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I've been putting together this list for some time, and I think it's time to share it. I asked myself the question "if you could go back in time to when you first learned how to cook, what advice would you give yourself," which is almost the same question as "what are the top things you learned in the course of learning how to cook".

Here's my top picks:

  1. Learning to use a knife will save you from needing most kitchen gadgets.

  2. Only use real knives and keep them sharp.

  3. Trust your eye for proportions.

  4. Get a curved peeling knife.

  5. Learn to dice an onion: slice off top and bottom, roll onion from slice to slice against knife one thick leaf deep, pull off.  Cut in half.  Pin down half onion, round side up with fingernails while cutting into the top along the plane of the cutting board 7/8ths of the way through at dice intervals.  Make downward dice-interval cuts 7/8 of the way from the top towards the bottom.  Then cut off dice intervals from the onion, using the back of your knuckle as a guide.  When you reach that last 1/8 of the onion, tip it over and dice it separately.

  6. Never peel garlic: smack a clove with the flat of the blade and pull it out of its shell.

  7. If you slice your (peeled) garlic lengthwise and tear out the green plant embryo, it cuts down on the garlic burn without harming the garlic flavour.

  8. Never use margarine.  Ever.

  9. Bread is hard flour, water, salt, and yeast, one rise and one turn before slashing.  When you bake it, put it in a hot oven, toss 1/2 a cup of water on the bottom, and slam it shut.  1/2 hour is almost always perfect.  It's that simple.

  10. Use a food processor with a steel knife to mix butter into flour for pastry.

  11. The flavour of really good olive oil is wasted on anything but salads.  Buy good, cheap, extra virgin for everything else.

  12. For the perfect 7 minute egg: Put eggs in room-temperature water, bring to a boil and set aside with a tight lid for 20 minutes.

  13. Use farm eggs.

  14. Traditionally cured meat is worth twice as much as meat-cured-in-plastic both in quality and quantity.

  15. Wash your rice.  3 times is enough.

  16. Learn how butter, flour, and eggs are the basis of dozens of standard dishes.

  17. Make mirepois and use it.

  18. One massive granite mortar and pestle will last a lifetime, and takes the place of nearly all the gadgets that aren't already obsoletized by knowing how to use a knife.

  19. Always make curries from fresh spices.  Grinding is optional.

  20. Don't underestimate the value of salt and pepper.

  21. Get a pressure cooker/canner and learn how and when to use it.

  22. Don't use non-stick-anything.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2013 09:05 pm (UTC)
Was wondering about the last one. I was about to replace ours after several years. Cast iron instead ?
Apr. 23rd, 2013 09:45 am (UTC)
I use cast iron for frying and browning, enamelled cast iron for most everything else. But I also have a couple of stainless steel pots with copper bottoms that can take a good scrubbing; mostly I use those for boiling and heating up leftovers.

Ah, which reminds me of one I left off: Use copper wool scrubbers. Copper is softer than glass, so it's safe on enamelled surfaces, like enamelled pots and stove surfaces.
Apr. 23rd, 2013 10:47 am (UTC)
Great stuff. I wish I could take it on board...
Apr. 23rd, 2013 10:57 am (UTC)
It is a little heavy on meat and eggs, yes. But I'm serious about knives.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )