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You can Google how to make the prettiest souffle and whip up a killer beef bourguignon, but grilling the perfect steak and making the fluffiest eggs take skills that you can only sharpen at culinary school. So we snuck behind the restaurant doors of our favorite top chefs to get their pro tips and kitchen hacks for prepping the tastiest dishes on the planet. After all, they’ve got the cooking cred to back it up. Read on to get insider info on how to upgrade your meals instantly with these cooking tips from the pros. And once you’ve brushed up on your skills, come back to cook our 22 Meals to Melt Belly Fat in 2022.
According to Gaby Dalkin, a chef and food blogger based in California, there’s a secret to cooking the perfect steak: salt! About two to three hours before you fire up your grill, sprinkle both sides of the steak with Morton® Coarse Kosher Salt and then place it on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
Salting the steak will keep the meat super juicy. Then, before grilling, pat the steak dry with a paper towel and season it with salt and pepper again. Use kosher salt—it will make for a crispier crust! And while we’re on the subject of steak, check out 24 more ways to cook steak perfectly.
Dalkin also recommends seasoning your scrambled eggs with kosher salt at the end of the cooking process to keep them moist and fluffed and at the perfect consistency.
Dana Murrell, Executive Chef at Green Chef, knows a thing or two about garlic. To peel a bunch of cloves at once (all while keeping your hands smelling fresh), Murrell recommends placing the cloves in a medium bowl, then covering that bowl with another bowl, so they create a dome shape. Shake the bowls vigorously for a few minutes. When you uncover the cloves, they should be free of their papery shells!
Murrell, who was a restaurant chef for many years before joining Green Chef, says that placing a wet paper towel under your cutting board will keep it from slipping—no matter what you’re chopping up.
Instead of spending a lot of precious time de-stemming herbs like thyme or cilantro by plucking, Murrell recommends taking the stalk in one hand, and pulling the opposite direction down the stem. Your useable leaves will come right off.
Melissa Knific, former Recipe Developer at HelloFresh, is a big fan of the rasp grater, which is basically a small, hand-held grater. According to Knific, you can use your rasp grater to do everything from zesting a lemon, to grating garlic, shallots, cheese, nutmeg—even chocolate!
A seasoned recipe developer, Knific has perfected the art of bacon. If you want that wonderfully crispy consistency, Knific says to ditch the frying pan and place your bacon strips evenly on a baking sheet lined with a metal rack. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. The sheet pan method allows fat to drip down and the heat to work its way all the way around the slices, creating crispiness.
If your homemade sauce is looking a little watery, Knific says cornstarch can save it! Combine 1 tsp cornstarch with 1 tsp water in a small bowl, and whisk until smooth. Stir the cornstarch mixture into a simmering sauce to thicken. Repeat as needed.
Got an old coffee grinder that you’re not using? Knific suggests recycling it into a spice mill. After washing all the coffee out of your grinder (really make sure you give it a good wash!), add whatever whole spices you desire, and pulse to reach the perfect consistency.
If you find yourself with a lot of fresh herbs and you don’t want to waste them, Knific recommends placing the herbs (minus the stems) in ice cube trays. Pour olive oil or melted butter over them and freeze. Pop out one or two cubes when you want to use them for a quick flavor boost.
If you’ve got a recipe that includes avocados, and they’re not quite ripe, Knific says that placing them in a brown paper bag with a banana will help them ripen up in just about 24 hours. Need to slow down an almost-ripe avocado? Place it in the fridge!
Erin Alvarez, a cook and freelance food stylist, is always looking for ways to make whole, healthy food faster. If you’re craving roasted potatoes but don’t want to turn on your oven (or don’t have time), try roasting them in your cast iron skillet. Slice the potatoes into smaller cubes or wedges, add oil, and roast to desired crispiness. Make sure to cover the skillet with a lid so your potatoes roast faster.
