Culinary Grads Are Sharing 75 Cooking Tips


A single episode of Hell’s Kitchen or MasterChef is enough to realize how much guts it takes to become a chef. Working under so much pressure, your blood boiling like it was on the menu is the norm in a restaurant kitchen. And being shouted at is a polite way to confirm you’re still in. On the other side of the cooking industry, crashing hopes and dreams are washed ashore on moldy food containers as seen on Kitchen Nightmares. Whether you’re doing good or not, it never gets easier.


So this time, we are looking at the culinary school grads who have likely been to hell and back to see what cooking tips they have to share. Thanks to one Redditor who posed the question “What are some golden tips to cooking you didn’t learn in culinary school?” on r/Cooking, we can now learn their useful tricks without selling our sanity to the kitchen.


It turns out, learning stuff the "normal way," aka tuning in to a "how to make an omelet" video on YouTube, may just as well do the job.


#1

If you're a home cook always clean up after your self while you're cooking. You'll thank yourself after you've eaten and you're full and you don't have a sink full of dishes and stuff to put away everywhere.

Image credits: DarlingDrak3


#2

Salt in the hand, not in the pan. When adding salt to a dish, try not to hang a 5 pound box over it.

Image credits: Importchef


#3

Place cherry tomatoes in between two plastic lids to cut them in half. You can cut 15 to 20 at a time this way instead of one at a time.

Image credits: exstaticj


To find out more about the subreddit r/Cooking, where the “What are some golden tips to cooking you didn’t learn in culinary school?” question was posted, Bored Panda reached out to the moderator u/zem, who told us more about the community.


The Reddit user u/zem explained that r/cooking has evolved over time “to stress the fact the membership is interested in cooking rather than just food.” Hence, the moderator team has disallowed pictures of food without a complete recipe attached.


“Compare r/tonightsdinner to see what we were trying to discourage; that's a great subreddit too, but it's focused more on the food than on how the reader can make it for themselves,” u/zem added.


#4

Pay attention to all your senses. Sauteing things like onions sound different at different stages. More of a hiss at the start as the steam escapes settling down to a crackle once all that's left its vegetable and fat. Similarly everything you cook will have subtle changes to the way they smell as they cook. There have been many times when I have been multitasking and my nose has alerted me to check on whatever I have in the oven. I'm not talking about smelling burning but just the subtle changes as certain stages of cooking are reached. Eventually it becomes second nature.

Image credits: theoakking


#5

Recipes are a road map. You don't have to follow them exactly, its ok to deviate. Unless you are baking, in which case, follow the recipe exactly.

Image credits: CrowEyedWolf


#6

There’s literally no point, and even a health hazard, to “rinse” pre-cut chicken and salmon.

Image credits: velvthamr


The moderator also said that the team behind the community is here not because they’re cooking experts, but rather because “we spend a lot of time on Reddit and are basically volunteering some time and effort to keep the community running smoothly.”


The subreddit, which now has 2.2 million members, describes itself as “a place for the cooks of Reddit and those who want to learn how to cook.”


#7

A few drops of a hot sauce like Crystal or a fish sauce can be unrecognizable in a vinaigrette, dip or sauce but it can take it to otherworldly levels. A touch of heat, umami, sugar or acid can turn a flat dish into something people crave. Little drops, add more. Stop when you taste it and start salivating.

Image credits: OviliskTwo


#8

Please don’t buy pre-marinated meats in butchers and grocery stores, they’re usually older cuts of meat being ‘rescued’ with a marinade to cover the unfreshness and smell.

Image credits: seeeyyaa


#9

Using the finger measurement for rice. Just fill your pot with rice and cover with water so that the tip of your finger is touching the top of the rice and the the water comes to your first knuckle.

Image credits: moose_knuckle01


#10

Work like an assembly line. Cut all the ends off, then peel everything, then split everything, then slice. Having 500 veggies to chop will take so long if you do each, from beginning to end, individually. When you change jobs or motions or tools, you slow down to recalibrate. The less you change actions, the faster you can get.

Image credits: tropexuitoo


#11

Using scissors to cut things. Cherry tomatoes, dough, pizza, some cuts of meat, veggies.... So much faster, less to clean up and way cleaner cuts.

Image credits: Aszshana


#12

Learn cooking techniques instead of recipes.


