Cooking is a chore for many and enjoyed by others but we can all make our lives a little easier in the kitchen with a few tips and tricks. Below are 8 top, essential tricks that will help you out in the kitchen.
The Perfect Sear
We all know that you need a hot pan to get a good sear on a piece of meat, but make sure you don’t forget to dry the meat before putting it in. Use paper towels to quickly pat dry the surface of the meat, which will prevent it from releasing moisture when it touches the hot oil and will give you that gorgeous brown crust. Don’t be afraid of a little smoke and charring – it’s all necessary in order to achieve a great sear.
No More Soggy Mushrooms
Mushrooms are an ingredient with a high water content, which gets released as the mushrooms start to cook. This can often leave you with soggy mushrooms and excess liquid in your pan. A simple technique called dry sautéing is a quick way to avoid this. Using no oil or butter, place your mushrooms in a hot pan, without overcrowding them. Make sure to keep stirring them so that they don’t burn. After a few minutes, you will see water appearing in the pan, and this is the time to add a sprinkle of salt to the mushrooms, encouraging out more liquid. Keep stirring until the water has reduced and then add some oil or butter while the mushrooms finish cooking. You will notice that the mushrooms will have a stronger flavour and a much better texture.
Long Lasting Herbs
If you find that herbs seem to wilt in your fridge faster than you can use them, try storing them upright in a jar of water instead. This will keep them fresher for much longer. If you do this with the root end of a spring onion, new green shoots will start to appear within a couple of weeks, which you can then snip off and use whenever needed.
If a recipe calls for fresh chilli but you can’t handle too much spice, slice a chilli in half and wash and de-seed it before adding it to your dish, as the seeds are where most of the heat is. Another option would be to add half a chilli to your dish, without chopping it, during the early stages of cooking, and remove it before serving. This gives you the flavour without too much heat. Don’t forget that red chillies are hotter than green, and the general rule of thumb is that the smaller the chilli is, the spicier it will be.
The Power of a Good Marinade
A good marinade can not only tenderise meat, but will also add intense flavour to your dish. Marinating meat overnight works best, but even an hour in a good marinade can work wonders. Don’t be afraid to also have a go at marinating certain vegetables, such as aubergines or tomatoes. There are many different marinades that can be created using common ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen cupboard, and a quick look on the internet can provide ample inspiration if you are in the mood to experiment. Don’t forget to always include a vinegar or citrus when marinating meats, as this acts as a tenderiser.
Don’t Fully Boil Your Pasta
Instead of boiling your pasta until it’s completely ready, take it out of the water a couple of minutes early and let it finish cooking in the sauce you’ll be eating it with. Don’t forget to add a few tablespoons of the pasta water to your sauce, as this will help the sauce stick to the pasta.
Never Cook With Cold Oil
This may seem a little obvious, but what do you do when you’re in the middle of cooking a dish and you realise you need more oil? Tilt your pan towards you whilst pushing everything in it to the opposite side. Add the oil to the empty part of the pan and allow it to quickly heat up before mixing it in with the other ingredients.
Herbs – Use the Stems too
The stems of herbs have a flavour that is as good as, if not better than, its leaves. Don’t neglect them – chop these and use them as you would the leaves. When using a delicate herb such as basil, which is generally only applied towards the end of cooking, you can chop up the stems and add them at the beginning of the dish – giving you a much deeper flavour. You can also add whole herb stems to sandwiches or salads, saving the leaves for a garnish.