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You don’t have to be a culinary genius to whip up meals that aren’t just edible but are, in fact, delicious. You simply need to master a few tried and true cooking skills.
If you’re getting to the point where Ramen, Hot Pockets and take-out no longer sound appealing, it’s time to step up and dedicate a few hours of your time to mastering some legitimate cooking skills.
Must-Know Cooking Skills
Cooking doesn’t have to be difficult, and for those who have taken the time to learn a few tricks of the trade, it’s not. If you want to get to the point where being in the kitchen is actually enjoyable, read on for the 7 cooking skills to master in 2020.
Making Pan Sauces
Chicken cacciatore, steak with creamy mushroom sauce, carne asada with chimichurri … For many, these are meals reserved for restaurant visits, but for you, they can be quick and easy recipes you whip up to impress guests.
Thrillist suggests mastering at least three pan sauces to bring your meals to the next level. The great thing about pan sauces (other than that they’re delicious) is that you can make the most from ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantry.
White wine, herbs, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon, and butter are all common ingredients found in these sauces.
Learning How to Handle a Knife
Sure, you can buy premade sauces, precut veggies, and pre-cut meats, but if you do, you’re not really cooking. Learn how to hold a knife in such a way that won’t result in a lost appendage or two. Then, begin chopping.
You’ll be slow at first, but after dicing a couple of onions, some broccoli and carrots, you’ll be on par with the pros.
Do Pasta Right
You think you know how to cook noodles, but chances are, you don’t. If you want your pasta to taste like your favorite dish from your favorite restaurant, you need four ingredients: salt, butter, pasta water, and finesse.
First and foremost, your pasta water should be as salty as the ocean. You might bleh at using such an obscene amount of salt but don’t, as excess salt is what flavors your noodles.
Once your noodles are done cooking, save the water. All the starches that fell off the noodles into the water will make your sauce naturally creamier, and it’ll help the sauce bind to the pasta.
If your sauce’s level of creaminess still isn’t up to your satisfaction after adding some pasta water to it, throw in some butter. Extra butter never made anything worse.
Salt Your Food
Salt gets a bad rap but the truth is, salt is key for locking in flavor. Properly “season” your food throughout the entire cooking process, not just the end. This is especially important for big chunks of meat you hope to develop that flavorful golden crust you so love.
And a few more cooking skills…
Thicken Your Sauces
The ideal consistency for sauces is “nappant,” which means “coating.” Ideally, your sauce should coat your food. If your sauce is too runny, it likely won’t have a lot of flavor.
Fortunately, you can undo the damage by using one of two simple methods:
1) using a cornstarch slurry
For method number one, mix equal parts cornstarch with cold water. You’ll want approximately one tablespoon of slurry per cup you wish to reduce. Slowly drizzle the slurry into your sauce and use a whisk it until it bubbles. This is the point at which the thickening agents become activated.
If a majority of your sauce is comprised of animal stock, simply let your sauce simmer for longer. Over time, the natural gelatin in the stock will cause the sauce to thicken.
Make Chicken Cutlets
Chicken cutlets are basically healthy chicken tenders for adults, and they’re super easy to make. To accomplish this quick and easy meal, you’ll need to do four things:
1) Season your chicken
2) Coat it in flower
3) Dip it in eggs
4) Dip it in breadcrumbs.
Pop the cutlets in the oven or fry them on the stove for crispy yet tender cutlets.
One more cooking skill you should know…
Steaming vegetables is easy but, let’s face it, the finished product is tasteless. For flavorful vegetables that still have nutritious value, roast them in the oven. Coat your chosen veggies in olive oil, add some seasoning, throw them on a sheet pan, and cook for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees.
By mastering just these seven cooking skills this year, you can make meals you’ll actually want to eat. These skills are easy to acquire and will stick with your forever.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.