Enjoyable cooking is something we all want to enjoy, but sometimes it can feel like a job.
The way to become a better cook is by learning some basic techniques. Once you have those down, there's no limit on what you can cook!
My name is Chef Pennington, I live in Austin, Texas, and I’m a Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef. I’ve cooked in fine dining restaurants, and I'm a passionate cook that loves to keep learning about the culinary world.
I believe skills exist that all cooks need to learn and will help you immensely.
Remember, everyone starts somewhere in their cooking career. Believe it or not, most professional cooks weren’t naturally talented at cooking.
A lot of them started out as dishwashers. Over time their interests grew for cooking, and one day, they got the chance to learn from the real Chefs. Today, I'm inviting you into the kitchen as an inspiring cook.
Prepare To Cook - Mise en Place
#1. Cooking is not a race to the finish line. Slow Down!
Successful cooks learn the most important lesson of the kitchen. "Mise en Place," which means, “things in place.” Organize the ingredients before starting.
If the recipe calls for 1 cup of rice, measure out one cup of rice before you start cooking.
Seriously, if you keep lesson one in action you will become a better cook very quickly.
Cooking Kitchen Timing
Working to acquire the skill of timing.
Every cook has burned food, and guess what, you’re going to burn food again. That’s just part of the experience. So don’t get mad at yourself. Just try to pay attention better next time. Did you have your food preparation done? (Mise en place)
I would like for you to start thinking of cooking as a dance. Try to move with grace and precision.
Like gliding across the floor. No jerky movements, having smooth transitions and motion.
Food Preparation Checklist
Safety First: Always place a towel under your cutting board. Cutting boards are known to slip at times while applying pressure and can result in mistakes or injury.
Work Cleanly: Have a garbage bowl next to your work area. You do not want to be walking back and forth to the garbage. The floors will get dirty, wet, resulting in possible injury.
Wear good shoes or sandals, even flip-flops in the kitchen. No bare feet.
A sharp knife is a safe knife. When a knife gets dull and loses its edge, the knife blade has very small jagged edges. That makes it harder for the knife to cut smoothly.
The small jagged edges are happening on a micro level that your eyes cannot see, but most certainly is happening. You’ve probably seen Chefs using those long metal sticks on knives. Those are called honing steels.
Learn more about knives:
Honing steels maintain the edge of the knife. They do not sharpen knives. With each pass of the knife on the honing steel, it is bending the steel back and forth, just like shaping, not sharpening.
New Recipe Concept: If you are making a new recipe, read the recipe more than once. I suggest you cook the recipe in your head first before beginning.
Method: Stand in front of the stove and pretend to cook the dish. After decades of cooking, I still do this myself on something new I've never made before.
If the recipe is unfamiliar to you this is a golden tip. I've used this technique where it has helped me remember an ingredient I forgot.
If I had not gone through the steps in my head before starting I would have messed up the timing and possibly the whole dish.
This takes practice. Over time it will become an instinct-like trait. Think about cooking eggs. Sounds easy, can be easy, but not easy.
Yet, after you cooked an omelet a few times, if I asked you how long it takes you to cook an omelet, you’d have a pretty good answer. That's your internal Chef timer⏲️.
Just the fact you know how long that omelet took to cook shows you're able to perfect the internal clock.
Learning your stove is the key to success. Remember, every stove cooks differently.
I suggest trying to stay away from using super high heat. There are only a few reasons to use full-level heat. I suggest you keep the temperature around medium-high. This will work for 80% to 90% of the recipes you cook.
Oils / Fats /Butter:
This one can be a tough one. This is where a number of mistakes happen. If the pan is too hot and you add your oil, you can start a flash fire.
If you start a flash fire, do NOT use water to put it out. You have 4 options and that’s it.
How To Put Out A Kitchen Fire
- Cover the fire with a lid (fire can not exist without air oxygen).
- Pour a ton of salt on the fire
- Pour a bunch of baking soda on the fire.
- Use a fire extinguisher.
If you have any questions if the fire is out, call the fire department asap for help.
Timing - Using Oils / Fats / Butter:
- Eggs Turn the heat to medium-high and add the oil or butter. Once melted, add the eggs at once. No waiting. If the pan gets too hot, you will need to cook another round of eggs. Between batches of eggs, always rinse the pan off under cool water to take the heat off the pan. Butter-n-Thyme Egg Cookery Course Here ( FREE)
- Steak Heat a cast iron pan up on medium-high to high heat. Do not take your eyes off the pan as the temperature can rise quickly. Once the pan is hot. Finding out if the cast iron skillet is the correct steak cooking heat level. Place your hand a few inches over the cast iron skillet, the middle of the pan and count, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi. On 3 you should want to pull your hand away from the skillet. If too hot, rinse underwater to take the heat off. Then allow the water to steam off before adding oil. Learn How To Sous Vide Steak
- Fish Cooks most fish on medium heat. Fish is delicate and overcooks easy. Here’s the technique: Use a nonstick pan, turn on the heat to medium. Use the 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi counting technique, but you want to count higher, to 6 Mississippi. Now add in the oil plus butter. Butter has a low smoke point and will oxidize at high temperatures. Destroys the buttermilk solids and burns them. Gross flavor. When you the oil to melted butter, it helps protect the butter from burning. The technique on the stovetop, cook on medium heat, sear the fish on both sides, enough to add a little color on each side of the fish filets. Start with skin side down for presentation. Then place into a 375 oven for a few minutes until done. Learn how to salt crusted cook a Fish
- Resting Meats
Food continues cooking once you remove it from the heat. It's like a storm is going on inside of the protein. You must let meats rest to redistribute the juices. About 3-5 minutes, usually.
You must give food time to relax before you cut into it, or risk having dry, not moist cooked food.
Example of Food That "Continues" Cooking once off the meat.
Carry Over Cooking
- Chicken (Learn to Roast The Perfect Chicken ( Here )
- Vegetables will continue to soften
How To Cook Pasta
Salt the water heavily, it should taste just like the ocean. Which is around 6% salinity. Very important or your pasta will have no taste other than the sauce you pair it with.
Cook the pasta according to the box. Once the pasta is cooked you need to do something the Italians call "Marry the Pasta with the Sauce". Put the pasta directly into the sauce and coat the pasta. You can add some of the pasta water to adjust the thickness. The pasta water has starch in it and will add a small bit of body to the sauce.
Learn to make pasta: How To Make Fresh Handmade Pasta