Becoming a Better Cook

One of the things I like best about working at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School is the variety of items that make up my “job description.”  Among many others, one of the things I am responsible for is maintaining our Facebook page.  I know you’ll probably feels sorry for me when I tell you that that means I spend part of my day on Facebook looking at recipes, reading articles about cooking, sharing photos of food, responding to comments from our followers, commenting on other FB pages, spending time on Pinterest, posting new products that come into the shop, etc.

Yesterday, while I was enjoying my lunch I was also hanging out on Facebook where I found a great article from epicurious entitled 57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now.  I skimmed through the article and then sent the link to my personal email so that I could read it more thoroughly later.  And that’s just what I did.

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There are so many good tips – some that I’ve shared in my classes and on the blog.  I found that, as a matter of course when I am cooking, I do all but 5 of the things the article recommends.

So, what are the 5?  And why don’t I do them?

  • 5. Four words to live by: chicken thigh family pack.
    I must confess that although I know that cooking with chicken thighs rather than breasts yields a ton of flavor and, because they contain more fat, they have a tendency to dry out less I simply do not care for the taste of chicken thighs.This is something I’ve tried to “get over.”  In fact, about once a year I like to try all the things I think I don’t like to see if my tastes have changed and sometimes I find – for some things – that they have.  For example, in the last several years I’ve started eating chicken livers, Brussels sprouts and Castelvetrano olives.  It used to be that I didn’t like ANY olives, but I am coming around.

 

  • 7. Join a CSA.
    I am so incredibly fortunate to have a husband who loves to garden.  So by the time August rolls around I am usually up to my eyeballs in all the fresh produce I can use (a good problem to have)!  I have absolutely nothing against CSA’s and sometimes I consider joining just to try things that Jeff doesn’t grow; but over the years he’s really expanded his garden and there isn’t a lot that falls into that category!

 

  • 19. Save the schmaltz.
    I have never saved chicken fat.  Not for any reason in particular, just because I haven’t done it.  But I do save bacon fat from time to time.

 

  • 35. Don’t toast your toast. Fry it.
    If I am eating toast – which isn’t a frequent thing on my plate – then it does go in the toaster.  I find the toaster less messy and I can skip the butter or oil and use those calories for chocolate!  I have, however, been known to “fry” a muffin from time to time.  Muffins are not something we have in the house often (although many years ago I went through a season of insomnia and was known to bake muffins VERY early on Saturday mornings.  Fortunately, I sleep like a baby again!) but when there are muffins here I like to cut them in half, slather them with a “healthy” amount of butter and put them buttered-side down in a hot skillet until they turn golden and crisp. Mmm mmm mmm!

 

  • 53. Air-dry your chickens.
    To date, I have not air-dried my chickens – I also don’t count them before they’re hatched.  But I will definitely be giving it a try to see if it really does produce crackly, crunch, golden-brown skin!

And what are my 5 favorite tips from the article?  That’s going to be difficult to answer because (1) there are many good tips and (2) it kind of depends on what you’re making….

  • 1. Buy an instant-read digital meat thermometer.
    If I have to guess when a piece of meat or fish is done, I usually over cook them.  Using an instant-read thermometer has DEFINITELY improved my cooking!

 

  • 4. Get your knives professionally sharpened.
    Working with a sharp knife is incredibly important from a safety standpoint and from an efficiency one.  And I happen to know where you can get your knives sharpened.  Dan at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School will do a great job sharpening your knives.  The current cost for sharpening is $3.95 per blade or $19.95 for 6 blades.  We recommend calling the shop before you come in to make sure he’s in – especially if you’d like to have them sharpened while you wait!  You can call us at (717) 243-0906.

 

  • 15. Keep your parmesan rinds and freeze them for later.
    Parmesan rinds make an excellent addition to homemade stocks, soups and sauces.  It’s a great way to use a part of the cheese that is often considered waste and it will add a new level of flavor and saltiness to the foods you slip it into.

 

  • 22. Find the biggest mixing bowl you can and buy it.
    My friends in the prep kitchen refer to me as being “volumetrically challenged” and I am.  I can never select the right size bowl for a task, which means I’m often washing more bowls than necessary because I chose one that was too small the first time.  Start with a much bigger bowl than you think you’ll need and avoid unnecessary bowl washing!

 

  • 51. Keep your vegetable scraps.
    Those people who have come to my classes (or those folks who work behind the scenes at them) have heard me say countless time to save your veggie scraps.  And they’ve also heard me tell about how frustrated Jeff gets when he tries to put something in the freezer and there is no room because it’s filled with chicken carcasses and veggie “ends.”  But, when he eats something that I’ve made with my homemade stock he is reminded that fighting for freezer space is worth it!

I hope you read the epicurious article and get some helpful hints.  I’d love to hear what your top 5 favorite tips are from the article!!!!  Leave a comment below!

 

 

FYI: The featured image for this post is actually a screen shot of the article on epicurious’s site.  You know I like to give credit where credit is due.