Simple changes to improve your cooking!
Becoming a better cook isn’t about learning one big skill. Rather it’s about incorporating tons of small individual skills over time. And today I’m sharing with you tiny changes that will dramatically improve your cooking. These don’t require a ton of time, effort or money. But they will make you a significantly better home cook.
1. Use Salt to Improve your cooking
Let’s start off by talking about something really tiny like salt. The salt you use and how you use it during cooking can make a big difference. The first thing I’ll say is to stop using table salt in your cooking. This stuff is heavily processed and as a result, it has this chemical aftertaste. It’s a little metallic plus it is really salty and it has no nuance and flavour. And as a result, it’s really easy to over-salt your food. What I recommend you do instead is to primarily rely on kosher salt in your cooking. That’s what most restaurant chefs do as well.
You can use diamond crystal kosher salt in cooking. Because it’s got this light flaky coarse texture that dissolves easily. It’s also really easy to pinch. And it’s about half as salty as table salt tablespoon per tablespoon. As a result, you have a lot more control over how much salt you’re adding to your food. And you’re a lot less likely to over-salt your food with this.
Now that you know what type of salt to use in your cooking don’t be stingy with it. Salt is what makes food taste like food. It unlocks certain flavour compounds and aromas in our food. That would otherwise lie dormant. The last thing I’ll say about salt is like any other seasoning make sure you’re adding it throughout various stages in order to improve your cooking.
2. Go for fresh produce
People often say things like I’m just not a fan of vegetables or I hate tomatoes, or I hate zucchini. And when I hear that I think you probably just haven’t had the best version of that vegetable. If your only experience with tomatoes is these sad, mushy, watery, soggy things from the supermarket. You’re really missing out on all that tomatoes can offer. What I recommend instead is to buy your tomatoes and as many fruits and vegetables as you can in season. And at a local farmer’s market.
If you go on by incorporating more seasonal produce into your cooking and shopping at the farmer’s market when you can. You’re going to automatically improve your cooking. Without having to do anything differently in the kitchen. That’s because of the fruits and vegetables you’re preparing and cooking. Are going to be sweeter, fresher, riper and more flavorful. If for instance, you make a dish with white button mushrooms from the grocery store. It’s still going to be good. But if you can throw in a few wild mushrooms from the farmer’s market it is going to be incredible.
3. Incorporate fresh herbs
Next tip, if you want to add unique flavour dimension and character to improve your cooking. You have to start incorporating more fresh herbs. Dried herbs are certainly convenient but they can’t deliver what fresh herbs do. In terms of nuanced flavour, freshness and texture. Here are some of the ways to incorporate fresh herbs into your cooking. Adding fresh herbs to salads for complexity and interest both in terms of flavour and texture can be a good idea. This is best done with soft herbs parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, dill, chives, tarragon. And you can use some whole pieces of herbs. You can tear them up or you can chop them for different levels of texture.
Another thing you can do is to make a bouquet or a bundle of herbs tied together. This is best done with sturdy herbs. So thyme sage oregano rosemary and this is going to infuse a lot of depth of flavour into soups, stews. Or even if you’re just cooking a pot of beans or lentils. I also recommend finishing your cooked dishes with some herbs for a fresh and unique flavour. So if you’re making a Southeast Asian dish maybe like a Thai curry or a Vietnamese noodle soup some basil is gonna go a long way. If you’re making an Indian dish or Mexican dish, cilantro at the end is a great addition.
Tips for Storing Fresh Herbs
If you’re worried about fresh herbs going bad and not being able to use them up. Try adding some fresh herbs to whatever sauce or condiment you’re making. Or making a sauce entirely out of the herbs such as pesto. And for sturdy herbs, you can freeze them in ice cube trays with olive oil. And then you have herb oil at the ready to improve your cooking skills.
4. Add an acidic touch to your food
If you’ve ever made a dish that fell flat or felt like it was missing something. You probably didn’t add any acid. An acidic ingredient can draw out other flavours in your dish and unlock different dimensions. The most common acidic ingredients that you’re most likely familiar with are lemons and limes. But there are so many other options like vinegar. From red and white vinegar to sherry balsamic and rice vinegar. Also wine both red and white tomatoes from whole tomatoes. Which are a little bit less acidic than canned tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce. And there are so many other plant-based sources of acid. Including creamy things like vegan yoghurt and sour cream and mayo.
Other condiments like hot sauces and mustard ferments and pickled vegetables like sauerkraut or vegan kimchi, Certain baking ingredients like molasses and natural cocoa powder. And several ingredients that are common in global cuisines like preserved lemons, sumac and black limes. Using acidic ingredients can brighten up heavy rich creamy dishes also help to balance other flavours while improving your cooking.
Use Lemon Zest along with Lemons
If you’re using some lemons or limes in your cooking to bring acid. You might also want to add some of the zest. You’re going to get a more concentrated citrus flavour when you use the zest instead of just the juice. Because the natural oils of the citrus fruit live in the peel. And because the peel doesn’t have that potent acidity. It actually has a more pure citrus flavour that’s milder and a little bit floral.
And the zest works not just for lemons and limes. But other citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits.
5. Use precision tools for baking
There are lots of fancy precision tools and kitchen gadgets out there. But if you can spring for just two I recommend a digital scale and an oven thermometer. You can get really precise down to the gram in all of your recipes and improve your cooking really. So it is really helpful in baking plus you don’t have to dirty all of those measuring cups. Also, oven thermometers are super important. Because most home ovens are not properly calibrated. For example, sometimes the oven would say it was at 400 degrees. But usually, it was actually closer to 450 to 475 in the oven so you can burn your food.
Of course, you should also use your senses when it comes to cooking. So if you’re roasting potatoes in the oven for instance. And you notice that halfway through they’re browning pretty quickly, go ahead and lower the oven temperature. That’s where common sense comes into play. Because cooking yes is part science, but it’s also part common sense.
Many of us have a fixed mindset when it comes to cooking. We believe that our abilities are static, given that we can’t really meaningfully change them. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that they can improve their cooking skills with effort and persistence. So in the kitchen, a growth mindset would involve trying out new recipes and techniques getting out of your comfort zone.
6. Learn to Incorporate Spices
Learning how to incorporate spices into your cooking is going to make your food taste better. But if you want to take it to the next level. I recommend experimenting with grinding your own whole spices. Now it definitely makes a difference, spices start to release their aromas as soon as they’re ground. So the pre-ground stuff starts to lose its potency pretty quickly. In contrast, a whole spice has a protective seed coating. So the aroma, the flavour doesn’t get released until its ground or heated up. And the result is a flavour that’s richer more complex and more aromatic.
Depending on the recipe you’re making. You can toast your whole spices or you can grind them up before toasting them. There are two main ways to grind spices a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. This sounds like a lot of extra work but really only takes a couple of extra minutes. There are lots of other ways to incorporate whole spices into your cooking. You can use whole spices to jazz up simple meals like lentil salad. It may be made with really simple wholesome Mediterranean Diet ingredients but the spiced oil is what really takes it over the top.