I'm taking a moment from making bread right now to post some tips because people have asked and because it is on my mind. I'm making sourdough bread with the starter I mentioned last week. It's sweet and bitter in the right way (I hope!) and it's supposed to be on the side for dinner tonight.
#1. This is pretty easy: Keep a clean and organized kitchen. A good chef/cook uses a kitchen the same way most people use their hands. It's part of you when you do it right. You can just reach for stuff without really looking and you know it will be there. When you're in a hurry a organized kitchen can save you up to an hour prepping for a big dinner. It was the first lesson we had to learn in school when we set up our labs.
#2. Get some good knives and then get good with them. Buy some radishes or potatoes and practice making things. Practice dicing. Practice peeling. And then practice sharpening them. There are a lot of good knives and the best ones fit your hand, they don't rust, they keep an edge, and they don't bend unless it's a boning knife and you want that to flex a little.
#3. Get a food thermometer. You need it for making bread to start out. A good yeast bread starts by getting the yeast going and that means using 105-115 degree water. Too cool and it won't rise because the yeast isn't alive enough and too hot and you killed the yeast. You also need it for cooking roasts. I put one in a roast when I start cooking it and when the core of the roast hits 135 I pull the roast our and let it temper and while it tempers the core warms up to 140 or so which is perfect.
#4. Cutting boards. Plastic for meat and then wood for breads. The wood board needs to be wide enough to work your bread and hold some extra flour for the board and it should be a hard enough wood that it doesn't dent. I oil my boards with vegetable oil and once a year you should clean them really good. We have a steam cleaner and I used that when we moved up here and it got all the old oil off the boards and now they look really good.
#5. Kitchen Bouquet. It's this kind of gravy stuff you can get at the store. It makes awesome gravy and I use it instead of keeping reductions in the freezer for everything. I still use some reductions for some stuff, but Kitchen Bouquet is better than some of the things I could scratch make.
#6. Butter. Use butter whenever you're told to use a butter substitute. That's because there's no substitute for butter! Olive oil and vegetable oils are great for some things but when it comes to frying, making a glaze, making a decent English muffin you just have to use butter. I know there are health issues for some people so just use less or just have it once in a while but it has got to be part of your cooking supply.
#7. Pans with thick bottoms and none of that stupid nonstick stuff. When that nonstick stuff starts to come off your pans it goes in your food and you're eating it. A thick bottom pan helps evenly distribute heat and that prevents your food from scorching. If you LIKE that burnt taste just ignore this. You don't need a $3,000 set of pans, just good thick pans that hold heat.
I'll post more another time but this is enough for now. (-: