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Home » Blog » 19 Kitchen Hacks That Professional Chefs Swear By

19 Kitchen Hacks That Professional Chefs Swear By

Cooking like a pro isn’t just about fancy techniques and expensive gadgets. Often, the magic lies in the small, clever tricks that make everything easier and tastier. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a kitchen newbie, these 19 kitchen hacks will help you channel your inner chef and impress anyone lucky enough to taste your creations. Let’s dive into the fun, flavorful world of culinary secrets!

1. Rest Your Meat

Rest Your Meat

Cutting into meat right after it comes out of the oven is a common rookie mistake that can lead to disappointing results. The process of resting meat allows the juices, which have been pushed to the center by the heat during cooking, to redistribute throughout the meat. This redistribution is crucial because it ensures that each bite you take is juicy and flavorful, rather than dry and lackluster. By giving the meat time to rest, you allow it to relax and reabsorb some of the moisture that would otherwise spill out onto your cutting board.

How to Rest Meat

  • Tent with Foil: Loosely cover the meat with aluminum foil.
  • Timing: Rest smaller cuts for 5-10 minutes, larger roasts for 15-30 minutes.

2. Master the Mise en Place

Mise en Place

If you’ve ever started cooking and then realized you’re missing an ingredient, you know how frustrating that can be. “Mise en place,” which means “everything in its place,” can prevent this. It’s a method that helps you stay organized and focused while cooking.

Mise en place is about getting everything ready before you start cooking. It helps you cook more smoothly and avoid mistakes. Professional chefs use this method, and it can make your home cooking much more efficient and enjoyable too.

How to Practice Mise en Place

  • Prep Ahead: Chop, slice, and measure all your ingredients before you start cooking.
  • Use Small Bowls: Channel your inner TV chef and organize ingredients in little bowls.
  • Stay Organized: Arrange your prepped ingredients in the order you’ll use them.

3. Salt Your Pasta Water

Salt Your Pasta Water

Have you ever wondered why the pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant tastes so much better than what you make at home? The secret isn’t just in the sauce; it’s in the water. Salting your pasta water is a critical step that many home cooks overlook, but it’s a game-changer in the quest for perfect pasta. Think of it as giving your pasta a flavorful spa treatment that penetrates every strand with deliciousness.

When you add salt to the boiling water, it infuses the pasta from the inside out. As the pasta cooks and absorbs the water, it takes in the salt, enhancing its flavor. This is especially important for pasta dishes where the sauce might be light or simple. By ensuring the pasta itself is well-seasoned, you elevate the entire dish, making every bite a perfect blend of texture and taste.

How to Do It

  • Amount: Aim for water that tastes as salty as the sea—about 1-2 tablespoons of salt per gallon.
  • Timing: Add the salt once the water is boiling. Instant flavor upgrade!

4. Use a Microplane for Garlic and Ginger

Microplane for Garlic and Ginger

Chopping garlic and ginger can be a sticky, tricky business. Both ingredients are kitchen staples that pack a punch of flavor, but they can be challenging to prepare. Garlic cloves are small and sticky, often clinging to your fingers and knife. Ginger, with its fibrous texture, can be tough to mince finely enough to blend seamlessly into dishes. By using microplane grater you can turn these ingredients into a fine paste.

Using a microplane grater for garlic and ginger not only saves time but also enhances the flavor of your dishes. The fine grating ensures that the flavors are evenly distributed, providing a consistent taste throughout your cooking. Additionally, a microplane grater extracts more of the natural juices and oils, intensifying the aroma and taste. This small tool can elevate your culinary creations from good to great, making your kitchen experience smoother and more enjoyable.

How to Use a Microplane

  • Garlic: Simply peel and grate. No sticky fingers!
  • Ginger: Peel using a spoon, then grate for a smooth, potent paste.

5. Keep Herbs Fresh

Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can take your dish from good to gourmet, but they have a frustrating tendency to wilt. With proper storage, you can keep them vibrant and ready to shine.

How to Store Fresh Herbs

  • Tender Herbs (Cilantro, Parsley): Trim the stems, place in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag, and store in the fridge. Like a bouquet for your kitchen!
  • Hardy Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme): Wrap in a damp paper towel, pop in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. They’ll stay perky for days.

6. Use a Digital Thermometer

Digital Thermometer

Perfectly cooked meat is a hallmark of a pro. A digital thermometer takes the guesswork out, ensuring juicy, flavorful results every time. No more playing chicken with undercooked poultry!

How to Use a Digital Thermometer

  • Insert Properly: Stick it in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding bones.
  • Check for Doneness: Use a meat temperature chart to hit the sweet spot.

7. Deglaze Your Pan

Deglaze Your Pan

Those crispy bits stuck to the bottom of your pan? That’s pure gold, known as fond. Deglazing captures that flavor and turns it into a delicious sauce.

How to Deglaze

  • Add Liquid: Pour in wine, broth, or water after cooking meat or veggies.
  • Scrape: Use a wooden spoon to free those browned bits.
  • Reduce: Let it simmer down to a concentrated, flavorful sauce.

8. Use an Ice Bath for Vegetables

Ice Bath for Vegetables

Blanching veggies keeps them bright and crisp, but overcooking can turn them to mush. An ice bath halts the cooking process instantly, preserving their vibrant color and texture.

