The Best Food Hacks To Step Up Your Chef Game
Not everyone has an easy and care-free time in the kitchen. Some people just aren’t natural cooks and that’s okay. We’ve curated a list of easy cooking tips and food hacks that will take your chef game to the next level. You don’t have to go to culinary school to master these techniques!
1. First and foremost: Clean as you go
The number one lesson in cooking school is making sure you learn how to put everything in its place. The technical term is called Mise En Place. It’s hard to create a delicious and quality meal when there’s a mess around you. It’s hard to see all of your ingredients and utensils, and it can just get overwhelming. That’s why it’s necessary to clean up after your self every step of the way. Keeping yourself and space organized will create a better end result. This is a food hack you don’t want to miss, trust us.
2. Every oven is different
When you’re reading a recipe, there’s always a cooking temperature and a cooking time. But when it gets time for you to actually make it, it seems that it doesn’t cook simultaneously as the directions say. That’s because the way your oven heats up and circulates is not the same as everyone else’s. Even if your oven says 350 degrees, it might not actually be. Pro Tip: Throw a high heat thermometer in the oven. Make sure you check it once your oven is preheated, confirming if you’re at the correct temp or not. It’s the little things that can really take your skills to the next level.
3. Make your own vanilla pudding mix to add to your cookie recipe
This trick is so easy, you’ll wonder why you never did this, to begin with. It adds an extra depth of flavor you never knew you were missing. It all gives the cooking a little bit of moistness and creaminess. If you’re not feeling like taking the extra time to make it, head over to your nearest grocery store and pick up the “Jello” brand. Here’s how to make your own: Use one cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of nonfat dry milk powder, and another 3/4 cup of cornstarch. Add in 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 2 whole vanilla beans. Mix it all together and let the vanilla infuse the mixture for a few days before use.
4. Stock up on a variety of spices seasonsing
You don’t want to buy all of your ingredients just to come home and find you have nothing to flavor them with. Even though you may prepare your recipe step by step, exactly how it says, you need to make sure you have all of the right spices to go along with it. Our most essential spices and seasonings include granulated garlic, dried basil, Za’atar, Montreal seasoning, Everything But The Bagel Seasoning, Chile and Lime Seasoning, salt, and pepper. If you’re feeling extra fancy, look into finishing salts. They come in so many different flavors, you’ll be surprised. They have black salt, coffee salt, garlic salt, sriracha salt, and more.
5. Swing for quality chocolate
One of the number one things we learned in pastry class was that Hersey’s chocolate is just not good. Once you compare it to other chocolates, you’ll notice it has a waxy consistency. It’s not as rich as the other options. As soon as your taste buds get to experience quality chocolate, you’ll never go back to the big-name brands again. Our favorites include Vahlrona and Guittard. Your cookie game will skyrocket once you start using Guittard’s baking chips. Valrhona is a little bit harder to find, as you’ll have to purchase from smaller candy shops and online markets. Guittard is available at your nearest Whole Foods.
6. Use a ceramic pan for grilled cheese and other sticky stuff
This helps you get the perfect crisp to the bread and the meltiest cheese you’ll ever lay your eyes on. The best part about this is that absolutely nothing sticks on a ceramic pan (as long as you use it correctly). Our favorite thing to do is flip the bread over, cheese side down, and allow all of the cheese to melt into savory goodness. Put the two halves together and voila, the easiest grilled cheese ever.
7. Make your own sugars and syrups
This is so much easier than it sounds. All you have to do is equal parts sugar and water in a pot over medium heat. Allow it to come to a simmer and let it cool. Make sure you see just a hint of color; if you wait too long, it’ll burn, and hard sugar is the worst to clean. Slow and steady wins the race with this one, and remember, never put your flame up to high heat!
In terms of making your own sugar, this is even easier! Buy some mint leaves, vanilla beans, or instant coffee at the grocery store and throw some in your sugar bowl. (Remember to use the vanilla beans for something else first, as you don’t want to waste all of the goodness inside.) Slice down and scrape out with the dull end of your knife. You can add this vanilla into your syrup and throw the bean in your sugar.
8. Buy these pantry basics
Make sure you have the right tools and utensils in your kitchen. If you start making a recipe and don’t have what you need, it can be really defeating and overwhelming to figure out what to do next. That’s why before you start cooking, make sure you have everything you need. If you’re a beginner, start with a set of mixing bowls, measuring cups/spoons, a spatula, a whisk, and knives. Also consider buying serving trays, a cutting board, a scale (especially for baking- it’s more accurate and helps you get the best result).