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10 Professional Cooking Tips

Updated on November 16, 2008

 

I used to read books about food and cooking like many people read novels.

Fussy about food quality and imaginative, I wanted to create signature dishes that I could recreate with consistency. I didn't read cookbooks and food science books for specific recipes; I read them to be mentally transported into the world of top food professionals - people who cook exceptionally well every day - to learn what they do and how to do it.

After much note-taking and experimentation, I compiled a list of great cooking tips and techniques. Here are 10 of my favorites:

  • Basil: to maintain the green colour and fresh flavour, blanch trimmed leaves for 4-5 seconds, plunge them into cold water, then strain them to extract any excess liquid. Purée the remaining solids with oil or vinegar to make vinaigrettes, pesto, etc.
  • Cake batter: many cake batters can be turned into cookie dough by eliminating almost all of the liquid and halving the amount of baking powder in the cake recipe.
  • Cocoa powder: use Dutch processed cocoa when the recipe has no baking soda or has more baking powder than soda. Use non-alkali cocoa when there is only soda or more soda than powder.
  • Cookies: cookies made with oil will keep in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks, but butter cookies, unless you freeze them, will develop an off-flavor after a week. Cookies that are low in fat should be frozen after a day or two - they tend to dry out quickly.
  • Cooking water: don't salt the water in a stainless steel pot until it is hot. Salt will dissolve immediately in hot water, but in cold water it will pit and mark the bottom of the pot.
  • Eggs: cool boiled eggs quickly in ice water to prevent the formation of a grey ring around the yolk.
  • Garlic: mash raw garlic with salt before adding it to salad dressing to temper the bite.
  • Heating liquids: before heating milk or other liquids like stock or juice on the stove, rinse the cooking pot/pan with water so the liquid will be less likely to scorch as it heats.
  • Honey: coat a measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before measuring honey. The honey will easily slide out, making clean-up easy. To learn why raw honey is healthy and where to buy it online, visit http://hubpages.com/hub/Honey-A-Primer
  • Mushrooms: clean fresh mushrooms by rinsing them and then wiping them dry. Contrary to common belief, this will not damage their flavour or texture, even if they are soaked for 5 minutes.
  • Potatoes: never store potatoes with onions - the gases released will hasten spoilage.

Okay, there are actually 11 tips, so you get a bonus! Yes, this one goes up to 11, to borrow a line from This is Spinal Tap, one of my favorite movies.

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