Ten Tips to Elevate Your Cooking

Over my lifetime, I’ve learned to love to cook. Some of my best memories come from the kitchen: cooking breakfast with grandma before anyone else was up, making dinner with a partner on a romantic evening, or just relaxing after a long day.

Here, I want to share ten things that have made me a better home cook. I’m not a chef, so my advice should be taken with a pinch of salt, but I hope you can learn something from one of my favorite tips, tricks, and tools.

Get Your Knife Work Right

Cooking usually means cutting. To keep things safe, first make sure that your knife, I recommend getting a good chef’s knife, is sharp. Sharp knives take less work to cut food and are a lot less likely to cut you.

From there, look up some good tutorials that famous chefs have put online: learning to cut safely and consistently will save you time and, just as importantly, improve your food. For example, evenly-sized pieces of meat or vegetable will all cook evenly.

Organize Your Prep

When you start cooking, get everything laid out and make a plan. How many times have you sat down to a meal, had the first bite, and realized that the taste was not quite right thanks to a forgotten spice?

This is especially important with multiple dishes that will take different times. With a little forethought, you can time things out to make sure that everything is the temperature it should be, and you end up with an amazing meal instead of a lukewarm one.

Don't be Afraid of Seasoning

A lot of new chefs are scared to overseason. As long as you have a decent recipe, you can trust it and be well within your spice and flavor tolerances. This is true, especially, of salting pasta water. Remember that the pasta is only cooking in the water, and you’re not consuming the water. But, the water will carry a lot of the salt that never ends up in the pasta; thus, you need to season to the amount of water, not just the pasta.

Timers Are Your Friend

Yes, you may well intend to be in the kitchen the whole time you’re working on a meal, but in order to keep from forgetting something, always use a timer when the oven is involved, or when cooking meat on a grill. This will keep you from burning the food, getting food poisoning, or, burning the house down. We all carry smartphones now anyways, let’s use them for something more productive than social media for a little while.

Clean While You Cook

You’ve just had a wonderful steak with grilled asparagus, with some homemade sorbet and a martini for dessert. About the last thing you want to do is dishes. My advice is to make time in your cleaning routine for cooking. I try to time it such that, by the time I sit down, all I’ll have to do after I eat is pop my plate, glass, and utensils in the dishwasher. You will thank me later on that one, even if it’s a pain while you’re cooking. Or, alternatively, get your partner, kids, or roommate to help out on this.

Handwash Knives

Knives get really dull in the dishwasher, so if you want to save on sharpening, I’d recommend handwashing your knives. I didn’t believe this one at first, so I tried a little experiment and found that with the dishwasher, I have to sharpen my knives about twice as often as when I handwash them, with similar use. I assume it’s due to all of the friction from the moving water in the machine, but I could well be wrong on that part. All I know is that there is something to handwashing that is easier on knives.

Get An Apron

If you’ve read my past pieces, you know I also care about fashion. Generally, I cook when I get home from work and am thus fairly dressed up. I want to avoid staining my clothes by any means necessary, so about a year ago I got a cheap black apron. Since then, I haven’t stained any shirts or pants from grease in the kitchen, and I find myself using the pockets in the apron for spatulas and towels to keep them handy.

Try New Things

There might be a dish you saw on a cooking show, or in your favorite restaurant, that you’ve never had a chance to try for yourself. In those cases, break your usual cooking and eating routine and go for it! Sure, it probably won’t go awfully well the first time, but as long as it’s edible it can be an awesome learning experience for you, which is one of my favorite parts of cooking.

Make Your Own Tomato Sauce

For years, I relied on jarred pasta sauce. But with some digging, I found an easy recipe that takes me about an hour, counting simmering, and is substantially more flavorful. A big bonus is that it’s versatile. Depending on what I want, I can blend it to be more like a pizza sauce, and add spices that are appropriate to whatever I’m in the mood for that day. This will make store-bought pasta taste like something a lot more expensive.

Have Fun!

A lot of people are intimidated in the kitchen, and that bums me out considering that it’s one of the spaces where I find myself having the most fun. I like to make up a cocktail, put on some jazz, and get to work on something that I know I’ll enjoy.

Most of the time, that means making something relatively simple. For brand new chefs, check out YouTube and find some recipes and chefs that you like and can relate to. That way, you can get some guidance on how to make something that you think will be good. Or, perfect something you can already make: a well-made grilled cheese sandwich and homemade tomato soup can be absolutely stellar on a cold, rainy summer evening.
About author
G
Garrett is a writer and commentator based in the South. His areas of expertise lie in cooking, fashion, and the outdoors among others. He has been writing and educating professionally for years, and enjoys creating online discourses around positively masculine spaces.

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