Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cooking Basics

I know for many people cooking doesn't come easy. As a matter of fact, for many of you, it is a chore and it's the the time of day you loathe. Maybe, it's because you just don't know the basics. Being comfortable in the kitchen is displayed best when you begin to experiment. I have decided to share with you some of my favorite flavor layers, tips, and basic techniques in the kitchen.
  1. There is no need to measure. Just "guestimate."
  2. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. Sometimes, the best flavors are discovered by making mistakes in the kitchen.
  3. Take your time! If you are a slow cooker, start way in advance. No need to rush.
  4. Start with the most complicated and longer cooking foods first.
  5. If you are making a side of rice, make sure you start cooking it first.
  6. Always preheat the oven before you use it. Let the oven wait on you...not the other way around.
  7. Simple is best. There is no need to complicate cooking.
  8. The best meals have enough spice, heat, and sweetness.
How to Saute
  1. Make sure your pan is hot
  2. Use an extra wide pan
  3. Use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) alone or combine with butter. Normally, 2 turns around the pan of EVOO would be enough.
  4. To check if pan is hot enough, dip the end of a wooden spoon in the oil. If bubbles form around the spoon immediately, it is ready. If the oil is smoking, the pan is too hot.
  5. Add the protein (meat, chicken). Spread out in an even layer. Do not touch. Turn heat to medium high. Turn after 3 minutes if in cubes. Turn after 4-5 minutes if whole.
  6. If you are using vegetables, keep heat medium high. If it begins to turn brown, turn the heat down.

How to Blanch
  1. Fill pot half way with water. Bring to boil. Add salt. Make sure to add salt after water has boiled. If you add it before, it will increase the boiling point of water and you will have to wait longer for it to boil.
  2. Add vegetables (e.g. broccoli, asparagus, etc.). Leave vegetables in for 30-60 seconds. Remove, drain. Serve.
  1. This is probably one of the mostly used techniques in cooking. It is the best way to lock in color and flavor. No body wants to eat white chicken, right?
  2. Heat EVOO and butter or just EVOO in a wide pan. Bring to smoking point. Add meat. Let it sit without touching it. Keep the heat high.
  3. Turn after 2-3 minutes. A nice brown color will appear. This will promote the best flavors.
  4. Continue to cook in liquid or in the oven.
Basics of stews
  1. Heat pan and Evoo. Add carrots, celery, and onion and sweat them on med-low heat for 3-5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove vegetables.
  2. Turn heat to high and add protein. Brown. Add sweat vegetables and other vegetables if desired.
  3. Layer flavors with water/wine/stock. Make sure it is enough liquid to cover vegetables/protein. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer for at least 30 minutes so that flavors can marry. If you are using a tough cut of meat, make sure to keep it on the fire for more than 30 minutes.
Basic Flavor Layers for Chicken
  1. Salt, pepper, thyme
  2. salt, pepper, thyme, garlic
  3. salt, lemon pepper
  4. Salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, oregano
  5. Soy sauce, pepper, pineapple juice, brown sugar or honey
Basic Flavor Layers for Beef
  1. Salt, pepper, pepper flakes
  2. Red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic
  3. Salt, pepper
  4. Red wine, salt, pepper, garlic
  5. Worchestershire sauce, pepper, salt
  6. Salt, pepper, pineapple juice, brown sugar
Basic Flavor Layers for Shrimp
  1. Salt, pepper
  2. Salt, pepper
  3. Salt, pepper, garlic, butter
  4. Salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, butter, parsley
Note: Add lemon or lime juice to the pan at the end of cooking time. Do not allow it to boil. If you do, it will turn bitter.

Best Ways to Cook Vegetables
  1. Blanch
  2. Steam
  3. Roast
  4. Grill
Basic Gravy
  1. Heat pan. Add EVOO and butter or just EVOO.
  2. Bring to smoking.
  3. Add protein and sear or saute.
  4. Remove protein.
  5. Bring heat up to high.
  6. Add a few turns around the pan of white wine or red wine. This might cause a flame. Be careful. Turn heat to medium high. With a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add twice as much stock or water. Simmer. Add salt/pepper to taste.
  8. At the end, add a small pat of butter to make it shiny.

Basic Thickening Agents
  1. Flour and water. Add 2 Tbsp of flour and add water until it looks like milk. Make sure to mix well to get rid of all the lumps.
  2. Add to simmering liquids such as gravies and mix.
  3. The same can be applied by using cornstarch and water.
  4. Do not add lemon or lime juice when you are thickening gravies. It will not thicken. Add the citrus when thickening has been completed.


  1. Wish someone had given me these tips about 2 years ago-I learnt cooking the hard way:-(

  2. very good information....i try n follow most of them.