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Jul 15, 2006 02:34 AM

Best Cooking Tip

Okay, I guess it's time to kick of this thread.

What is the best tip you've ever read or received that just made your good recipe jump off the plate.

As a "For instance" when I first learned to make a simple Greek salad dressing, it had vinegar in it. I later read an article on Greek cooking and it said that there is "No vinegar in Greek cooking. It's acidity is from lemon juice." I switched to fresh squeezed lemon juice in my dressing and other Greek foods and oh man, what a difference.
"For instance" #2. While playing around with Jambalaya I noticed one recipe that said to "Fry" the tomato paste. It adds a depth of flavour you don't get without doing this. Put it in the pot in oil and let it fry. It's like playing chicken in your car, the longer you can go with it without burning it (a beautiful deep brown) the better.

Anyone else got any kitchen gems they'd like to pass on??


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  1. As much as the Greeks love lemon, they do use vinegar in their food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PBSF

      I just knew that was coming.


    2. How about AB saying that the reason you add wine to tomato sauce is that alcohol releases extra flavor from the tomatos, not just because of the wine flavor being added. That helps explain vodka in tomato sauce, also.

      The one that got me, though, was when I found out that bread is done baking when the internal temperature is between 190 and 205 degrees.I just had never seen or heard that fact before.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yayadave

        true dat ... I learned this from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, that some flavors are alcohol-soluble ... no alcohol, you don't get that flavor. I too like to use vodka since I always have an open bottle handy (the same one for the past 10 or so years I might add ;)

      2. I love the tomato paste hint. My ex-MIL used to make a cooked down tomato paste that was practically black and then canned it - perhaps I now possess a secret to my gravy.

        Here's a hint I love: when you're sauteeing garlic in olive oil always add some salt - it spreads the flavor throughout your sauce or whatever else you're making.

        And here's one I learned from my father, a great lover of fresh, home-grown tomatoes: he always had a salt shaker labled "tomato salt". It contained 3/4 salt and 1/4 sugar. Sounds strange, but man does it make a good fresh ripe tomato taste even more wonderful.

        1. One of the best tips I got was on how to mix a salad so that the dressing is distributed evenly before plating. Saw it on Cooking with Julia. Sounds simple...but is it?

          Don't overdress...and use tongs to keep turning the greens (or whatever is in there) until each piece has a little dressing on it. The guys was using a simple vinagrette.

          Also...Lemon brightens up so many dishes. Just some squirts at the very end of cooking. I go thru lots of fresh lemons at my house. Even lemon on a great steak is wonderful...and it is a must in most soups.

          5 Replies
          1. re: melly

            Yes, lemon does make a difference - I tried it once over chicken noodle soup, thinking it would only make a fraction of a difference, but it was a huge (and amazing) change.

            1. re: theannerska

              Yeah, we made parmesan crusted pork chops last night and it called for a spritz of lemon/serve with a lemon wedge. I was a little dubious but gave it a try and it REALLY made a considerable difference (for the better).

              1. re: Kuisine

                When I make parmesan crusted chops I add either grated lemon rind to the parmesan/bread crumb mixture or if I am just plain out of lemons I add a drop or two of Boyajian lemon oil to the egg wash. Got to have that lemon.

                I always have the Boyajian citrus oils in my refrigerator. Yes they are expensive but refrigerated they keep forever and just 1 drop can go so very very far. I just wish they had a shaker top on them because just a drop or two is all that is needed. I buy the large bottles, lemon, orange and lime. I know Sur la Table has small 4 packs of them, I can't remember what the 4th is at the moment but once you get used to having them available you won't want to be without.

                I use the orange not too long ago to make a sauce Maltaise to go with pan seared scallops. The orange juice I had in the sauce was a little anemic. 1 drop of the orange oil changed that sauce from ordinary to brilliant.

                1. re: Candy

                  Agree about Boyajian oils, I have them all.

                  The orange is my favorite--great in frosting, especially cream cheese (and is a key ingredient in the salad dressing in the Broccoli Salad thread).

            2. re: melly

              I didn't even think about that one. I do that too.

              I tossed out my Realemon bottle a number of years ago and just keep fresh lemons in the fridge at all times.


            3. One of the most important things I've learned is patience when pan-frying. Things like burgers and steaks cooked in a pan might stick, but they will release when ready (of course the pan has to be hot enough). No more scraping and trying to peek!