There are thousands of rules barked at young aspiring restaurant chefs by gnarled old head chefs over the life of their apprenticeships. Here are 15 valuable rules for the home cook – and all delivered without the swearing, brandished hot palette knife, and raised hand of a traditional 20th century kitchen.
1 Time is your most valuable ally – preserve it.
Whether cooking dinner for the kids, friends or a restaurant full of customers, the chef’s mantra is always to try and maximise your time. They do this through making lists, well-planned preparation and clever cooking so plan, shop and do a prep list of what you need to buy and what tasks need to be done.
2 Organise your pantry and your freezer
Have things in neat little boxes so you can find them. Date and name everything you put into your freezer, pantry or fridge. Be a pantry nerd and you’ll save not only many hours but also many dollars.
3 A cup is not always a cup
Measure out by weight rather than by volume as this will minimise your margin of error when trying to recreate a recipe. A cup can be a very random amount depending on how closely packed the ingredient is or whether the cup or other measuring aid is marginally over or under filled.
4 Waste nothing
Don’t throw anything away. Recently I’ve eaten bresaola cured in the used grinds of the restaurant’s coffee machine, sushi made of the frilly edge of a flounder and waffles made from the wings of skate. Waste is lost dollars. So use trimmings, heads and scraps for stocks, soups, bisques and flavoured oils.
5 Don’t leave flavour in the pan
Not all seasoning will stay on what you are cooking but will stick to the pan. Scrub this flavour back into your sauce by deglazing your pan with a splash of booze, stock, fruit, vegetable juice or even water.
6 Cook and buy what you need
Leftovers that never get eaten are waste, too. So work out what you’ll need and only cook what will be eaten unless you are batch cooking a dish for a number of meals.
7 Strong foundations
Foundations come from books, teachers, repetition and knowledge but they also come from building a dish properly whether from using a good stock or starting your dish with a traditional French mirepoix or Italian soffrito of onion, carrot, and maybe celery or fennel. As with browning meat, take the mix of diced veg to a deep golden place for the best flavour – unless the recipe calls for delicacy and subtleness.
8 Love your oven
Remember that an unwatched pan in the oven is far less likely to burn than an unwatched pan on the stove. The oven is gentler too so even if things do catch (and assuming they don’t go too far)you’ll be pulling out a pan with loads of toasty bits to stir back in rather than a charred mess. Full article at here.