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These are seriously useful.
Remember: If it looks the same, it cooks the same. When prepping, slice ingredients so they're all about the same size. This ensures everything cooks evenly and consistently — and lets you avoid overdone smaller pieces, and still-raw larger ones.
Read more: The Complete Guide to Basic Knife Cuts
If the oil isn't ready, food will soak it up instead of sizzling in it — and the end result won't taste as good. You want oil hot enough so that it swirls or ripples when you move the pan, but not so hot that it smokes. Learn more about how to spot the difference here.
Read more: How to Master Heat & Oil When Cooking
Meat can carry a layer of moisture on the outside, so it's important to get rid of that if you want the sharpest sear when the protein hits the pan. The quickest way? Dry it with a paper towel.
Read more: How to Cook Salmon Fillets
Because garlic burns easily, many recipes tell you to add it last, and that's a great blanket rule — especially if it's minced or chopped.
Plant a scrap bowl right on the counter so you don't have to sidetrack to the trash, and load dirty plates straight into the washer instead of stacking them in the sink. Keeping things neat makes the cooking process easier — and cuts down on cleanup afterwards.
Both carry excess water — and salt draws it out even more, causing the food to get soggy. Instead, let them pick up some color first and shed their extra liquid. Then add salt. (Also, make sure they're totally dry before they hit the pan!)
Brining — or a quick soak in salt + water — helps meat retain moisture and stay juicy and flavorful. We think this method is worth it every time, and it can be done in as little as 15 minutes. (Or: The time it takes the oven to heat up!)
Recipe: Juicy Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts
Every time you add a new batch of ingredients to the pot, you'll want to season it appropriately. This way, you're building layers of flavor as you go. (Don't forget to taste as you go, too!)
Salt is key to a final dish — but acid is a close second. Acid (like vinegar or citrus) helps elevate and counterbalance flavors. If your dish tastes flat and you've already added salt, try a squeeze or spoonful of acid to round things out.
The brown bits that collect on the bottom of the pan are called fond — and they're packed with flavor. The easiest way to scoop up that flavor is by deglazing your pan, or using liquid to dislodge the fond, then folding it back into your sauce or meal. Don't waste it!
Recipe: 20-Minute Honey Mustard Chicken
In culinary terms, this is known as "monter au beurre." Next time you're making a sauce, add a few pats of cold butter at the very end to add depth of flavor and shine.
Residual heat can quickly take a dish — like eggs or meat — from perfectly cooked to overdone. Take eggs off the stove when they're just a bit under. Remove meat from the oven just before it reaches the internal temperature you want. While meat rests, its temp will continue to rise. (Learn more about carryover cooking here.)
Recipe: Southwestern Scrambled Eggs
Not only is homemade broth or stock easy to make, but it's also a great way to reduce waste — and boost the flavors of future stews, soups, or sauces. Stash scraps in the freezer!
Read more: How To Make Vegetable Broth From Kitchen Scraps
It only takes a few minutes to sharpen your knives, and it makes a big difference — both in ease of use and overall safety — if you're cooking with a ready blade. (Relatedly, don't toss knives in the dishwasher.)
Watch more: How to Sharpen Your Knives Like a Pro
You'll get a tastier end product if you rinse rice in a bowl or quickly run it through a strainer before cooking. Doing so removes the surface starch that can otherwise make rice clump together and get gummy.
This one's less about taste, more about process — but still. We tested ten of the most popular tricks for cutting onions without tearing up, and chilling them in the fridge or freezer first made the biggest difference. Read more here.
Prepping ingredients and tools ahead of time makes the actual cooking part much easier. Also, reading the entire recipe upfront (including the comments, where there's often useful suggestions!) means there's no surprises later — and you're setting yourself up for a more efficient cook.
If you're just starting out, one of the toughest things can be deciding what to even cook. A good starting point? Once you find a recipe that you think tastes amazing, work backwards. Seek out other stuff by that same chef, cookbook author, or blogger.
One of the best parts of cooking = leftovers. And the key to making them taste just as good on the second round is to reheat them the right way. This varies depending on the food; brush up on the basics here.
Read more: 17 Leftovers You're Probably Eating Wrong
The right drink can enhance the flavors of what you've cooked — and vice versa. 🍷
Read more: The Basics Of Pairing Food & Wine
Power up your favorite playlist or podcast while you cook, and always have a snack handy. (In short? Don't cook while hangry!)
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