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13 Borderline Genius Cooking Tips From Ina Garten

Always use good vanilla.

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Ina Garten, the queen of simple cooking, author of 10 cookbooks, and TV personality has graced us with some ~genius~ cooking tips over the years.

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Like how to host a great dinner party, how to make the perfect roast chicken, and how to actually enjoy cooking.

Here are 13 of her most helpful tips to take your cooking to the next level:

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1. Taste with your eyes closed.

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In her sixth cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Ina asks, "Can you taste the lemon in the lemon capellini with your eyes closed?" If you can't taste it, give the sauce a tweak, close your eyes, and try it again — you'll be surprised by how much better you can taste things.

2. Salt everything, including your oatmeal...

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Salt is an important ingredient in every recipe, including desserts. In an interview with Bon Appétit, Ina stresses the importance of salting even your oatmeal and says, "Most people don’t do their oatmeal with salt, and I think that without it, it just tastes like wallpaper paste."

3. And salt your chicken as soon as you get home, too.

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Even if you're not cooking it right away, go ahead and salt your chicken and rewrap it. "That way the salt really gets into the meat and gives it great flavor when cooked," Ina explains in her cookbook Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

4. Rest your meat and fish before carving them.

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No matter what kind of protein you cook, always let it rest for at least five minutes before slicing it. "This resting period allows the juices to be absorbed back into the meat, which makes it so much more flavorful than if you'd served it right off the grill or right out of the oven," Ina says in her cookbook Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

5. Make chocolate even better by adding coffee to amp up the flavor.

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In an interview with Epicurious, Ina shares, "If you add coffee to chocolate, it gives it a depth of flavor." She goes on to explain, "You know the chocolate tastes better, but you don't really know that they're there." Get her recipe for chocolate ganache cupcakes here and try it for yourself!

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6. Completely read your recipe before you begin cooking.

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This will prevent any surprises down the road and make sure you're completely prepared for success. In her book, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof she explains, "You don't want to discover the beans need to soak overnight when guests are due to arrive in an hour."

7. To make baking easier, combine all of your wet ingredients in one bowl and all of your dry in another the night before.

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That way, when it comes time to bake, all you'll need to do is combine the two mixes. Ina even suggests completely mixing muffin batter the night before and baking it in the morning for fresh muffins anytime. For more make-ahead tips like this, check out her book Make It Ahead.

8. Make risotto in the oven instead of the standard stovetop method.

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In Ina's seventh cookbook, How Easy Is That?, she suggests cooking risotto in a dutch oven and baking it for 45 minutes rather than the traditional labor intensive stovetop method ― no stirring necessary!

9. Instead of buying grated parmesan, grate it yourself in a food processor for the best flavor.

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Simply dice it up and throw it in a food processor. The flavor will be stronger and you won't have to bother with a grater. Watch the full video here and learn how to turn it into killer parmesan chicken.

10. Follow your recipe precisely and always measure your ingredients — even if you don't think you need to.

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Why go to all the trouble of making a recipe if you're not taking the proper steps to ensure success? "Unless you’re Julia Child or an Iron Chef, measure all your ingredients," shares Ina in her cookbook Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.

11. Use a knife to smash your guacamole.

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The same one you used to slice open the avocado. This gives your guacamole a nice chunky texture and saves you on extra dishes to clean. Get the recipe here.

12. To make the crispiest bacon, cook it in the oven.

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Simply lay it out on a parchment-lined sheet tray and pop it in a 400° F oven for 15-20 minutes ― no frying pan necessary. Get the recipe here.

13. And last but not least, always keep it simple.

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In an interview with Bon Appétit, Ina talks about the importance of learning how to cook simple food and says, "I would say pick five recipes that are really simple — like roast chicken, macaroni and cheese, grilled fish — then do variations on those five recipes."

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