Ready to unlock your inner culinary genius? We’ve tapped into the wisdom of various professionals, from CEOs to Marketing Managers, to bring you 15 transformative cooking tips. Whether you’re mastering the fine art of prepping ingredients before you start, focusing on creating a show-stopping entrée or simplifying those side dishes, these tried-and-true methods have turned kitchen novices into full-blown foodies. Dive in to discover the expert advice that could revolutionize your cooking game.
- Embrace Pre-Cooking Ingredient Preparation
- Invest in High-Quality Knives
- Taste Your Salt, Don’t Estimate
- Adjust Flavors by Tasting as You Go
- Follow Your Cooking Instincts
- Balance Your Ingredients with Salt and Sugar
- Maintain Cleanliness with Immediate Cleaning
- Enhance Flavors with Strategic Ingredient Addition
- Boost Flavor with Caramelized Onions
- Treat Recipes as Flexible Guidelines
- Season Every Dish Properly
- Cook Intuitively with Your Hands
- Master the Art of Cooking Time
- Prioritize the Entrée and Simplify the Side Dishes
- Opt for Plant-Based Protein Alternatives
1. Embrace Pre-Cooking Ingredient Preparation
A transformative piece of advice for cooking skills is a fancy term for prepping all ingredients before cooking. Previously, the kitchen was often chaotic, scrambling to chop onions while the garlic burned. Now, laying out everything beforehand has made cooking not just easier but more fun, too.
To incorporate this into your routine, read your recipe and prep all your ingredients before turning on the stove. It sounds basic, but it’s surprising how much smoother things go. The focus can be more on cooking and less on juggling tasks, which usually results in better.
Websites like Quicklly and Allrecipes have also been an enormous help. They offer many recipes with easy-to-follow instructions, facilitating learning and experimenting without the fear of ruining a meal. They could be a valuable resource for others as well.
2. Invest in High-Quality Knives
Years ago, a chef friend told me about the importance of having good-quality knives. While his set was hundreds, or maybe thousands, of dollars, the core truth remained: well-maintained cutting gear saves time and improves safety. This is because you will make more efficient cuts without making one knife do what another was designed for.
3. Taste Your Salt, Don’t Estimate
Taste your salt; don’t estimate. This advice stood out to me as a nurse because chronic high-salt food consumption increases the risk of heart disease.
Eyeing your measurements makes adding too little or too many ingredients easy. With salt, your estimates could be way off and cause you to use more than enough in their cooking.
It is more practical to test the salt early in the cooking process when I still have time to adjust my water to dilute it if it’s in excess. Or, I might add potatoes to absorb some of the gravy and help reduce the saltiness.
4. Adjust Flavors by Tasting as You Go
Cooking is a skill that requires practice and dedication. An invaluable piece of advice that forever changed my approach to cooking was always to taste as I go. I could adjust flavors to achieve the desired outcome by incorporating tasting into the cooking process.
For example, instead of dumping all my ingredients into the mix at once, I added salt in small increments while seasoning—a move that often resulted in a more flavorful dish than when I used exact measurements. This simple act allowed me to control the flavor profile with fine-tuned results better!
By taking this advice, anyone can apply it to their cooking routine by setting aside time for tastings throughout each step. Taking time along the way for flavor revisions will ensure each dish reaches its full potential in terms of taste!
5. Follow Your Cooking Instincts
In my experience, the best advice I ever got was to follow your instincts.
When you’re cooking, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the myriad of options available—following a recipe step-by-step is tempting. But when you do that, you lose sight of what ingredients are before you. And then, when you taste your food, it will never be as good as it could be because you’re not using any creativity or intuition in the process.
So, instead of following a recipe, focus on what works for your palate and try new things! Use different spices and different cooking techniques; experiment with different combinations of ingredients until something clicks—and then go from there!
6. Balance Your Ingredients with Salt and Sugar
In my experience, the best advice I ever received was to cook with a pinch of salt and sugar.
