1. Food talks, so listen to it.
Different foods make different sounds as they cook, and you can tell a lot about what it needs by the sound.
2. To test if your pasta is ready, try throwing a noodle against the wall or biting into a noodle and look at its center.
To check if your pasta is ready, throw one noodle against the wall. If it sticks, then the pasta's ready.
My mother told me that after 10 minutes you had to try a bite of a noodle, and if you can see a little white dot in the middle, then your pasta is al dente.
3. Follow the recipe...the first time you make it.
The next time, you can amend it and make it more to your tastes. That’s how every family recipe came to be for us.
4. But don’t be afraid to go off recipe eventually!
This goes more for cooking than baking because it’s less technical, but once you’ve developed a good sense of taste and decent culinary skill, you don’t have to adhere to recipes 100%. Cooking is all about being creative, and in my family, we tend to only loosely follow recipes. We’ve made some very delicious meals because of it.
6. If you want a pot to boil, put the lid on it.
I can’t believe how many adults I have seen not do this.
7. When making biscuits, touch the dough as little as possible.
It sounds weird, but the secret to good biscuits is really making sure you do not overwork the dough and make it hard. My mother learned that the hard way when she was young and made sure her kids didn't do the same!
8. When making cornbread, put oil in an iron skillet and heat it up in the oven BEFORE pouring the batter in.
It'll make the cornbread oh so crispy.
9. When making a fruit pie, pour the sugar over the fruit filling instead of mixing it in.
My grandmother was famous for her pies, and she taught me how to make fruit pies. It changed my life. What you DON'T want to do is try to mix the fruit with the filling sugar concoction. It gets super messy and is generally kinda difficult to coat that much fruit. What you want to do is put a layer of fruit on the bottom of your pie crust, then do the sugar concoction, then another layer of fruit, and then the rest of the sugar. It evenly coats the fruit without the hassle of trying to do it beforehand.
10. Don't overcrowd your pans.
Crowding a frying pan causes the temperature to drop quickly, which won't give you a good sear on meats. And overcrowding a sheet pan or baking dish can lead to soggy vegetables instead of roasted beauties. Cook in two pans or in batches if you have more food than the pan can handle!
11. Treat pepper like a spice, not like salt.
Pepper is a spice and should be treated like other herbs and spices when you use it. It isn’t a neutral flavor enhancer like salt.
12. When making cornbread, try adding a spoonful of mayo or sour cream to the mix.
Add a spoonful of mayo and a spoonful of sour cream to your cornbread mix. This will make the best cornbread you have ever eaten.
13. When making banana bread, roast the bananas first.
Roast your ripe bananas (or even over-ripen) on a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven on 300ºF for 15–20 mins before using in banana bread, muffins, or cake. It makes the bread delicious and much more flavorful.
14. Keep cookies soft by storing them with a slice of bread.
Have a jar of fresh cookies you want to keep soft? Throw a slice or two of bread in with them! The moisture from the bread keeps the cookies soft enough for transport, and you won't break a tooth on grandma's homemade cookies!
15. When making meatballs, add a panade to make them tender and moist.
Soak a slice of white bread in just enough milk to completely coat it, and wait until the bread basically absorbs it all and forms a mushy paste called a panade. Then add it to the raw ground beef, egg, Parmesan cheese, etc.
16. Microwave limes and lemons for a few seconds before cutting and squeezing them.
It'll get more juice out of them.
17. Remember you can always add, but you CANNOT take away.
This especially goes for salt and milk in mashed potatoes. Start slow and taste along the way.
18. Slap your cookies to make them extra chewy and soft.
Slap them gently with a spatula just when taking out of the oven. I can't believe I'm sharing this secret.
19. Don't be afraid to add more spices if the recipe is turning out bland.
My mom always taught me to add more spices than I think I need. It will add more flavor and depth.
20. Use the egg's shell to separate the yolk from the whites.
I just crack the egg over a bowl, then pass the yolk back and forth between the shell halves until all the whites have fallen into the bowl and just the yolk is left. It's so easy. I watch a lot of Food Network, and I don't think I've seen anyone do it this way. They all put the yolk in their hand and let the whites fall, which is so gross to me.
21. Bake bacon and sausage with a little bit of water in the tray.
Bake at 350ºF with water to render out the fat gently. It makes it tender inside but still crispy outside.
I put a little water in a tray for sausages, too, and pop them in the oven. That way, they don’t split and get a nice, even color.
22. Boil your starches in salted water.
Whether for rice, potatoes, or pasta. Just go easy on the salty rice water!
24. And when measuring molasses, spray your cup with nonstick spray so it doesn't stick and throw off your measurements.
25. Measure peanut butter in a liquid measuring cup with water to make cleanup easy.
If you need a cup of peanut butter, fill a large liquid measuring cup with one cup of water and add peanut butter until the water hits the 2-cup line. You can add more or take it out. Then, just use your spoon to plop it into your batter. Dump the water, and cleanup is so much easier.
26. To add more flavor to a white sauce, add mustard.
Add a heaped teaspoon of whole-grain mustard when you are cooking the flour and butter.
27. To add more flavor to to something chocolaty, add some coffee.
Mix a teaspoon of whatever coffee you have with a bit of milk until the coffee dissolves, and add it to whatever you are baking before adding the flour.
30. Use chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips in your cookies.
They spread and melt better into the cookie.
31. When in doubt, season any meat with sazon or adobo.
I've tried seasoning meat without it before and tried using other seasonings, and I don't know if it's just because it's what I grew up with, but meat doesn't taste as flavorful without sazon or adobo.