1. Taste what you are making – I know it sounds obvious, but I often see cooks make something by the recipe and assume it will be good. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Train your pallet to recognize different flavors and to recognize when something is missing
2. You can always put more in, but you cannot take it out. – Season a little bit at a time, too much of an ingredient can ruin a dish.
3. Know ingredients – Be curious about your ingredients. What is the best cut of meat for roasting? How can I store this basil, so it stays green? What is a caper? Why does yellow squash get so mushy when I cook it? Asking question and searching for the answers can set you on a path to learn more.
4. Use Ratios- Cooking and baking use lots of ratios. Knowing ratios can save you time and help you create your own recipes quickly. Pie dough, rice pilaf, stock, salad dressing, cheesecake and custards can all be made using ratios.
5. Learn the cooking methods- Roasting, frying, steaming, poaching, sauté are all examples of cooking methods. Each step in a cooking method has a purpose, understanding why you are performing each step and what the outcome should be allows you to master the process. Knowing the methods frees you from a recipe and allows you to add your own flair
6. Learn cooking terms- Dredge, fold, cream, sear are the verbs of the kitchen. Knowing them can make learning methods or following a recipe much easier.
7. Go out to eat- Eating at good restaurants that hire real chefs is an enjoyable way to learn about food preparation, new or different ingredients and flavor paring.
8. Use the proper high-quality tools- working with an inferior knife or using a glass as a biscuit cutter is not OK. Not only will your finished product not turn out as it looks in a picture or in your head, but it is also much harder then when using the proper high-quality tools. Investing in a good French and paring knife can be a game changer for prep work. A thick bottomed stainless-steel saucepan means less burning and more even heat. You do not need to have a kitchen loaded with gadgets just get the basics, shop sales, and buy from retailers that sell quality merchandise and have a knowledgeable staff. Kitchen tools last a very long time so spending the extra money for good quality is worth the price.
9. Make a plan- Before cracking the first egg or cutting the first vegetable, think through the steps for preparation ahead of time. Known as “metal mise en place”, it is what make to good cook great. Carrying out this mental exercise can help you see potential problems; see ingredients you are missing or just make your workflow better.
10. Learn how to use a knife- Out of all the cooking skills this is the one that, if mastered, will make cooking very enjoyable. You will be able to prep items faster and more efficiently. Cooking goes from a chore to a fun activity.