Essential Recipes and Tips Your Mother Should Have Taught You

Ten staple recipes just got easier (and tastier) with these tips from Food Network Kitchen. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned cook, you'll want these in your back pocket.

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

10 Dishes Every Cook Should Know

Here are the 10 simple recipes that should be in every cook's arsenal, from weeknight spaghetti to company-worthy roast chicken to perfect chocolate chip cookies. Master them with essential tips and tricks that you'll wish your parents had taught you long ago!

Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies

These classic cookies are a go-to sweet treat, easy to whip up and store — well, if they last! 

Get the Recipe: Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Decode the Recipe

Most cookie recipes say to beat butter and sugar until “light and fluffy.” But what does that actually mean? Stop mixing when your batter looks like the bowl on the right. 

Two Sugars Are Better Than One

Different types of sugar yield different cookie textures. For the perfect chewy/crispy cookie, use a combination of brown sugar (chewy) and granulated (crunch).

 

Foolproof Way to Measure Flour

When measuring flour for cookies or any baked goods, spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry cookies.

Simple Broccoli Stir-Fry

Stir-frying has stood the test of time. It's a wonderful way to cook small pieces of vegetables and meat quickly, without a lot of fat. Prepping your ingredients ahead of time and having them near your stovetop is the key to success. 

Get the Recipe: Simple Broccoli Stir-fry

You Have the Tools

Don't skip a recipe because you think you don’t have the right tools. If you don't have a wok, use a nonstick skillet. If you start getting hooked on stir-fry, though, consider purchasing a wok — they're relatively inexpensive and the concave shape makes stir-frying foods easy and fast.

Prep Ahead!

Prep all ingredients first and have them ready by your hot pan. The cheffy term for this is mise en place, but it's just as essential at home.

Simple Broiled Flank Steak with Herb Oil

Flank steak is a relatively lean cut of meat but full of flavor. This preparation is low on the fussiness factor: Put your seasoned steak on a preheated broiler pan and cook, no flipping needed. 

Get the Recipe: Simple Broiled Flank Steak with Herb Oil

Slice Against the Grain

Be sure to always cut the meat against the grain — across, not parallel with, the visible lines of muscle fibers — so the steak will be tender, not chewy.

Pantry-Ready Sauces

You don't need much to adorn a great steak. An incredibly simple herb oil takes the steak and makes it more special. Use what you have: Oregano, chives, cilantro or basil also work instead of parsley.

Simple Chicken Soup

This comfort food classic is just as flavorful and soul satisfying as Grandma's chicken soup, but where hers took several hours — or a day — to make, this one takes under an hour.

Get the Recipe: Simple Chicken Soup

Fortify Store-Bought Broth

Here's the secret: Instead of long-simmered stock, start with store-bought chicken broth and water, but enrich them with stock vegetables and the carcass, bones and meat of a leftover roast chicken.

Simple Lemon-Herb Roasted Salmon

This go-to recipe uses a fish's best friends: butter, herbs and lemon. Roasting at a high temperature lets you lightly brown the fillets on foil, without having to use a skillet, so there's minimal cleanup. Make this quick entree often, and use the time you save to try a new side dish to go with it.

Get the Recipe: Simple Lemon-Herb Roasted Salmon

Choosing a Fillet

Use fillets that are the same thickness. The fillet on the right is half as thick and cooks in about half the time of the one on the left. It's OK to use thin salmon, just use the same thickness for all portions. The same rule applies to steaks and chicken breasts (though you can pound those out to make them the same thickness).

The Benefits of Roasting

Roasting at a high temperature lets you lightly brown the fillets on foil, without having to use a skillet, so there's almost no cleanup.

Simple Mashed Potatoes

Russet potatoes are best for this recipe because of their high starch content, which makes for fluffier mashed potatoes. 

Get the Recipe: Simple Mashed Potatoes

Simmer, Don't Boil

Simmer the potatoes in their skins — it saves peeling time, and simmering versus boiling saves them from getting waterlogged and mushy.

Ditch the Peeler

To peel the simmered potatoes, press on the skins with a clean kitchen cloth. They will slip right off!

Simple Roast Chicken with Gravy

You'll love having this roast chicken in your weeknight repertoire. One bird can supply you with a dinner, leftovers for sandwiches or salads, and a carcass and bones (which you can freeze for up to a month) to make stock. Use your homemade stock to make gravy the next time you roast a chicken.

Get the Recipe: Simple Roast Chicken with Gravy

Don't Skimp on Salt

Here is what generosity looks like, when it comes to salt. It might be more than you are used to using, but you will love the difference in taste and in crispiness.

For the Gravy

No need to dirty another pan or pot to make gravy — make it right in the roasting pan. The little bits that stick to your pan are flavor gold. (Unless they are really burnt.) "Deglazing" is the term chefs use, but really you are just dissolving those tasty brown things into liquid so that you can eat them.

Try the Oysters

Remember that every roast chicken has two "oysters," the tender morsels on each side of the backbone. These two little disks of perfection are like the tenderloin on a chicken. They are tender and juicy, and they're the perfect size to pop into your mouth while you carve the bird. Shhh!

 

Simple Scrambled Eggs

Slow and steady wins the race! Cooking over low heat ensures soft and luscious scrambled eggs. If you like, at the very end, stir in 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese, such as aged cheddar or Gruyere.

Get the Recipe: Simple Scrambled Eggs

Measure Your Salt

Because you don't want to taste raw eggs for seasoning, actually measure your salt for scrambled eggs. Once you get a feel for amounts, you can eyeball it. Beating the salt into the eggs distributes it and makes every bite more flavorful.

The Secret Ingredient

A little butter makes almost anything better. Fold in a pat when you take the eggs off the stove.

Simple Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Try this easy go-to recipe and you'll never buy jarred sauce again. Look for canned San Marzano plum tomatoes — they are slightly sweeter and less acidic than other varieties.

Get the Recipe: Simple Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

A Prepared Pantry

Always keep pasta and canned tomatoes in the pantry. When there's no food in the fridge, you can always whip up this satisfying classic.

Adding Extras

A basic pasta dish can be transformed by adding extras like cooked bacon, shrimp or even a few handfuls of baby spinach to the sauce. It's a great way to clean out the fridge!

Simple Vinaigrette

Make a batch of homemade vinaigrette at the beginning of the week, and toss a few tablespoons with fresh greens for a quick weeknight salad. But remember that vinaigrette isn't just for salad: You can also use it as a quick sauce for fish or grilled chicken.

Get the Recipe: Simple Vinaigrette

The Right Ratio

Remember the standard 3-to-1 oil-to-vinegar ratio and you'll never need bottled salad dressing. 

Use What You Have

You can use any kind of vinegar, or substitute citrus. For variety, add your favorite dried or chopped fresh herbs.