15 Culinary School Tips and Tricks Everyone Should Know for 2024

15 Culinary School Tips and Tricks Everyone Should Know for 2024

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It’s been nine years since I graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Since then she’s worked in restaurant kitchens, test kitchens, and as a food writer and recipe developer — but these days she’s a more relaxed cook.

For example, there are definitely “rules” of culinary school that I’m rolling my eyes at now. (No, I don’t want to peel the bell peppers and celery before I eat them; Thank you very much.) But there are still a lot of things I learned in school — and later in restaurants — that I still swear by to this day, and use in my kitchen at home.

The time, money, and commitment to culinary school isn’t worth it for everyone, but there are some culinary school-specific tips and techniques that anyone can put into practice at home without spending a day in (or getting on a dime!) a coat. Here are the most useful things I’ve learned.

The first thing we did in culinary school was learn how to chop carrots and onions. the second thing? Learn how to sharpen a knife properly. Using a sharp knife at first is great — like this santoku from QVC — but sharpening is an important skill to learn, and a sharp knife makes slicing easier. So Much faster and easier. (Plus, you don’t need to use as much force when your knife is sharp, which means it’s safer, too.) A lot of specialty kitchen shops, like Sur La Table, will sharpen your knives for a reasonable price — so it’s worth bringing them in when they’re ready. Boring. The Kitchn team is also a fan of the at-home Knockout Knife Sharpening System if you’re looking for something for your kitchen.

2. Use the right peeler for the job.

If peeling vegetables seems like it’s taking too long, it’s probably because you’re using the wrong peeler. My advice? Ditch the rusty roller that’s been sitting in your drawer for years and order a three-pack of Kuhn Rikon Swiss peelers. It’s a favorite in culinary school for a reason: The Y shape makes it more comfortable to handle, and the sharp peeler makes food preparation easier. They are also cheap enough that you can replace them with new ones when they become dull.

3. Embrace the practice of Libra on Place.

The French term translates to “put,” and refers to taking out, measuring, and preparing all your ingredients before you start cooking. This is how restaurant kitchens get food out quickly and efficiently. And while you don’t need to be quite as strict at home, it’s much easier to follow a recipe when you have all of your ingredients ready to use beforehand.

4. Pat meat and fish dry with paper towels before cooking to get extra crispy skin.

In fact, you should pat meat and fish dry with paper towels before cooking them no matter what. In order for the skin to become crispy, you need to remove as much moisture as possible – because moisture and steam kill any chance of peeling and turning brown. This will also prevent the meat and skin from sticking to the pan while cooking, which is the worst of all.

5. Always turn up the heat.

Even if you want to eat in a hurry, turning up the heat to high isn’t always the best way. Slowly sautéing aromatics — such as onions, leeks or garlic — in oil over medium-low heat will bring out more flavor and prevent them from burning and bitterness. Cooking meat or vegetables over medium heat will give them enough time to cook completely without burning on the outside. Simmering or slow-cooking soup rather than boiling it will cook the ingredients and blend the flavors without making meat tough or breaking down vegetables.

6. Give some thought to how you cut vegetables.

Those fancy vegan bites you see in nice restaurants? There are reasons behind this besides the impressive appearance. Smaller pieces will cook faster than larger pieces, so using a combination of the two can change the texture of the dish. Vegetables cut on the diagonal will be tender on the thick end and soft on the thin end, making them more satisfying to eat.

7. Give yourself enough preparation space, even in cramped kitchens.

Space is tight in restaurant kitchens, especially those in New York City. Chefs can spend an afternoon preparing for 100 or more guests, all with one cutting board and burner. That’s why the big lesson in culinary school is learning how to work well in very small spaces. This applies to home kitchens as well. Give yourself enough space by clearing the countertop of everything you’re on no Use — appliances, flower vases, mail you left behind and forgot about — before you get started.

You’ve heard this before, but it’s much easier to work in a clean station. Wipe down the cutting board after you finish preparing each ingredient. Place pots, pans, and utensils in the sink or dishwasher as soon as you are finished using them. And wash your hands often. There may not be a cranky trainer watching your kitchen and making sure you’re doing these things, but be as vigilant as if there was.

9. Do not crowd the pan.

Food cannot caramelize or brown in a crowded pan. A handful of sliced ​​mushrooms cooked in a hot pan with a coating of oil will come out browned, crispy, and deeply flavored. A full pint of sliced ​​mushrooms cooked in the same pan and the same oil will turn pale, grey, soggy and much less flavourful. The same goes for vegetables roasted in a skillet, or meat seared in a cast iron skillet. Stacking ingredients on top of each other traps moisture, which means your food will evaporate rather than crisp or brown.

10. Get a bench scraper.

I often see novice chefs using their knife to scrape what they’ve finished cutting across the cutting board and into the bowl. Do not do it! Not only is this a bit dangerous, but it will also dull your blade quickly. Instead, invest in a $4 bench scraper — and use it to scoop up leftovers and move things from the cutting board to pots and pans.

11. Know your fat – and what it can (and can’t) do.

Butter is delicious, and we used a lot of it at my cooking school in France. But butter can’t handle high heat, because the milk solids (which make it delicious) can burn. Not all oils are created equal either. Neutral oils, such as canola or vegetable oil, do not add any flavor but are ideal for high-heat methods such as roasting, frying and sautéing because they can withstand high temperatures without burning. Flavored oils — such as high-quality olive oil, avocado oil, and pumpkin seed oil — are less suitable for high heat, and are best used in salad dressings, or to finish dishes after they’ve been cooked.

12. Baste the fish to keep it moist while it cooks.

There are a lot of things we did in culinary school and restaurants I worked at that I never bothered doing at home — like straining tomato soup after pureeing it for maximum smoothness — but basting fried fish is one great trick I swear by. When the fish is almost cooked, add a hunk of butter to the pan and let it melt. Reduce the heat, then gently pour the melted butter over the fish. The hot butter will cook the top of the fish without drying it out, and it will also add a lot of flavour.

13. Never throw away bone scraps or vegetable scraps.

When it comes to making stock, scraps of bones and scraps are kitchen gold. You can make chicken broth with nothing but the bones if you like. You can also make beef stock from beef bones, fish stock from fish bones and scraps, etc. Not only is it cheaper than buying stock, but it’s also often tastier, and allows you to reduce waste. These days, I collect bones and vegetable scraps in a sealed gallon bag in the freezer, then make a few quarts of stock each time the bag is full. You should too!

14. When in doubt, add salt.

You know you love salt, but have you ever stopped to think why? Salt brings out flavour, which means well-salted food tastes more like itself than unsalted food. To maximize all the flavors in a recipe, add a pinch of salt each time you add a new ingredient.

15. And if you add too much salt? Add acid.

If something tastes too rich or heavy, a squeeze of lemon juice or a little vinegar can freshen it up. The acid also cuts through the salt, so if you accidentally over-salt something (which often happens in culinary school), you can usually save it by adding the acid.

Your turn! What’s your most useful all-purpose kitchen tip?

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