I've learned quite a few cooking tips over the years, and ya know what? Many of them haven't exactly been worth adding to my arsenal. There are, however, many that I simply swear by — and I'm always so thrilled when these same tips end up making a major difference in the lives of everyday home cooks.
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Recently, u/profligateclarity asked redditors to share the "single greatest cooking tip" they've ever learned. I can say (from experience!) that many of these are absolutely crucial in my own kitchen, and several even mentioned new techniques I've never thought to try before. These are some of the most helpful tips.
1."Brown your ground beef like you’re frying a giant burger — don't touch it, and let it sear! Get it nice and charred on both sides, and only THEN break up the meat. The results are so much more flavorful than when you constantly stir it around."
2."Season, season, season. I am gobsmacked at how people will sometimes proudly proclaim to me that they cook with no salt. Aah, yes, that's why your food tastes like cardboard."
3."A falling knife has no handle. If your knife is falling to the ground, jump back immediately and fight the instinct to catch it!"
4."When you're making meatballs, season the entire batch of raw meat. Then, cook one tiny 'tester' meatball. Taste it, and adjust the seasoning in the larger batch if it's needed."
5."Alton Brown said it best when it comes to scrambled eggs — and the same goes for many other dishes, too. If it looks cooked in the pan, it'll be overcooked on the plate. That was a huge lesson for me."
6."This is advice from my grandmother: Gather all your ingredients before you begin. Read all the directions before you start. Don't start cooking until you know exactly what you're doing!"
7."Learn to slightly undercook all your proteins since they'll continue to cook from residual heat as they 'cool.' Chicken breasts, for example, are perfectly safe and 10 times more delicious when they're taken off the heat at 150ºF, since carryover cooking will take it to 155ºF."
8."Mise en place is sorely underrated. It sounds obvious, but I see people rushing to cut veggies while other stuff is in the pot. Remember: This is home cooking — not some time trial or competition against no one!"
9."If you want delicious sautéed mushrooms that aren't waterlogged, fry them in a skillet without any butter or oil."
10."Always place an empty plastic container on your counter to collect garbage, peels, and other scraps while you cook. Even though you're just eliminating a few steps to the trash can, I always feel like it ends up simplifying the process of cooking. It cuts down on so much mess!"
11."If you're going to be cutting butter into some kind of pastry, freeze the stick of butter and grate it. It makes everything SO much easier. I'll never ever go back to the older method of cubing the butter and then endlessly trying to cut it into smaller pieces."
12."If you're cooking for lots of people or an event, never cook a dish for the first time. Try that new recipe out ahead of time or just choose something you've made many times without fail!"
13."For the easiest pie dough, blitz cold butter and the dry ingredients in a food processor quickly. You get extremely even distribution and it doesn't overwork anything. The butter stays pretty ice cold, too, instead of starting to melt."
14."If you need to shred up some meat (like pot roast or braised chicken), skip the method where you use two forks and just use a handheld mixer."
15."If you're handling hot peppers, like jalapeños or serranos, wear gloves. I don't care how high your tolerance is for spice. You do NOT want to touch your eyes later or, god forbid, go to bed with your partner later and remember 'oh yeah, I chopped a bunch of pepper' when it's already too late."
16."Dry the surface of your food if you want it to sear well. Lots of people take this step for granted and wonder why their food doesn't come out golden brown!"
17."Flavors constantly change as you cook a dish. The amount of salt you put in at the beginning may be hard to taste, but as you continue to cook it, the salt and other flavors always show up. Some ingredients even change flavor profiles as they cook — like wine in stews. If you're following a good recipe, trust it the first time...but taste it a bunch, so you can learn how it changes over time."
18."Clean up as you go. There's nothing worse than cooking a lovely meal and having a giant sink of dishes waiting for you. I always make sure I have an empty dishwasher before I start cooking, and then everything I use while cooking goes straight into the dishwasher as soon as I'm done with it."
19."Oven temperatures and controls are always wildly inaccurate. Get an oven thermometer and figure out how hot it really gets — you'd be shocked at just how 'off' it is."
20."Small cooking safety tip: Always lay a protein away from you when you place it in a pan to sear to prevent any hot oil or butter from splashing back on you."
21."Let your steel skillets (or other not non-stick pans) heat up all the way before you put ANYTHING in it. People love to complain about food sticking in steel pans. If you don't preheat, it's a sure-fire way to accomplish just that."
22."Use freshly-ground pepper — not the pre-ground powder you buy at the grocery store. It's true (in general) that freshly-ground spices taste better than the pre-ground varieties, but for pepper in particular, the difference is night and day."
23."Smash your garlic before attempting to cut or peel it. It makes everything go so much faster, and you don't have to peel off every last bit of papery garlic skin. Plus, you get to smash something. 10/10!"
24."If you're planning on cooking any kind of meat, season it a day in advance and place it in the fridge — without covering it. The salt will penetrate the food a lot better, and it also denatures the proteins to hold more water, so it'll be juicier. At the same time, it'll also dry out the surface which results in a crispier exterior."
25."People are so afraid of sharp knives, but the best tip I've learned is that a good, sharp knife makes cooking a lot easier...and more fun, too. Even if you think your knife is sharp enough, it probably isn't."
26."When you're baking, use a scale to measure ingredients instead of relying on cups and tablespoons. It's even easier when you set the scale to grams instead of ounces, and it makes scaling a recipe up or down so much easier."
What's the best cooking tip you've ever learned? Drop it in the comments below!
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.