Don't approach recipes like they're magic spells in the Harry Potter universe. If you wiggle your nose wrong or put in a spec to much of some seasoning you're not going to end up with a completely different dish.


Alton Brown does an incredible job of teaching a cooking technique and then showing you a recipe that applies that technique. If you learn a process instead of a rote recipe you will know how to cook dozens of dishes, and it's really the only way to develop skills in the kitchen.

Image credits: gkevinkramer


#13


Never throw away bacon fat. Filter cooled (but still liquid) bacon fat through a paper towel into a coffee mug or heat-resistant container. It stays fresh uncovered in the fridge for months. Use it anywhere you'd use butter, lard, or oil. It makes great gravy and is also perfect for sautéing veggies, especially leafy stuff like kale and spinach. Just remember that bacon fat is salty, so you'll want to adjust your recipe for that.


Image credits: GrannyRUcroquet


#14

You can use soy sauce or fish sauce as a substitute for salt for a better umami taste. Also, because you'll need less due to the concentrated flavour, it'll naturally be less sodium.

Image credits: Aine8


#15

Dry any ingredients that trap moisture — like meat, fish, and vegetables — with a paper towel before cooking them. My mom’s cooking was always too watery — and not properly crispy, browned, or caramelized — because she missed this step.

Image credits: half_a_sleep


#16

Salt early, salt late. Adding salt at different points in cooking dramatically affects results.

Image credits: labretirementhome


#17

Not a food tip but a cooking tip.... a falling knife has no handle. If you drop a knife, get the hell out of the way and let it hit the floor. Washing it is easy enough. Try to catch it and you could be visiting the emergency room.

#18


Add some cider vinegar to chicken or turkey gravy. Game. Changer.


Image credits: neanotnea


#19

If you're cooking with chicken or pork, season aggressively. Both meats are wonderful seasoning sponges; find a regional spice map or guide and start combining flavors.

#20

Timers. I always forget I have something going on the stove while I'm cutting something across the kitchen. Timers save lives.

#21

You can use the stem of broccoli. Just peel, slice and fry it in the pan, it's delicious.

Image credits: Buddingastronomer


#22

Memorize the three-step method for perfectly crispy fish skin.

1) Scrape the skin with the back of a knife to dry it out.

2) Put it in a hot pan with fat skin down and press it until it stops trying to curl. 3) Put the whole pan in the oven and roast until done. Cook it the whole way skin down.

Image credits: Timmymac1000


#23

Electric stoves are much hotter than gas. A high setting on gas will get you a nice sear, but the same on electric will burn. It's not something to worry about in the kitchen, but definitely at home.

Image credits: Azuenz


#24

Treat your learning experiences as if they're "XP bars" in video gaming/rpg's, I approach all my learning this way. Your time spent x difficulty = wisdom/learning/skill level. If you're getting good at something and keep doing the same thing you'll plateau and go from learning to stagnating. Push your boundaries beyond your limit like you did when your first learned to get the most effect, and the most failure.

Image credits: callmetimtim


#25

You'll move faster if you maintain the saying of 'Everything has a home, and if it's not in my hand, it's in its home.' This way, you can rely on everything being exactly in its place.

Also, stay clean. Not just by wiping up crumbs after you use a cutting board (keep a sanitized towel nearby for a quick wipe and it'll become second nature), but by always keeping 'landing spaces' clear. You go faster when your space is flexible, and that only happens if you stay clean.

Image credits: indigoHatter


#26

When prepping or cooking a recipe, plan your next two tasks as you're performing your current task.

That way, you always know what you're moving toward.

Image credits: SmackedWookiee


#27

Always "cook one off" — and taste your product or prep mixture before you dive into making the rest of it. Too many people just go along making recipes and don’t taste.

Image credits: TotsOrNot


#28


Caramelize onions in butter (rather than olive oil) and a bit of sugar. Butter is especially great for browning. If you’re going a bit beyond just browning, like with fried or caramelized onions, use butter and sugar. It makes a world of difference.


Image credits: Sophisticated_Sloth


#29

If you're cooking a meal with lots of components, use appliances to keep things at temperature — *without* taking up real estate on stove burners.

A slow cooker, Instant Pot, or grill with some kind of temp control can all have things going low and slow, holding food at temp waiting for you.