This advice is simple, but it has dramatically impacted my cooking because it reminds me to balance my ingredients. For example, if I’m making something sweet, like cookies or brownies, I add a little sugar to balance out the saltiness of the butter and chocolate. At the same time, if I’m making something salty, like pasta sauce or soup, I’ll add a little bit of sugar to balance out the acidity in the tomatoes or broth.
I also use this rule when cooking vegetables. If they’re bitter or too sour for me, like broccoli, I’ll add some sugar to make them sweeter. I’ll add a little salt to give them more flavor, like zucchini if they’re bland or tasteless.
7. Maintain Cleanliness with Immediate Cleaning
Learning how to clean as I went along changed my relationship with cooking. I was taught to cook in a particular order, from prepping to cooking and cleaning. But by splitting up your tasks well, you can prepare a hot meal and have no dishes left by the end of your work.
Prep all your food together in their appropriate containers, and put away whatever you don’t need to use. Trash all your waste in the same place and immediately. After using a bowl or utensil, clean it immediately or put it in the dishwasher instead of throwing it in the sink.
Keep your kitchen tidy as you put together and complete cooking your meal, including splatter and food that falls by the wayside. Once your food is ready to be eaten, take a few minutes to clean any remaining dishes, wipe the counters, and ensure you can eat your meal in peace.
8. Enhance Flavors with Strategic Ingredient Addition
Cooking is as much about the order in which you do things as it is about what you are doing.
The sequence in which I added spices, aromatics, and key ingredients could profoundly impact the end flavor profile. Start by cooking your spices or tougher herbs first to unlock their flavors, followed by your primary ingredients. Adding delicate herbs or a burst of citrus can freshen up a dish.
This layered approach will add complexity to your cooking that you can taste.
9. Boost Flavor with Caramelized Onions
During my first cooking lesson, one instructor told me that caramelizing onions for longer can significantly improve the flavor of your meal. He went on to say that it’s better to burn your onions than to use under-caramelized ones.
So, don’t leave your onions in the pan for a few minutes longer when making soups, stews, or pasta. It should have a nice golden brown color; only then should you add your other vegetables.
10. Treat Recipes as Flexible Guidelines
Growing up with parents whose idea of cooking was dry meats, overboiled canned vegetables, and lots of ketchup, I had always been curious but intimidated about cooking beyond a grilled cheese sandwich, especially in attempting a recipe.
But my husband, who has a natural talent for cooking, transformed my cooking skills by impressing upon me that a recipe can be just a baseline for what you want to make.
You can play fast and loose with a recipe unless you’re baking. You don’t have to have all the ingredients. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And, best of all, you’re free to swap out any items you want for healthier alternatives or even halve the recipe, which has helped me immensely since I’m pre-diabetic and have to watch my carbs.
11. Season Every Dish Properly
Cooking is an essential skill to have in life. However, only some have the natural talent or experience when preparing a delicious meal. Fortunately, with practice and helpful tips from experienced cooks, anyone can improve their cooking skills.
One piece of advice that transformed my cooking skills was correctly seasoning every dish I make. At first, I used to only add a pinch of salt and pepper to my meals, thinking that was enough. However, after receiving this advice from a seasoned chef, I noticed a significant difference in the taste of my dishes.
To apply this advice to your cooking routine, taste your food as you cook it. This will help you understand how different ingredients affect the overall taste of your dish. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and herbs to find the perfect balance of flavors.
Tadas Pukas, Founder and CEO, MinimalisticLinen
12. Cook Intuitively with Your Hands
I’ve had a lot of mentors and cooking teachers over the years, but one piece of advice I always come back to is this: “Don’t be afraid to cook with your hands.”
When I first started, I was always so worried about making a mess that I’d use every tool in the kitchen to do everything—measuring cups for dry ingredients, measuring spoons for wet ingredients—and it got to the point where I was spending more time cleaning up than actually cooking.
But then, one day, my mentor told me, “You don’t need all those tools! You can use your hands.”
So now, when cooking something new and unfamiliar, instead of grabbing a measuring cup or spoon, I reach into the bowl with both hands and scoop what feels like enough. The results have been incredible: I save time by cleaning less often, and my food tastes better because it’s more intuitively seasoned!
