40 Tips to Be a Better Cook

Like a quick delicious chocolate sauce? Want to get the lumps out of white sauce? These practical cooking tips answer many questions asked by both new and experienced cooks.

  1. If potatoes are over-cooked, drain off moisture, cover the pan with a tightly fitting lid, shake 3 to 4 minutes over low heat to dry out. Mash with a little butter, but omit the usual milk; beat until creamy.
  2. When cooking rice and pasta, add 1 to 2 teaspoons oil to the boiling water: this helps keep rice grains and pasta separate.
  3. If the butter is too hard to rub into flour for pastry, grate coarsely and it will rub in easily.
  4. To turn plain flour into self-raising flour, add 2 level teaspoons of baking powder to each cup of flour. Sift mixture several times to distribute baking powder well.
  5. For a health food fan who tries to avoid sugar, sweeten cold drinks with a honey syrup. Dissolve one part honey in one part of warm water. Cool.
  6. When grilling sausages, thread them on a long metal skewer, they’re easier to turn.
  7. For corn on the cob that’s juicy and tender, add ½ cup milk and 1 teaspoon sugar to boiling salted water for cooking.
  8. After using part of a can of tomato paste, pour enough oil into the can to cover the surface; this helps prevent discoloring. Cover top firmly with plastic food wrap and refrigerate. The oil solidifies in the refrigerator: lift it off with a spoon when you use the paste again.
  9. If stews, gravies, or casseroles are not an appetizing, rich brown color, add soy sauce: ½ to 1 teaspoon is enough.
  10. When measuring spoonfuls of golden syrup or honey, first dip the spoon in boiling water, the syrup or honey will run easily off the warm spoon.
  11. If white sauce becomes lumpy when it comes to the boil, strain through a fine strainer; reheat, stirring gently.
  12. If mayonnaise curdles, put an egg-yolk into a warmed basin, add curdled mayonnaise a spoonful at a time, beating gently.
  13. To make perfect, creamy mashed potatoes, cook potatoes until tender, drain well, return to saucepan and shake overheat 2 minutes to dry off all surplus moisture; potatoes will not whip well unless dry. Mash well with a potato masher; make a hole in the center of potatoes, add milk and butter; allow milk to come to boiling point (it takes only seconds); then, with rotary beater, beat potatoes gradually incorporating milk and butter mixture. When potatoes are well whipped, take a wooden spoon and run it around saucepan edge where rotary beater cannot reach, then whip again. Season with pepper.
  14. Make quick apple sauce to serve with pork: Put contents of 500g (16oz) can pie apple into the saucepan, add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, and ½ cup water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer 10 minutes; mash with a potato masher, or puree in the blender.
  15. The cream is easier to whip if both cream and basin are cold. Stand basin in refrigerator 30 minutes, use cream straight from the refrigerator.
  16. Most pate recipes say “serve with hot toast.” To prepare toast in advance, toast bread, remove crusts, cut in triangles. This can be done a day ahead. Seal in oven bag and store in the refrigerator. Just before serving, pierce several holes in the bag, put in a moderate oven, heat 10 minutes.
  17. Add small pieces of raw potato to an over-salted stew, soup, or casserole. Cook 10 to 12 minutes. Potato absorbs a large amount of the excess salt. Serve it with the food if it forms a logical part of it; if not, discard before serving.
  18. Substitute lean bacon pieces for bacon rashers as an ingredient in a casserole. They are thicker, better suited to a casserole, and cheaper.
  19. To blanch almonds (i.e. remove brown skins) put almonds in a small saucepan, cover with water. Bring slowly to boil, drain. Rub off brown skins between fingers. Do not let almonds remain in the water or they lose their gloss and become dull.
  20. When cooking cauliflower, add ½ cup milk to cooking water; this helps keep cauliflower white. As with all vegetables, do not overcook, it should be just tender and still slightly crisp.
