How To

Step Up Your Kitchen Skills With This Easy Tutorial

We all love food, there is no question about that. Not all of us are savvy in the kitchen, but this tutorial will help you take the proper steps needed to make you a culinary master ( or just better about not burning everything including water).

With all those amazing photos of food floating around the Internet, it’s likely that you’ve been inspired to rock a chef hat now and again. Plus, eating out is expensive! But what about all those fancy skills you have to learn in order to cook well?

As it turns out, most of them are pretty easy. All you need is a little common sense. And the best part? You can totally do all of them without having to take fancy classes or sit through endless Food Network shows (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

After reading these basic tips, you’ll be unstoppable in the kitchen!

First up, assess your equipment and consider getting some new toys.

1. Keep your knives sharp.

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Flickr / David Davies

A sharp knife is actually safer than a dull one because you don’t have to hack at your food super violently to get the job done. It makes for an overall easier time preparing food. Invest in a sharpening stone and check out some tutorials on how to get the best results.

2. Use a scale for baking.

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Flickr / Kurtis Garbutt

A scale, which measures ingredients by weight, is going to be way more accurate than a volume measure, especially for ingredients like flour, which can compress and reduce in size. If your baked goods are constantly too dry and dense, you might be using too much flour. The scale doesn’t lie.

3. Use a bench scraper and a garbage bowl.

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Flickr / Phil! Gold
A bench scraper looks like something you’d apply spackle with, but it’s great for scooping up little ingredients easily. Doing it with a knife can dull the blade and nick cutting surfaces. A garbage bowl is a bowl you can toss peels, stems, pits, and other refuse into right where you’re working so you don’t have to make trips to the trash. Dump it all at once when you’re done.

4. Get a microplane.

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Flickr / Didriks

A microplane is good for grating the perfect amount of, well, anything. It’s easier to wash and store than a clunky cheese grater, and you can see how much you’re grating much more easily.

5. Make dressings in a squeeze bottle.

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Flickr / Steve Snodgrass
A squeeze bottle is perfect for shaking, serving, and storing salad dressings. You can even mark the sides of them so you can measure the ingredients right into them every time.
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6. Use deli-style containers for food storage.

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Flickr / Quinn Dombrowski

Tupperware is cute, but trying to find a matching lid is always a nightmare. Instead, try using clear plastic containers, like the ones you get from the deli. They come in a variety of sizes, but they all use the same lids. You can buy them new, or you can just wash out old takeout containers and recycle them.

7. Get an immersion blender.

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Flickr / Crystal

Immersion blenders, also known as stick blenders, are heavenly. Instead of sticking the food into the blender, you stick the blender into the food. A whirring blade purees soups, sauces, and everything else into smooth perfection. Just be careful, because those blades are sharp.

8. Use a tiny strainer.

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Flickr / Betsey Weber

A tiny strainer is perfect for squeezing citrus juice into your favorite dishes and drinks. It’ll catch the seeds for you!

And now for the actual food.

9. The tiny strainer can also be used for poached eggs.

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YouTube / SeriousEats
Strain out the runny part of the white before plopping the egg into boiling water for a poached egg that’s a nice, clean oval shape. After washing it, you can also use it to scoop the poached egg out of the water.

10. Use eggshells to catch eggshells.

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Flickr / Phu Thinh Co

If you find a bit of shell has gotten into your mixing bowl, don’t worry. They’re a pain to try to fish out with your fingers, so try using a larger piece of shell to scoop it out. The floating piece will stick to it easily.

11. Freeze raw meat and fish slightly before slicing.

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Flickr / toholio

Raw meat and fish can be tricky to cut, even with a very sharp knife. Freezing it just a tiny bit will make it easier to grasp and slice.

12. Thaw meat on aluminum foil.

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Flickr / Michael Zimmer

Aluminum is highly conductive, which will speed up the defrosting process for frozen meat. Running the meat under a cold tap works well too, but try this first to save water.

