Culinary School Grads Are Sharing The Cooking Tips They Wish They'd Learned Sooner
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1. Substitute soy sauce, fish sauce, or tamari for salt — and you'll get deeper umami flavor.
2. The more you diversify your cuisine knowledge, the better a cook you will become.
"There's usually more than one way to do something well, and no one cuisine or continent has all the answers. My culinary school was very Eurocentric in its approach. But in the real world, people cook differently — with different techniques from one place to the next — and all create amazing food. I've learned from many YouTube cooking channels that a lot of the old cooking or baking wisdom from school doesn't apply. Or that it may be OK, but there are newer and better ways of doing things."
3. Place cherry or grape tomatoes in between two plastic lids to quickly cut them all in half.
4. Avoid buying pre-marinated meats in grocery stores and butcher shops.
"They’re usually older, less fresh cuts of meat that are closer to their expiration date. They're being ‘rescued’ with a marinade to cover that."
5. You'll become a better (and faster) cook if you stay clean and organized along the way.
6. Never throw away bacon fat.
"Filter cooled (but still liquid) bacon fat through a paper towel into a coffee mug or heat-resistant container. It stays fresh uncovered in the fridge for months. Use it anywhere you'd use butter, lard, or oil. It makes great gravy and is also perfect for sautéing veggies, especially leafy stuff like kale and spinach. Just remember that bacon fat is salty, so you'll want to adjust your recipe for that."
7. Know that electric stoves can get much hotter than gas.
8. Always finish gravy with a splash of cider vinegar.
"Chicken gravy, turkey gravy. The acid rounds everything out, and it's a game changer."
9. Salt in the hand, not in the pan.
10. When prepping or cooking a recipe, plan your next two tasks as you're performing your current task.
"That way, you always know what you're moving toward."
11. Dry any ingredients that trap moisture — like meat, fish, and vegetables — with a paper towel before cooking them.
12. Pay attention to all your senses.
"Sautéing things like onions sounds different at different stages. It's more of a hiss at the start as steam escapes, then it settles down to a crackle. Similarly, everything you cook will have subtle changes in the way they smell as they cook. There have been many times when I have been multitasking and my nose has alerted me to check on whatever I have in the oven."
13. A few drops of hot sauce can take vinaigrettes to the next level.
14. Don't be afraid to use premade seasoning powders.
"Culinary school never teaches you to use premade seasoning powders (like Knorr stock powder, Old Bay, Tony Chachere's, etc.) or MSG. They're essential for certain food businesses. In my culinary school, MSG was never talked about, and I had to learn how to use it myself when I opened my business."
15. Always "cook one off" — and taste your product or prep mixture before you dive into making the rest of it.
16. Memorize the three-step method for perfectly crispy fish skin.
"1) Scrape the skin with the back of a knife to dry it out. 2) Put it in a hot pan with fat skin down and press it until it stops trying to curl. 3) Put the whole pan in the oven and roast until done. Cook it the whole way skin down. Perfectly crispy skin every time."
17. Know when to use kitchen shears instead of a knife.
18. Caramelize onions in butter (rather than olive oil) and a bit of sugar.
"Butter is especially great for browning. If you’re going a bit beyond just browning, like with fried or caramelized onions, use butter and sugar. It makes a world of difference."
19. If you do it enough times, you can make a great sourdough loaf by feel.
20. If you're cooking a meal with lots of components, use appliances to keep things at temperature — *without* taking up real estate on stove burners.
21. Recipes are a road map. You don't have to follow them exactly.
"Remember that it's OK to deviate. (Unless you are baking! In which case, follow the recipe exactly. 😂)"
What's a useful cooking tip or trick you wish you'd learned sooner? Share in the comments!
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.