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9 Restaurant Cooking Tricks You Can Use In Your Own Kitchen

From the ~right~ way to cook with wine, to getting the smoothest sauce.


This is Chris Stam, Executive Chef at db Bistro Moderne, a contemporary French restaurant in New York City.

db Bistro Moderne

After working in some of the countries' best restaurants (seriously, the best), Stam has learned a thing or two about cooking great food — so we asked him what home cooks can do to improve their cooking skills, and this is what he told us:



1. Finish your sauces with a touch of butter or crème fraîche right before serving them to amp up the flavor and create an impossibly velvety texture.

"Try adding a cold piece of butter, or a spoon of crème fraiche to a sauce right before you put it on the plate," explains Stam. "The flavor will intensify and become more complex." This is often why the sauces at nice restaurants are silkier than the ones home cooks make. It's a simple step that can take your sauces to the next level.

More: Learn how to properly finish a sauce with butter.

2. Practice your knife skills and always keep your knives sharp.

Kellyvandellen / Getty Images

As simple as it may sound, one of the most practical cooking tips is to practice your knife skills. "Start off easy, and train on simple vegetables such as potatoes and onions," suggests Stam. And most importantly? Keep your knife sharp and it'll be so much easier. "There are plenty of videos on the internet that can help you practice and provide you more tips," says Stam. So start slow, find some soothing cutting videos, and soon you'll be slicing like a pro — and don't forget to keep your knives sharp!

More: Learn how to sharpen (and hone) your knives.



3. Make sure you're using the right wine for the right recipe and that the wine you're cooking with actually tastes good.

Kondor83 / Getty Images

When following a recipe that calls for a specific type of wine, don't just use any wine you have in your fridge. This could affect the flavor and the acidity level might be way too high or way too low. To be safe, always stick to the recipe — and, of course, only cook with wine that tastes good. "The wine doesn’t need to be crazy expensive," says Stam, "but make sure it has enough flavor."

More: Learn more about cooking with wine.

4. Ditch your dried herb stash and swap 'em for fresh...

Scisettialfio / Getty Images

"Nothing will impact a dish more than cutting something last minute, or garnishing with fresh herbs," says Stam. They add instant brightness to dishes and transform dull flavors into fresh. "And stay away from dried herbs," says Stam. "They'll never taste the same. Instead, buy fresh herbs and start adding them to your dishes."

More: Learn how to start incorporating fresh herbs into your cooking.



5. Use a cartouche (AKA a small round of parchment paper) instead of lids to better control cooking.

In a pinch and need a lid to prevent your liquids from reducing too quickly? Use a cartouche! (AKA a small piece of parchment paper cut into a circle with a small hole in the middle.) You can use them to cover stews, broths, and braises at home. "A cartouche keeps the flavor of what you're cooking in the pot, while allowing a small amount of steam to escape," says Stam. They help concentrate the flavor of whatever your cooking without loosing too much liquid. If you were to just use a lid, no liquid would evaporate, and whatever you're cooking wouldn't become as flavorful.

More: Learn how to use a cartouche at home.

6. Butter + water = the easiest way to glaze your veggies.

Alex Lau / Via

An easy way restaurants cook veggies is by simply cooking them on the stovetop in a three-ingredient glaze. "All you need is butter, water, and seasoning," says Stam. Just combine all three ingredients in a pan (a few tablespoons of butter and water, and a pinch of salt) with your veggies and slowly cook them on a stovetop until the vegetables are tender and the butter and water have emulsified into a glossy glaze. "Cook your veggies on the stovetop, just rolling them around in the glaze — and add a little water if the pan starts to look greasy." Your veggies will turn out glossy and flavorful.

More: Get a recipe for simple glazed vegetables using this technique.



7. You can confit just about anything (AKA slowly cook something in fat), and it's not as difficult as it sounds.

The term confit may sound confusing, but it's just a fancy term for slowly cooking something in fat. "So many things are cooked confit, not just duck," explains Stam. Restaurants cook a wide range of foods this way, from garlic to tomatoes. The low and slow cooking process makes the items tender and concentrates the flavor. For most veggies, olive oil is the go-to fat to cook them in. Tomatoes get sweeter and garlic starts to get that deep roasted flavor. It's all about going slow and letting the flavor develop.

More: Get a recipe for garlic confit.

8. And when it comes to butter, restaurants prefer quality over quantity, and you should too.

Archives / Getty Images, Sailfasterman / Getty Images

"Yes, butter is in just about everything, but smaller amounts than you would expect," says Stam. It turns out chefs focus on using high-quality butter versus a large amount of it. "Source a nice butter that’s rich and creamy with big flavor," says Stam — and remember that quality always trumps quantity. Once you start cooking with the good stuff, you'll never go back.

More: Learn about all of the different types of butter, and when to use them.

9. Whenever you can, try to go the extra mile and make stock from scratch.

Romaset / Getty Images

Next time you eat a rotisserie chicken, don't throw away the carcass. Instead, use it to make broth — and same goes for your veggie peels and onion skins! "Learning the basics of making a stock will not only elevate your cuisine, but give you more options for what you can make," says Stam. And although it may take a bit of work, homemade stock will make your soups taste so much better. "Fresh stocks will also give you the ability to make a jus," (AKA a sauce made from reduced stock) explains Stam. "Making a nice jus will make any meat recipe feel like it was made in a professional kitchen."

More: Get a recipe for homemade beef broth and learn how to make a red wine jus with it.

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