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Cook Like a Pro: The Secret Playbook

Expert chefs walk you through nine essential cooking skills that every man should master.

Alton Brown, host of Food Network Star and Cutthroat Kitchen 

A favorite among chefs, this technique creates a gorgeous sear. For the most flavorful steak, start with a rib eye and make sure the cut is at least an inch-and-a-half thick.

Before searing, bring your meat to room temperature. “I take mine out of the fridge an hour before cooking so that the thermal trip to doneness will be as short as possible,” says Brown. “Be sure to season both sides with salt to pull water-soluble proteins out of the meat. When these proteins hit the pan, they will help create a flavorful crust.”

While the steak comes to room temperature, heat the oven to 500°—the faster the roast takes place, the juicier the meat will remain—and place a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet inside the oven. “A great sear is created most efficiently by conduction—direct contact with a very hot surface,” notes Brown.

Once the oven reaches 500°, remove the pan and place it on the stove over high heat for 5 minutes. Coat the steak lightly with oil and place it in the hot, dry skillet. Allow the meat to sit in the skillet for 30 seconds without being touched, then flip it with tongs and cook for 30 seconds more. Transfer it to the oven and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 more minutes for medium-rare; remove from oven. “Don’t forget to let it rest,” Brown stresses. “Always let a steak sit off the heat for 3 to 5 minutes before cutting so that more juices will be retained in the meat.”

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Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s The Chew and author of the recently released Carla’s Comfort Foods

My two mottoes for roasting 
vegetables: The hotter, the quicker, the better; and there’s flavor in the brown,” says Hall. A hot oven makes a big difference: Preheat to 425° or up to 450°. Cut the vegetables into uniform pieces to ensure they will cook evenly, then dress them. “I prefer tossing them in a bowl rather than drizzling on a baking sheet to make sure they get plenty coated,” Hall says. Season your veggies with salt and pepper, then add some smashed garlic and fresh herbs and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place pan on the middle oven rack and cook until vegetables are blistered, brown, and crisp-tender, flipping halfway through if necessary. Finish with a squeeze of lemon for brightness.

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Marc Forgione, Iron Chef and owner of Restaurant Marc Forgione in New York City

“When you cook 
fish it releases some of its own juices,” Forgione says, “which is why cooking it in a broth is smart.” Take a couple of fillets of halibut or cod, season them with salt, and place them in an ovenproof sauté pan. For broth, you need just three ingredients: clam broth (1 cup), lemon juice (½ cup), and white wine (½ cup). Mix those together and add whatever herbs you happen to have on hand—fresh bay leaves, a sprig of oregano, some basil or parsley. Pour broth into the pan until it reaches halfway up the fillets. “Leave the tops showing so you get color,” says Forgione. Bring liquid to a simmer on the stove top, then transfer to a 400° oven for 5 minutes. Transfer to plates and squeeze with lemon.

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