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

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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: Hank Hanover

          Thanks HH, great job!!!

          1. re: shaebones

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

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              I bet you did. :)

          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
                    1. re: mamachef

                      Onion is better than water. Chow Tips says so! http://youtu.be/R_aDygBYuDQ

                    2. The best way to make scrambled eggs is in a cast iron skillet. Get it good and hot, butter the pan, pour in the eggs and turn off the heat. They will come out perfectly! Not too wet, not at all dry, firm but still creamy.

                      I saw letting eggs come to room temp before cooking was already mentioned. +1 more for that!

                      1. For easy to peel hard cooked eggs:
                        use eggs that were purchased a week or more before.
                        Steam the eggs (as opposed to boiling) for 15 minutes and then cool them in ice water for 5 minutes.
                        Peel them immediately if you can
                        Dip them in hot water for a few seconds then peel.

                        1. Chop half a bell pepper. Put it in a sandwich bag and roll it up. Put the sandwich bag in a zip lock bag with several other sandwich bags of chopped bell pepper and keep the whole thing in the freezer.

                          When you need some bell pepper, just go to the freezer and pull out one of the sandwich bags and toss the contents into the skillet with the other sweating veggies.

                          For some reason, I hardly ever need an entire bell pepper chopped so this works well for me.

                          1. Keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. This way you can throw a handful into risottos and pilafs, sauces and casseroles.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                              Yah, I'm continually surprised at the handiness of frozen peas.

                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                Edamame can be an interesting alternative - not everywhere; use your judgement. Great source of protein.

                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  It's also the ice pack of choice for conforming to a body part!

                                2. If you can read, you can cook. Find and follow good clear recipes.

                                  Don't toast garlic bread on the upper oven rack.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    Aaaaaaaaaaahahahahaha! KaimukiMan, your first is one of the things I've always told the people I teach to cook. And the second is just funny. Was this recent, dear? )

                                    1. re: mamachef

                                      Im ashamed to admit I have had to re-learn the second on more than one occasion. Trying to hurry in the kitchen just doesn't work out sometimes.

                                      (and the first one I learned from my Grandmother... who apparently never read how to make pies, it was the one thing she just couldn't get right)

                                  2. When making a grilled sandwich, butter the bread not the pan.

                                    1. I learned this recently (better late than never!): If you don't want the tears when chopping onions, put the onions in the freezer about 1/2 hr before. It really works.

                                      1. On the list I compiled from the first tips thread, I am fascinated with using the water from boiling potatoes to make the gravy. I have not tried it but the starch from the potatoes would help thicken the gravy and add some flavor. ... very clever.

                                        I could see where this would work with pasta water, also.

                                        1. Put boiled potatoes back on the burner after draining to dry them out a bit makes mashed and other potato dishes more flavorful.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: randyjl

                                            Glad to see this randyjl! This was my "secret." I thought that I invented this method, but obviously I'm not the only one.....one can rehydrate with the good stuff.

                                          2. Learning how to read food, either by sight, sound, smell, touch or any other method. Thermometers are great for an accurate temperature, but you should always give it a poke with your finger to get a feel for what X degrees actually is. Food will usually give off clues, you just need to know how to recognize them.

                                            1. use Ice to de-fat pan drippings (for turkey or prime rib).
                                              There needs to be a lot of pan juices for this to work.

                                              Simply add a generous amount of Ice to the pan to cool rapidly. The fat will congeal around the ice you simply remove the ice the fat will be with it.

                                              Do this fairly quickly (a minute or two). It will add some additional H20 to the sauce - which you can quickly reduce out.

                                              It works really well - though it makes a mess of your trash can. However, if you don't have a separator it works extremely well.

                                              This is one of the first cooking tricks I learned from a French trained chef (who was a great chef on an oil platform in Alaska of all places:-).

                                              1. When browning a piece of meat (or a hamburger, or fish) in a skillet, it won't stick once it's browned and if it's sticking it won't be browned. Patience, Grasshopper, patience!

                                                1. Read the recipe before starting cooking.

                                                  1. Save shells from shrimp in freezer bag. When you have a pile, make seafood stock.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Seeker19104

                                                      How long do you cook? How much water? Any other add ins?

                                                      1. re: walker

                                                        Shell your shrimp, don't rinse the shells. Use saucepan large enough for shells and barely enough water to come to just under top of shells. Add what makes sense given your dish: in SC we add 1/2 lemon, juice squeezed into water, throw in the lemon. Bay leaf, garlic cloves, maybe r4ed pepper if it makes sense for the dish. A few whole black peppercorns. Sometimes I'll add trimmings from shallots/scallions. No salt. Bring slowly to simmer, cook about 10 minutes, off heat, let cool. If making ahead, drain and strain well.

                                                        Dump everything left over into outside compost ASAP or dispose of responsibly immediately cause shrimp shells stink like nothing else. Strain stock again. Sometimes I'll reduce for stronger flavor. Freeze in 1c portions.

                                                        _This_ is what I add to butter sauteed shrimp. We're pretty plain here for breakfast shrimp (y'all call it shrimp and grits). Not all that xtra stuff, maybe a little crumbled bacon. But that shrimp stock is the key. And when its missing it shows.

                                                    2. If you buy your milk last and take it directly home and put it at the back or bottom of your refrigerator and then only take it out for a few minutes to pour into glasses or whatever you are cooking, you can at least double the "sell by" date. In other words, if the "sell by" date is ten days away, you should be able to get twenty days from the milk.

                                                      Adding one or two canned anchovies to homemade tomato sauce deepens the flavor, replaces the need to add salt, and, generally, makes an Italian red sauce a lot yummier, with no taste of fish in it!

                                                      Be patient. Do not overcrowd the mushrooms when browning them. The flavor will concentrate and be much more "mushroomy" tasting. Also, leave the mushrooms alone until you think they are browned, then stir them or flip them over. You want carmalization.

                                                      1. I use and prefer mayo for toasted Sandwiches. It's easier to spread and browns nicely.

                                                        1. To use a French whisk when making gravy or white sauce. Takes the lumps out like magic. Also, when whipping egg whites stiff, to add some of the sugar to them ASAP so they will stay up if you stop beating. To put a slice of apple in with brown sugar or cookies if they get hard.

                                                          1. As a disabled person, using a slow cooker judiciously has allowed me to make much more delicious meals than before without tiring myself out completely. So my tip would be use your slow cooker for the things that it is good for:

                                                            In my experience:
                                                            Broth based soups do well in the slow cooker, cream or milk based soups not so much. They can sometimes work if you add the dairy at the very end.

                                                            Slow cooker is great for doing broth and stock once you have enough bones and other veg and such saved up. If you want it to reduce some, use a chopstick to hold the lid open.

                                                            I do large batches of caramelized onions in the slow cooker. Slice a ton of onions thinly, add in a little bit of butter and sprinkle with some salt. Cook on low for a long time with the lid propped ajar, stirring every once in a while. It will take a long time (I usually end up doing 10-12 hours at least) , but I get good results without having to stand over the stove for an hour. I keep these in the fridge almost constantly, and a little bit of caramelized onions can improve a lot of things.

                                                            1. Haven't read them all but I'm sure it's on the list. Mise en place .

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: emglow101

                                                                For 'broken glass' crispy skin on poultry or pork brush on a thin mixture of Koser salt and white wine vinegar and put the meat under the broiler for a couple of minutes after the meat has been roasted and rested. Repeat this a couple of times.

                                                              2. Mayonnaise smeared on a fish holds the coating on for pan frying or baking.