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15 Cooking Tips from Restaurant Chefs

There’s an expression used to define what goes on behind-the-scenes in a restaurant kitchen - “choreographed chaos”. An efficient kitchen staff operates quickly, quietly, and keeps up with the dance. To accomplish this, chefs have many tricks to produce a quality, tasty dish with minimal mess and high efficiency. Below is a list of some of their secrets that will benefit any home chef:

1) Mise en place

This might be the most important tip of all. “Mise en place” is French for “everything in place”. What it means to a chef? Before you cook have everything measured, peeled, chopped, pans greased, etc. and within reach. This will keep you from running around looking for the dried basil while your sauce is on the brink of burning.

2) A sharp knife is essential

Sharpen it on a regular basis and hone in between sharpening. Dull knives are dangerous and make cutting much more difficult.

3) Taste as you go

You should know what the dish tastes like before serving it. Sometimes a little more salt or a dash of spice brings perfection. Which brings me to the next tip...

4) Salt as you go

Don’t be afraid of salt! Since you’re cooking a fresh meal instead of eating a packaged one, you’re starting out with much less sodium to begin with.

5) Tongs are an extension of your hand

Walk into any restaurant kitchen and you’ll see a set of tongs in almost every cook’s hand—usually gripped low down on the handle for maximum control. Use it to flip meat, pull a pan out of the oven, stabilize a steak while slicing, the list goes on and on.

6) Put a wet paper towel under a cutting board

Not only are cutting boards that slide on the counter annoying, they’re extremely dangerous when you’re holding a knife and trying to chop something. Wet a paper towel and lay it under the board and it won’t budge!

7) Sear chicken breast and finish in oven

Chefs sear a piece of meat, poultry, or fish in a pan and then place it in the oven. Not only does this free up burners, it results in a much moister result.

8) Don’t overcrowd your pan

When roasting or browning anything, the tendency is to cram as much in the pan as possible—resist! Do it in smaller batches instead. Crowding the pan leads to steaming and lowers the temperature of the pan so you won’t get the caramelization you’re looking for—and that’s where the flavor is!

9) Cook with a 1:1 ratio of butter and oil

Oil stops the butter from burning and the butter adds richness to the dish.

10) Cut the ends off onions, tomatoes, cantaloupe, etc. (any food that does not stay stable on the cutting board) to make a flat surface

This allows you to have complete control of the item as you chop.

11) When baking, only mix until all ingredients are incorporated

Over-mixing causes toughness by developing gluten in the flour. For light and fluffy cupcakes, only mix until the batter’s come together.

12) Your broiler is basically an upside down grill

Use it for more than storage!

13) Don’t forget the power of your nose

If something in the oven smells done but the timer’s still ticking, check on it.

14) Lose the salt shaker

Use a small bowl of kosher salt and add pinches as you cook and taste. It’s easier to control the amount and ensures even coverage.

15) Clean as you go!

An oldie but goodie—a simple tip that makes a world of difference. Wipe down your cutting board in between items. Not only is it hard to chop something that is swimming in tomato juices, it’s unsafe to chop on a wet surface.

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Walking into a new kitchen for the first time can be an extremely scary thing. Each professional kitchen has its own culture and way of doing things.
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15 Cooking Tips

There’s an expression used to define what goes on behind-the-scenes in a restaurant kitchen - “choreographed chaos”.
Learn more

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