51 Cooking Tips That Will Make You A Better Chef

51 Cooking Tips That Will Make You A Better Chef

“If you feel like your food is missing something but you aren’t sure what, it’s probably this.”

Maybe you’re a seasoned home cook who loves trying new recipes. Or maybe you’re a newbie just starting to get comfortable in the kitchen. Whatever the case, cooking is a skill anyone can hone. All you need are a handful of helpful tips. So I browsed the Reddit channel r/cooking and rounded up the best tips from members of the Community. Here are a bunch of tips that will seriously improve your cooking skills.


“Salt, pepper, and acid will brighten up almost any dish. If your food just tastes like it’s missing something, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Then try it again and reassess.”


“Master cooking techniques rather than specific recipes. Don’t approach recipes like they’re magic spells in the Harry Potter universe. If you wiggle your nose wrong or put in a bit too much of some seasoning, you’re not going to end up with a completely different dish. Alton Brown does an incredible job of teaching a cooking technique and then showing you a recipe that applies that technique. If you learn a process instead of a recipe, you will know how to cook dozens of dishes, and it’s really the only way to develop skills in the kitchen.”


“Always, always deglaze your pan. This one simple trick will change your life. Basically, sauté onions, garlic, etc., and then pour in some wine, stock, or even boiling water and stir vigorously. Not only will it pull all the beautiful caramelized flavor from the bottom of your pan, but it will also be spotless when you go to clean it, which will take all of about 5 seconds.”


“You don’t need to spend a ton of money on kitchen knives, so long as you keep them nice and sharp. A $30 Victorinox and $5 sharpener will get you a very long way.”


“For perfect scrambled eggs, start with a cold pan. If you like custardy scrambles, this technique is for you. Add your beaten eggs to a cold pan with a few pats of butter and slowly begin cooking them, stirring often. As the pan gets hot, take it off the heat and continue stirring the eggs. Then place it back on the heat and repeat so the pot never gets too hot. This low-and-slow technique will result in a super creamy texture that’s almost like a custard.”


“Treat your pasta water like liquid gold and never dump it all out. Save a little pasta water before you strain, and use it to help the sauce thicken and bind to the pasta.”


“Treat temperature as if it were an ingredient. Follow the recipe instructions. A pan that’s too hot or too cold will result in bad food or, at the very least, a dish that isn’t cooked properly.”


“When you take something out of the oven — whether it’s a pot, pan, skillet, sheet, tray, whatever — drape a towel or oven mitt over the handle or edge of it. That way you or anyone else in the kitchen knows that it’s hot and should not be grabbed bare-handed.”


“Don’t rely on a single recipe. Google whatever dish you’re trying to make, but don’t just randomly pick one of the results. Read a few different versions of the recipe, and choose the one that appears to be the average of all the others. Way too many recipes on the internet aren’t actually tested by their authors. Plus, professionals are used to eyeballing measurements, so when they write it down, it’s all guesswork.”


“If there’s one tip I would give you, it’s to make your own salad dressings from scratch. It takes almost no time, and you most likely have the ingredients sitting in your pantry. Homemade dressings taste so much better than the bottled stuff. Even if you just buy dry seasoning packets of ranch dressing, mix it with fresh milk and mayo, and let it sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator — it tastes worlds better than store-bought ranch.”


“Fry eggs over medium heat, not super-high heat. And once you’ve cracked your egg, cover it. Use a pot lid or something. This will let your egg cook from the top and the bottom, so you get a perfect runny yolk without any undercooked white around it.”


“When you’re cooking with lots of fats and oils like butter or vegetable oil, you’ll want to add a good amount of acidity. Ingredients like lemon juice, wine, or vinegar can really brighten up heavy, rich foods.”


“Save that bacon fat. Filter cooled (but still liquid) bacon fat through a paper towel into a coffee mug or heat-resistant container. It stays fresh uncovered in the fridge for months. Use it anywhere you’d use butter, lard, or oil. It makes great gravy and is also perfect for sautéing veggies, especially leafy stuff like kale and spinach. Just remember that bacon fat is salty, so you’ll want to adjust your recipe for that.”


“Taste everything as you cook, not just the finished recipe. Try all the spices, salt, and pepper separately before you add them to your dish. Don’t let one bad ingredient ruin your meal.”


