Cooking techniques, tips, and tricks
Date: Wednesday, December 29 @ 02:22:21 EST
There are good cooks out there and there are bad cooks out there. I
have included several tips and techniques to help make good cooks better and bad cooks
good. Hopefully you will bookmark this page or take at least one of these suggestions to
heart and use it in your everyday cooking.
This is a thickener using equal amounts of flour and fat. It is the
most common thickener used for soups sauces and gravies. To make it
you melt the margarine or heat up oil and then add the flour and cook
it over low heat for at least 5-10 minutes to cook out the gluten
flavor out of the flour. You then slowly add in the liquid stirring
constantly. Then you cook it down until you get the consistency you
are looking for. You can make a large batch of roux and then
refrigerate or freeze until needed. If you are watching your fat
intake you can take some flour and slowly toast it as well. There are
several different kinds of roux and you use them according to what you
are trying to cook and accomplish color and flavor wise. A pale, or
blonde roux should be straw-colored, a brown or black roux will be
deep in color, have a nutty aroma, and is used in brown sauces and
can see more about roux here.
- Starch thickeners
To avoid lumps, mix the starch with an equal amount of cold liquid
until it forms a paste, and then whisk it into the liquid you're trying to
thicken. Once the thickener is added, cook it briefly to remove the
starchy flavor. Don't overcook! Liquids thickened with some starches
will thin again if cooked too long or at too high a temperature.
I have found that the best way to use cornstarch is to take some
starch, add cold water to it and thoroughly mix it with the starch
until all the lumps are gone. Right before you add the liquid mixture
mix it again to get the starch mixed back in that settled to the
Choose arrowroot if you're thickening an acidic liquid. Cornstarch
loses potency when mixed with acids.
- Tapioca starch
Use tapioca starch for pie fillings. It holds up during long cooking and freezing. It will
also give your fillings a glossy color.
- Potato starch/flourThis is gluten free as
well. I have also
used potato flour in making chocolate cakes. Potato flower makes a
nice rich dense moist cake.
- Any starchy veggies or grains can thicken up a
soup or stew.
Potatoes are a favorite of
- Gelatin thickeners
This comes from seaweed and
is vegan. Agar is
flavorless and becomes gelatinous when it's dissolved in water,
heated, and then cooled.
Each of these amounts will firm two cups of liquid: 3 tablespoons
agar flakes = 2 teaspoons agar powder = 1 kanten bar To use agar,
just soak it in the liquid for about 15 minutes, bring it to a gentle
boil, and then simmer while stirring until it's completely dissolved. The
liquid will gel as it cools. An acid weakens agar's gelling power, so
if you're firming an acidic liquid, use more.
- CarrageenThis is seaweed as well.
To use the dried seaweed as a thickener, first rinse it carefully,
and then soak it in water until it swells. Next add the carrageen to the
liquid you wish to set, boil the liquid for about 10 minutes, then
strain out and discard the carrageen.
can find more thickening tips here.
- Flavor in layers
Food is art, and in order to make a great painting, you have to apply
the paint in layers. The same is when you are
adding herbs and spices to your food. Adding flavor to your dish at
different times of the cooking process will create a rich and developed dish.
- Taste as you go
This goes hand and hand with flavoring in layers. It is good to taste
your food as you are cooking it so you know what it is
going to taste like. Remember to try to under salt your dishes until
the very end after your sauce has reduced.
If you are baking a veggie loaf or one of those fake turkeys, to help
keep it moist baste it with its juices or water or a
simple vegan au jus through the cooking process. This will also add
flavor to the dish.
- Brazing and deglazing
When you cook tofu, fake meat, veggies or whatever, adding a bit of
brownness to the food will add a good flavor to it.
Also if the pan has brownness to it from where you were cooking, add a
bit of liquid to the pan and scrape the brownness
off the pan. This will add a good rich flavor and color to your sauce
and make clean up easier.
When you cut up your veggies or tofu make them uniform so they cook at
the same speed. This will keep you from having mushy and undercooked
food mixed with your perfectly cooked veggies.
- Using infused oils
Take some old wine bottles, stuff them with fresh herbs and spices,
and then fill them with extra virgin olive oil. Let that mixture sit for at least 48 hours
before you use the oil. My favorite is to take about 1/2 cup of rose petals and let that infuse
with the olive oil. This is good on roasted potatoes. I think it adds a bit of Middle Eastern
Build flavor into your veggies and tofu before you cook them by creating a marinade and
soaking them for a few hours or overnight. I will use a bit of oil, fresh herbs, garlic, soy, or
whatever my mind takes me. I love doing this with tofu to help add flavor to this gift from
A great way to intensify flavor is through reduction. If your sauce is too thin or a bit flat
tasting bring it to a light boil and reduce it until you get the consistency or until your
flavors get a chance to develop in your dish.
- To keep things from sticking
Seasoning the pan by heating it up then adding the oil then making the
oil hot before adding your ingredients will help prevent your food from
sticking to the pan.
- Keep your knives sharp and clean.
To keep your knives really sharp, you'll need to care for them on a
regular basis. The techniques of sharpening and steeling your knife
are quite simple. A sharpening stone has two sides: one rough, one
fine. The stone
needs, first, to be soaked in either water or mineral oil (never
substitute one for the other). You will have either a waterstone or an
oilstone. Place the stone on a damp cloth to stabilize it. Then, holding your
knife at a 20-degree angle to the stone, draw the entire length of the
knife blade over the stone. Use your free hand to exert pressure on
the blade firmly and evenly from tip to hilt. Turn the blade over and
repeat the process, over and over at a
20-degree angle, until the blade is very sharp. Always allow an equal
number of passes for each side. After wiping the sharpened knife
clean of any metal and oil, use the
steel to finish the edge. Holding the steel with your fingers safely
behind the guard, repeatedly slide the knife from hilt to tip down one
side, then the other, over the steel. The knife will "sing" when this
is done properly and quickly. Steeling alone does not sharpen a
knife, but hones it. It actually
realigns the molecules on the sharpened edge, straightening the edge.
Between sharpenings with the stone, use the steel frequently to keep
the blade in good condition. Never use your knife on a metal or
marble surface. It is always good
to use a vinyl or wood cutting board.
- Don't be afraid to experiment.
Some of the most basic and the best food and sauces came from
experimentation and by accident. Do not be afraid to
mix different things together. Be creative and use cooking as an
artistic outlet. Even the best cooks out there create
Hopefully the above tips and techniques will help you become a better
cook. Food is more than just keeping alive. Food
does not have to be bland mush. I have started a couple of threads in the forums if you have techniques you
would like to share and if you have any
questions you would like to ask.
Jared was a profesional cook and baker for over 11 years. He was trained and nurished under two certified chef instructors and has worked in some of the best restaraunts in Denver and Oklahoma City.