One of the best things that you can do in life is to learn how to cook. That way, you’re self-reliant, you know for a fact what goes into the food you make, and you can impress all of your friends who like take-out meals a tad too much.
However, getting started isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There are a lot of potential hiccups: from not knowing what ingredients to put into the pan first to how to use the tools, techniques and utensils any food enthusiast should know. That’s why some friendly Reddit cooks took it upon themselves to share the best kitchen hacks they know. Scroll down for some delicious nuggets of kitchen advice and upvote the ones that think everyone should know, dear Pandas. When you’re done, we’d love to hear all about your own kitchen and cooking tips and tricks.
Bored Panda got in touch with redditor u/Sunieta25, who started the thread in the first place. Scroll down for our interview with her. Meanwhile, don’t forget to read on for Bored Panda’s second interview with pie artist, the author of ‘Pies Are Awesome,’ and cooking expert Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin. Both of them shared some advice about working in the kitchen that you Pandas might find very useful.
#1A blunt knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. Always keep your knives sharp.
Image credits: ticklemytinypickles
Redditor u/Sunieta25 told us all about the inspiration behind the fun and informative r/AskReddit thread. "A friend of mine has been staying with my husband and I, and he's a good cook. We've been making recipes together but we kept debating on multiple dos and don'ts in the kitchen, so I asked the question to see professional cooks take on the kitchen. To my surprise there was a lot I didn't know," they shared.
They opened up to us about the fact that they love cooking and practicing recipes. "I feel learning new things adds to cooking skills," they said. Their suggestion for everyone is to never wash your chicken. Meanwhile, when cooking, it's best to rememeber that "you can always add but you can never take away."
#2Baking is a perfect example of 'don't tear down walls unless you know why they were built.' If you know the chemistry at play and what each ingredient is doing, you can get creative. Keep in mind that every ingredient does something, so add-ons and substitution can change how everything works together.
Image credits: ArthurBonesly
#3Clean while you're cooking. WHILE.
Image credits: DarkPasta
Personally, the author of the thread feels like there were a lot of great answers shared there. However, one suggestion stood out above all the rest for them. "The best thing is what I've read in the comments section about not refrigerating my tomatoes. My tomatoes have definitely lasted longer," they aid.
They know what it's like to be scared to start cooking at the very beginning. "I remember being afraid of messing things up and running the food and having to waste it. I've learned that there are going to be failures but if you don't try and fail you will never learn".
Food expert Jessica told Bored Panda that just as important as it is to know how to cook, it’s equally vital to keep your kitchen in tip-top condition. If you work in a chaotic environment, you end up making mistakes, some of which might be costlier than just a failed tiramisu or roast dinner.
Meanwhile, an ordered, clean kitchen allows for your skills to truly shine. Or, if you don’t have any skills to boast of yet, a tidy environment is a great place for you to develop them.
#4You follow instructions when baking. You follow your heart when cooking (...but not too much.)
Image credits: Frodo_noooo
#5Contrary to popular belief, it often doesn’t work out great if you add your chopped/minced garlic first to hot oil or butter. It burns so quickly and tastes yuck. I like to brown something else first, like onions, and then add the garlic. The onions are like a burn buffer!
Image credits: thefastasleepside
#6Sometimes when you think something needs more salt, what it really needs is acid — lemon juice, vinegar, etc.
Image credits: Acceptable_Medicine2
Jessica urged all cooks, amateur or professional, to have all of their kitchen tools and ingredients set up before they start cooking. That way, the entire process is far, far smoother.
“Working mis-en-place and having all your tools and ingredients set out, nice and tidy, before you start certainly helps cut down on the chaos later,” she said that cooks should try to look and plan ahead.
#7Soy sauce goes on more than just Asian foods. Try a dash in scrambled eggs or towards the end of your caramelized onions. It is a savory salt flavor that compliments many dishes.
Image credits: -B-H-
#8If your towels or oven mitt get wet (or your hands are wet while using them on something hot), they will NOT protect your hands.
Image credits: nicholasgnames
#9A good kitchen should be equipped with a plentiful supply of clean, dry towels.
Image credits: Ben_zyl
Of course, one thing that puts people off from learning to cook is having to clean up a mountain of dishes later. Nobody’s really a fan of scrubbing endless pots and pans after making a delicious meal for their loved ones.
