Master these basic cooking techniques
If you’re new to the kitchen or you’ve been cooking for a while but never really took the time to learn the basics, you may be missing out on some crucial techniques that will really help your food taste its best. . These basic cooking techniques will help you produce the best tasting food possible.
If you want to learn more about the basics of cooking, check out the following books:
Season your food
This may sound simple, but hey, it’s basic cooking techniques, right? Seasoning with salt enhances the flavor of any dish you prepare. It’s not because salt itself tastes good, but because salt brings out the flavor in whatever you cook. Well-seasoned meat or vegetables will have more flavor than unseasoned meat or vegetables. When properly seasoned, your food shouldn’t really taste like salt.
When is the best time to season your food?
You need to season food before it is cooked and, depending on the food, sometimes long before. For example, with meat, seasoning half an hour to an hour before will allow time for the salt to be absorbed by the meat. If you only add salt to the finished, cooked product, you are just adding a dusting to the outer layer.
If you really want the salt to be absorbed by the meat, consider brining it. You may know this technique from brine your Thanksgiving turkey, but it can be used on a whole variety of meats. Brine the meat by soaking it in a solution of salt and other herbs and spices for a day or two to really absorb the flavor.
One thing to note: salt will draw water from anything it is applied to. If you’re sautéing food and you want it to have a nice crispy exterior, you’ll want to add salt 1/2 hour before cooking or after cooking. In order to get that crispy exterior, you want the food to be cooking in a hot skillet with no added liquid. If you throw peppers and onions into a pan and then add salt, they will cook, but the moisture released will prevent them from browning well. This trick was mentioned by Samin Nosrat. Watch the video below to learn more.
Use fat as a vehicle for flavor
As the oil heats up, it absorbs the flavor of whatever is in it. For this reason, fats like butter or oils can be excellent flavor carriers. Start by adding oil to a pan on the stove. Then add the ingredient you want to flavor the oil with. Dried spices can be added to the oil and they will “bloom” and infuse their flavor into the oil. Cook your vegetables or meat in this tasty fat for a delicious meal. Another good example is garlic. Add a few cloves of garlic to gently simmer in the oil (maybe add a few shallots too) and let the oil absorb that flavor. Then remove the garlic or shallots before they burn and use this flavorful oil to sauté vegetables for pasta or meat. You can also add this oil to dishes to flavor them. By infusing your fat with flavors you will achieve greater depth of flavor and also ensure that everything is coated in that flavor.
Of course, you can buy bandages at the store. But they’re super simple to make, cheaper than buying store brand, and taste better. Moreover, you can customize them to become exactly what you want. Most salad dressings contain oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and spices. Dijon mustard is another popular addition. You can add blue cheese, shallots, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, honey, orange, or citrus lemon, whatever sounds good.
One of the easiest ways to create texture and retain flavor is to brown food. This technique works great on everything from steaks to vegetables. For meats, start by heating a skillet on the stove. Add a little oil or butter. Then add your meat. Cook it on both sides so that the outside of the meat browns. This creates crispy edges and also helps seal in the juices in the meat.
Another great option is to throw the meat on the grill or a broiler pan. The hot surface will again cause the meat to develop delicious crispy bits and will also lock in the flavor. Same for vegetables. Are you going to make roast potatoes? Throw them in a skillet over high heat to brown the outside before putting them in the oven to cook them through. You will appreciate the dimensions of texture and flavor that this technique achieves.
Pickled vegetables are a great addition to meals, add tons of flavor, and are super easy to make. Start by mixing the water, vinegar, garlic, pepper and mustard seeds. You can customize this brine with anything you want. Heat the mixture on the stove.
Next, cut your vegetables into strips (carrots, onions, radishes, peppers are all excellent choices). Add your vegetables to a jar, pour the hot brine over them, let cool and place in the fridge. The longer your vegetables sit in the liquid, the softer and brackier they will be. Pickling doesn’t have to be time consuming, you can pickle vegetables at lunchtime and prepare them for dinner. Best of all, they last a long time in the fridge, so you’ll have them on hand when you need them. Then, whenever you want to add a little flavor and crunch to a meal, you have them at your disposal. Discover It’s alive! below to see an example.
This is a great trick that really doesn’t require any additional equipment or time on your part. The trick is to reuse your cooking liquid. When making pasta, use some of the water you cooked your pasta in to make your sauce. The starch in the water seasons and brings the sauce together, ultimately helping it taste much better than if you just used plain water.
Another example is to use cooking juices from meat. Roast a chicken in the oven? Don’t just throw away the cooked juices from your chicken. Use them to flavor a sauce or make a broth that you can then use to cook pasta or beans. Any food that absorbs liquid during cooking will taste better absorbing flavorful liquid than it will absorb plain water. It makes sense, right?
Bacon can be delicious when it’s well done and disappointing when it’s not. Start with a cold oven. Take your bacon out of the packaging, place it on a pan and put it in the oven while the oven is off. Next, set your temperature. and start cooking. This brings the bacon up to temperature. slowly and helps prevent the bacon from breaking down into tiny, miniature bacon strips.
Crisping bacon using a baking sheet can be great because the fat released from the bacon helps it cook. But beware, it’s easier to burn bacon this way. If you don’t like crispy bacon, consider a skillet with slots and a tray underneath to drain the oil.
If you want to cook it on the stovetop, no worries. Watch the video below to see the best way to do it.
One of the best ways to get juicy, super flavorful meat is to cook it slowly. You can use any of these awesome smoking or simmering indoors, whichever suits you best. Slow cooking is great with meats like beef brisket, pulled pork or pork shoulder. Watch Babish’s video below where he makes tasty pulled pork.