“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to cooking meat. Different cuts of meat should be prepared differently. Think of where on the animal the meat came from. If it’s a muscle they use a lot (legs, butt, etc.), it probably needs low and slow cooking; if it’s a muscle they use a little (back, tenderloin, etc.), it probably needs high heat and a faster cook time. There are exceptions to that rule, but that works more often than not.”


“Keep the skins on produce when making stock or broth. Wash it, of course, but the color and flavor of the broth will come from the rinds or skins — even onions! I store leftover veggies in a gallon freezer bag and make stock when it’s full. It’s so much more flavorful than the canned/boxed stuff.”


“Try cooking with duck fat. It’s a tasty alternative to oil, butter, or bacon fat. It’s excellent when used for roasted potatoes or home fries. It used to be expensive and hard to find, but seems to be more readily available these days.”


“For restaurant-quality sauces, finish them with a bit of cold butter. Do you ever wonder how restaurants get their sauces so shiny and rich? It’s because they finish them with a few pats of cold butter before serving them. Next time you’re making a sauce, try adding a few slices of cold butter at the very end to add richness and shine.”


“While high heat can and should be used when appropriate (especially if you know how to control your heat on a stove top), turning your burners up to 10 for everything will just lead to smoke and half-cooked food with a burnt exterior. Think: grilled cheese that is charred black on the outside and not melted on the inside.”


“Dry any ingredients that trap moisture — like meat, fish, and vegetables — with a paper towel before cooking them. The thing that’s made a huge difference in my cooking is thoroughly drying meat, fish, and vegetables with a paper towel before cooking. My mom’s cooking was always too watery — and not properly crispy, browned, or caramelized — because she missed this step. (But to be fair, it isn’t mentioned in most recipes.)”


“Use a few high-quality ingredients, and they’ll speak for themselves. The best recipes rely on a few fresh, really quality ingredients rather than a ton of mediocre ingredients.”


“Season in small amounts and taste as you go. Remember: You can always add more spice, but once you’ve added too much, you can’t take it away.


“You don’t always have to follow the recipe verbatim, but if you’re a new cook, it is helpful to find a couple of solid recipes and follow them to the letter. After you get comfortable, then stray all you want. It may not seem creative, but it really is the best way to learn and get a couple of perfected dishes under your belt.”


“Remember that food continues cooking even when it’s removed from heat. Something I see constantly is people leaving proteins on the grill, or in the oven until the protein is completely cooked. By the time it hits the table, it’s overcooked and dry. Pull the protein a few minutes before you normally would, and let it sit. It will finish cooking on the table.”


“If you’re making something like soup, gravy, meatloaf, meatballs, or casserole and the dish has become too liquid, stir in some instant mashed potatoes out of the box. It helps thicken and can be a lifesaver.”


“Try your very best not to over-flip your food while it’s cooking. The best thing you can do for your meat is leave it alone. After you put it in a pan, on a grill, or whatever, don’t touch it. Do not poke, prob, press, squeeze, lift, turn, or anything else until it is time to flip it. Moving it will cause the juices to leak out and disrupt the cooking process, leaving your meat dry and flavorless.”


“Spices do not stay good forever. Old spices in your cupboard most likely won’t make you sick, but they do lose flavor. Ground spices should be tossed and replaced after about a year.”


“Invest in a good instant-read cooking thermometer, which can be as cheap as $15. A thermometer gives precise results every time you cook, which is especially valuable if you experiment with different cuts of meat and different dishes. If you cook short ribs on the grill once per year, you don’t want to be guessing on the cooking time.”


“There is no such thing as cooking wine. Don’t cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink on its own. You don’t have to spend a ton, but cooking with quality drinking wine (even a $12 bottle) adds much more flavor to a dish.”


“Smell and taste are very interconnected. If you’re not sure if various spices go together, open the spice bottles and smell them together. If they smell good, they will probably taste good, too.”


Use cheesecloth to impart the flavor of fresh herbs without the unwanted texture. Herbs and spices can be annoying to eat (for example, finding a twiggy piece of rosemary in a bite of chicken). The solution: Put herbs and spices in cheesecloth or an emptied-out tea bag draped in your cooking liquid to impart the flavor into your dish without the unwelcome texture.”


“People often add salt to a dish because they think it tastes flat, but what it really needs is an acid like lemon juice or vinegar. If you’ve already added salt and it’s still tasting meh, try an acidic element.”