One way to get around this is to incorporate your cleaning routine into your cooking process. “I absolutely recommend cleaning as you go. It gives you something to do while you wait for things to chill, boil, bake, what-have-you, and it makes your life so much easier in the end,” Jessica explained that you can save a lot of time later.
#10Adding is easy, but removing is hard. People like to argue that you should liberally add butter and seasoning, but tastes differ. It's totally fine to put in less if that's what you fancy.
Image credits: 0x53r3n17y
#11The amount of garlic flavor is dependent on WHEN you add the garlic. Add it early for light flavor, add it late for bold flavor.
Image credits: RazorRamonReigns
#12I recommend choosing an acid based on what you are cooking. Italian? Try some red wine vinegar. Mexican? Try some lime juice. Additionally, if you are working with anything cream based, add acidity literally right at the end or else your sauce/dish will curdle.
Image credits: outoftuneGstring2112
“Having a finished lovely pie/cake/dish, but a kitchen that looks like a tornado hit it depresses me,” Jessica opened up to Bored Panda. “Not everyone is as mess-adverse as I am, so I suppose it depends on your personal tolerance for kitchen chaos.”
However, keeping a tidy kitchen isn’t just about looks. It also trains you to look out for possible safety issues while cooking. “I will say that keeping things tidy makes it a lot easier to spot potential safety issues, like cross-contamination with raw meat or household chemicals,” Jessica explained why it’s important to remember that cooking isn’t just about cooking.
#13If you’re getting annoyed because it’s taking you too long to peel garlic, place an unpeeled garlic clove under the flat side of your kitchen knife and press on it with your hand. The garlic peel will separate easily and your garlic will be crushed.
Image credits: FinanceGuyHere
#14'Always be cleaning' is important to end-of-meal satisfaction. It’s such a drag to look up at the end of a great dinner and see a monstrous cleaning task ahead of you.
Image credits: Djburnunit
#15Massively improve the quality of your proteins (chicken, beef, tofu, anything) with fond. Fond is the dark brown stuff that sticks to your pan when you're cooking. It's not burnt unless its actually black. To get it off the pan and on the food, pour in either an alcohol or acid to dissolve it and get the now-brown liquid to coat your protein.
Different proteins work best with different alcohols. Good rule of thumb — dry white for chicken or any lighter meat. Red for beef. Lemon juice works great for almost everything.
Image credits: maverickmain
Earlier, Bored Panda spoke to Jake Butler from ‘Save the Student,’ about cooking at home. He stressed that homecooked meals will always be cheaper than going out for fast food. However, if we’ve got a craving for some takeout, we can always learn to make some healthier versions of it at home.
“The good news is that you can easily recreate your favorites at home for a fraction of the price. It's much healthier this way too. Google is definitely your friend here as you can find fakeaway recipes from a number of sites,” Jake said that some companies have made their recipes available for everyone, free of charge.
#16For thick and nice sauces, use the water you cook your pasta with.
Image credits: IZiOstra
#17Cinnamon isn’t just for sweet foods. It can be really, really good in savory foods, too.
Image credits: The-one-true-hobbit
#18Olive oil is a condiment and is terrible to fry with.
Use vegetable oil or any other 'neutral' oil, it has a higher flash point and is pretty much flavourless.
And don't be scared of salt & pepper, throw that s**t in there.
Also MSG is good.
Image credits: MeMuzzta
“The good news is that the ingredients for most of these recipes aren't too pricey and you can still hunt for bargains to make the dish cheaper. Buying in bulk is always a winner too when it comes to saving money so it's a great idea to get together with friends and maybe take it in turns to make your favorite fakeaways.”
According to Jake, the secret to a good meal lies in the seasoning. “Salt and pepper won't break the bank, but they can make or break a meal. Don't forget that sugar can take a dish to the next level too.”
#19I am not a chef but I know for a fact that you shouldn't cook something you aren't familiar with if you are having guests.
#20Time is the best and most expensive ingredient.
Image credits: JimBones31
#21a falling knife has no handle
#22Cooking bacon in the oven is exponentially easier to perfect and clean up than on a stove top.