13. Prep food like you’re on a factory line.

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Flickr / Stephen Harris

If you have a lot of cooking to do for something like a family dinner, try to think like a commercial chef would. Instead of peeling and slicing one onion at a time, peel all the onions and then slice all the onions. Clean up as you go so you’re not faced with a mountain of cleaning at the end. If you’re baking a cake and you’re done with the flour, pack up the flour and put it away before adding the next ingredient. By the time the cake is in the oven, everything will already be in its rightful place.

14. Peel ginger with a spoon.

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Flickr / Didriks

Peeling ginger with a knife or vegetable peeler can result in a lot of wasted ginger because it’s so knobbly. Instead, peel it by scraping the edge of a spoon over the outside. The peel will come off, but the spoon won’t slice through the meat. If you’re very, very careful, you can also use the dull side of a knife, but a spoon is a lot safer.

15. Use pre-peeled garlic.

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Flickr / Rebecca Siegel

Okay, you might feel less chefly if you buy your garlic pre-peeled, but if you really hate peeling garlic, it’s a reasonable alternative. If you’re still set on a bulb of garlic, you can also peel it easily by using a microwave.

16. Slice avocados in their skins.

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Flickr / cyclonebill

Cut the avocado in half as you would normally, then remove the pit by chopping into it with a knife and popping it out. Take the halves and carefully slice the avocado while it’s still in the skin. When you scoop it out, it will be presliced. Never mess with a slippery, naked avocado again.

17. Freeze sauces and other liquids in portion sizes.

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Flickr / Rachel Tayse

If you freeze sauces, soups, stocks, and other liquids in small portions, you can use just enough later on, and you don’t have to thaw out a whole tub of the stuff for just one serving. Try small containers or an ice cube tray. Constantly thawing and refreezing takes a toll on food. This way, you can just pop out a cube of sauce for one bowl of pasta. This is great if you’re only cooking for yourself, since you can make huge batches and then use them as needed.

18. Freeze things flat.

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Flickr / Taz

The broader and flatter the surface area, the faster something will freeze. This means that your freezer doesn’t have to work as hard to get things cold, so you’ll save some electricity in the process. This shape will also let it defrost faster, saving you time when you ultimately forget to take something out to thaw before going to work.

19. Use that cheese water.

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Flickr / Rebecca Siegel

Fresh mozzarella and feta usually come in water, but don’t dump it. You can use it as the base of pasta sauce for extra flavor. Melt in some pieces of actual cheese for a creamy treat.

20. Save your parmesan rind.

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Flickr / Quinn Dombrowski

The waxy exteriors of hard cheeses like parmesan can also be repurposed. Store them in a plastic bag in the freezer and use them later to add flavor to soups. Just pop them into simmering soup for 20 to 30 minutes. Fish them out and discard, and enjoy your extra flavor.

21. Store fresh herbs and leafy vegetables in a damp paper towel.

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Flickr / Karen

Roll up leafy foods in a damp paper towel and place inside a ziplock bag with the seal left slightly open. This will extend the life of fresh herbs and vegetables and prevent them from becoming gross, green slime before you have a chance to enjoy them. For smaller pieces, store them in a deli container with a damp paper towel folded on top.

22. Test your meatballs, meatloaf, and sausages before shaping them.

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Flickr / The Adventures of Pam & Frank

You don’t want to go through all that trouble and then find out that you needed more seasoning. Taste it first. No, not raw. Just pinch off a bit and fry it up in a skillet for a taste test, and then make any adjustments you need to the rest.

23. Acid is your friend.

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Flickr / Shaun Dunphy

Just like a dash of salt can perk up the flavor of a meal, so can a splash of acid. Citrus juice and vinegar can add brightness to any meal. Use just a tiny bit to start and taste-test from there.

24. Read the recipe.

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Flickr / liz west
Yeah, this seems obvious, but seriously. Read the recipe the whole way through before you jump in. You don’t want to get halfway through only to realize you’re missing an ingredient or a piece of equipment. If you want to make something, read the recipe first.

(via Serious Eats)

Like anything else, learning to cook is a process. Will you mess up a few times at first? Yes, but it’s okay. Everyone does. A huge part of cooking is experimentation. These tricks will make it a little easier for you to improve your existing skills. Soon enough, you’ll be throwing fantastic dinner parties!

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