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Mar 10, 2012 10:39 PM

What is one tip you learned about cooking that was simple but made a huge difference: Part 2

Part 1 is painfully long, lets start a part 2!

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  1. Please, let s start a part 2 to this thread. Part one takes forever to load.

    1. I hope nobody objects. I compiled a simplified list of tips from the original thread.

      It seemed that for every good tip, there were 5-6 comments agreeing, arguing or slightly clarifying the original tip.

      Kosher salt, in a dish, by the stove.
      TASTE and season as you go.
      Never use a dull knife.
      Always preheat an oven.
      Al dente pasta is the only way to go.
      Use room temp eggs.
      A separate freezer is a home cooks best friend.
      Put a thin (3/8” to 1/2") steak in the freezer for 15 minutes or so before cooking will allow you to get a nice sear on the outside without overcooking the middle. Works for tuna, too
      A slower, longer rise results in a better tasting bread.
      Allow meat to rest before carving
      Fresh juice is better than bottled
      Don't crowd food in a pan when browning
      browing a clove or two of garlic into the boiling pasta water
      Zest has more flavor than juice
      add seltzer water to the pancake mix for fluffiness
      Separate the eggs and beat the whites for fluffier pancakes
      flick water at the oiled griddle and it dances, it's the right temperature
      WAIT till the pan and the oil get hot
      Brown meat for extra flavor then deglaze pan to capture the flavor of the food bits in your sauce
      Don’t drain grease off fried food by laying it on paper towels…use a cooling rack with paper towels underneath.
      Fresh herbs are far better than dried.
      Use herbs toward end of cooking process
      When making a sauce add cold liquid to hot ingredients for the sauce to be lump free
      Pull your pasta when it's pre-al dente and finish cooking your pasta in the sauce
      Baking bacon is better than frying
      Use good knives
      Save veggie scraps and peelings in ziplock bag for stocks
      add a teaspoon or two of water to the pan after the egg starts to cook and then put a lid on the pan. The steam from the water cooks the top of the egg without overcooking
      Bring eggs and meat to room temperature before cooking
      Read the entire recipe before cooking
      Mise en place in order of use
      Dry the meat before searing
      Hot pan cold oil food won’t stick
      Season as you go and taste as you season
      When scrambling eggs remove the pan from the heat a few seconds before they are done.
      Keep a garbage bowl nearby
      Clean as you go
      Taste it before serving
      Warm plates before serving
      Use a meat thermometer
      Use a digital scale
      Fresh bay leaves are better than dry bay leaves
      Use kitchen timers
      Use the water from cooking the potatoes to make the gravy
      Cook mashed potatoes in half n half instead of water
      Buy an oven thermometer
      A bit of sugar tames the acidity in tomato rich dishes
      Some grated carrot tames acidity too
      Freshly ground pepper is lots better than pre ground
      Keep your chicken bones for stock
      Add a dash of salt to any baked good
      Microwave clams and oysters for 10 seconds to open easily
      When cooking ground beef, once the beef is starting to get brown, use a dough blender to break it up into small pieces.
      Brine pork and chicken for a juicier product
      Make a big batch of roux and store it in a sealed jar in the fridge to speed up gravy making
      you can bake the steak to get it to the doneness you like without charring the outside after searing in a pan.
      "Better than Bouillon" beef and chicken bases are far better than bouillon cubes and enhance broths for gravies and pan sauces.
      Braise in an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven.
      Home made stocks are far superior to anything else.
      Use a whisk when making gravy and sauces to prevent lumps
      Season in layers 1/3 early 1/3 in the middle and 1/3 last
      Microwave sliced mushrooms until they give up their water then sauté for better browning
      Store fresh lemons in a jar in the fridge.
      Put a chicken or turkey, uncovered, in the fridge for a few hours enables a crisp skin

      7 Replies
      1. re: Hank Hanover

        I would not agree with "When scrambling eggs remove the pan from the heat a few seconds before they are done." More like a MINUTE before they are done because through residual heat, warm plate and time they will otherwise be overcooked. Oh, and I used to be a purist for scrambled using just eggs and butter. Started adding a teaspoon of heavy cream for each egg, now they really are creamy---and there's no guesswork!

          1. re: shaebones

            Burned my eyeballs out staring at the monitor to do that.

          2. re: Hank Hanover

            Thank you for compiling this. May the food gods reward you with something especially delicious for your good deed!

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              To add cider vinegar and salt to shredded iceberg lettuce....Makes a huge difference. Makes a really nice contrast to plated Empanadas or on tacos...

              1. re: Hank Hanover

                Hank - this is brilliant. I've copied and sent to folks
                w/the header - Just Do This Stuff.

                All the smarts from so many C'hounds all in one place.
                thanks for taking the time and trouble to do this.
                And thanks to the Hounds who've added more on Part 2 !!

              2. For gas ranges - Never pay attention to what the dial on the stovetop knobs say. Watch the flame and learn it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Novelli

                  I'm not as big a fan of Tom Colichio as he is of himself but one thing he has said is very true. Your ear will tell you if the flame is too high or too low.

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    Very true!

                    I remember making some steamed clams in wine for some buddies of mine. While prepping, every couple of seconds I'd tilt my head down to the pan to listen.
                    So they ask, "What the $%&!@* are you doing?"
                    "I'm sweating some shallots and garlic, ssshhhhhh!"

                2. To avoid burning crushed garlic, add it to the oil in a cold pan and heat both together. Burned garlic bedeviled me before a lovely restaurant owner in Florence clued me in. You can still burn it this way if you're not paying attention, but it takes longer.

                  1. I have two that didn't make the list
                    Run cold water over cut avocado. It won't brown. Lime juice, contrary to popular opinion, works poorly and only for a very short time. Water works.
                    When prepping raw onions and garlic, if your hands smell, rubbing your hands all over a stainless bowl or faucet, for some enzymatic reason the smell dissipates.

                    1 Reply