The Best Cooking Tips Our Moms Ever Gave Us
Some of our very first experiences in the kitchen were alongside our moms. And on a day celebrating mothers everywhere, what better way to put a smile on their faces than to show that we’ve heeded (at least some) of their advice? Here’s a list of the best cooking tips our moms gave us – that we’ve brought straight into our own kitchens.
The Only Way to Make Arepas
It’s not a traditional tip, but whenever I think of Luisa Elena Alvarez cooking I think of the first time she taught me to make arepas. We got through most of the process and I asked her how long they take to cook in the oven. She took one out, put it in one hand, and beat it like a drum with her other hand. “Until it sounds like this,” she said. “Got it,” I responded, “But about how much time?” “Until it sounds like this.” I always think of that moment when I pull them out of the oven, and I always make sure that mine sound the same. I can’t wait for the day when I teach my kids how to make arepas using that exact sentence.
-Larisa Alvarez, Managing Culinary Producer
Wait for the Sizzle
This may be the simplest thing, but when I was younger and just starting to learn how to cook in the kitchen my mom helped me navigate my way around the stovetop. She always told me when heating up a pan, flick a little water from your fingertips onto the skillet to make sure it’s hot enough before you add the oil and food to it. When the water droplets bubble that’s when you know it’s ready to cook! I still do this to this day, out of habit and practicality! Thanks mom!
-Lauren Tom, Associate Content Producer
Good Ingredients Go a Long Way
My mom taught me that good-quality ingredients really make a difference in your cooking. She’s a true lover of baking and even went to culinary school a few years back. Nonetheless, even before she learned to cook professionally she always accentuated that you don’t need to spend a fortune to make a delicious meal, but spending a couple extra dollars on a nice bottle of olive oil or another few bucks on some aged prosciutto will truly make a difference in your finished dish. Oh, and I forgot to mention… she’s a big fan of Ina’s!
-Amanda Neal, Recipe Developer
Everything in Its Place
My mom’s best cooking tip actually has nothing to do with food. Instead, she’s all about preparation and easy cleanup. Before I cook anything, I can always hear my mom’s voice telling me to get all my ingredients out, make sure they’re prepped (hello, mise en place!) and, most importantly, to set aside a spare bowl to throw in any scraps or waste. That way, I’m able to clean as I go and not be distracted by clutter. Plus, the end result is always better when I know I don’t have a big old mess waiting for me in the kitchen. Thanks, Mom!
-Leah Scalzadonna, Associate Editor, Programming
Use Idle Time Wisely
The best tip my mom ever taught me doesn’t necessarily involve cooking, but it’s saved me countless hours in the kitchen. Instead of waiting until after dinner to wash all the dirty dishes, to this day my mom will clean up as she cooks. As the chicken bakes, she’ll rinse off cutting boards and knives. As the sauce simmers, she’ll wipe down the countertops and throw away garbage. By the time dinner hits the table, most of the cookware she used will already be in the dishwasher! I’ve adapted this practice myself and always recommend it to others. Not only does it help you avoid time standing at the sink after dinner, but it also makes eating more enjoyable since you’re not dreading a gargantuan stack of dishes left to wash. Thanks, mom!
-Allison Underhill, Editorial Assistant
Timing Is Everything – Especially for Holidays
My mom makes a holiday meal for 25 look as easy as making dinner for four. She’s a pro at hosting large gatherings and last year I finally figured out her secret to getting everything to the table hot: timing. Every holiday she makes a list of the recipes she needs for the meal and puts them together in a master list to plan out the whole cooking process. For Christmas, it lists everything for her three-course meal from when to boil pasta to what time to slice the bread. Guests are always shocked at how easy-breezy mom makes a holiday meal feel, never knowing how much work she’s put in ahead of time. It’s truly a work of art.
-T.K. Brady, Senior Editor
A Happy Accident
My mom does not like to cook, and she has semi-warm feelings about baking — except when it comes to nut cookies. She truly enjoys making them: delicate, crumbly cookies made with walnuts, shaped into crescents and showered with a blizzard of powdered sugar. She knocked our socks off with her best batch a few years ago — we couldn’t figure out why they were so good. Then she realized that she'd accidently left out a quarter of the flour. Less flour meant the cookies tasted extra buttery and delicious. Our family recipe officially changed, and she taught me that even reliable dogeared recipes can evolve. Try these similar walnut-cardamom crescents — but add all the flour!
-Leah Brickley, Senior Editor, Culinary
The best cooking tip I learned from my mom was to relax and go with it! My mom was an excellent cook and in addition to our family classics we were always trying new recipes we found in the newspaper or magazines. BUT – sometimes, we botched the directions or a family favorite we had made a hundred times came out a total flop. Then there was the leftover turkey casserole recipe that went straight into the garbage! She taught me to shrug my shoulders, laugh and just roll with it. Sometimes the mistakes made for an even more delicious end result. I realized this attitude has made me a fearless cook and recipe developer and that freedom is inspiring.
-Melissa Gaman, Recipe Developer