How to Use an Ice Bath

  • Prepare Ice Bath: Fill a bowl with ice and water.
  • Blanch Vegetables: Boil until tender-crisp.
  • Cool Quickly: Dunk them in the ice bath to lock in perfection.

9. Make Your Own Stock

Make Your Own Stock

Homemade stock is like liquid gold. Richer and more flavorful than store-bought, it can elevate soups, stews, and sauces to new heights.

How to Make Stock

  • Save Scraps: Freeze vegetable scraps, meat bones, and herbs.
  • Simmer Slowly: Combine scraps with water in a pot and simmer for hours.
  • Strain and Store: Strain the liquid and store in the fridge or freezer.

10. Use Citrus Zest

Use Citrus Zest

Citrus zest packs a punch of bright, concentrated flavor that can elevate any dish. It’s like adding sunshine to your food!

How to Zest

  • Choose Tools: Grab a microplane or fine grater.
  • Avoid Pith: Grate just the colorful outer layer, leaving the bitter white pith behind.

11. Season in Layers

Season in Layers

Seasoning as you go ensures that flavors develop fully and penetrate every layer of your dish. It’s the secret to deeply flavorful food.

How to Season in Layers

  • Initial Seasoning: Start with seasoning your ingredients at the beginning.
  • Adjust as You Go: Taste and tweak throughout the cooking process.
  • Final Touch: Finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper just before serving.

12. Use a Sharp Knife

Use a Sharp Knife

A sharp knife not only makes cutting a breeze but also ensures your ingredients look and cook better. Plus, it’s safer—no more slipping and sliding!

How to Keep Your Knife Sharp

  • Hone Regularly: Keep that blade aligned with a honing steel before or after each use. Think of it as your knife’s morning stretch.
  • Sharpen Periodically: Give your knife a spa day with a good quality sharpener or professional sharpening a few times a year.
  • Proper Storage: Knives in drawers are a no-no. Use a knife block, magnetic strip, or protective sheaths to keep those edges pristine.

13. Use Room Temperature Ingredients for Baking

Room Temperature Ingredients for Baking

Room temperature ingredients mix more easily, resulting in a uniform texture and better rise in baked goods. It’s the secret to bakery-quality treats.

How to Bring Ingredients to Room Temperature

  • Butter: Cut into small pieces to soften faster.
  • Eggs: Place in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
  • Milk and Other Liquids: Measure and let sit out for 30 minutes.

14. Keep a Clean Workspace

Keep a Clean Workspace

A tidy kitchen is a happy kitchen. Staying organized improves efficiency and safety, making your cooking experience more enjoyable.

How to Maintain a Clean Workspace

  • Clean As You Go: Wash dishes and wipe surfaces as you cook.
  • Organize Tools: Keep frequently used tools within reach.
  • Sanitize: Regularly sanitize cutting boards and countertops, especially after handling raw meat.

15. Taste as You Cook

Taste as You Cook

Tasting your food as you cook allows you to adjust seasoning and balance flavors, ensuring a delicious final dish. It’s the key to cooking with confidence.

How to Taste Properly

  • Use Clean Utensils: Always use a clean spoon or fork for tasting.
  • Adjust Accordingly: Add more seasoning, acid, or sweetness as needed based on taste.

16. Freeze Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil

Freeze Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil

Nothing beats fresh herbs, but they don’t always last. Freezing them in olive oil preserves their flavor and makes them easy to use in cooking.

How to Freeze Herbs in Olive Oil

  • Chop Herbs: Finely chop fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or rosemary.
  • Ice Cube Trays: Place the herbs in an ice cube tray and cover with olive oil.
  • Freeze: Pop the trays in the freezer. Use the herb cubes as needed for sautéing or roasting.

17. Use a Mandoline for Uniform Slices

Mandoline for Uniform Slices in the kitchen

Consistent slices ensure even cooking and a professional presentation. A mandoline makes it easy to achieve perfect, uniform slices every time.

How to Use a Mandoline

  • Adjust Blade: Set the mandoline to your desired thickness.
  • Use Guard: Always use the safety guard to protect your fingers.
  • Slice Away: Glide your vegetables or fruits along the blade for perfect slices.

18. Refresh Stale Bread

Refresh Stale Bread

Don’t toss that day-old bread! Refreshing it brings back its softness and crispiness, reducing waste and giving you delicious bread again.

How to Refresh Stale Bread

  • Dampen with Water: Lightly spritz the bread with water.
  • Wrap in Foil: Wrap the bread in aluminum foil.
  • Bake: Place in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes.

19. Use a Bench Scraper for Easy Cleanup

Bench Scraper chef's kitchen

A bench scraper is a versatile tool that makes cleanup and food transfer a breeze. It’s perfect for collecting chopped ingredients or scraping off stuck dough.

How to Use a Bench Scraper

  • Collect Ingredients: Use it to gather chopped vegetables or herbs and transfer them to your pot or pan.
  • Scrape Surfaces: Quickly scrape off dough, flour, or food bits from your work surface.

Cooking like a pro is about more than just recipes; it’s about smart techniques and clever hacks that make everything easier and tastier. Incorporate these 19 kitchen hacks into your culinary routine, and you’ll be well on your way to cooking like a chef. Remember, to experiment, have fun, and enjoy the delicious results. Happy cooking!

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Daisy Smith
Daisy Smith