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.

Soups/Sauces

[Photo: Charles Masters]

24. Cut the fat
If your soup or sauce starts getting a fatty or greasy sheen on top while you’re cooking, add an ice cube. The ice will attract the fat and make it easier to scoop out. Or try tossing in a large lettuce leaf, which can also help to absorb oil. Remove the leaf once it goes limp.

25. Make Your own
Deglazing a pan after cooking meat creates a great sauce. To do it, remove the meat and add twice the amount of water you want for the sauce. Crank the heat to high, and start scraping and stirring the pan to loosen the browned bits of food left inside. Keep boiling until the sauce starts to thicken.

Salads

26. Preserve crispness
Help fresh greens last longer by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and placing in a resealable plastic bag.

27. Drain Your greens
When making salads, always dry greens well. Invest in a good salad spinner— or, if you don’t have one, try placing a saucer upside down in the bottom of the bowl before adding the salad. Extra water will run under the saucer and help keep the leafy greens fresh.

28. Dress right 
Make your own salad dressings to avoid additives. One easy recipe: Add 1 chopped shallot, 1 tbsp each honey and Dijon mustard, 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil, and ½ cup vinegar to a 16 oz jar. Season with salt, pepper, and a fresh herb like basil or cilantro. Shake vigorously and serve.

29. Say cheese
Keep cheese from drying out after you slice it by smearing a bit of butter on the cut to seal in moisture.

Pasta

30. Perfect al dente
For the best pasta, always boil 1 to 2 minutes less than the package directs.

31. Make It stick
Add a bit of parmesan to your pasta after draining—it’ll help the sauce to adhere.

32. Cook oil-free
Avoid adding oil to pasta when you cook it. Oil collects on the outside of the pasta and can repel other toppings.

33. A Better Sauce
Mix 1/3 to ¼ cup of the water you cook your pasta in to your sauce of choice before serving. The starch in the water adds body and creaminess.

34. Fight bugs
Toss a bay leaf into your pasta canister. It will help to repel insects. (It works for flour, too.)

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