12 Things You’re Probably Doing Wrong in the Kitchen
Unless you’re a trained chef, you’re probably doing some things wrong in the kitchen. Most of us learned kitchen skills from our family members, so if Grandma’s method isn’t the best, how would we know? One of the greatest parts of working at Big Plate is getting to talk to local chefs every day. They’re some of the nicest people you’ll meet, and they’ve taught us a lot over the years. (Not to mention our team has over 160 years of combined experience in food service!) With their help, we’ve compiled this list of things many of us are probably doing wrong.
1. You Should Run a Sink of Hot, Soapy Water Before Cooking
Chefs know how to keep a clean kitchen. They want to focus on making safe, delicious, well-cooked food, not hunting for tools or working around a mess. If your kitchen is a mess after you cook, you’re doing it wrong. So take a note from the professionals and wash as you go, keeping your kitchen clean and your utensils ready for use. Having the sink ready will expedite the process.
2. You Should Set up a Garbage Station Where You’re Cooking
We all like to tuck away our unsightly kitchen trash cans, but when cooking you need a garbage station that’s near at hand. Trekking across your kitchen with drippy, juicy garbage only to discover the trash can is overflowing is the wrong way to do it! Whether you move your trash can to your work station or set up a temporary trash bowl, come up with a system that works for you.
3. You Should Never Use a Cutting Board that Slips
Some cutting boards are bad about moving on the kitchen counter while you’re using them, which is dangerous and annoying. If you’re chasing your cutting board across the counter, you’re doing it wrong. Chefs know how to secure their cutting boards. A damp towel under the board will hold it steady while you chop and slice. Another cool “hack” is if you’re cutting something very juicy, set the cutting board inside a baking sheet to catch the liquid.
4. You Should be Honing Your Kitchen Knives with Each Use
Home cooks often neglect their kitchen knives, but this is a big mistake! Dull knives are dangerous, inefficient, and a hassle. A good, sharp knife makes food prep fun and satisfying. A dull knife makes the process a frustration. Chefs hone their knives multiple times a day. Learn how to keep your kitchen knives in tip top shape here so you can stop doing it wrong.
5. You Should Label the Food in Your Freezer
Chefs know the importance of labeling and dating food in storage. You’re probably in a hurry when packaging up those leftovers, but once food is frozen it can be difficult to discern exactly what it is. You’re also likely to forget exactly when you froze it, so a date is critical to maintaining food quality. Just take a couple of minutes to label everything properly. Later you’ll be glad you did.
6. You Should be Learning Techniques, Not Recipes
Professional chefs know that when you learn a technique, it opens up a world of cooking possibilities for you. So as you cook, focus on learning techniques like searing meat, making a roux, shocking, brining, dredging, marinating, etc. These (and more) will serve you well, helping you perfectly execute the recipes you love. Plus you may be surprised at how many kitchen techniques you learned wrong to begin with!
7. You Shouldn’t Overcrowd the Pan When Cooking
You may not have been taught that crowding the pan changes the way food cooks. When you want to brown something, you need to minimize the amount of moisture in the pan so that the Maillard reaction can occur, giving you the color and flavor we all love. Too much food, whether meat or vegetables, will result in too much moisture for the Maillard reaction to happen.
8. You Should Leave Meat Alone When Searing It
This one is related to tip #7, but it deserves its own place on the list, as well. Chefs will tell you, when searing chicken, steak, seafood, etc., to put it in the hot pan and leave it alone until it’s about half-way cooked. Flipping back and forth, moving the meat around, and poking it all will interfere with the sear you’re looking for, and your meat will probably end up being tougher and dryer than it would’ve been if you left it alone.
9. You Should Remember that Food Continues to Cook After It’s Removed from the Heat
When cooking, remember that food continues to cook after it’s been removed from the heat. The internal temperature of your food will continue to rise 5-10 degrees after it’s off the stove, out of the oven, or off the grill. If you keep the food on the heat until it reaches the desired temperature, you’ll end up with overcooked food. Chefs usually remove the food when it’s 5 to 10 degrees away from being done, tent it with foil, and let it rest 15-20 minutes, allowing the desired internal temperature to be reached.
10. You Should ALWAYS Taste Your Food Before Serving It
Chefs know that you should never serve food before tasting it! Is the temperature right? Do the seasonings need adjustment? Is the texture what you want? Food comes from nature so it’s never exactly the same, and it won’t cook exactly the same, either. You’ve GOT to taste it before plating up your dish.
11. You Should Finish Your Food with Salt and Acid
As you taste your food before serving it, remember that chefs finish their food with both salt and acid. Both are important to balancing flavors and activating the palette. You add acid to food with lemon or lime juice or with vinegar, of which there are almost endless varieties.
12. You Should Serve Hot Food on Warmed Plates
Professional chefs serve hot food on warmed plates and cold food on chilled plates. They know that a cold plate will quickly bring down the temperature of their hot food (and vice versa), negatively impacting the dining experience. There are several ways to easily warm plates in your home kitchen. If you’re using the oven, just stack the plates on top, rotating the stack until all the plates are warm. You can also warm the plates for a few minutes on the oven’s lowest setting. You can use an electric plate warmer. Or you can run the plates under hot water and quickly towel dry them. Chilled plates can just be stacked in the freezer for a while before serving.
We all do some things wrong in the kitchen. Hopefully you learned some tips to make your cooking more enjoyable, your kitchen run smoother, and your food taste better. What would you add to this list? Let us know!