Take Your Meals to the Next Level with These Must-Know Cooking Tips

The little things can make a big difference, especially in the kitchen. A little attention to detail can take a dish from a mediocre flop to a stunning culinary masterpiece—but if you don’t cook often of haven’t been cooking long, the details can easily go missed. Here, we’ve compiled a few insights that will take your cooking to another level.

1. Let chicken sear completely on a grill or in a pan, without flipping, until the cut releases naturally from the cooking surface.

2. Always add salt to boiling pasta water. It infuses flavor into the noodles. It’s also a good idea to reserve a small amount of this seasoned pasta water to thin out the sauce.

3. Add fresh herbs toward the end of cooking. This helps their flavor come through and prevents discoloring.

4. Spread a thin layer of avocado or mayonnaise on bottom hamburger buns to prevent soggy bread.

5. Substitute coffee when a recipe calls for water in baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and brownies; the coffee flavor won’t necessarily come through, instead intensifying the chocolate flavor.

6. Slam the core of a head of iceberg lettuce on a cutting board to easily remove it. The core will release easily and with less waste than cutting it out.

7. Measure dry ingredients by weight rather than volume. Measuring by weight is more accurate, as amounts in a measuring cup can vary depending on how the ingredient is scooped.

8. Peel fresh ginger root with a spoon. Scrape the spoon against the skin to pull it off, following the contours of the root for a faster, easier way to prep.

9. Add a pinch of salt when sweating aromatics early in a recipe to draw out moisture and promote browning, which adds flavor. It’s also important to season throughout the cooking process.

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11. Bring chicken to room temperature and pat dry before seasoning. This will help the seasoning adhere to the chicken better and ensure even cooking.

12. When grilling a whole chicken, butterfly it. When the backbone is removed, the chicken can be flattened and spread more evenly across the grill to ensure all parts cook in the same amount of time.

13. Pre-heat your pan to sear meat. The best at-home sear will come from a cast iron skillet over high heat.

14. Always use cold water when making a cornstarch slurry. Combine cornstarch and cold water in equal parts, and stir directly into sauces, soups, and stews to thicken.

15. Avoid overcrowding pans. Food placed too close together will steam and become soggy rather than crispy.

16. Remove seeds and piths from chili peppers before adding to a dish to add flavor but tone down the heat.

17. Put a damp towel under your cutting board to keep it from sliding around as you use it.

18. Let cookies rest on their baking sheet until they firm up (typically one to two minutes), then transfer to cooling racks.

19. When making a sauce or gravy, always heat stock before adding. The stock must be distributed evenly into the base for the sauce (typically a roux); no matter how vigorously you stir, cold stock will lead to lumps.

20. When browning a roux, be patient and stir continuously. A blond roux requires only about two to five minutes; the longer you cook it, the more flavor it develops and the less thickening power it possesses.