Tips you wish you'd known when you first started cooking

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Joined Jan 17, 2016
I was going to make this something like "Things I learned Cooking with no formal training". But everything on that list would be pretty obvious to the more experienced Chefs on this forum. So I though that since everyone has their own experiences and skill sets, I could turn this into a discussion Thread. The Topic?

What are some Tips, tricks and other such things you wish you'd known when you first started to Cook.

Personally, my biggest would be;
1). If you have to asked yourself "Did I added to much?" then the answer is probably "Yes".

2). When making Soups, Sauces and other such things, separate a small amount before adding any spices or such to it, and add them to THAT before the big pot to taste. Nothing ruins a Soup faster than added a spice and realizing that it doesn't taste quite like what you wanted it to.

3). Don't be afraid of Fruits! We all know that Lemon and Chicken go well together. But so does Chicken and Pineapple or Mango! Or Blackberry and Lamb! And a Splash of Apple or Pineapple juice can really add another layer of Flavor to your Roast.

4). Prep before you cook! This one should be obvious to anyone who's spent much time in the Kitchen, but get all of your spices, Ingredients and Utensils ready and waiting before you even start cooking. I can't count how many times I burned something just starting out, because I was running back and forth trying to get the next thing, or forgot to preheat something, spent to long doing something else like chopping.

5): Lastly, Don't be afraid to experiment(at Home)! Recipes are all well and good, and are an important part of any skill set, but don't be afraid to deviate and experiment with them either (at home!). In the end, what separates you from the cook next door, is the twists you put on old classics.
 
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Joined Feb 19, 2019
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. I learn more from my mistakes because they make me think. When I do it right, I am too busy patting myself on the back to think or to learn.
Hehehe - me too :)
If it goes right - why change/fix it :)

What would I have wanted to know before I started cooking - how fast food trends change these days
I feel that is something every education provider in our industry should focus more on - give the soon to be cooks and chefs more information on how fast (and short lived) food trends have become in the last 5 years
Oh - and social media class would have been awesome :)
 
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How useful water is. If you are sautéing something, such as onion, and it starts to burn a little before its done, just add a little water and let if cook off. Or the quickest and easiest way to cook vegetables is sautéing and then adding some water and covering the pan with a lid and letting them steam to finish cooking. Or using water to loosen up leftovers, or a dish you prepared an hour ago and set aside until serving.
 
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Joined Dec 13, 2018
I wish I would have looked more into why certain flavors pair well together. I could have started coming up with some more diverse flavor profiles and dishes at an earlier age and could be even further in my career. I wish someone would have beat the phrase salt and pepper out of my brain. Not everything that needs salt needs pepper too but it seems we've made them synonymous in America. I also wish I would have realized that everyone has a reason for why they do things the way they do. Ask them why and how. They may be employing a great technique without the full understanding. I thought I worked for a couple morons for awhile but then a couple years later I realized what they were attempting to do. They just didn't have the full grasp on their technique which made the end product appear amateurish at best.
 
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Joined Jan 9, 2019
Don't walk away from a hot burner!!
Been there, done that!
19 yrs old ..drinking & decided to make fries at 2:30 AM..fell asleep.
Thank god for the smoke detector!
Second was making stock, burner on med, phone call/distracted & then onto yard work..kitchen was full of smoke (but a nice clean yard).
New range top (yes, brag) shuts off automatically after 2 hours..obviously designed for us senile old farts ;)
 
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Joined Jan 18, 2018
How useful water is. If you are sautéing something, such as onion, and it starts to burn a little before its done, just add a little water and let if cook off. Or the quickest and easiest way to cook vegetables is sautéing and then adding some water and covering the pan with a lid and letting them steam to finish cooking. Or using water to loosen up leftovers, or a dish you prepared an hour ago and set aside until serving.

Wine works wonders for saving things from burning as well. Saved garlic from burning last night when I was rushing to get food on the table.


Clean as you go. This goes for both cooking at home and in a professional setting. its amazing the difference it makes for both your mind set and the after product. By after product I mean the severity of a kitchen when done cooking.
 
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Joined Sep 21, 2001
Remember that all food starts out good... but bad cooks are a dime a dozen.
So if you've tried something before and didn't like it maybe it wasn't the fault of the ingredient as much as a person who didn't cook it right.
 
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Joined Mar 28, 2019
Focus on learning the techniques involved within a recipe, not learning recipes.

YES! There are so many things you can do in a recipe to adapt it, fix it, change it, whatever. Understanding the processes that the food is undergoing is so much more helpful.

Adding my own similarly: Try new things and take the time to understand the differences between your fats, acids, heat types, thickening agents, etc, and document your results. It can take a bit, but once you do, you can create anything.
 
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Joined Jun 11, 2013
  • Taste . . . and then taste as you go . . . taste a lot! Little is more important in learning to cook well than learning to taste.
  • Learn how to use and properly care for knives.
  • All the gadgets in the world mean squat if you think good results are achieved using them.
  • Learn to cook for yourself first and understand what you like. However, just because you like it, doesn't mean anyone/everyone else will . . . and vice versa. (e.g., cilantro)
  • There are really good bottles of wine available for a modest price.
  • Stay out of cooking ruts, try new things, and new places.
  • Develop a core set of meals (e.g., 6-10 items) you can make without thinking about it too much and feel instinctive. This will help when seasonal ingredients are available and allows you to go to the market without a recipe in hand.
  • Appreciate the beauty and simplicity of some dishes (e.g., a perfectly roasted chicken)
  • Most people fear cooking. Do them a favor and invite them over and give them a job to do . . . and make them taste. They will enjoy the meal more.
  • Purchase quality items for the kitchen. They usually last forever and can improve your attitude while you cook. I would rather have one or two quality pans, knives, etc. that are well-made and suit me than a voluminous display of cheap stuff.
 
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Joined Nov 5, 2007
Stop measuring and timing and weighing and temperature-probing everything.
Some years back I was buying thick cut bacon from the meat counter, back when Joe worked there. I enjoyed working with him, he moved out of town for family reasons. Anyway, I asked him for "about a pound of bacon". He grabbed a handful it was within a few ounces of a pound, close enough for me. He told me that the other day this woman came in and wanted a pound of bacon, as in 16.000 ounces. He had to keep trimming off little bits of the last slice so the scale read 1.00 pounds. 1.02 pounds was too much. Hard for me to imagine the reasoning behind that.

mjb.
 
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