Careers

What Cooks Learn to Become Experts

So you have earned your chef pants and you are looking to get to the next level of cooking. There are several techniques and habits that you can easily learn.

Rest assured, they won’t require expensive culinary lessons or training at the side of a professional chef. Here’s what you have to learn in order to take the step from a “good” cook to a “great” cook.

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Prepare Yourself and Your Food
You don’t have to spend entire days in the kitchen to develop excellent culinary skills. You can treat cooking as a hobby and still become a great chef. Everyone can cook and is capable of producing high quality food. This is done with the development of proper cooking skills and habits.

Before you begin the cooking process, read over your recipe for at least 5 minutes. Read each word of the directions and envision yourself performing the processes. Cook the meal in your mind before actually doing it in the kitchen. This is a common practice of successful chefs. After you’ve imagined yourself perfectly executing the recipe directions, envision how the meal will taste. Keep this taste sensation in your mind the entire time that you are cooking. It will motivate you to make a quality meal that looks and tastes just like the recipe intended. You should always sample the food throughout the cooking process to ensure that it tastes as desired. Also, determine what steps of the recipe can be performed ahead of time, before tackling the more difficult and time consuming processes. This preparatory work will reduce your stress and allow you to complete complicated recipes with ease.

Live on the Edge (of the Knife)
Be sure to purchase quality knives. Every great chef has a wide array of knives with very sharp blades and comfortable grips. If you are using old knives that have dull blades then you won’t be able to dice food in a precise and efficient manner. The sentiment of the famous San Francisco chef, Gary Danko, rings true: “The right [cooking] tool can save you a lot of time.” Give strong consideration to purchasing a knife sharpener so that you can easily chop food to the desired size and avoid the inefficiencies and dangers of dull knives.

Each cook has his own favorite knife and few of them prefer the exact same brand and style. So, shop around. You should check out knife sets in person at brick and mortar stores. Pick up a knife from many sets and see how it feels in your hand. Ask the sales associate if you can return the set if you are unsatisfied with their cutting abilities. Remember, the knife is an extension of your hand which makes it imperative to the cooking process.

Stay Fresh, Local and Organic
Adam Roberts, the author of Secrets of the Best Chefs, says, “When I went to various chefs’ homes for my cookbook, I noticed that many of them had baskets and bowls full of gorgeous farmers’ market ingredients out on their counters.” Your local grocer is probably not locally owned. This means that the majority of their produce and other foods are not from the area as the store’s corporate owner has contracts with multinational food producers. Head on over to your farmers’ market to get fresh, locally grown, organic produce. Your meals will taste better and you’ll be keeping money within your local economy.

Take Chances
Don’t be afraid to try new flavors and create new dishes. You should spend a good amount of time experimenting in the kitchen. The best chefs don’t merely replicate recipes from cook books. They create their own food combinations that produce new and savory tastes. So, learn to be bold. Brainstorm new recipes that you imagine being delicious. Write down your ideas and give them a go in the kitchen.

Don’t be afraid to fail! You might create 3 or 4 poor tasting dishes for every 1 that is scrumptious. When following another person’s recipe, you should eventually attempt to modify it with your own flare in order to make it even more tasty and unique. For example, add different amounts of spice, incorporate a new ingredient and play around with cooking times and temperatures.

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