I spent my twenties working in restaurants alongside incredibly talented chefs. Most of what I learned in the kitchen comes from my own observations and asking lots of questions. Cooking doesn’t have to be a daunting task; it’s extremely enjoyable to create something satisfying for yourself and for others! These are the top 3 tips that I’ve learned from my mentors.
1. ALWAYS Taste Test!
There is no point in cooking if you aren’t taste testing along the way! You should constantly be tasting to make sure that what you’re preparing is actually good and seasoned correctly! You can catch any issues early on if you taste each component.
2. Don't Be Afraid of Salt!
Salt brings out the flavor of the ingredients. Not enough salt and your food will come out bland, too much salt and your food will taste like salt instead of the ingredients. When I first started working in restaurants, I was blown away at the amount of salt used for seasoning meat, veggies and sauces and shocked that it never tasted too salty. This is why people think restaurant food is so much better than home-cooked food.
You should be salting each component of a dish before or during cooking, not afterward at the dinner table. This is also why taste testing along the way is important!
Tips for salting:
- If you over salt, you can add fat, acid, or other ingredients from the dish to dilute it, depending on what you’re making. If you’re taste-testing though, this will prevent over-salting. You can always add more!
- Always use kosher salt or sea salt, never table salt!
- Keep salt in a bowl, not in a salt shaker. Feeling the salt in your hands will give you a better idea of how much you’re using.
- Always use plenty of salt for your pasta water! This will help season your dish.
3. Don't Overcomplicate It!
The reason I love Italian food so much is because it’s simple and showcases just a few quality ingredients. You don’t need 47 ingredients to make a great dish. The simpler, the better. Cacio e pepe, Carbonara, Aglio e Olio, Amatriciana – all of these dishes use 4-5 ingredients max. Keeping it simple will not only prevent you from getting overwhelmed but it will also taste better.