Line-Cook Secrets Every Home Chef Should Know
Line cooks are the thankless soldiers of the food industry, but the back-of-house war zone isn't the only place their skills come in handy.
Since many of the techniques that keep line cooks out of the weeds and in the good graces of diners are just as useful to the home cook, we consulted a group of industry veterans across the country -- from turnpike diner egg flippers to chefs that now run fancy Brooklyn supper clubs -- for their best tips and tricks. Read on to learn how to perfectly poach eggs, grill a burger, and cook rice, then act like an adult and go buy a damn knife sharpener.
Fresh parsley saves frozen veggiesAdding a pinch of fresh herbs to frozen or cheap commodity vegetables like baby carrots masks any lingering freezer taste and brings out their natural aromatics.
Speed-baking potatoes works just fineWrap a potato in a damp paper towel, microwave it for eight minutes, and bask in the 30 minutes of time you just saved.
The bun shouldn't be an afterthoughtEven simple backyard-grilled burgers benefit from buttering and heating the bun like a grilled cheese sandwich.
Salt amplifies flavorsWonder why home cooking doesn't taste as flavorful as at a restaurant? It's because restaurants use incredible amounts of salt in order to bring out the flavors of meat and vegetables, as well as amplify the effect of any additional herbs.
Pans should be hotter than hellUnless the pan is hotter than eternal suffering, there's no way to get the attractive sear or crusty caramelization that makes restaurant proteins so delicious.
Rice needs special careEveryone has a different method for cooking rice, but one of our line cooks offered up a surefire method that incorporates an extra step of rinsing and a quick fry in olive oil.
Wash rice in cold water by agitating it with your hand until the water turns starchy, then drain and repeat until the water is mostly clear. Then heat up a little olive oil in the pot, add the rice, and stir constantly for a minute or two until fragrant. Next add one cup of water for every cup rice, bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and let it steam for five.
Proteins demand patienceDon't flip a burger or steak more than once. It may be tempting to check how it's cooking, but every time the meat is moved it loses some of that juicy flavor. And don't worry if it isn't fully cooked when it leaves the pan, as it rested for five to eight minutes the internal temperature will continue to rise and seal in the juices.
Timing is everythingIt may seem simple, but many home cooks simply don't realize that they should start with the dish that takes them the longest to make.
Hard-boiled eggs should be boiled in salted waterThis one is another potential no-brainer, but adding salt to the water when boiling eggs makes the shells much easier to peel.
A ladle is crucial for perfectly poached eggsThe trick to perfectly poached eggs isn't some whirlpool nonsense or a splash of vinegar. The best way is to crack the egg into a strainer to let the loose whites fall off, then dump the egg into a ladle. Lower it into a sauce pan with water at 110 degrees, slowly letting the water come over the ladle. Then unload it to the bottom of the pan. Flip it once it's quivery and you've got the a perfectly poached ball of protein.
Dull knives will ruin youDon't expect to be an expert with a knife without hours of repetition, but even a master chef will be crippled by dull knives. Every adult should own a knife sharpener, it will be the best $12 you ever spend.
Slicing lots of cherry tomatoes is actually easyInstead of slicing each tomato (or grape!) individually, put a layer of them between two Tupperware lids. Lightly press down on the top lid, then slice horizontally to halve the tomatoes in one clean cut.
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