Chefs Share The Most Useful Things They Learned In Culinary School

If you want some advice about cooking, there’s no better person to ask than a professional chef. They spend their lives in the kitchen, whipping up recipes and creating delicious dishes. Chefs have a lot of wisdom when it comes to the best methods for prepping, knife cuts, and other basic skills.

The following chef suggestions will streamline your meal prep and help you produce some amazing meals. You may discover that you’ve been doing something wrong this entire time…

Prep Your Ingredients In Advance

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RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Have you heard the French phrase, “mise en place”? It translates to “putting in place.” Good chefs are organized, and you should be too. Make sure to take out all of your ingredients, and measure and prep them prior to cooking. This can save time and prevent mistakes.

How do you think restaurants serve food so quickly? Because they are well-oiled machines. You don’t need to be quite as militant when you’re cooking at home, but it’s much simpler to follow a recipe if everything is laid out ahead of time.

Blend Items In The Correct Order

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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When using a blender, add the liquids first, including water, juice, and broths. Then mix in solid ingredients, such as vegetables, greens, and fruit. This makes it easier for the blender’s motor to operate and the blades to spin the ingredients.

When you follow this order, your concoction will be more smooth and consistent. Overall, putting liquids in first will increase the blender’s lifespan, and your food will be prepared much more efficiently and effectively.

Use Paper Towels To Dry Meat And Fish For An Extra-Crispy Texture

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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Do you like extra-crispy skin on meat and fish? Then dry them with paper towels before you put them on the grill, stove top, or oven. You should do this every time you cook meat or fish, crispy or not. But if you really want that crispy sensation, you need to remove moisture.

Moisture and steam interferes with crisping and browning. It can also cause the meat or fish to stick to the pan. This is both irritating and can affect the taste of the food.

But Don’t Turn The Heat Up Too Much

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Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images

You may be tempted to turn up the heat if you’re in a rush, but that’s not always the answer. Some items, such as onions and garlic, need to be sauteed slowly in oil over medium-low heat. This helps them retain their flavor and prevents them from getting burned.

Also, you need to cook some meat and veggies over medium heat, so they can cook thoroughly without getting burned. Many soups should be simmered so the flavors can mix and veggies don’t break apart.

Let Meat Reach Room Temperature Before Cooking It

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Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF

It’s easy to assume that you would take the steak out of the refrigerator and immediately put it on the grill or in the oven. However, you should let it warm up to room temperature before cooking it. If it comes from a 40-degree Fahrenheit fridge, it’s going to be a little challenging to make it medium rare.

That’s because the inside of the steak is going to be cold. However, if you let it warm up to room temperature, it’s easier to cook it exactly how you want it.

Let Meat Cool Before You Cut It

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Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post via Getty Images

If you want a more flavorful steak, let it rest when it’s finished cooking. When you’re ready to take the meat off the grill or out of the oven, let it sit for five to 10 minutes before you cut it up and serve it.

That way, the natural juices that rise to the surface during the cooking process will be able to sink back down into the meat. Letting the meat sit will give you a more flavorful taste in the center.

Be Mindful Of How You Cut Your Vegetables

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Lukas Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images
Lukas Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images

Don’t just chop up the veggies and throw them in a dish haphazardly. How you cut them affects their texture, and that’s why they often look so elegant in fancy restaurants.

Veggies that are cut into smaller pieces cook faster than bigger ones, and using both can create more texture for your palate. If you cut vegetables on the diagonal, they will come out al dente on the thicker end and softer on the thinner end, which is also pleasing to your taste buds.

Replace Expired Spices

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INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

The good news is that spices don’t spoil, but they can lose their potency and flavor over time. That’s why you need to replace them when they expire. You know they’re not as good if they fade in color or their aroma has diminished.

It’s important to use as many fresh spices as possible and choose brands (or take them from your own garden) that are reputable. This can make a big difference when it comes to flavor and taste.

Warm The Plates Before Serving For A Special Touch

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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the best things about dining out is eating a meal from a plate that’s warm. You can do this by putting dishes in the oven before serving the meal. However, don’t overheat the plates, or they can be difficult to manage.

It’s best to warm them up at a low temperature for 15 minutes or less. When you remove the plates from the oven, make sure you have an oven mitt on your hands. Also, make sure the dishware is oven safe.

Keep Fish Moist By Basting It

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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the best things you can do to keep fish moist is by basting it in the pan. You can do this by adding a big chunk of butter to the pan and letting it melt just as your fish is almost done cooking.

