Your cooking and food prep secrets ....

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Yep to the towels...  I don't have to hide them as much anymore but the instinct is still there.  And yep to the test-steak-by-poking-the-base of your thumb trick.  Works every time.

If I need to slice beef very thinly, from raw, I place the meat partly on a brown paper towel on the cutting board to keep it from slipping.  It may be my knife skills are not up to par, but I find it safer.  If I need the beef super-thin I place the slices between folded strip of plastic wrap and beat it with a pan or rolling pin.  Also, a damp cloth (or one of the hidden towels) under a cutting board keeps it from slipping on the counter.

I find it a bit odd, but a lot of people have remarked on how I dress celery for cutting.  I bend back the tops and bottoms until they snap, then pull the broken part along the length of the celery to devein it.  I hate celery veins stuck in my teeth, so I've always prepped them this way.

Oh, and it's probably old hat to most pro's, but a lot of home cooks might not know the trick for dicing onions, peppers, etc.  Slice through the veg at uniform spacing, but hold the knife back a bit so you don't cut all the way through with each slice... you should leave a 'spine' along one edge of the food to hold all the slices together, kind of like a fringe.  Then turn the food and slice off the ends of the fringe at uniform spacing until you reach the spine.  A dice to whatever size you like without chasing the food around the cutting board.

Oh, and one more... if you want a very fine mince of garlic: a. crush the garlic clove under the flat of your blade, then peel.  b. slice the garlic as described above (fringe, then trim).  c. 'smear' the garlic onto the cutting board as though you are spreading butter.  The oils in the garlic will make it stick.  You can then proceed to chop through it as often as you like, scraping it together and re-smearing between runs, until you get as fine a mince as you desire (a bit of salt sprinkled in will help grind it down even finer).
 
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For veggie stocks, try recycling. As I do my prep work the veggie scraps go into freezer bags (I use 2 1/2 gallon size, myself). Eventually there is enough in the freezer to make stock with. After straining the stock, the solids go into the compost pile for a double dip.

You can get carried away with this. I find I subdivide the scraps, with asparagus, broccoli, and mushrooms going into separate bags.

And, of course, I do the same with proteins for those kinds of stocks. F'rinstance, chicken backs, necks, etc. are saved in the freezer, as are shrimp shells.
 
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Keep a paper towel around so that you can put cooking tools on it if they're dirty and not get the counter messy. For example, yesterday I was making creme patisserie, and you first stir with a wooden spoon, then you whisk, and again at the end you stir. Instead of putting the cream covered spoon in the dirty sink, I just kept it on the towel and you can keep it right next to you at all times

If you're making something that needs grated potatoes and you're using a box grater, put a metal skewer through the center of the potato. Put the box grater on its side so that the hole where the you dump the food out of is facing you. Now just hold the skewer and move back and forth so you can grate almost the entire potato easy, fast, and you won't grate your hand.

To cleanes chinois and seives really fast, just use the hose attachment of your sink if you have it.

 
 
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I put a paper or cloth towel on the floor in the area in which I'm working.  Should I spill something, a quick wipe with the towel using my foot usually cleans it up and I don't have to interrupt my work, bend down, and then wash and dry my hands after doing the clean up.
 
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to peel garlic, FIRST cut off the stem end (not the pointy end).  Then smash lightly with flat of knife, or even heel of hand.  The peel will come off easily.  If you don't cut it off first, it takes longer. 

For onions, i do the same, cut of the root end, then press really hard on the onion, rolling it.  It kind of separates the fine outer layer from the inner layer and peels more easily. 

I don't find the way mentioned above of chopping onions particularly useful - that is slicing down almost to the root in two directions then cutting.  I like to slice them evenly in rounds, which is way quicker, and then just spread them out sort of with my hand, over the cutting board, and chop evenly in one direction and then in the other.  If you're good at making the knife go in parallel lines one next to the other, it goes very quickly.  I used to draw and it's the same principle as crosshatching.

To pit olives, i press each one on the board with my thumb and the seed comes out easily (maybe it's the kind of olives i use in cooking, gaeta olives, which are sort of soft.)  It takes way less time than an olive pitter or a knife.  
 
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Must be that variety of olive, Siduri. I've never gotten that technique to work. But pounding with the side of your knife, the way you'd crush garlic, works just fine---so long as you don't need them whole.
 
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I laughed so hard when I read about the rags (tea towels). When I was working in restaurants, it was my responsibility as the manager and chef to wash them after every shift, so we never had that kind of problem. But now that I work in highschool teaching kids to cook, we run out all the time. Our kitchen is poorly equipped to deal with 30 kids, no dishwasher or sanitiser so everything is washed by hand and they get wate everywhere. There are never enough tea towels. 

Always engrave your knives with your name. They will walk. It'll cost you to have then decently engraved, but it's worth it because it makes it a lot hard to steal your knives. Same goes with anything that is yours. It will grow legs and wander off.

