THE BEST COOKING TRICKS OF ALL TIME
People don’t just wake up one day and know how to cook. Like any other skill, cooking is a learning process. Whether it’s cooking your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, watching cooking shows on TV, or observing professionals, you slowly collect an arsenal of skills and tricks for making better food. But everyone has that linchpin technique, trick, or toolthat instantly changed the way they approach food. Here are 11 of our staff’s aha! moments.
FINISHING PASTA IN THE PAN
“Learning how to finish pasta in the pan was a life changer. One day, I was at Street & Co. in Portland, Maine, and saw chefs dumping cooked pasta into the skillet of sauce, stirring it around for a bit, and adding a splash of the water they were cooking the pasta in (and maybe a knob of butter), then serving it. So I ripped off the technique at home. It made sense: Why not cook pasta (at least the last minute or so) in the actual sauce? That way the flavor infuses the pasta. It was the addition of cooking water that proved to be the secret weapon. That starchy elixir created an emulsified, ‘creamy’ (note quotes) sauce that bound everything together, making it a complete dish, rather than two thrown-together elements. I’ve never looked back.” —Scott DeSimon, deputy editor.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF HEAT (AND A LITTLE SMOKE)
“Lesson #1 I learned from being a professional cook: Do not be afraid of heat. There’s no way to get a good sear on a steak or any piece of meat without cranking it up. And if you’re cranking the heat, then you are going to generate some smoke when the meat hits the pan. It’s OK—don’t panic! Just be prepared to open windows and disable the smoke detector before it starts blaring. Lesson #2 can be summed up in a little game I like to call, ‘Go ahead, just try and over-season this burger.’” —Alfia Muzio, test kitchen contributor.
MICROPLANE—NOT JUST FOR CHEESE
“Discovering I could be using my microplane for more than just citrus. Now, instead of painstakingly mincing garlic and ginger, I’ll microplane them into salad dressings or a sauté.” —Belle Cushing, editorial assistant
USE YOUR SCISSORS IN THE KITCHEN
“Use scissors to cut your kid’s food. I mean right there in the bowl. I cut EVERYTHING with scissors when it comes to kid food.” —Alex Pollack, photo director