It's amazing how many things you can learn from observing professionals in action, whether it is through cooking shows or reading cookbooks. Here are 10 tips to improve your Cooking Skills and help you become a better cook!
French Top Chef is seriously an amazing show and broadcasts professionals that are ridiculously talented. I can't hide it, even though I don't watch much French TV anymore, Top Chef is something that I watch religiously....
Not only this show is incredibly inspiring, it has also allowed me to learn quite a few cooking tips and techniques throughout the years.
Some of them were also included in my 3 Tips to bake with less Sugar and 10 Things I've learned from Making Fresh Pasta at home!
Here are 10 tips to improve your cooking skills, picked up from Professionals!
1 - Get organised before you start cooking:
Know what ingredients you need and get a clear idea of the step by step process.
Do some element require a freezer / setting time? Start with them.
Are you working with ingredients at different temperature? Make sure they all have time to heat up / cool down. You want the ingredients to be at the right temperature when you need them.
2 - Work in an organised environment:
Get all the ingredients of the recipe out on your working bench before your start. Also put them back where they belong as you go.
There is no need to be running around your kitchen after every step because you forgot to prepare something.
You also want to avoid working on a busy kitchen bench!
3 - Work in a Clean Environment:
Clean your cutting board, knifes, bowls and other equipment in between each use. This includes cleaning in the middle of a recipe.
Also, throw away food scraps as often as possible; you don't want them hanging around your kitchen bench.
That tip seems like an obvious one, but trust me, a chocolate cake that tastes like onion is not something you want to taste!
4 - Timing is everything:
Some dishes will be ready in 15 minutes, other will require hours of preparation and cooking.
One of the most important thing I have learned from Top Chef - and from attempting to bend this rule too many times - is to get a good time estimate.
That is an estimate of both the time you have in front of you and how long the recipe will take you to make.
Only have an hour in front of you? Don't attempt to make a Croque-En-Bouche... Does your cake need to set in the freezer for at least 2 hours?
Take that into consideration when you start to make sure you have enough time before serving.
5 - Follow the advised Setting / Resting / Cooling Time:
I have painfully learned to take this one seriously...
How many times did I impatiently skip that step, only to see my cake collapse at the table because the mousse did not have to set? Way too many...
When it comes to baking, resting can make or break a recipe for one simple reason: cold ingredients do not like warm ingredients...
Putting cold frosting on a warm cake will always end up in a collapsing disaster.
6 - Be bold and take risks:
Most of the time, we want to use a recipe we have made before and know to have worked. Let's be honest, no one wants to try something crazy when they have to serve it for a dinner party or a birthday!
But what about these two flavours you have been thinking about mixing but did not think would work together? The only way to know is to try...
I am a big believer that cooking should be a fun experience first. It is also a great way to explore your own creativity!
So what if it doesn't work (as long as you don't have 10 hungry people at your table waiting for you)...?
7 - Be "Gourmand":
Yes, I imagine your face right now if you don't speak French; you must be wondering what the hell I am talking about. Though I just discovered that this word could also be used in English!
"Gourmand" is a french term that describe someone who enjoys eating.
This word is used a lot (way too much) in French Top Chef as a way to encourage candidates to bring a lot of flavours and generosity to their dishes.
You can cook healthy meals and still be generous and tasty. You can also use a lot, lot of butter, but that is up to you!
The point is, whatever you decide to make, using a lot of spices, fresh produces and quality ingredients will make any dish taste better.
Any food, from a simple green salad to a complex cake should be both satisfying to look at and to eat.
8 - Know your weaknesses, but don't let them stop you:
Again, it all comes down to timing. If you are a great cook but have very little experience in pastry, attempting to make Macarons for the first time the day of your dinner party may not be the best idea...
But why not take your time to experiment and learn about it when you have the whole day in front of you (and no one hungry to feed)?
Reading Cook Books is also a great way to pick up tips and tricks that can help you improve your skills. Always listen to what a Professional tells you (unless you do not want to because hey, you are the king/queen of your kitchen!).
9 - Use your Strengths, but don't let them define you:
Yes, being really good at something is awesome and super satisfying!
Use that knife skill you learned from that cooking class. Show off the technique you picked up on TV last month.
But don't let that stop you from trying to master even more things!
I strongly believe that the more diverse and broad your knowledge is, the better you will become.
10 - Have fun and be creative:
As much as I love those watching those series, they show you a side of cooking that most of us don't get to experience: pressure. But they also show you that anything is possible as long as you try it and are innovative.
And isn't that a great thing to witness? Because appart from the main obvious reason to cook (not die of hunger), I believe that the most important reason to cook is because it is fun as hell and an amazing, limitless way to get creative.
Oh, that and to eat yummy food, obviously...