Tips for the home cook learned from Culinary school

  1. Calibration of kitchen scale IMG_E0830So in this instance you will put the empty ramekin on the scale, and since we’re using ounces, we will hit the unit button until it reads oz in the bottom right corner of the screen…then tap the button to the right of that to zero it out, put your ingredients in the ramekin and you will get your true ounces of ingredients for your recipe. Old school method might be like long math: ok a pound of carrots and I need 4 ounces, so there’s 16 ounces in a pound, so I’d guestimate I need 1/4 of this pound of carrots (if carrots were in a one pound bag).   Lots of options for your own kitchen scale.  
  2. Calibration of oven 
  3. Cutting Board – covered below
  4. IMG_0396 Remember to make it sturdy by placing a towel or mat underneath. Another great tip, use cling wrap on surface for poultry or raw meats. I used it the other day to dry my chicken wings out, I had this set-up then placed wrap down then paper towels on top of that then placed my chicken wings on top to dry and salt, easy clean up and ready to use.
  5. Holding Knife – covered below – please be careful, I’ve already about chopped two fingers off so far and class is only half-way over.  What to do with the left hand? Use the claw method to hold product. (to be continued since it’s so important)
  6. Sanitation  – Probably one of the most important considerations when cooking is sanitation. For school we use a PH balance kit to measure bleach to water ratio so not too strong and not too weak. If you can smell the bleach, it’s too strong. The importance of sanitation ultimately is to avoid food poisoning, so keep in mind the cross-contamination possibilities.                                                                                         
  7. Knife Cuts – Oh my could I spend hours on this topic. They’re probably 100 different knife cuts but I will share with you some of the most popular and trust me, after weeks and weeks, you will still have to keep practicing not just for precision but also for speed. Ultimately, the purpose of getting your cuts even is for even cooking. Obviously, a big chunk of potato, for example, is going to need longer to cook than a small dice of potato.
  8. Kitchen Scale – I touched on this above 
  9. Terminology – Again I could spend hours teaching you all the terminology used in a professional setting, but let’s start with two of the most important: YES CHEF and HEARD. 
  10. Mise en Place – “Everything in it’s place” My teachers say I have awesome MEP (for short) – preparations are all done so you’re ready to cook. All cuts are done, utensils out or easily accessible, everything is neatly placed for cooking order, any solids or liquids are measured, proteins and/or vegetables are washed, dried, cut, thawed, whatever needs to be done to get going. Please send questions or comments on comment page if any of you don’t understand. Here’s some examples. One especially you’ll use multiple times maybe daily is mirepoix (a mix of onion, carrots and celery); often used in broth, stock and sauces. 
This mise en place was set up for my cod en papillote: I’ve got my vegetables and even garnishes cut and separated, cod defrosted and wrapped in saran wrap as to not contaminate cutting board, speaking of which, cutting board as described in tips is steady on a towel for chopping. In my ramekins, I have my spices and oils and liquids measured out. Notice I even have my thermometer ready to make sure the fish is cooked to proper temperature, my papillote (paper) cut into heart shapes ready to enfold ingredients. My pan and final serving platter is ready as well.

This is also a mise en place; however, based on above, maybe you can spot some mistakes. My broth is ready, and measured. The mirepoix is cut and measured. However, I can tell the canned items aren’t opened and placed in containers, the oil is not measured, the basil is not measured. If anyone hasn’t guessed, this is the beginnings of minestrone soup.


Old School vs Culinary Arts School

Are you ready to chop?

Slice and Dice is not just grabbing a knife and cutting board. Safety is key. One thing I learned is to put a kitchen towel or a non-slip mat under the cutting board so it doesn’t move when slicing, dicing, cutting or chopping. The other important factor is how you’re holding your knife. All these years, I learned I had been holding it wrong. Don’t hold it like a baseball bat, golf club or the steering wheel. Let your thumb hold the end of the blade and keep the other four fingers on the handle as in the picture far from the blade of the knife.