“Roasted vegetables are delicious, but the key is roasting them for longer than you think is necessary. I used to hate roasted veggies because they’d either be hard and undercooked or mushy. Then I realized you need to cook them for even longer (past the mushy stage) until the moisture is removed and they begin to brown.”


“If you know you won’t use up all of your fresh herbs, chop them up and put them in an ice cube tray topped with olive oil. Freeze them in a freezer bag to use later, and you’ll have perfectly portioned herbs to cook with.”


“Let your meat rest before cutting into it after you remove it from the heat. The meat cooks from the outside in, so letting it rest gives you a juicier, more evenly cooked cut of meat. It only takes a few minutes, and it elevates your cooking so much.”


“Mise en place, always. It’s French for ‘putting in place.’ It means prepare your ingredients (measuring amounts, chopping onions, peeling potatoes, seasoning meat, greasing pans, etc.) and put everything within an arm’s reach of where you’ll be cooking before you actually begin cooking.”


“Don’t be afraid of seasoning your food, even if it seems like too much. If you’re cooking with chicken or pork, season aggressively. Both meats are wonderful seasoning sponges. Find a regional spice map or guide and start combining flavors.”


“Always brine your meats, especially chicken. Your food will taste so much juicier and more flavorful after brining, even if you’re not using the highest-quality meat.”


“Season with extra virgin olive oil, but don’t cook with it. It has a low smoke point, so cooking with EVOO often leads to burnt food and a smoky kitchen. It is intended for dressing and garnishing. Other oils (vegetable, canola, sunflower, avocado) have a much higher smoke point and are meant for cooking.”


“For crispy fish skin, always follow the three-step method. 1) Scrape the skin with the back of a knife to dry it out. 2) Put it in a hot pan with fat skin down, and press it until it stops trying to curl. 3) Put the whole pan in the oven, and roast until done. Cook it the whole way skin down. Perfectly crispy skin every time.”


“Whenever you’re making sauces and gravies, a splash of apple cider vinegar or citrus gives a lot of complexity to an otherwise simple sauce. For tomato-based sauces, add a pinch of sugar instead of acid.”


“Save ingredients like olive brine, pickle juice, and ginger juice from the jar. They make a great acidic component for dressings, vinaigrettes, marinades, soups, and sauces.”


“I actually learned this tip from Julia Child, who said you can always use dry vermouth in place of white wine. It imparts the same flavor, and it’s a great tip if you only need splash and don’t want to open a whole new bottle. Plus, vermouth stays good for much longer in the fridge.”


“If you’re trying to brown ground meat and you see water forming in the pan, that’s a sign that it’s overcrowded. Rather than cook it all at once, work in small batches, and it will brown perfectly.”


“For maximum flavor, toast nuts and spices. Toasting nuts and spices brings out their flavors and takes your cooking to a whole new level. For spices, give them a quick toasting in a dry pan over low heat, or bloom them in hot oil. For nuts, toast them in a 350°F oven for 10–15 minutes before cooking with them or using them as a garnish.”


“Cook starch foods in stock rather than plain water. It will make things like rice, potatoes, pasta, quinoa, and lentils taste so much more flavorful.”


“Rather than use measuring spoons for baking, use a kitchen scale. Think of baking like a science, and you really want the measurements to be exact. Measuring cups and spoons are not as accurate as the scale, and it can affect the results of your baked goods.”


“Pay attention to the order in which you add ingredients while cooking. Add garlic at the end because it burns quickly; add dried herbs at the beginning and fresh herbs at the end.”


“Despite what people say, there really is such thing as too much garlic. Adding a little more than the recipe calls for is fine, but adding 10 times as much just makes everything taste like garlic. It’s a dead giveaway that the food is not good and the garlic is making up for it.”


“A friend of mine learned this trick in culinary school, and now I swear by it. If you’re making something savory and it just seems like it needs something but you’re not sure what, add a bit of mustard. Yellow mustard or Dijon always does the trick. I don’t know what kind of magic it is, but it totally works.”


Don’t throw away herb stems. Instead, add them to stews, broths, and soups for more flavor. Stems from herbs like parsley and cilantro can actually be used in many different ways. Add them to slow-simmering stews and soups while cooking to infuse more flavor. (Just make sure to take them out before serving.) You can also use them to infuse oils and vinegars or purée them and add them to butter.

Do you have a tip or trick that makes a major difference in your home cooking? Tell us in the comments below.