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12 Clever Cooking Tips I Learned From The "Chopped" Judges

This post does not contain raw red onions.

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Everybody knows that the judges on Chopped have some serious knowledge (and opinions) when it comes to food.

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And rightfully so, since most of them are actual chefs with years of restaurant experience.

So here are 12 of their most genius tips that'll have you cooking like a Chopped champion:


1. Alex Guarnaschelli uses up her extra fresh herbs by steeping them in honey...

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Simply heat some honey (preferably a neutral-flavored one) until it's melted and bubbling, then add whatever herbs you have on hand. Let them steep for a few days and you'll have a flavored honey perfect for serving with cheese. See how to do it here.

2. And masks the harsh flavor of uncooked wine with a bit of butter or olive oil.

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If you've ever cooked with wine, you know that it can sometimes taste a bit harsh. This is because wine takes a long time to cook down and mellow out. To combat an uncooked flavor, simply add a few pats of butter or a glug of olive oil. According to Guarnaschelli, "the richness helps balance the taste of the wine." Check out even more of her tips for cooking with wine here.

3. Aarón Sánchez softens up dry tortillas by heating them on a skillet with a squirt of equal parts water and oil...

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This makes them pliable enough to fold in half without ripping and softens them up a bit.

4. And only uses white onions to garnish his tacos with a more mild flavor (because yellow onions are "too aggressive").

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This will give you that sharp onion flavor without being harsh or overwhelming. Check out even more of his tips for making perfect tacos here.


5. Amanda Freitag seasons her chicken "from the inside-out" by brining it...

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A brine is a simple solution that helps chicken stay moist and seasons it from the inside-out. Freitag uses a mixture of salt, sugar, water, and lemon juice to brine her bird and recommends brining it for at least three hours. Learn even more about brining here.

6. And cooks it on the stovetop before finishing it in the oven to give it a nice, dark color (without becoming too dark).

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Freitag cooks her chicken on the stovetop until it's golden brown, then transfers it to the oven. This makes sure that the meat cooks evenly and the skin doesn't brown too quickly. Check out even more of her tips for perfectly cooking chicken here.

7. Geoffrey Zakarian swears by cooking risotto with hot stock to keep it nice and starchy, or creamy...

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Hot stock helps bind everything together and keeps the rice nice and creamy, while cold stock would bring down the temperature too much and mess up the cooking process. Check out nine more of his risotto cooking tips here.

8. And doesn't season his burger meat before cooking it, to prevent it from drying out.

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Instead, season the meat during and after cooking. He also strongly discourages adding any mix-ins to the beef (like bacon) because, "those are for meatballs." Check out even more of his burger cooking tips here.


9. Marcus Samuelsson adds beer and coffee to his chili to give it a rich, deep flavor...

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The intense flavors of coffee and beer give it a deep flavor and hearty body. Get his recipe for dark roast beer chili here.

11. Scott Conant swears by adding a splash of pasta water to his tomato sauce right at the end to bring it all together...

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Not only will the starch help bind everything together, but the salt from the pasta water will season it. “Thanks to the addition of the pasta water, it’s salted well but not too much; it’s more like broth," Conant explains.

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