Instead of putting in all that effort only to be disappointed, taste while you cook. That way, you’ll realize sooner that the dish isn’t tasting how you’d like it to, and you can make all kinds of last-ditch efforts to save it. This doesn’t just work for bad-to-OK meals. Tasting midway through and realizing how perfect a dash of cayenne or a squirt of lemon juice would be can take a great dinner to legendary status.
Plating pasta means tossing some onto a plate and finishing it with a nice dollop of sauce right on the middle, right ? Wrong. Here’s how to take your carbs to the next level : On the stove there should be two pans, one with pasta and one with sauce. Cook the pasta to al dente and transfer it into the sauce. Then, add a little bit of pasta water ( literally just the starchy water the pasta has been cooking in ), which will help the sauce cling to the pasta while also keeping it the right consistency. Perfection.
In the pursuit of the perfect steak, you have to be OK with your kitchen getting a little smoky. That’s because, to get the mouthwatering sear we’re all after, the meat has to be dry and the pan should be pretty damn close to smoking hot. Trust us, it’s worth a few seconds of a blaring alarm.
Most foods are ruined by too much salt. Steak is different. When it comes to seasoning your meat ( before you cook it ), more is more. Use a generous amount of coarse Kosher salt—more than you think you need. Since most cuts of steak are pretty thick, even though you’re using a lot of salt, it’s still only covering the surface.
This one isn’t too complicated. Whether you’re making avocado toast, pizza, fried rice or a burger, the addition of a fried egg on top will not hurt your feelings. Trust us.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve definitely found ourselves in a situation where we assumed we knew all of the ingredients that went into chocolate chip cookies only to find out that we had about half the required amount of brown sugar. Ugh. to avoid a mid-cooking grocery-store trip, read the recipe from front to back—carefully—before you start.
Prepping grains in mass quantities is less about taste than convenience. Rice, quinoa and even oatmeal last about a week in the fridge after being cooked. When we’re prepping any one of those, we double up our measurements and store the leftovers, which are then impossibly easy to use up throughout the week. Too tired to make dinner ? Heat up some leftover rice from the fridge and toss an egg on top ( remember ? ). Couldn’t be simpler.
So you fried up a pound of bacon for an indulgent ( read : delicious ) brunch. Great, just make sure you don’t throw out the grease in the pan. Instead, save it in the refrigerator or freezer ( it technically lasts for up to a year, but should be used sooner than that to take full advantage of its flavor ). Then, anytime you’re cooking something you typically prepare in oil, try cooking it in the bacon grease instead. You’ll never want to eat Brussels sprouts the old way again.
You’ve probably heard that whenever a dish is lacking a little something-something, the best thing to do is toss in some salt. But, we have it on good authority that salt isn’t always the answer. When you’re tasting a dish at the end and you think it needs a little oomph, often it just needs a splash of acid ( like lemon juice ) to round out the flavor.
You know the difference between a paring knife and a fillet knife, but do you know how to take care of them ? Or, more importantly, how to use them ? A set of good knives can be the difference between a stressful cooking experience and a great one. First, practice your knife skills. Look up tutorials on YouTube and practice chopping, slicing and julienne-ing. It’s amazing what you can do with your cook time when your prep time is shortened with solid knife skills. Then, once you’ve got your skills down pat, learn how to take care of your set. No one ever achieved kitchen greatness with a dull chef’s knife.
The key to tender, flavorful barbecue and roasts ? Cooking it on a low temperature for a long time. The same doesn’t go for roasting veggies. For crispy, perfectly cooked butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and more, remember the magic number : 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower, and you risk pulling a pan of blah carrots out of the oven. It might seem high, but to get the nice roasted flavor, you need high heat. And while we’re on the subject, stop crowding your veggies in the pan, which will also make them soggy.
You know how just about every cookie recipe suggests that you chill your dough in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, but oftentimes you don’t listen because you just want cookies now ? ! ( Same. ) Unfortunately, this step actually does make a difference. In addition to limiting how much the dough spreads while baking, chilling your dough intensifies the flavors and produces that perfect chewy, crispy texture we know and love.
It won’t do your breath any favors, but never ( ever ) scrimp on garlic. In fact, we typically double the amount a recipe calls for. Apologies to anyone who was planning on kissing us.