Soak rice in water overnight (or as long as possible). It makes it really fluffy when cooked & particularly important if using brown rice. And wash it. Oh please God, wash the rice! I've lost count of the people I've met that don't wash rice. Maybe it's an Australian thing?
 
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I have had Restaurants that we issued towels, its just another controllable expense. I look at my P&L every month to see what could be cut back.............ChefBill
 
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I know the theory, Koukouvagia, but, like you, I never wash rice.

There are two reasons. First, rice tends to be "dusty," and many people want to wash that away. Second, if you're goal is fluffy rice, you want to flush away as much loose starch as you can (which is what the dust mostly is).

Basically, it's the opposite of making either a risotto or sushi rice.

But my rice comes out as fluffy as anyone else's, without washing.
 

kuan

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Here are some tips.

When you scale a fish do it inside a big plastic bag.

Keep the root end of the onion intact when you dice it.  Same with celery.
 
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I gotta comment on that onion thing.

Although I do keep the root intact, out of habit, I have done experiments dicing an onion both ways. Never noticed a lick of difference. For me, at least, that "holding together" that the root provides is more theory than reality.

Something else I don't understand is the one or more horizontal cuts many cooks make. The onion half already is layered, and the vertical cuts separate them. The horizontal cuts serve no useful function, IMO.
 
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I gotta comment on that onion thing.

Although I do keep the root intact, out of habit, I have done experiments dicing an onion both ways. Never noticed a lick of difference. For me, at least, that "holding together" that the root provides is more theory than reality.

Something else I don't understand is the one or more horizontal cuts many cooks make. The onion half already is layered, and the vertical cuts separate them. The horizontal cuts serve no useful function, IMO.
In my experience keeping the root intact helps a lot (in reality), especially as you get closer to the root.

The horizontal cuts make the final result more consistent, as the bits you're cutting on the very sides of the onion will be longer than the ones you're cutting at the top of the onion if you don't make those horizontal cuts. It depends on how exacting you want your cut to be, but I always make several horizontal cuts. It also depends on the shape of the onion, the bigger the onion the more the horizontal cuts help.
 
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microplanes are great for jalepinos as well as zesting.....

Citrus brightens food....gives it a juene se quoi.
Ditto zest.

Dried fruits and mushrooms have more flavor, using dried and fresh gives you the best of both worlds.

Day old bread has so many uses......panzanella (sp?), crumbs, croutons, crostini, crackers, puddings, french toast.....

Soak Dried fruit in booze....prumes with bourbon is wonderful....i've got a jar of French prunes with makers mark in the back bottom of the fridge waiting for another year or so.....
 
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Soak rice in water overnight (or as long as possible). It makes it really fluffy when cooked & particularly important if using brown rice. And wash it. Oh please God, wash the rice! I've lost count of the people I've met that don't wash rice. Maybe it's an Australian thing?

 
I disagree. I am a good rice cooker and cook it often (I used to live in Sri Lanka). I neither rinse (unnecessary, rice is clean when packaged) nor soak. Steam  white long-grain covered for 15 minutes on lowest heat, take off the heat, let sit 5 minutes -- fluffy, perfect rice.

George (Author of What Recipes Don't Tell You)
 
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i agree with Gerdosh up to a point...i always soak basmati rice for 1/2 an hour to an hour prior to cooking.It lengthens the grains nicely.But just till they're opaque.

If you soak rice too long it will break down too much
 
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At home 5 1/2 of 7 in my family are Filipino so the rice gets washed & cooked by the absorbtion method....traditionally they'll rinse 3 times then measure the water for any amount or pot with a personal mark...say first joint middle finger. This applies to microwaves & ricecookers.
At work...unwashed in an abundance of boiling salted water for 'Uncle Ben's' separated grains.
But enough with the rice...

We use reduced stocks thickened with arrowroot for our sauces (juslie). Prior to thickening we whisk in some egg white, cook off & pass through a teatowel for a chrystal clean base...just a quick adaptation of a clarifique but the result is worth it!
 
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At home 5 1/2 of 7 in my family are Filipino so the rice gets washed & cooked by the absorbtion method....traditionally they'll rinse 3 times then measure the water for any amount or pot with a personal mark...say first joint middle finger. This applies to microwaves & ricecookers.
At work...unwashed in an abundance of boiling salted water for 'Uncle Ben's' separated grains.
But enough with the rice...

We use reduced stocks thickened with arrowroot for our sauces (juslie). Prior to thickening we whisk in some egg white, cook off & pass through a teatowel for a chrystal clean base...just a quick adaptation of a clarifique but the result is worth it!
 
I don't know about Uncle Ben's but everything else is the way I function in the rice world too Titomike. Rinse ,rinse ,rinse
besides of course Sushi rice which I like sticky ( I really do love sticky rice)
 
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