Are you someone that loves to watch cookery programs on daytime TV? Or perhaps you are someone who is interested in training as a chef. Then once again, you will have undoubtedly watched chefs on TV too. When you see the speed, the chop, and the precision with which they cook up the very best looking meals, and in front of an audience, you will be left wondering how they do it. How do they keep their countertop clean at all times, chop so finely and without crying into onions, and just how do they keep their cool in the kitchen when the temperature is constantly rising. In this article we are going to look at ways you can both look and cook like a masterchef.
10 Ways to Cook like a Masterchef: The Claw
The claw is probably, and in my opinion, definitely the most important part of learning to be a masterchef. A claw I hear you say? What do claws have to do with cookery unless you are whipping up seafood paella! So, let’s be more specific and interchange the word claw for grip. It’s all in the way you grip your knife and the piece of food you are cutting. Let’s take an onion as a fine example of something you may be struggling with. To ensure you avoid chopping your fingertips off, you should hold your onion on top, ensuring that your hand forms a claw shape.
Your knife, which should be very sharp, should sit flush with your index and middle fingers. Now I hear you all saying, isn’t that just dangerous? Well, actually, no, it’s not. As the trick is in moving your “claw” with each cut of the knife; for fine cutting, only move your fingers a matter of millimeters; for rough cutting, move your fingers across the onion further. Of course, even masterchefs cut themselves once in a while; but next time you watch your favorite cookery show, watch as the chef cuts, and you everything will become clear. Although the blade of your knife will always be flush with your fingertips, when you use the “claw” when chopping, there is far less risk of cutting your fingertips off! Even if the knife slips, it will hit your nails and not the flesh!
It’s all About the Prep
Preparation is as important as the actually cooking stage of your recipes. The best chefs on TV never seem to get hot under the collar, even in full chefs whites, as they have everything to hand and where they need it. There is nothing worse than starting a recipe, to find that you don’t have enough of one of the ingredients. For this reason, you should not only gather your ingredients together, but weigh them out read. To do this, you will need to read the recipe from start to finish, something that a surprising number of people fail to do! As well as making sure that you have everything weighed out, make sure you have the correct size of pans, baking trays, and tins.
Sharpen Your Knives
Many chefs have one knife that they use for virtually everything, and your knife should be sharpened regularly. The logic behind having just one principal knife is that you will learn to work with it and be comfortable with the way it feels in your hand, and will know how it will cut. Now, your knife needs to be sharp all the time. If you think that a sharp knife is dangerous, then you are once again wrong. More cuts and accidents happen with knives that are in need of sharpening, as they no longer work in the way you are used to. As we said before, as long as you grip the food you are chopping with a claw, your fingertips will never come in contact with the knife blade. To sharpen your knife, invest in a decent knife sharpener; a cheap one won’t do the trick and it will end up ruining your knives.
Invest in the Best Equipment
If you are serious about becoming a chef, or are just a budding cook that loves to spend time in the kitchen, you need to invest in quality equipment. We already covered knives and a sharpening tool. Other equipment that should be of good quality includes all your utensils, pots, and pans. A decent hob and oven are also a must for serious cooking. As an example, a dodgy oven that heats more one side than the other will never allow you to bake perfect cakes.
Pay Attention to Seasoning
One thing that sets a professional masterchef apart from a budding learner is the way he or she seasons their food. Adding a bit of salt to the water you boil your potatoes in or adding salt at the end of making a sauce is not the way to go. The best way to season is to do so as you are going along, adding in small quantities as you go along. It is impossible to put the exact amount of seasoning in a recipe; this is why you will find many recipes tell you to season to taste. Let’s take a fine bolognaise sauce as an example.
Using fresh tomatoes, they will not always have the same sweetness; sometimes you may need to add a small spoon of sugar. The minced meat you but will never be the same two weeks on the run. You can use the same supplier for all your fresh products, but they will vary and change, often with the seasons. Next time you turn on your favorite cookery channel, watch with detail and you will see that the chef is constantly seasoning and tasting as he cooks, and it’s not because he’s hungry! When wine is used in cookery, unless you use the same brand religiously, once again, the taste and strength will vary.
No one likes a boring cookery program. Everyone is looking for new ideas and ways to inspire their followers. So, once you have mastered the chopping and prep, it’s time to get creative in the kitchen. One great way to impress your followers is by getting creative with leftovers. Many professional chefs have one simple rule of thumb. “No food goes in the trash” So, if you chopped the ends off your tomatoes, think about what you can do with them. Soup is one obvious answer, and a great way to use up small scraps of all types of vegetable.
One of the first sauces you need to master when becoming a chef is your roux. But, once you have mastered the basics of your sauces, it’s once again time to get creative. People love different foods that are seasoned in different ways or cooked using new sauces. Fish sauce, soy sauce, and even yeast extract are great for adding seasoning and depth to sauces. Sugar, honey, vinegar, and even butter can also all be used to turn a plain sauce into something extra special that will ensure your diners will be asking for seconds.
Don’t Rush Things
Now, on TV, it may appear that masterchefs are rushing about. There are many reasons for this, the most important one being the amount of air time they have. They need to get the dish they are preparing ready in a stated amount of time. But, when you are starting out in your bid to become a masterchef cook low and cook slow; the best things come to those who wait, and cooking on a high heat, either on the hob (stove) or in the oven will result in little more than hard, burned, and tasteless food. It takes time to make a masterpiece; so keep this in mind and set aside enough time to ensure you won’t be rushing around.
Avoid Gimmicks and Time Saving Equipment
Time saving equipment in the kitchen became a thing in the 1980’s with the invention of the microwave. Microwaves have a place in a busy home, but not in a chef’s kitchen. I personally own one, but I can’t remember the last time I used it. The same goes with food processors, blenders, and many other pieces of equipment. Although there are arguably some pieces of equipment in the kitchen that will make your cooking experience easier, I am a firm believer in cooking in the old fashioned way. A cake mix is beaten by hand, eggs are whisked by hand, and bread dough is needed using your bare hands. Although arguably there have been some great inventions that are time saving, take a look and see how many of them your favorite masterchef on TV uses. The answer to this will be none or almost none, liquidizers being one piece of equipment I use for creating creamy soups from left over vegetables and other scraps.
Don’t Forget the Wine
Our last tip for today, that will put you on the road to becoming a true masterchef, is the obligatory glass of wine. And here we aren’t talking about the wine you use for cooking, we are talking about the glass of wine you should always have by your side that will ensure that you look like a true masterchef!