Set the oven to 405º, line a baking sheet with tin foil, and lay your bacon flat on it. Cook it for 13-15 minutes. It's perfect every time, and you can cook a lot more at once this way. Also, the fat hardens on the foil, so you can just throw it away with no mess.
Image credits: apeanutbutterpopcorn
#23wash your hands
Image credits: A_zuma2007
#24MSG doesn’t give you headaches. That myth is based upon one very flawed study a long time ago. Glutamates are found in many foods already (include almost every vertebrate.)
MSG is sold under the name “Accent” and a tiny bit can really bring out that umami taste in all foods.
#25Taste as you cook, and do it at various stages of cooking (while safe, please don't taste raw meat). Not only does it let you know if you have too much or little of something, but it also helps you develop your palette for what different seasonings do.
Image credits: lloydimus87
#26Pressure cookers and pre-made/frozen ingredients are good, but they won't ever be as good as home-cooked, low and slow meals. I still use those of course, but when I get the chance to break out my crock pot and let time work it's magic...oooh boy it's something else entirely
Image credits: Picker-Rick
#27Salt is seasoning. It makes food taste more like itself. Acids, like citrus or vinegar can also do this. If your food tastes flat, or like it is missing something, try some salt or acid. Acid is also critical for balancing very rich fatty foods. The reason Americans love tomato ketchup so much is the fact that it adds acid and salt to their food. Adding a bit of "heat" like a pinch of cayenne can also accentuate a the flavor of a dish. Spices are something else. They bring a new and different flavor to the dish.
In sweets, sugar often takes the place of salt and is usually balanced by acid - see passionfruit, raspberry, citrus, etc. But salt plays an important role in sweets as well - often in unexpected ways. Try putting a pinch of kosher salt into your next batch of whipped cream.
I could keep going but I'll leave it there. If you can master these concepts you will have a big advantage over most home cooks.
#28Not a chef but everyone should know how to cook eggs. hard boiled. omelets, scrambled, sunny side up, cooked on both sides. Once you master the Recruit difficultly of eggs. Throw some mushrooms or tomatoes or whatever you like in an omelet or scrambled eggs. Gordan Ramsey made a video on eggs and after trying what he did and really getting better at it, my family and friends just make me, make them eggs.
Image credits: ThatSmellySmelly
#29If you want crispness on the outsides of your meats, you should pat them dry before seasoning and putting them in oven or over heat.
Image credits: apeanutbutterpopcorn
#30Salt your boiling water.
Image credits: BigWingWangKen
#31When you make risotto, add the rice to the pan and cook it on very low heat until the edges turn slightly translucent before adding any liquid. Your risotto will be much more tender and evenly cooked
Image credits: Capable-March-3315
#32Fry up some onions and enjoy as people tell you how good the food smells.
#33When cooking, write down what you did so you can either replicate or change something for the next time.
#34Mise en place - everything in it's place. have everything cut, seasonings and ingredients measured before you start cooking. this way you can focus on cooking.
Brown meats in small batches, do not over crowd the pan. it will cause meat to sweat and will not brown properly.
Image credits: uberclont
#35Have ingredients prepared before starting to cook.
It seems like quite a Pinterest thing, but having the ingredients cut, weighed, and peeled ahead of time makes cook times faster and makes it easier for you to be in the moment while cooking. Many recipes can be spoiled if you have to stop everything and prepare an ingredient. Also, don't forget to bring your butter and eggs to room temperature and defrosted or anything you need beforehand.
Image credits: nora_morgendorffer
#36Tongs are also oven mitts, juicers, knives, spoons, and extendo-arms. Just make sure you click them at least twice before using them to make sure they are on.
#37If you plan on using juice from limes, oranges or lemons, roll them around pushing on them (not too hard) before cutting them.
Image credits: Journalist_Full
#38Not all fruits and veggies need to be immediately refrigerated. If they aren’t at the grocery store, they’ll probably be fine on your kitchen counter and it’ll help retain the flavors. Especially tomatoes!
#39Get a cast iron pan and get comfortable with it because it will put live you. Properly seasoned those babies can be more nonstick that any other pans out there.
#40When making fried eggs, think of them as poached eggs cooked in oil/butter - your eggs will be soft and smooth. Unless you prefer your eggs crispy on the bottom then have at it!
