Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Cooking

Become a Better Cook Instantly

Do your tried and true recipes suddenly seem a bit dull? Are you looking for ways to bring a little extra pizazz to your cooking? Here are five simple tips to help you become a better cook instantly!

  • 01 of 05

    Season Boldly

    Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Cooking
    Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    When we speak of "seasoning," we're usually talking about salt. It's the main seasoning agent in the culinary arts and something many beginning cooks don't use enough of.

    Don't be afraid to salt aggressively. And by the way, that means Kosher salt, not ordinary table salt. Before grilling meats and roasting poultry, sprinkle with the Kosher salt and see what a difference it makes.

    But don't stop there. When cooking pasta, be sure to salt the pasta water before heating...MORE it. Use about a handful of Kosher salt for each six quarts of water — depending on the size of your hands. The same goes for the water you use to boil potatoes for mashed potatoes. The water should taste salty — almost like sea water. Which brings us to our next tip...

  • 02 of 05

    Use Flavorful Cooking Liquids

    Cooking with vegetable stock adds flavor.
    Photo © Tina Vallès

    Water doesn't taste like anything. So using water for steaming vegetables, braising, poaching, or for making soups, means you're not adding any flavor to the food. Consider using stock, broth or wine instead of water. For instance, substitute vegetable stock for plain water when making rice. Here's an easy recipe for a vegetable stock you can make in about 45 minutes.

  • 03 of 05

    Make It Tangy

    Lemon juice and other acids add tanginess.
    Photo © Scott D. Feldstein

    The palate likes to get a little jolt of acid now and then. Lemon juice, vinegar, and wine all contribute acid to a dish, which livens up flavors and helps balance and complement sweet flavors.

    When a dish seems to be lacking something and you've already seasoned it with salt, sometimes what's missing is acid. Often just a squeeze of lemon juice is all you'll need. Alternately, for people who have to follow reduced sodium diets, lemon juice can make up for some of the flavors that are...MORE lost through limiting salt.

  • 04 of 05

    Butter It Up

    Nothing compares to the flavor of butter.
    Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Besides salt, butter is probably the single most irreplaceable ingredient in all the culinary arts. Nothing compares to the sublime, creamy flavor and mouth feel of pure butter. And if you think improving your cooking has to mean compromising your health, think again.

    First of all, butter substitutes like margarine contain just as much fat as butter. But in addition, as a quick scan of the ingredients listed on that butter substitute product reveals, they also contain an alphabet soup of...MORE artificial flavors, emulsifiers, preservatives and other mystery ingredients. If health is my main concern, I'll take my chances with real butter.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Use Contrasting Textures

    Roasted chicken offers contrasting textures.
    Photo © Danilo Alfaro

    Imagine biting into a piece of perfectly roasted chicken. The outer skin is deliciously crispy while the meat itself is tender and juicy. The contrast of crispy skin and tender meat are a big part of what makes eating roasted chicken so much fun.

    Think about some other ways you can achieve this same effect in a dish like mashed potatoes. Suppose you sautéed some chopped celery and mixed it into the mashed potatoes. That crunch would definitely make those potatoes more exciting (and aromatic,...MORE too). Or, if you're making baked macaroni and cheese, try topping it with some seasoned bread crumbs before baking. That'll add some nice crispness to contrast with the soft cheese and pasta.