Image credits: severoon


#30

A master chef told me this in culinary school: "you can always stop cooking." Take it off the burner or out of the oven if you need to. Surprisingly helpful tip

#31

Chop with the rear part of the blade, not the tip, in a rolling motion.

#32

Control your heat. Control everything, but mostly your heat.

#33

Keep it simple. Something with 3-4 ingredients that go really well together is better than something with 12 ingredients that clash with each other.

#34

Flouring pans for cakes is a step not to be skipped but when it comes to chocolate cakes, it looks awful so for dark cakes, I use cocoa powder instead.

#35

If you have to keep adding salt, try adding some citric acid instead

#36

Heat will remain in your food after turning off the stove and it will continue to cook, so pay attention to your timing. e.g. when you want to add cheese to your omelette, cheese should melt in a plate with heat of the eggs, otherwise you will have over dried omelette, same as overcooked pasta.

#37

If you're worried about calories, just eat a smaller portion rather than substituting "healthier" ingredients. Especially when baking.

#38

Only cook with wine you would actually drink yourself. This means, don't use "cooking" wine. As in, that garbage that is all salty from the grocery. Just stick to wines you'd find on the shelf that aren't in the cooking aisle.

#39

Mise en place. Have all your stuff lined up and ready to go before you start. You don't want something to burn because you're busy looking for the tablespoon or opening a can of something.

#40

If you want to brown your meat, don't fill the pan to the brim. It will only boil in its own juices until it's still pale but also tough. Just put a few pieces in at once, you can place them on a plate once they're done and then do the next ones.

#41

Don't be afraid to experiment. Every successful new recipe or derivation was at one point an experiment.

#42

Make your own stock.


Save the parts of veggies you didn't use like ends of onions, inners of peppers, and chicken bones in a ziplock in the freezer. Just make sure you don't put anything bitter like cabbage or brocolli in. Also never put lemon rind in, it will make it super bitter and inedible. Sweet things like carrots or squash are a must, even pieces of apples are delicious. And I always make sure to put in some celery. Put it all straight from freezer bag to pot, cover with water, throw in a few bay leaves and salt and pepper and simmer for like two hours.


I always try to have chicken stock on hand... so much better than store bought broth, and you control the sodium. Your soups will never be the same. Also delicious to use to cook rice

#43

Take a small hand towel and either loop it through a belt loop or between your waist and your belt so it hangs over your leg. As you move around, then, you always have something to wipe your hands/your instruments on and you don't need to go out of your way to do it!

#44

Most recipes tell you to fry onions before browning meat. Don't. The onions will add liquid to the pan, meaning your meat boils rather than browns properly.

#45

If you're cooking on a budget, buy pasta, potatoes, rice, beans, onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, olive oil, butter, green peppers, salt? Pepper, cumin, Italian seasoning, broth. You can make lots of dishes with these

#46

Silicone spatula for eggs. Fat bonds to plastic, making plastic spatulas frustrating to use when frying eggs.

#47

Professional chef here. Hot pans make a world of difference. Never start anything in a cold pan.

#48

This is more than one:

-If your sauce is too salty, add half a potato.

-If you are going to be deep frying or making candy, invest in a decent thermometer.

-If you are making simple drop cookies, you want to mix every stage to totally smooth.

-Garlic reduces spice.

-Don't be a punk, use fresh cracked pepper.

#49

Pour boiling water on a chopping board after cutting raw chicken, will cook any remnants and make it easier to clean

#50

Add about a half of a tablespoon of sugar to your chili or spaghetti sauce. It takes some of the acidity out.

#51

The size and cut of your vegetables has a dramatic impact on how the overall dish will taste. Ever order a pizza and the onions still taste and feel raw? They cut them too big and they couldn't finish cooking in the 8 minutes it takes to bake the pizza. Same with dips, if you cut the veggies too large, the consistency of your dip will suck.

#52

The only recipe that should have only one clove of garlic in it is a recipe for one clove of garlic. Two MINIMUM people.

#53

This isn't a secret or anything, but I think a lot of folks don't realize how important acid is in a lot of cooking. When you've seasoned something perfectly but it still tastes like it's missing something, it's usually acid. A bit of citrus juice or vinegar will take it to the next level.

#54

Always use cold water to mix with flour or cornstarch to make your gravy. It won't get lumpy.