#41Oven mits can in fact catch on fire
#42If it grows together it goes together. Want a tropical-tasting dish? Find a fish that lives in tropical climates and add tropical fruits. Want something Italian? Roma tomatoes, orgeano, Italian parsley, they all come from the same region. Of course, you can add things from other climates, but its a simple rule to follow.
#43Keep a waste container. As you chop stuff, put waste in the container. When you’re done, toss the waste in the garbage (or save vegetable scraps for stock). No running to the garbage every second and no mixing of waste and your food.
#44If you’re using powdered garlic or onion, let it bloom by adding it to a little bit of water. You’ll use less and get a more robust flavor.
#45You can practice flipping things in a sauté pan by using dry beans first. Start with one bean, put it in a cold dry pan and try swirling it, tossing it, ‘flipping’ it, etc. Add more beans for more practice. This will get your wrist used to sauté techniques while not dropping pancakes on the floor!
#46I'm not a chef, just a person who enjoys cooking, baking, and canning.
When I use a recipe I rank it out of ten in my recipe book. Jot a little note as to why or why not, what to change next time if anything. Sometimes who ate it, and occasion.
Makes it easier when I go back to that book, then I know if I've already tried it and the opinion.
I will pass my recipe books - I have dozens to my nephew. It's my hope that he will enjoy my little notes when I'm no longer here to share the experience with him. I taught him how to vook, and bake.
#47Learn how to hold a knife and cut correctly.
Use acid - it's your friend! Lemon juice, vinegar, microplaned zest, whatever. It brightens up everything.
Season every step of the way and taste as you go. Don't overdue it, obviously, but you want to season every layer and taste.
Keep in mind that acid will then also amplify things like salt - keep everything in balance.
Someone else said it, but it's true - it's easier to add than to take away.
And if you're making something like soup or stock or sauce - if it's something that will reduce down season lightly as you make it, and then when it's finished season at the end to get it where you want it.
If you haven't noticed, a lot of mine are about seasoning. The vast majority of home cooks (and even some restaurant dishes) are under seasoned. Sometimes all you need are salt and pepper, but most people don't use enough - salt especially. It shouldn't taste SALTY, but just shy of it.
#48Not a chef, but from a family of people who should be. Know your oven, where the hot spots and cold spots are.
Also, for a glass loaf pan, drop the temperature by 25F/approximately 4C...?
#49A temperature probe is a really affordable yet excellent tool to have in the kitchen.
Also, once the meat get over about 50°C the speed the temperature goes up will accelerate quick quickly compared to the time it too to reach 50°C
#50Watch Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix. Really enjoyable show and taught me a great deal more about how to cook than any cookbook could. It's all about the effects of the components and how they interact with each other, almost like guiding principles for you to follow.
#51When you clear your cutting board, scrape it with the back side of the knife to preserve the sharpness of the blade.
#52Too much salt in a soup? Add potatoes. Potatoes soak up salt like mad, I swear.
Whole roasted chicken will make two meals, plus create stock. First will be roasted chicken. Second will be chicken soup. Finally, boil bones to make stock.
Don't be afraid of acid, like vinegars, citrus, pickled items. Fermented things as well. Add more jarred olives to your recipes, they will expand flavors.
Red wine is required for the best beef dishes.
#53"I don't know how to cook" I learned at the age of 37 and there are so many cook books that focus on minimal ingredients and that are cheap to by. JUST TRY and if you mess it up, try again before long you'll be a pretty good cook and be confident to try more trickier recipes
#54Whatever you do do NOT put your coconut in the microwave
#55Butter is the god of ingredients and bringing flavors forward
#56Don't be a prisoner to recipes. Learn the fundamental attributes of ingredients and how they interact.
#57When measuring flour, use a scale not a measuring cup. Due to how flour is packed, the same amount can change up to 25% in volume. The same 120gr of flour can take up 1 cup or 4/5 a cup or 1 1/4 cup. Imagine it like having ten pairs of pants. You can roll them up and fit them in a little backpack or you just throw them in a suitcase. Learnt it the hard way baking bread.
