9 basic cooking skills that everyone can master
While it’s great to eat out—and we definitely want you to—everyone needs a few kitchen skills.
Here are nine basic cooking skills that everyone should know, and anyone can master…
Bake a potato
Start by scrubbing the potato, and then pierce the skin several times with a knife or fork. Rub the skin with olive oil, and then with salt.
Place the potato in the preheated 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) oven, and bake for 90 minutes, or until slightly soft and golden brown.
Slice and serve any way you desire. Shredded cheese, green onion, sour cream, and bits of bacon go a long way!
Aluminum foil can be used to keep the potato moist, cook it evenly, and help to make clean-up easier.
Boil the perfect egg
When it comes to boiling eggs, timing is key. The duration of a boil depends on how firm you want the eggs to be, but it’s always best to start with your eggs at room temperature to avoid under cooking.
For a soft-boiled egg, bring a pot of water to the boil, and gently lower the egg into it with a spoon and cook for three to five minutes. For hard-boiled eggs, start with a pot of cold water and bring the water to a boil. Cook the eggs for seven-10 minutes, keeping in mind that the longer you leave the eggs to boil, the firmer the eggs will be. Once they are done, immediately plunge the eggs into cold water to avoid overcooking.
Brown the meat first
For meat to stay succulent and juicy, it needs to first be sealed. Browning meat is a simple technique of briefly searing the outside to seal in juices to ensure flavour and tenderness.
Cook perfect pasta
If you’re tired of sticky, overcooked pasta, it’s time to learn how to cook it properly!
In Italy, pasta is always served ‘al-dente’—boiled until softened, but firm to the bite. To achieve this, fill a pan with double the water to cover the pasta, add salt (not oil!) to taste and bring the water to the boil.
Carefully drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for 10-12 minutes, making sure to stir within the first two minutes of cooking to help prevent sticking. Different pasta shapes will have different cooking times and fresh egg pasta cooks much faster than dried, so be sure to adhere to the cooking directions on the package.
Once cooked to perfection, use a strainer to separate the pasta from the water and return the pasta to the empty pot. Do not rinse the pasta!!! The starch in the water helps adhere the sauce to the pasta. The only time you should ever rinse pasta is when you are going to use it in a cold dish.
Create your own salad dressing
A vinaigrette is a simple salad dressing made from oil and (balsamic) vinegar in the basic ratio three parts oil to one-part vinegar. Add in a splash of fresh lemon (or orange) juice, fresh herbs, Dijon mustard, and crushed garlic for subtle flavouring.
Fluffy rice—every time
Say goodbye to sticky rice, under cooked rice, or mushy, overcooked rice! Here’s the trick to cooking rice right:
For every cup of rice use 1¾ cups of water.
Pour water into a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and bring to a boil. Mix 1 teaspoon salt into the water.
Pour in the rice and stir once (with a fork) to separate the grains. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 18-20 minutes. Then, remove from heat and allow the rice to steam in the pot for another 5 minutes.
Gently fluff the rice with a fork, and serve.
Grill the perfect steak
Steak a nice change from burgers and chicken. It’s also delicious.
To ensure a juicy, flavourful steak, always start with a marinade. Soaking your meat breaks down tough muscle fibre and infuses your food with moisture and low-calorie flavour—magically turning cuts of meat into succulent fare.
A simple marinade includes the juice of two limes, one cup of orange juice, two minced garlic cloves, two tablespoons of pureed chipotle peppers, and a half-cup of chopped cilantro.
While you’re making the marinade, take the meat out of the fridge so it warms to room temperature (this helps it cook through more efficiently). After you’ve soaked the steak for at least 20 minutes, it’s time to place them on the grill.
Make a basic salad
A house salad is the perfect starter to any meal. It’s also very easy to make and requires little prep time.
Simply combine crisp lettuce—like romaine or iceberg—with diced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and thinly sliced red onion. Combine and then toss in your favourite style of crouton, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon. Toss together and serve with your dressing of choice. Hey, that vinaigrette you already know how to make is a great option!
Perfect the grilled cheese sandwich
Whether you’re eight or 88, there’s no problem that a grilled cheese sandwich can’t solve.
The secret to cooking the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is: buttering both sides of the bread, cook them low and slow at medium-low heat, and keep them moving around the pan to ensure a melted middle and an even golden colour.
Avoid using processed cheese at all costs! Opt for a nice sharp cheddar, a medium marble, or even a smoky Gouda cheese.
Give your sandwich an upgrade by adding a meat of your choice—like thinly sliced ham—onions, pickles, and even a slice of tomato.
Here are two more helpful kitchen tips:
If you accidentally dump too much salt into the skillet, use a splash of white vinegar to provide a counterbalancing touch of acid.
If you get a little carried away with the spice, add in a drizzle of honey to mellow out the heat.