81 Ways to Be a Better Chef

Whether you have trouble boiling water or are a foodie who loves spending time behind the stove, these tips and tricks will make cooks of all levels better at their game. Here are a few dozen of our faves.

[Photo: Charles Masters]

Chicken and Poultry

1. Buy in bulk
Especially when there’s a sale. When you get home, break the packages down into single servings, place in resealable plastic bags, and freeze. To save even more time, pour your favorite marinades directly into the bag so the chicken is ready to defrost and cook.

2. Conquer tough skin
Always flip poultry skin side down before taking your knife to it. The pressure of the meat against the skin will give you clean cuts while reducing the risk of you nicking yourself.

3. Sauce later
To avoid charring your meat—and guarantee arich, caramelized exterior—hold off on applying sweet sauces like BBQ, teriyaki, and honey glazes until the last 2–3 minutes of cooking.

4. Try a salt bath 
Brining chicken or turkey is a surefire way to maintain moisture. One easy recipe:Take equal parts sugar, kosher salt, and water, and fill up a container (a cooler or big zip-top bag works well for whole poultry). Add your protein, making sure it’s fully submerged. Keep the meat cool and leave to soak overnight if you are doing a big bird or 3–4 hours for small cuts of meat.

5. Crispy skin
Before baking a chicken, sprinkle kosher salt over the bird and leave uncovered in the fridge for a few hours. The salt draws out moisture for optimal crispiness.

Beef and Pork

6. Defrost faster 
After pulling meat from the freezer, pour a bit of vinegar over it. This helps to tenderize the meat and raises the temp to help it thaw quicker.

7. Browning hamburger?
Blot the surface dry before you add it to the pan. Excess moisture steams the meat, instead of searing it—costing you that rich brown crust.

8. Juicier steaks
Whether you’re pulling them from the grill or the oven, always “tent” the meat (rest foil on top without sealing it) for a few minutes to let the juices redistribute.

9. Better burgers
Use your thumb to press about half an inch deep into the center of your patties. The indentation will promote more even cooking.

10. Make a clean cut
When preparing steaks or roasts, always slice each serving of meat off in one complete pass. Don’t saw; pull back all the way through the cut to make a straight, neat, efficient slice. 

11. Eliminate toughness
To tenderize inexpensive cuts, try marinating them in beer, vinegar, or fruit juice. Scoring the meat’s surface with a pizza cutter, going against the grain of the meat, will also help.

12. Add flavor
Mix chopped dried cranberries, low-fat cheese crumbles, or canned beans into lean burgers for a healthy flavor boost.

13. Warm up
Prime rib is a tricky dish to get right because it’s meant to be rare. Char the outside of the meat with a hand torch before popping it into the oven. This way you’ll get a tasty caramelized crust without risk of overcooking.

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