13. Master the Art of Cooking Time
Learn how to brown onions! So many recipes say, “Cook for five to six minutes until brown.” It takes far longer than that!
Use your judgment when observing cooking times for ingredients. If you’re in doubt, use your best judgment, and don’t assume the recipe has it right. Sometimes, the food needs more time to come into its flavor, and if you can’t see or smell what you’ll enjoy once it’s completed, you should give it a bit longer on the heat.
14. Prioritize the Entrée and Simplify the Side Dishes
Put as much effort into your entrée as possible. Meanwhile, air-fry your side dish. Making something that complements a main dish exceptionally well with little effort is straightforward. The human mind can only truly focus on one thing at a time. With that in mind, make the one dish as great as possible. Be diligent, review several recipes, and put all your effort into taste and presentation. When it comes to the side dishes, keep them simple and low-effort. This will highlight cooking at its most challenging and easiest, reminding you that you can do it all.
15. Opt for Plant-Based Protein Alternatives
Switching to plant-based proteins has been a game-changer for me. When I first decided to reduce my meat consumption, I was skeptical about the flavors and textures plant-based proteins could offer. But as I started incorporating tofu, tempeh, and various legumes into my dishes, I found them as versatile and satisfying as meat.
Don’t be afraid to swap out animal proteins for plant-based options for anyone contemplating a more plant-forward diet. If you’re making a stir-fry, try using tofu or tempeh. In a curry, lentils and chickpeas can be delightful. Your taste buds, your health, and the planet will thank you.
Let’s Get Cooking! Your Guide to Making Expert Tips Foolproof
Alright, so now you’ve got all these excellent expert tips under your belt. The question is, how do you start implementing them without feeling overwhelmed? No worries—I’ve covered you with some surefire ways to bring those expert techniques into your home kitchen.
1️⃣ Pair ‘Em Up
- Each time you try a new recipe, choose one or two expert tips to implement.
- E.g., if you’re making a meat dish, try “Opt for Plant-Based Protein Alternatives.” If you’re tackling pasta, experiment with “Balance Your Ingredients with Salt and Sugar.”
2️⃣ Cheat Sheets
- Make a little cheat sheet of tips you want to try and stick it on your fridge.
- It’s a simple visual reminder to help you remember the new cooking habits you’re trying to build.
3️⃣ Phone a Friend
- We all have that one foodie friend. Make a fun evening out of trying a new recipe and applying an expert tip.
- Two heads (and sets of taste buds) are better than one!
4️⃣ Tick the Box
- After you’ve tried a tip, check it off or jot down notes on how it went.
- E.g., Did “Cooking Intuitively with Your Hands” make you feel more connected to your food? Did “Prioritize the Entrée and Simplify the Side Dishes” make your mealtime less stressful?
5️⃣ One Ingredient at a Time
- To practice “Adjust Flavors by Tasting as You Go,” pick one ingredient per week to focus on.
- Experiment with salt one week, sugar the next, and maybe lemon juice afterward.
6️⃣ There’s an App for That
- Use apps like Quicklly or Allrecipes, which usually have features that help you plan your grocery list based on the recipes you want to try.
- This can be a lifesaver for “Embrace Pre-Cooking Ingredient Preparation.”
From Our Kitchen to Yours
We can’t let the experts have all the fun, can we? Here are some additional tips and tricks straight from our team:
- Save time and money by planning your meals around what’s on sale or in season. Fresh ingredients can make all the difference!
The Freezer is Your Friend
- Make big batches of sauces or dough, and freeze portions for future use. You’ll thank yourself later when you can whip up a quick meal with these homemade essentials.
Dance to the Cooking Beat
- Play some tunes while you cook! It makes the experience more enjoyable, and you might also find yourself more inspired and less stressed.
- Don’t underestimate the power of plating. Even a simple meal can feel luxurious with a bit of attention to presentation.
Remember, cooking is both an art and a science. Have fun experimenting and tweaking as you go along because every mistake is another flavor discovery waiting to happen! Happy cooking! ️