10 Pro Moves Home Cooks Can Use Every Day

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1: Spice Wisely

Consider how your spices work together in a dish, not just each component. For a harmonious plate, your homemade barbecue sauce shouldn’t fight the spicy rub on your roast. Salt generously, but be weary of loading on the chile powder (a rookie move). A heavy hand with the spices doesn’t replace slowly developing layers of flavor as you cook.

2: Blanch and Shock

How is that sauteed broccoli rabe still so green? How do those glazed carrots still have a snappy texture without a hint of rawness? It’s all in the blanch-and-shock method. Cooking in salted boiling water removes bitterness, adds seasoning and takes away that raw taste. The shock of an ice-water bath immediately stops the cooking process before your greens turn brown and your carrots to mush — and it helps preserve their bright colors. You can go on to saute or glaze in butter your favorite vegetables before serving.

3: Dry Before Searing

The only way to achieve a steakhouse-style crust is to use a paper towel to remove excess moisture before adding it to a hot pan. The same goes for crispy fish skin. Listen for the sizzle — that’s the sound of a pro cook searing.

4: Baste for Taste

The restaurant trick of spooning on nutty browned butter adds extra flavor and keeps your proteins from drying out in the pan. Here's how: Sear your steaks, chops or fish on high heat. Then add a pat of butter (plus some woody herbs, if you want) to the pan. Spoon the hot butter over the meat to gently finish cooking.  

5: Balance the Flavors

One-note dishes never win over the judges or our taste buds. A hit of acid to a rich, buttery dish will cut right through the fat. Some chopped herbs added at the end of a long braise provide much-needed freshness.

6: Play with Textures

The perfect bite isn’t just well-seasoned; it requires some combination of crunchy, creamy, weighty and airy textures playing together harmoniously. It’s why crispy breadcrumbs work on top of gooey mac and cheese, chopped nuts add crunch to salads and nothing beats creamy whipped butter on a flaky baguette.

7: Taste, Taste, Taste

It’s impossible to season well without tasting often. Sauces, soups, salad dressings and more need to be seasoned in the beginning, middle and end and prep. Taste your food throughout the cooking process to mark how the flavors change and develop.

8: Strain Your Sauces

When the judges see a contestant pour a finished sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, they immediately think pro. Straining catches loose herbs and cooked bits, and it will help you achieve a velvety smooth texture, whether you’re making a simple pan sauce or a labored-over reduction.

9: Make Even Cuts for Even Cooking

Slicing and dicing should be precise. The only way to avoid some bits of bacon burning in the pan while others are just beginning to crisp is to have even-size lardons. The same goes for roasting, deep-frying and sauteing vegetables — or anything, really.

10: Clean As You Go

Besides making cleanup after you eat easier, washing throughout the cooking process will keep you calm and organized.

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