#58So many great tips here. Things I would add to the list of tips given my time running restaurants:
Build a pantry of ingredients you can use...this includes dried spices/herbs, different vinegars, maybe a fancy(finishing) salt and regular salt. You won’t use them all every meal, but it’s good to have a bunch of stuff to work with. Think of a good mechanic. They have toolboxes full of various tools for any problem they may come across. This is the same for cooking.
Grab some small bowls...these will be your mise en place bowls. Prep your stuff out, place them in bowls and then use them as you need. There’s a reason you see cooking shows have all of their ingredients in bowls. It’s easier to NOT scramble around trying to chop up some veggies while trying to not burn the onions you put in the pan. Make sense?
Taste. Taste. Taste. Taste. Always taste the food. Somebody mentioned how different garlic tastes depends on when you add it to the process. That is absolutely true about EVERYTHING. Always taste as you add stuff and cook longer.
Don’t buy substitutes. They’re generally all trash. Get the regular butter. Get the regular mayo. Avoid “olive oil added!” For “health reasons”. They’re generally full of more crap and additives than the regular version. “Low fat” or “reduced calories” are the in the same boat. This is a broad stroke comment - for those with medical issues this may not apply. Everybody is different.
Keep trying stuff out. Try the same dish multiple times. Don’t get too hard on yourself. I’ve been doing this for 12 years and STILL cook some crappy meals or come up with dish ideas that just kind of suck. It’s going to happen. It’s not a 100% success rate with good food. You’re going to f**k up dinner a few times. We’ve all done it. We’re going to do it again. It’s a craft. It takes time.
Hope these tips help! Keep cooking. Don’t stop. Make some funky meals. -a chef de cuisine from Chicago
#59Read the recipe before you start cooking.
#60You don't need a lot of ingredients for delicious bread. Just make sure your flour is a tasty one. I use whole grain kamut.
#61To avoid your cutting board from moving around; place a wet paper towel down under the cutting board. The water from the paper towel will increase the friction and will keep your cutting board in its spot.
#62Three or four times the amount of butter and salt is a big part of why your food doesn’t taste like restaurant food.
#63Freezing tofu will cause the water within to freeze and expand, which will allow you to more easily drain the tofu of excess water when thawed, making it much easier to get that nice crispy tofu you enjoy at your favorite Asian restaurant.
#64Flour and fat makes a roux. Roux makes sauces thick.
You want a white country gravy? Put equal amounts oil and flour in a pan. Cook over medium heat while stirring until flour turns a little brown. Pour milk and whisk together. Crack black pepper. Reduce. Done.
You want thick sauce with some chicken or meat? Sear the meat and set aside. Sautee your vegetables in oil or butter. Sprinkle flour on it until it soaks up the oil. Stir it until it browns the flour a little. Pour in broth or milk for a sauce. Put meat back in to finish in the sauce.
Creamed spinach? Add oil to pan. Sprinkle with a little flour and a dash of nutmeg and pepper. Cook couple minutes just to get rawness of flour gone. Add milk and reduce to desired consistency. In separate pan sautee finely minced onion in butter and EVOO. Add garlic until fragrant. Wilt spinach. Mix together when they are both to your liking.
You want gumbo? Add flour and oil to big pot. Stir constantly until it gets dark (about milk chocolate color). Collect the roux. Sautee vegetables. Add roux and broth. Add chicken and sausage.
Seafood gumbo? You cook the roux until peanut butter color instead of super dark. Sautee veg. Add roux and broth. Add crawfish, shrimp, and blue crab.
#65One of the best simple tools to use when preparing food is a big f**k off chopping bored. Plenty of space, plenty of room, it's just so....mwah
#66if you find cooking unbearable, try being less sober while you do it.
#67Do not put oil when boiling your pasta, especially if it is store-bought. The sauce would not adhere to an oiled pasta.
#68Kosher salt, cracked black pepper, olive oil, garlic, lemon, butter.
That's all you need to season anything. Any protein, any roasted veggie, any salad- keep it simple.
Also, a working meat thermometer will never let you down. Take the guesswork out.
#69A long time ago a chef friend told me if there's one word to recommend to everyone, it's "fresh". Use fresh everything where you can ... makes all the difference.
#70If you want a good meal, use good ingredients
#71You don't need fancy food or cooking utensils. If you can cook it, taste good to you or the people you are cooking, that all it matters, not having stuff that Gordon Ramsay or Wolfgang Puck made.