Next, turn the heat down and gently scoop the melted butter on to the fish. Not only will the butter cook the top of the fish, it will also keep it from drying out and add a bit of flavor.

Determine How Much Time Each Item Requires To Cook

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Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One of the hardest things to master, particularly when you’re just learning to cook, is timing everything so the whole meal can be served at the same time. You need to determine the most efficient order of cooking. This can be challenging if you only have one oven and stove top.

Whether you are serving a small or large group of people, cook side dishes such as greens and chili first because they can get more flavorful the longer they sit and marinate.

Use Vegetable Scraps And Leftover Bones To Make Stock

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Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Do not get rid of leftover bones or veggie scraps because they are perfect for making a stock. This includes things like onion and celery ends, carrot butts, and parsley stems. Try to avoid seeds and certain herbs, which can make stock bitter.

Make stock by adding just enough water to veggies scraps that they’re covered. Then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the mixture, and use the finished stock for a variety of soups and sauces.

Don’t Forget To Add Salt

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JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

If something isn’t flavorful enough, add a little salt. It can bring out the taste of food and make it taste better. If you really want to have a flavorful recipe, add salt each time you put in a new ingredient.

If something tastes too salty or rich, you can downplay the taste with a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar. These acids counter the effects of salt. Not only will you recipe taste better, it can also save a meal that may have been thrown out.

Rotate Food In The Oven

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Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images

Chefs around the world follow this cooking tip. When you’re making something in the oven, make sure to rotate it halfway through the cooking process. This ensures that it cooks properly all the way through.

Use this technique for food such as potatoes, fish, or chicken. You don’t want to end up with a meal that’s half cooked or burned on one side. Simply set a timer and use a spatula or other utensil to turn the item over.

Use Sugar As A Seasoning

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Lisa Ducret/picture alliance via Getty Images
Lisa Ducret/picture alliance via Getty Images

You may think that sugar is just for baked goods, but that’s not the case. You can use it on most recipes that include tomatoes. Some tomatoes are naturally sour, so sugar can make them taste a little bit better.

Sugar can also help with tomatoes that are slightly out of season by bringing out the flavor. Simply use a pinch or two of sugar, and it should do the trick. Plus, you don’t have to waste tomatoes that aren’t the proper ripeness.

Use Larger Bowls

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Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

When mixing ingredients, use a bigger bowl than you think you will need. That way, you won’t get stuck with an extra dirty dish if you try to make something in a bowl that’s too small. Also, it will help you avoid a messy counter.

Another thing to keep in mind is doing dirty work in the sink. If you’re stirring a batter or spice mixtures, do so while the bowl is in the sink. If anything spills, you can simply turn on the faucet and wash it away.

Don’t Wait Until You’re Finished Cooking To Clean Up

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Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

You should clean your kitchen and prep area as you cook. It’s much easier to work on a countertop that is clean than one that is filled with dirty dishes, cutlery, and other materials. Clean your cutting board every time you prep a new ingredient. Also, place all dirty pots, pans, etc. in the dishwasher.

In addition, frequently wash your hands. While you may not have a cooking instructor breathing down your back, it’s a good idea to practice good hygiene while you’re preparing a meal for yourself, your friends, and your family.

Don’t Be Scared Of High Heat

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Chau Doan/LightRocket via Getty Images
Chau Doan/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sometimes you have to heat food at high temperatures, particularly if you’re looking to sear your meal. If you want crispy and caramelized fish, chicken, steak, or pork, you need a pan that’s extremely hot.

In addition, when searing your food, make sure it’s not overloaded in the pan. This will cause the pan to cool down too much, and the heat won’t be able to circulate properly around the meat. You want the meat and fish to heat evenly.

Use Your Knives Properly

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David Silverman/Getty Images
David Silverman/Getty Images

The last thing you want to do is cut yourself while cooking. To prevent an accident, tuck the fingers on your non-dominant hand, and use your upper knuckles to guide the knife. That keeps your finger tips out of the way, so they don’t get cut.

In addition, hold the knife by the handle and pinch the bottom of the blade between your thumb and forefinger for optimum control. Grip the middle, ring, and pinky fingers around the handle, and never lay your forefinger over the knife’s spine.

Make Sure Your Knives Are Sharp

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Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image
Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image

Sharp knives will make any cooking task easier and faster, especially chopping vegetables. In addition, you don’t have to use as much force with a sharp knife, which makes it safer.

You can either sharpen the knives on your own, or you can bring them to a specialty store and its employees can do it for you. Either way, using a sharp knife is crucial if you enjoy cooking and want to make the preparation as easy and safe as possible.