There are so many cooking competitions on TV these days, from Hell’s Kitchen with the infamous Gordon Ramsey to the ever popular Iron Chef on the Food Network, that all feature chefs who seamlessly cook under immense pressure. Even the best chefs had to learn the basics of cooking though to not only cook safely but also cook properly in order to get the best results. Slowly they built on this basic set of skills, implementing more technical techniques in order to create dishes they would be proud of serving in their restaurants. Cooking is just like any other skill, you have to start from the bottom by learning the basics and slowly build on them.

Sitting on your couch and watching Iron Chef on the Food Network is one thing, but actually going into your kitchen and figuring out how to cook is a completely different story. Looking up a recipe is a great start, but actually understanding what you need to do in order to get the desired result is another thing. So before you can impress you definitely want to know about some of the basics that will automatically make you level up from simple amateur chef to proficient home cook. I know that doesn’t really sound like a great step up but simply implementing these tips into your daily routine will help you on your way to the ultimate supremacy as an iron chef.

Most of these tips are really basic things that every cook should know and will sound like common sense once you realize what they are. So take a second to absorb and use these tips in your everyday life because it definitely doesn’t hurt that you’ll know how to prevent death by food.

Separate Knives, Separate Cutting Boards

You don’t want to be eating any raw chicken anytime soon because you don’t want to contract salmonella. One of the things to help prevent this is to use separate knives and cutting boards when preparing your proteins and vegetables. This is just something simple you can do to prevent any cross-contamination and food poisoning. You definitely don’t want any chicken slime in your salad so keep this in mind next time you’re in the kitchen.

Don’t Wash It


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I know that gross slimy chicken is a bit disgusting to touch in its raw state but please do not wash it off. Washing meats like chicken, beef or pork will actually lead to a higher chance of cross-contamination because that stuff you’re washing off may come in contact with things like your knife, cutting board, and sink which may come in contact with whatever else you are cooking that day.

Use Sharp Knives


Photo by Jennifer Cao

I know, sounds crazy right? Wouldn’t you be more likely to cut yourself? Actually, no. Sharp knives actually allow for you to cut your ingredients with greater ease because you’ll be applying less pressure than you need. When you use a dull knife you’re not only using more energy to cut up your ingredients, but you also increase the likelihood of the knife slipping and thus losing control of it. So to prevent any accidents involving a knife fight in your kitchen, keep them sharp, sharp, sharp.

Consistent Knife Cuts

Which will cook faster? A finely minced piece of garlic? Or a whole garlic clove? Obviously it would be the minced garlic because it’s a lot smaller in size. Consistent knife cuts are important in cooking because it allows for your food to be cooked at the same rate. So next time you’re sautéing some vegetables try to keep them all about the same size so that not only will they cook evenly but you’ll also be cooking more efficiently. It’ll take some practice but cutting up your ingredients so that they’re the same size will help you yield the best results when you’re cooking.

Wash and Store Produce

This is definitely a huge time saver tip for the future. Whenever I get any produce from the supermarket I wash and dry them before storing them in the fridge. This will definitely cut down on the prep time next time you’re in the kitchen.

High Heat Is Not a Must


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You don’t always want to be using high heat when you cook. High heat is good for things like searing a steak or reducing a sauce, but it’s definitely not good for everything. You know that crispy bacon you love? Well if you cook it at a medium heat you’ll not only get a really crispy bacon but you’ll also render off some of that excess fat that comes along with bacon. I know it might take a little longer but it’s so worth it because who doesn’t want some awesome crispy bacon.

Keep Your Eyes on the Oil

Adding on to the whole high heat matter, you also don’t want to overheat your oil. If you see your oil smoking you have definitely reached a point where there should be food cooking in your pan. If you see the oil in your pan smoking like a chimney remove it from the heat immediately. This will prevent any possibility of a grease fire from occurring.

Don’t Overcrowd the Pan

You know that really nice brown color you want on the outside of your pork chop? Well if you overcrowd your pan you’re not going to be able to get that nice sear resulting in that beautiful color; this is all due to the Maillard reaction for all you interested in a little bit of a science tidbit. When you overcrowd your pan you’re actually preventing a lot of your foods from having direct contact with the pan to create that nice crust you want. What’s happening is that a lot of your food is actually steaming which is definitely not what you want. This rule also applies if you’re ever deep-frying anything. Maintaining a consistent temperature is important when frying, but when you put too many things into your fryer you’re actually lowering that temperature and slowing down the cooking process.


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Stop Touching Your Food

I know you want to be flipping you’re food in the air and stirring whatever the heck is in your hot sizzling pan, but trust me just let the food sit there. You don’t always need to look super impressive with the fire and a pair of tongs in hand. For instance, in order to get that nice sear on that steak or some nice caramelization on those onions, you really have to fight the urge to touch your food. That direct contact with the pan will help you get that nice brown color on the outside of your food, but you have to let it develop. If you keep touching your food you’re not going to get that nice brown color on the outside of your steak, rather you’re just going to end up with your beef looking grey. So even though you see chefs tossing and flipping whatever they have in the pan, you just have to relax a little and let the cooking happen.

Salt + Pepper = Your Best Friends in the Kitchen


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You probably have a lot of spices in your cupboard that you have no idea how to use, but really your two best forms of seasoning in the kitchen are going to be salt and pepper. Don’t worry about what all those spices are supposed used for because most of the time salt and pepper will do the trick. Every type of cuisine utilizes these two simple spices. Always make sure you have some good salt on hand as well as some fresh ground pepper. These are two ingredients that every cook should have on hand at all times in the kitchen.

Taste, Taste, Taste

So this is probably a given, but please taste your food while you cook. Cooking is about layers of flavor so during each phase of cooking taste it and see if it tastes good. Sometimes even the best chefs forget to taste and it leads to their demise. This has happened countless times on cooking shows. Obviously the most important part to any dish is how good it tastes so please taste, taste, taste your food before you serve it.