Week 6: General Tips in the Kitchen

Welcome back! This sixth post will help you with your cooking techniques and little hacks that you can do the next time you're in the kitchen. Hopefully, these tips and tricks can make your recipe following/cooking skills a little more smooth sailing. You will be that much closer to thinking that cooking is easy!

Read the basic cooking tips below and modify your behaviour whilst in the kitchen to make your culinary journeys smoother!

Mise En Place

  • Mise en place means “putting in place" in French; therefore, this point is about having everything set up, put in its place and ready to go before you actually start cooking anything physical
    • For example, have all of your ingredients cut up or measured out, and have all your tools set aside, ready for use. Doing this right will really speed up the cooking process for you, especially if you're a rookie
  • Cooking preparation also means reading through an entire recipe (if you’re using one) before starting anything. You don’t want to be in the middle of cooking and get to step 7 only to suddenly realise you need an entire cup of diced carrots right there and then out of nowhere. Obviously, this will lead to burnt or overcooked food, which is the worst. 
  • Take care of yourself while cooking and be prepared. You're more likely to enjoy the art this way!

Kitchen Towel Cutting Board Trick

  • Before preparing for whatever you’re making, wet a kitchen towel with a little water, wring it out, and place it underneath your cutting board. This helps keep the cutting board from moving around while you’re cutting anything
  • When a chopping board is moving around easily, cutting whatever you're cutting becomes very difficult and you are at a significantly higher risk of losing a finger or part of your hand

Cutting Safely

  • Following the theme of keeping all of your fingers, you will need to master how to cut using the correct technique
  • Make your non-dominant hand look something like a claw by folding all of your fingers (including your thumb) in at the second knuckle so your fingers have been "shortened". Use the hand with recoiled fingers to hold the food you’re cutting, as it can help guide your knife along, but more importantly, it keeps your fingers and tips out of the way of the knife!

Hold Your Knife Correctly

  • Learning to hold your knife correctly will not only help you prepare more quickly and efficiently, but it will keep you from hurting yourself
  • Start by placing your thumb on the side of the knife that is facing inwards, and your index finger on the other side like in the photo. Grip the handle of the knife with your other three fingers. It might feel strange to hold your knife this way at first, and it may take some practice before it feels natural, however, you will be in control
  • Don't hold your knife too tightly, as this will help keep your hand from getting tired

Keep Your Knives Sharp

  • Your knives should be sharp so that you don't struggle cutting anything hard whereby you are more likely to put too much force into cutting, slip and cut yourself or lose your finger. You don't want to be fighting with the knife, because the over exertion will most likely contribute to the loss of a limb
  • If you don't know where to sharpen your knives, take them to another kitchen/cookware store nearby or consider investing in a sharpener so you can do it yourself at home

Add Salt and Olive Oil to Your Water When Cooking Pasta

  • Some people might skip this step but adding salt to the boiling water adds flavour, which is later absorbed by the food you cook in it
  • You can also add just a bit of olive oil to the water you’re cooking pasta in because this can help keep the pasta from sticking together. Be careful not to use too much though, or you’ll keep any sauce you’re adding to the pasta later on from adhering to it

Use Fresh Ingredients and Know How to Check They're Fresh

  • Generally, fresh ingredients are better to use than those from cans or jars
  • Therefore, it’s important to learn how to check certain ingredients for freshness
    • For example, there is the egg test. Fill up a (preferably transparent) cup about 2/3 full with water. Carefully drop your egg in and watch where it goes. If it sinks to the bottom (and stays there), it’s fresh. If your egg floats, toss it

Have Fun and Be Creative

  • Have fun when you’re cooking and be creative! 
  • If you’re using a recipe, try making it your own or try making something out of your comfort zone. Use ingredients you have in your kitchen and try making something edible and tasty

Pick up the 2019 Student Cookbook from Arc Reception