30 of My Best Cooking Tips

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to cook, so today I thought I’d share some of my best cooking tips.  Making and serving great food is an awesome way to usher in great times with family and friends.  There is something about sharing a meal that bonds people, and there is something about serving a meal to others that makes them feel loved.  This is why it’s so vitally important that, when making a meal, one puts in his/her best efforts.

1. For perfect hard-boiled eggs every time:  Don’t you hate it when you try to peel hard-boiled eggs and half the egg white comes off with the shell?  Try this method – it’s never failed us yet: place eggs in pan and cover entirely with cold water.  Bring to a rolling boil, turn off heat, cover, and let sit 15 minutes.  Then drain and cover again with cold water.  Put top back on pot and let sit for another 15 minutes.  The eggs are now ready to peel and the shells should come off easily if you let the water get to a true rolling boil in the first step.

2. For a moist and flavorful turkey every time: Brine your turkey.  Brining the turkey creates a moist and flavorful turkey.  And cook the turkey upside down (breast side down) in the pan for the first hours, turning it back right side up about an hour before it’s done.

3. For big meals like Thanksgiving, prepare as much food as possible the night or day before, as long as the sitting doesn’t compromise the integrity of the food.  So, for instance, salads are best done the day of, but we always prepare our stuffing (and our veggies) and get it ready to cook the day before.

4. Always cook and bake with real, unsalted (and organic if possible) butter.  Margarine is full of chemicals and diminishes the quality of the food.  Salted butter is often made with the lowest quality of cream, as the salt brine covers up the poor taste.

5.  Always use pure sour cream.  Pure sour cream, such as Daisy brand, is void of all of the chemicals used in other commercial sour cream, and makes meals taste better.

6.  Use fresh pressed-garlic.  Instead of the dried, powdered stuff or the jarred version, get a good garlic press and use fresh-pressed garlic in your meals.  The taste quality is scores above the powdered stuff.

7.  Buy local, grass fed chicken and beef when possible.  The quality is better and if you buy in bulk, the price is often better too.

8. Use extra virgin olive oil when frying.  It’s better for you than vegetable oil and you’ll hardly notice the olive-y flavor.

9. Shop at your local farmer’s markets for quality veggies at great prices, and support your local farmer.

10.  To enhance the quality and flavor of your baked goods, use room temperature butter and eggs.

11.  For great meat loaf, use quick-cooking oats instead of bread crumbs.  It’s healthier and holds the meat and other ingredients together really well.

12.  Great tasting mashed potatoes include whole milk or heavy cream, lots of butter, and some fresh-pressed garlic along with some salt and pepper.

13.  For dishes with cheese, buy block cheese and shred your own instead of buying the pre-shredded bagged stuff.  Block cheese doesn’t contain the chemicals that keep the pre-shredded stuff from sticking together, and it melts/tastes better too.

14.  Feel free to experiment with recipes.  Add or take away ingredients, and experiment with different amounts to get the flavor you enjoy.

15.  Toasted, slivered almonds make a great addition to salads and green beans.

16. Spice up your veggies by adding different things to them (such as nuts, green onions or red pepper) or mixing them with other veggies.

17. Caramelized onions make a great addition to mashed potatoes or meats.

18.  Want the good deal of buying fruit in bulk, but know you won’t use it all before it goes bad?  Freeze some after removing the stems and use it for quick and easy fruit smoothies in the blender.

19.  Give fresh asparagus a “WOW!” flavor buy brushing it with olive oil, seasoning it, and baking it in the oven or roasting it on the grill.

20.  For perfect baked goods, don’t be sloppy when measuring.  Preciseness is key when baking.

21. Clean as you go in the kitchen – it brings the joy back into cooking and prevents a big mess to clean up after the meal.

22. Always be on the lookout for a better way to prepare your favorite dishes.  Don’t just stick with the old standby because that’s what you’ve always done.

23.  Try new dishes regularly in order to keep cooking fun.

24.  Fry your pancakes using bacon grease instead of vegetable oil.  The caloric count is high, but the taste is out of this world.

25.  To keep safety a top priority in the kitchen, keep handles of pots and pans turned inward, and use the back burners, especially for boiling water.

26.  Don’t skimp on the spices: a lack of spices is a sure way to add “boring” to your food.

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27.  Trade in your boxed dishes and learn how to make them from scratch.  Dishes such as Au Gratin potatoes, bread stuffing and mac & cheese taste much better when they’re homemade.

28.  Buy decent knives, both for safety reasons and for ease of use when cooking.

29.  Buy a quality pair of kitchen scissors – you’ll use them often and they’ll be well worth the money spent.

30.  Declare baking and cooking a form of entertainment in your home.  It’s fun and free; you’ve got to eat anyway, right? 🙂

 

What are some of your best cooking tips?  What’s your favorite dish to make or to eat?  

 

 

 

 

46 comments

  1. Kirsten says:

    I love the last one best of all. It’s hard with al almost four year old and a baby, but I have been trying to do “projects” with the oldest on the weekend. She loves that at “school” (daycare) she gets to do projects every day. Those are usually craft projects and I’m not much of a crafts person. Plus, then I have to keep around more clutter 😉 I like making cookies or brownies or cakes with her because we get to do something, she enjoys it, and then we get to eat it!

  2. Amy says:

    Oatmeal in meat loaf?? I’d love to try that!! Do you have a recipe you could share, or do you just swap the same amount of oats for bread crumbs?

    • Laurie says:

      Yes,absolutely! I use about a half cup per pound of burger, and add in a raw egg, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, and diced onion. We try not to eat too much flour, so the family was thrilled when I started adding quick oats and the loaf came out so flavorful.