#55

Instead of just straight up sauteeing shrimp for a dish you can take (high quality) raw uncooked shrimp, take off the shells and tails and set them aside, heat up a little oil in your pan, saute the shells in the hot oil until they turn red and get little white speckles on them, add 1C of a good white wine, simmer for about 5 min, strain and use a spoon to sort of press on the shells to get all the liquid out, return the liquid to the pan, and then poach the shrimp in that liquid just until cooked. Flavor explosion!

#56

When making cookies (maybe sweets in general?) if the recipe calls for both brown sugar and granulated sugar always add more brown than white. It makes your baked goods softer

#57

Don’t add the oil or butter before your pan is hot! Heat up your pan first, then add the oil and let that heat up (it will get ripply), then add whatever you’re cooking.

#58

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is not for frying things! It has a very low smoke point and will break down. For higher (but still not very high) heat, you want regular Olive Oil, not Extra Virgin.

#59

Peeling a hard boiled egg is easier if you do it under cold running water.

#60

Use chopsticks to cook bacon. Makes flipping the bacon so much easier and gives you great control in moving the bacon around the pan!

#61

If you do it enough times, you can make a great sourdough loaf by feel. You don't have to measure anything.

Add your flour to make a loaf the size you choose, your starter into a levain, your water and salt. You can tell by the feel of the dough if it's hydrated where you like it. I make my best loaves this way.

Image credits: Ennion


#62

The more you diversify your cuisine knowledge, the better a cook you will become. There's usually more than one way to do something well, and no one cuisine or continent has all the answers. My culinary school was very Eurocentric in its approach. But in the real world, people cook differently — with different techniques from one place to the next — and all create amazing food. I've learned from many YouTube cooking channels that a lot of the old cooking or baking wisdom from school doesn't apply. Or that it may be OK, but there are newer and better ways of doing things."

Image credits: CCDestroyer


#63

If you think you're moving fast, you're not moving fast enough. Every single movement needs to be completely dialed in. I cooked a meal with my sister this summer and afterwards she was marveling at just how much I got done in a short amount of time & how she didn't realize it until after, because I seemed calm and relaxed the whole time. Gotta learn to fly.

Image credits: orangesnotapples


#64

Don't be afraid to use premade seasoning powders.

Culinary school never teaches you to use premade seasoning powders (like Knorr stock powder, Old Bay, Tony Chachere's, etc.) or MSG. They're essential for certain food businesses. In my culinary school, MSG was never talked about, and I had to learn how to use it myself when I opened my business.

Image credits: arcerms


#65

If something burns slightly, throw BBQ sauce on it and call it "Smoked".

If something that's supposed to be smooth comes out chunky, call it "Homestyle".

#66

If you are cooking a dish that asks for thinly sliced beef or pork, throw that hunk of meat in the freezer. Way easier to cut thin when semi-frozen

#67

If you’re searing a bunch of little things in a pan, like scallops, set them in the pan in a clock-like circular pattern. That way, you’ll be able to easily keep track of where to start flipping, and then you can just move clockwise down the line. Seems obvious, but I was just haphazardly throwing pieces of meat or seafood in a pan prior to seeing this done on a cooking show.

#68

ALWAYS use real butter, not margarine.

#69

When browning ground meat only flip it twice. Flatten it out and cook it till it is half done flip over like a giant burger then cook till done. Crumble it once its cooked. And never again eat gray tasteless ground beef.

#70

I like to spray my measuring spoon with Pam before I scoop up some honey. Comes right off the spoon

#71

Always scrape the ingredients from the cutting board into a pot with the back of the knife, it will help the blade stay sharp longer

#72

When melting chocolate:


Chocolate holds its shape after melting point, so stir it frequently


If it has lost its initial shape but feels thick to stir, it's burnt


If it is lightly burnt, it can be saved by a bit of olive oil. Add a teaspoon at a time, stir well, and your chocolate will be magically good again.

#73

Properly browning mushrooms takes fat, time and a lot of heat. I'm talking "20 minutes on high heat"-heat with the occasional stir-and-flip. If you don't like mushrooms, you have probably only eaten soggy chewy mushrooms that have been warmed up in their own juices for 5 minutes. You need to cook all those juices away!

#74

When making a sauce for your pasta, you should add some of the water you used to boil the pasta into the sauce. This will help the sauce bind better to the pasta and make it taste better.

#75

Read the recipe all the way through before you start cooking. You could miss small details otherwise.