10 Cooking Tips That Make You a Better Home Cook, No Matter Skill Level

You don’t need to be a professional chef to be a great at-home cook. Anyway, if you cook as your hobby, you probably don’t need years of training under your belt. What you do need though is a love of food and good company, the two most essential ingredients for a good dish. Well, that and some cooking basics.

So while you may not cook Italian food in the same fashion as the professionals, there are some pro tips that make life easier in the kitchen. Here are 10 cooking tips that automatically make you feel better behind the wooden cutting board.

1. Keep A Clean Workspace

Clean-as-you-go cooking is one of the simple ways that makes everything a whole lot easier. If you have a clear workspace to deal with, you’re much less likely to use dirty dishes or grab the wrong ingredient at the wrong time during easy steps in a recipe.

Plus, if you continually put things away, the cleanup aftermath will be that much less unpleasant. Who can enjoy a delicious dinner when a big mess is waiting in the kitchen? Work smarter, not harder when it comes to home cooking.

2. Have a Scrap Bowl

One of the easiest ways to help keep your countertops clean is to have a designated scrap bowl. If you’re able to have a place to discard all your trimmings, then not only will it keep scraps off your work surface, but it will be much easier to get rid of or compost everything when you’ve finished cooking. Prep time is often the hardest, messiest time of making a meal so a scrap bowl is an easy way to shave down minutes.

Rachael Ray, the biggest believer in 30-minute meals, swears by a scrap bowl when it comes to keeping an organized workspace, whether you’re working with chicken breasts or a Thanksgiving turkey. Consider your scrap bowl a kitchen staple, and you’ll never go wrong.

3. Save Scraps for Stock

Alternatively, you can have two bowls to work with. One for trimmings that you’re going to toss and another for scraps that you’re going to keep to turn into stock later. Homemade stock is delicious and a wonderful way to use up bones and left over vegetables that wouldn’t be used otherwise.

All you have to do is throw your bones and vegetables in pure water and simmer them for at least three hours before straining out the smooth broth into a storage container. One of our biggest mistakes as a wasteful society is that we don’t utilize scraps to their fullest potential.

Besides, if you make your own stock, you’ll always have it on-hand for last-minute weeknight dinners. Additionally, the flavorful addition of stock can take a simple meal to the next level with one more layer of complex flavor. A salad spinner works well as a stock-scrap catcher if you’re not using it for salad greens already.

4. Keep Your Knives Sharp

My little chef #cooking #family #sharpknives #learning #neatwork

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Sharp knives are a kitchen essential, whether your knife skills are decent or not. Without them, you won’t get very far. Of course, you can technically use a dull knife. But aside from the risk of injury, having unsharpened knives makes cooking far more difficult.

Help yourself out by keeping your knives razor sharp. It will make your kitchen projects go that much faster. From trimming chicken fat to slicing through fresh ginger easily, you’ll be amazed at what a sharp knife can use once you’ve become used to a dull one.

5. Never Put Your Knives in the Dishwasher

Just filmed a turkey carving vid. Yummy. #sharpknives #carvingknife #chefknife #chopchop

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A great way to quickly dull your knives is to wash them in the dishwasher. So don’t do it. If you’re shelling out the money for expensive cutlery, you don’t want to ruin it by being too lazy to clean it by hand.

Therefore, make sure you wash all your knives by hand in hot water and then dry them immediately afterward. That way you will avoid having them rust over time. And as everyone knows, once you’ve finally found a knife you like, there’s nothing that sounds less appealing than going through the schmaltz and circumstance of purchasing another.

6. Always Salt Your Pasta and Potato Water

I once heard from an Italian that pasta water should taste like the ocean. While I thought they were nuts at the time, everything I’ve ever read has only supported that claim.

Only when the water is salty enough will you end up with a dish of perfectly seasoned pasta. Remember that because you’re boiling water as a high heat, you’re dissolving the salt, adding another layer of flavor to the water.

The salt also acts as a binding starch in the water, meaning you can use your pasta water in sauces to thicken it and add flavor. Everything in cooking builds on itself.

7. Salt While You Cook

You know you're a foodie when: you have your own pink Himalayan salt kit. ??‍?

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If you want complex layers of flavor in your dish, make sure that you salt throughout the cooking process. That way when you flavor the dish, you can adjust it from beginning to end.

If you salt at the end, the crystals will only sit on top of the dish and be salty rather than contribute to the overall flavor of the food. While it can be nerve-wracking to salt freely, know that most home cooks consistantly under-season their dishes for fear of going over the edge.

While over-salting a dish won’t taste great, you’ll never learn your limits until you try. The best recipe to start with to see how strong you’re seasoning? The perfect burger recipe.

8. Don’t Default to EVOO

mesela tohum yağları?#sesameoil #blackseedoil #grapeseedoil #linseedoil

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Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, which doesn’t make it particularly good for sautéing or frying – sorry olive oil lovers! If this news has rocked your world and you don’t know where to look for a substitute, try grapeseed oil.

Don’t worry though. Olive oil isn’t out of the game. Use it instead for dressings, dips and as a finishing drizzle on already prepared foods.

9. Toast Your Spices

Toasting seeds (cumin, coriander, and fennel) to make @smittenkitchen 's Merguez. #supper #toastedspices #herbs

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If you haven’t been doing this, you’re missing out on layers of flavor possibilities. Toasting your spices in a pan really bring out their flavor and takes your dishes to a whole new level.

It doesn’t matter if you are using ground or whole spices, a little heat will really wake up those flavors. Just be careful, spices burn easily so you’ll want to keep your eye on them. So grab that microplane and get the heat going for a taste that’ll open your eyes to all possibilities.

10. Become Best Friends with Citrus

I'm on the New England See•food diet?

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Lemon juice is under-utilized in most home kitchens, but a necessity in professional ones. So what does fresh lemon juice do for your cooking? The four components of cooking are: Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat. Lemon juice provides the acidity that can cut through layers of fat.

Ever feel like you’re eating a meal that’s so rich, you can’t finish it, even though you want to? A dash of lemon juice will add brightness and tone down the richness, which is often why lemon wedges are served with fried fish or rich shellfish like lobster and crab.

Watch: How to Chop an Onion