  3. Michelle says:

    LOVE this post! I’m working on improving my cookies skills and I will be bookmarking this post 🙂 I really need to work on cooking from scratch – I am so bad at that!

  4. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini says:

    Great tips. My daughter absolutely loves pancakes and I’m gonna try number #24 and watch the magic happens. Thanks.

  5. Chela says:

    Kind of a combination of #27 and #14, when I go to a restaurant and have something really delicious, I try to recreate it at home. I love experimenting with new recipes and making them my own. Thanks for the tips!

    • Laurie says:

      You might be able to do that with chicken if you blend the quick oats in the blender first. You’ll have to let me know how that works out. :_)

  6. Great list, Laurie. I love cooking too. Normally I cook a big Thanksgiving meal for my family but this year we opted for a little vacation so no cooking for me! And I have to confess, that I’m pretty excited to just to kick back and relax! I’m a huge fan of farmer’s market. I’m not gardener but I love fresh produce. Fortunately we have some amazing year-round farmer’s markets in LA. Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving, Laurie!

    • Laurie says:

      Good for you, Shannon!!! You deserve a nice vacation. Have a wonderful time, and know that we’ll be giving thanks for wonderful friends such as yourself on Thursday. 🙂

  7. This is an awesome list Laurie!!! I especially love the hard boiled egg tip because I am making deviled eggs on Thursday and I NEVER know what to do with the eggs. My mom is the best at it but she won’t be here, so I am on my own and following your instructions on Wednesday, actually, because I am taking another tip of yours and preparing a bunch in advance on Wednesday before people come on Thursday.

    • Laurie says:

      Good job, Shannon! You’ll have to let me know how the eggs work out. Just make sure they’re brought to a big, rolling boil in that first step. Have an awesome Thanksgiving, my dear friend!

  8. You just verified for me that shredded cheese is so much better than store bought shredded cheese! People always look at me crazy when I say it tastes better when you shred it yourself;0) We are working to do more and more cooking from scratch. It’s better for you and tastes better too!

  9. Mrs. Maroon says:

    So many great ideas! I’m proud to say that I’ve picked up a couple of these habits along the way… We shred our own cheese, I love using bacon grease, grilled asparagus is to die for, and I try to make as much from scratch as possible. Thanks for the idea of using quick oats – we are gluten free (long story) and struggle to find alternatives for bread crumbs. And I’m glad to know why recipes say to use ingredients at room temp; I just never seem to remember in time! Now if I could just train myself to clean as I go… 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Mrs. Maroon, if the GF stuff is due to intolerance rather than Celiac, try using only organic flour and pasta and see how that works. We do that and our intolerance issues have disappeared!

    • Laurie says:

      Sure thing, Erin! I’m sure you’ll expand your cooking skills immensely in the next few years, and then you’ll have lots of tips to share. 🙂

  10. Great list, Laurie! A big AMEN to #12 – mashed potatoes need lots of butter and cream. 🙂 They end up being a calorie bomb but they are so, so good! I always save my bacon grease but I have never cooked my pancakes in it. I’ll have to give that a try! I always agree strongly with #13. It can be a pain sometimes to shred cheese yourself if you need a large quantity but it melts and tastes so much better. I did not know that salted butter was lower quality cream. I always used unsalted but only because that’s what all the chef’s do on Food Network. Monkey see, monkey do.

    • Laurie says:

      And I used the salted because salt is awesome!!! I am amazed, though, at the upgrade in taste of foods made with the unsalted stuff. It’s SO much better!

  11. Liz says:

    Baking is definitely a form of entertainment for us. We will be making lefse for the first time next weekend. Should be fun (and probably challenging!)

    • Laurie says:

      So jealous! We are huge lefse lovers here. My grandmother used to make it and always said it was a boatload of work. If you ever want to buy quality lefse, look up Jacobs Lefse in Osakis. They make awesome homemade stuff and ship it out. It’s expensive, but we order it every Thanksgiving and often on Easter as well. 🙂

  12. Great list Laurie! As you know, we’ve moved heavily in this direction ourselves of organics and the like. We just got a 50 pound order of organic wheat flour last week and love using it. We still need to find someone for chicken though as we have someone for beef.

    • Laurie says:

      Start asking around, John. We just found a chicken supplier this year. We might even consider doing our own. Then you could stock up when you visit MN and are on your way home. 😉

  13. I always look forward to Christmas baking because I’m home from work for two weeks, and I can really sink into it. I find it tough, with a full-time job, to devote the time required for home-cooking everything. But I can increase by a bit, right? Starting with those hard-boiled eggs! I always fight against the whites coming off the with shells!

  14. This is an awesome set of tips! Mr. FW does most of these things (being our primary chef) and I’m so grateful for his culinary prowess.

    Something that I’ve noticed is that cooking better is often also cooking more frugally. Doing things truly from scratch (like baking our own bread) tastes phenomenally better and is ridiculously cheaper than store-bought bread. Similar to #27, we buy almost no prepared foods, which makes our meals that great intersection of cheaper, healthier, and tastier.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Mrs. FW!! I feel like we’ve traded in convenience for quality now that we’ve started making everything from scratch, and it’s awesome to be eating better and saving cash in the process!

  15. Even Steven says:

    Love all the cooking tips. We might have to try the boiled egg, I almost refuse to peel the eggs because of low patience with the evil boiled egg.

    Switching it up is fun to, tried a potato and ham soup and a bacon wrapped chicken stuffed with asparagus and ricotta cheese so good, a far cry away from if I can’t cook it in 15 minutes I’m not doing it from my college years.

  16. Now I’m starving! 🙂 I love fresh pressed garlic. For asparagus, I love roasting it with a bit of olive oil, lemon, and salt. Yum! And wrapping it around some salmon if I’m feeling fancy!

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