Mike’s Top Kitchen Tips
Chefs have many tricks that help them keep up with the fast pace of a kitchen. Below are some of Mike and his team’s secrets that will benefit any home cook.
1. Everything has a place.
This might be the most important tip of all. 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 regularly. 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.
4. Salt as you go.
Don’t be afraid of salt! You don’t need to go mad, but as you are cooking a fresh meal instead of eating a packaged one, you are starting out with much less sodium.
5. But lose the salt shaker.
Use a small bowl of sea salt and add pinches as you cook and taste. It’s easier to control the amount and ensures even coverage.
6. Tongs are an extension of your hand.
Walk into any chefs kitchen and you will 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, dish your spaghetti, stabilise a steak while slicing, the list goes on and on.
7. Put a wet paper towel or tea towel under a chopping board.
Not only are chopping boards that slide on the counter annoying, they are also extremely dangerous when you are chopping something with a knife. Wet a paper towel or take a dry tea towel, lay it under the board and it won’t budge!
8. Sear chicken breasts and finish in oven.
A great practice is to sear a piece of meat, poultry, or fish in a pan and then place it in the oven. Not only does this free up the hob, it results in a much moister result.
9. 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 caramelisation you’re looking for — and that’s where the flavour is!
10. Cook with a 1:1 ratio of butter and oil.
Oil stops the butter from burning and the butter adds richness to the dish.
11. Cut the ends off onions, tomatoes, etc.
Pretty much do this for any fruit or vegetable that does not stay stable on the cutting board; it makes a flat surface allowing you to have complete control of the item as you chop.
12. 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.
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. Clean as you go.
This simple tip makes a world of difference. Wipe down your chopping 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.