#72Your pan does not need to be on maximum heat.
You have to cook meat to a specific internal temperature to kill bacteria, anything more is just trying it out (generalized).
Lemon zest and garlic with a cream sauce makes anything delicious.
Wash your hands, tools, and area after dealing with raw meats. Watch the water splatter from the sink when washing aswell.
When a recipe calls for you to let something 'sit' or 'rest', do not rush this step. Good things happen to the food in that time.
You are less likely to cut your self with a sharp knife, compared to a dull one.
Sifting flour, when adding it to baking recipes, can improve the results.
Test your yeast before commiting to using it.
When cooking for a group, season lightly, and use hot spices sparringly; they can both be done after its served.
Puree or fine grate veggies such as carrots or zuchinni into sauces, or even peanut butter, to get kids to get some nutrients.
Buy a rice cooker. Uncle Roger said so.
Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.
Wet hand / dry hand while breading or coating food.
Never pry anything out of an electrical appliance. No metal in toasters or microwaves.
Dishwashers have a 'gunk trap' or general area where stuff collects. Clean this. Also check the water outlets as lemon seeds and other things can clog them.
Herbs and spices can be annoying to eat, such as twiggy pieces of rosemary or peppercorns. Put them in a cheese cloth, or emptied out tea bag, drapped in the liquid, to give their flavours but not the textures.
Dont pan fry bacon in the morning with no shirt on.
Buy local as often as you can.
#73Salt and pepper are your best friends.
#74Brine ur dang birds. Like salt, sugar and water makes a basic brine; let it sit in there overnight. Juicy bird guaranteed.
#75Not a chef, but...
If your dish feels like it's missing something and you've already added salt, spices, and some kind of fat, try adding an acid like fruit juice, tomato, cooking wine, or vinegar. That's often the missing flavor that can turn a bland food into a winner.
#76Season as you go. Waiting until the end is too late.
#77Not a chef, but a few things that make it easier in the kitchen and makes cooking less stressful for me:
- Prepare ingredients before cooking them. This means get spices, seasonings and condiments ready to hand before you cook anything, and chop up everything you need. Some recipes can be more forgiving and you can chop stuff while something's cooking, but other dishes have a quick cooking time, and it can get chaotic if you're trying to find a certain spice while your food is getting burnt.
- Clean as you go. One thing I hate about cooking is cleaning up after, but I try to clean every item that I use as soon as I'm done with it, so that there isn't a mountain of cleaning up afterwards. I've lived with people who do not do this, and they put off the washing up because there is so much to do.
- Learn from mistakes. I have a few staple recipes that I can do pretty well, but I have f**ked up cooking on many occasions (even the stuff I usually get right), and have made stuff that I would throw away if I didn't care about food waste and wasn't hungry. That being said, I try to figure out where I went wrong while I'm eating, and either look for a different recipe, or retrace my steps on the method to see what I could do better.
#78Probably a sin, but nothing cuts tomatoes like a bread knife or any sharp serrated knife.
#79If the recipe has vanilla in it, use more than specified.
#80One more: cooking bacon in the oven is exponentially easier to perfect and clean up. Oven 405, line baking sheet with tin foil and lay bacon flat. Cook 13-15 minutes. perfect every time, then when fat on foil starts to harden you can just throw it away with no mess. You can also cook a lot more at once this way
#81Watch your cooking temperature! You don't need everything blazing hot. In fact, with high heat you'll usually end up burning/drying out your meal. Medium heat is your friend. It gives you more time to get it right.
A simple example is a good grilled cheese sandwich. If you make it in a skillet on medium heat, it might take a while. BUT you'll have enough time to make sure the toast is perfectly crispy without getting burned.
#82Lots of great tips here but one I don't see mentioned enough: plan a mental timeline for even your smallest meals. If you make the greatest meal of all time but it gets cold while you set the table and gather up family members then you'll be disappointed. Get everything done in the right order so your food is at its best when you eat it.
#83Carbon steel skillets (or cast iron) are the way to go. Season them and the treat them well and they will last a lifetime. Never again use a teflon coated aluminum pan.
Matfer Bourgeat is the best. De Buyer also good.