  21. Hold spoon upright to drop pikelet batter into pan. This helps keep a round shape.
  22. Use a vegetable peeler to peel fruit and vegetables. It is easy and saves the waste caused by using a knife.
  23. Make a delicious chocolate sauce for ice-cream: Melt 60g (2oz) dark chocolate over hot water; stir in ½ cup bottled or canned chocolate sauce. Remove from heat, cool. One teaspoon of rum, brandy, or any favorite liqueur can be added. Here’s another easy chocolate sauce: Melt 125g (4oz) dark chocolate over hot water; remove from heat, cool. Stir in ½ cup cream. This second sauce will thicken as it cools but can be gently reheated, stirring, over hot water.
  24. For crisp, crunchy pork crackling have butcher score rind well. Rub salt well into rind; about 1½ teaspoons should be enough for a loin of pork. Roast in hot oven 30 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to moderate for the remainder of cooking time.
  25. Use a small sprig of mint for flavor when cooking peas or new potatoes. Don’t use too much or it will darken them.
  26. When crumbing foods such as fish, cutlets, or sausages save on eggs by dipping food in evaporated milk, then in breadcrumbs. Refrigerate 30 minutes, as usual, to set crumbs.
  27. To keep corned beef moist and juicy, cover with boiling water in a saucepan, put on the lid, reduce heat, simmer 1½ hours (for a 2kg or 4lb piece of silverside). Turn off heat, wrap several thicknesses of newspaper round saucepan, leave overnight.
  28. If stewing apples, add extra water. Cook apples in the usual way. When cooked strain, cool, and refrigerate apple juice. Children love it to drink with meals.
  29. Cook chicken the French way. Put a bird in a baking dish, sprinkle lightly with salt. Add ½ cups water, 2 crumbled chicken stock cubes, and 30g (1oz) butter to the pan. Cook in a moderately hot oven until tender, about 1¼ hours for 1.5kg (3lb) bird. After the first 30 minutes of cooking time, use a spoon to baste the pan juices over the bird; do this about every 15 minutes.
  30. Like a really crisp batter for fish? Sift together ½ cup self-raising flour, ½ cup plain flour, and ½ teaspoon salt; gradually beat in 1 cup water until mixture is smooth. Dip fish pieces into batter, deep-fry until golden and crisp. If you like batter rather soft and crinkly, like fish from the fish shop, deep-fry coated fish until pale golden. Remove from pan, drain on absorbent paper, let stand 1 hour. Then deep-fry again until golden and cooked through.
  31. A recipe sometimes says “add warmed honey,” this is to make honey more liquid. Simply pour honey into a cup, stand in a basin of hot water, off heat, until warm.
  32. If a recipe calls for sour milk as an ingredient, add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of fresh milk; stand milk in a warm place until sour.
  33. Prepare fruit that discolor quickly such as apples, bananas, avocados, as close as possible to serving time. However, if they have to stand for a time, brush with lemon juice, or other acid fruit juice such as orange to keep the fresh color.
  34. If dough for pastry or biscuits is too soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out, rather than adding extra flour. The dough will be firmer, easier to roll, and cut.
  35. Skinning fish? Cover board with greaseproof paper, hold the skin firmly and grasp skin between well-salted fingers, this will prevent fish from slipping.
  36. Wet hands with cold water for easier shaping and molding of meatballs, meat patties, or hamburgers.
  37. To save time when baking potatoes, boil them for 15 minutes; drain well, bake in a normal way. Baking time is approx, halved.
  38. Cover veal with plastic food wrap before pounding out thinly for schnitzels. It prevents the meat from sticking and tearing.
  39. Put evaporated milk in freezer 1 hour before beating, to give greater volume.
  40. Strictly speaking, rice for fried rice should be boiled a day ahead to give it time to dry out completely. However, if the family suddenly demands fried rice for dinner, here’s what to do: Cook rice in a large saucepan of boiling salted water in the usual way, drain, rinse under cold running water, drain well. Spread out on shallow tray such as a swiss roll tin, heat in a moderately slow oven 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a fork. Excess water will steam away leaving rice ready for frying.
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