Have leftover pasta sauce or pesto that you don’t want to waste? You can use an ice cube tray for that! Alvarez recommends freezing leftover sauce in an ice cube tray, and then popping out just what you need to cut down on food waste.
Wasting perfectly good coffee should be a sin! According to Alvarez, pouring your cooled coffee into ice cube trays will not only keep you from wasting whatever you have left over, but will help cut down on watery iced coffee, and can even help add a java jolt to your morning smoothie.
If you love a frothy, creamy, coffee shop-style drink, but don’t want to spend all your money buying the fancy stuff, Alvarez says your blender is your best friend. Add your coffee and your milk of choice to your blender, let it whirr for about 30 seconds, and then pour out a piping hot, creamy blended drink!
Recipe developer, blogger, and health aficionado Ali Bonar has the perfect hack for easily cracking an egg. Instead of using the side of a bowl or the edge of a counter, crack your egg on a flat surface. This way, the shell is less likely to break into a million pieces, and you’re less likely to get a small piece of shell in your scrambled eggs or cake mix.
If there’s one thing every food professional learns early on, it’s that you need to clean your space as you go. According to Bonar, not only does this help with cross-contamination, but there won’t be a huge pile of dishes waiting for you once you’ve finished preparing your meal.
If you want to add a little spice to your life, use gloves! Bonar recommends using a pair of gloves when de-seeding hot peppers, to keep that burning sensation from getting under your skin. Plus, you’re less likely to reach up and itch your face when you’ve got gloves on.
Nate Appel, Recipe Developer at HelloFresh, recommends bringing any kind of meat you intend on cooking up to room temperature before throwing it in the pan or in the oven. Your meat will turn out better, and the cook time will be less overall.
Something many people don’t know is that the spices in our cabinets can actually go bad. According to Appel, you should be changing out your dry spices every six months. Dry spices lose their efficiency and even a bit of flavor over time, so for truly tasty meals, make sure you keep them fresh!
According to Appel, using chicken or beef stock instead of water in recipes easily and quickly deepens the flavor.
Even though fresh is best, Appel says that frozen vegetables are often overlooked, and are great in a pinch (or during colder months when it’s hard to get seasonable produce). They can usually be substituted into almost any recipe.
Each ingredient adds a different flavor profile to a dish, which is why Appel recommends tasting your meal as you go. Use kosher salt and fresh black pepper to re-season the dish as needed.
Janice Buckingham, a private chef and food blogger, is passionate about prep. According to Buckingham, every good chef should practice the art of mise en place, a French term that literally means to “put things in their place.” Wash, peel, dice, chop, and measure everything you need before you start cooking. This way, you won’t forget an ingredient, and everything will cook evenly.
The best chefs have a lot of patience, and Buckingham says taking time to preheat your skillet, your stove, or your grill will yield happy results—and flavor development. It’s important to introduce ingredients to a hot element right away to ensure caramelization (instead of steaming).
Want to peel ginger like a chef? Use the back of a spoon! Buckingham says scraping raw ginger root with the back of an ordinary spoon yields much better results than using a regular vegetable peeler.
If you’re using a bunch of cherry tomatoes in a recipe, Buckingham recommends placing them in between two plates or lids, and then running your knife through the middle. You’ll cut them quickly and evenly.
Buckingham suggests having a designated “compost bowl” on the counter right above your cutting board as you prep. Toss the scraps and tail ends of produce in as you go, making it super simple to toss scraps in a bigger compost later. For easy clean-up, line the bowl with a compost bag so you can wrap it up and toss it in when you’re done.
Chef and author Jerrelle Guy has the perfect hack for flat beer: A pinch of salt! According to Guy, adding Morton® Coarse Sea Salt crystals helps the tiny carbon dioxide bubbles get together to form a carbon dioxide bubble large enough to float to the surface, reviving the head.
If you’re trying to eat healthier by getting into the green smoothie game, Guy recommends adding a pinch of salt to cut the bitterness of whatever leafy greens you’re blending up.