Here are a list of bad habits to avoid to help you on your way to being the star of the kitchen.
1. Throwing away the pasta water
When your pasta is boiled to a nice al dente, don’t just throw the hot water down the drain! Keep some aside, about a cup, and add it into your pasta sauce. The dissolved starches will emulsify fats like olive oil and cheese, giving you a rich and creamy pasta sauce without adding any other liquids.
Why does restaurant food taste so good? The answer is salt. Salting isn’t something that only happens at the table – add it throughout your cooking to build the seasoning gradually. Salt can also be used to draw out liquid from vegetables during the cooking process.
3. Not reading the recipe thoroughly
You see a beautiful recipe online, and you have to make it. Next time, stop for a quick moment to read the recipe through to the end. This will help you get a better understanding of the skill and time involved, and also if you need any specialised equipment.
4. Having blunt knives
Accidents happen when we use blunt knives, because we push down harder with our arms. When (not if) the knife slips, it will do much more damage to your fingers than if you used a sharp blade. Read advice from professional chefs on buying your first chefs knife.
5. Not tasting while you’re cooking
The flavours of spices and vegetables will change and develop during cooking, as you add liquid and heat. Keep a spoon nearby at all times to taste as you go – it is essential to taste after adding any new ingredients or seasoning to the pot.
6. Cooking meat directly from the fridge
Whether you are cooking on the braai or stove-top, always take the meat out of the fridge about 1 hour in advance to allow it to come up to room temperature.
This is particularly important if you are cooking thick cuts or joints of meat – you want the internal temperature to be as close to room temperature as possible, so that you are not overcooking the outside bits while the inside parts are still cold.
7. Opening the oven constantly to check on the roast
It is so tempting to peek through the crack of the oven door at your double chocolate brownie cake – but don’t!
Unless your oven door is horribly dirty or you have to do some turning or basting, try your best to resist opening the oven door during cooking. This lets all the heat out, and creates temperature fluctuations which may be just the difference between a flop and an ace.