How to Cook Food That Tastes Amazing
How to cook food that tastes truly amazing does not have to be a mystery. Below are some of my favorite cooking hacks that I’ve learned over the years working as a professional chef, and use all the time to create delicious healthy meals at home without spending hours in the kitchen.
Start with quality ingredients
The fresher the produce, the more carefully raised the meat, the more flavor it will have. I’m a big fan of shopping at farmer’s markets, where you can find ingredients that are picked at peak ripeness, travel less distance, and are therefore fresher. Also, when preparing to cook a meal, mise en place your ingredients so that you are ready to cook. Mise en place means “everything in its place” and refers to getting all ingredients prepared (cutting, toasting, grating) before starting the cooking process. That way, as you’re cooking, you’re more relaxed and can focus on the task at hand.
Use salt effectively
Salt is essential for getting the most flavor out of your food. Once you’ve decided which salt you want to use to cook on a daily basis, use the following tips to allow your high quality ingredients to shine.
1. Use sufficient salt
Salt almost all things: from salads to baked goods, pretty much everything benefits from the addition of salt. Salt isn’t intended to make things salty, but rather make foods taste more like themselves. I use this fine sea salt almost exclusively when I cook. For meats, the guideline is to use 1 teaspoon per pound. For vegetables, using fine sea salt, the guideline is 1 scant teaspoon per pound of vegetable. If you use kosher salt when cooking, such as Diamond Crystal, it is about half as salty as as fine sea salt, so use almost 2x as much salt. Remember, these are guidelines, always use your palette when deciding whether or not to add more salt.
2. Salt in advance
This is especially important with meats. Time is your friend when it comes to getting the most flavor infused throughout meat. Applying salt to meat anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours in advance makes a huge difference! If you plan to make for example, chicken thighs for dinner, try to remember to salt them the night before, in the morning before leaving for work, or at the beginning of prepping a meal, while they come to room temperature. Time allows the salt to start to breakdown the proteins in the meat and penetrate to a deeper level, in a way to just using more salt doesn’t.
3. Salt along the way, in layers
I salt my dishes during the beginning, middle, and end of cooking. For example when I’m cooking up a dish that starts with sauteing onions, such as a soup, I tend to add a bit of salt to the onions, which helps them onions break down, and adds flavor. Then when I add the broth and other ingredients, in goes more salt. And at the end, I’ll taste the finished product to see if the cooked dish needs more salt. I’m not adding a ton of salt at every turn, but just 1/4 teaspoon or so (depending on the volume), but salting in layers helps food to have multiple dimensions in flavor, instead of tasting flat.
Cooking your food
Understanding how heat works can be a tremendous tool in helping make food that tastes amazing. My number one tip I tell people in my cooking classes is to take meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking it (depending on the size of the meat). This allows the meat to come room temperature, and it will cook more evenly and thoroughly. For example, for chicken skewers on the grill, pulling them out 30 minutes before grilling will ensure that they have crispy corners, are cooked all the way through, and don’t just end up steamed and rubbery because they were still cold in the middle.
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