There are procedures that make cooking easier. If you don’t use them there is a good chance that you’ll find cooking a lot harder than it needs to be.
There is a reason that all chefs follow these 7 steps—they work.
Here are the 7 steps to reduce your stress level in the kitchen and make you a better cook. I've written about this before but thought it was worth repeating since these steps really work.
When I discovered that cooking didn’t have to be overwhelming, I started to enjoy the process and the food I made got a lot better.
Read your recipe to the end before starting. This seems obvious but my sister and I are both guilty of just starting to cook—it must be in our genes. There is nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through a recipe you're planning to serve for dinner and finding out that it needs to be refrigerated overnight to be successful! The truth is you cannot follow a recipe if you haven’t read it through. You not only need to know what ingredients you’ll need but also what steps you’ll have to take to successfully complete the recipe. To be honest, I often read it two or three times.
Mise en place. This is a French expression that means to put everything in its place; meaning to prepare all your ingredients and have them ready before you actually start cooking. This makes a huge difference. Cooking when everything you need is ready and at your fingertips when you need it converts a chore into something that happens easily. This is something that I’ve adopted throughout the years. It has made such a difference that I won’t start cooking without prepping everything first, even if it is just a tiny dish.
Taste food as you cook; do not wait until the end. The tastes of foods develop as they cook. Because of this, it is your responsibility to adjust along the way. For instance, if your recipe calls for ½ cup of lemon juice, but for your taste buds that is too much acidity, the best thing to do is to add the lemon juice or anything you are adding, a small amount at a time. After each addition, blend the ingredients well and taste. It is harder to remove or counteract an ingredient than it is to add it in slowly.
Use bouillon to maximize the flavor of your dish. When people spent a lot of time in the kitchen there was time to slow cook ingredients until they developed their full flavor and slowly evaporated until they reached the perfect consistency. Nowadays we expect a dish to be finished quickly, so we tend not to give it time to acquire its full flavor. We need ingredients that will help add flavor quickly. I find bouillon to be that magic. Because bouillon is intense in flavor, it is also salty, so it is important to buy low salt. The more control you have over the ingredients you add to your dish, the better your results will be. I find that if I add the bouillon toward the end of cooking, the results will not be intensified by any reduction that will happen during the cooking process.
Do not over-salt. If you need more salt, add it at the end. It is important to salt some foods before cooking and to add a little salt as you are cooking to meld with the other ingredients. If you taste your dish at the end, you will know exactly how much salt to add so your result will be perfection.
Get your knives sharpened regularly. This is essential and it will transform your experience. A sharp knife doesn’t need pressure to work; the blade will glide easily through your ingredients. A dull knife is dangerous; instead of cutting it will squeeze down on the item as you try to see through it. If the knife is dull, you will need to put more pressure on the blade and it can slip and do more damage than a sharp knife.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes; that is how you learn. I have made a lot of bad meals. I tried and it just didn’t work out. But then on the other hand, I didn’t give up and my cooking improved. In the beginning, I was surprised when my results were good, but now when I make something that is spectacular, I’m no longer surprised, just thrilled. The good news about making mistakes is that it proves we are doing things that are challenging and that is how we learn.
I love the following quote; it always gives me confidence. "...no one is born a great cook; one learns by doing". –Julia Child
Let’s talk. . . Do you enjoy cooking? Every night? For family events? For dinner parties? Is there something you do that makes cooking easier? I’d love to know. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Le Kitchen Cookbook
Everything you need to know to be a good cook.
by Adeline M. Olmer
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