With a second three-day weekend coming up, you've probably got some real free time. If you're not on the road, might we recommend developing some new cooking chops? These relatively pain-free projects and how-tos are yours for the learning.
Season a frying pan and keep it stick-free
The cast-iron skillet is a serious kitchen workhorse, being heavy enough to handle high heat, oven transfers and the most, shall we say, rich of foods. Give it the proper treatment it needs by properly seasoning it, thereby giving it a non-stick quality that'll last almost as long as you remember not to soak it in soap. Got a regular ol' skillet, but still want to ease your clean up? Learn in the video above how to hit the sweet spot of skillet heat, and read up on Houseboat Eats' guide to properly heating your pan.
Make and toss pizza dough
Michael Kalanty, a chef from the California Culinary Academy, shows us how to spread pizza dough into a circle the traditional — and much more fun — method in the video above. There's a bit of science to it, but you can pick it up through your not-too-expensive mistakes and experience. Not much on making your own dough? TastingTable gets Jim Lahey, the man behind the no-knead bread (cited elsewhere here), to reveal his recipe for no-knead pizza dough, which Lahey himself says is easy — except for the tossing part. (Original post: dough tossing).
Properly Use a Sharp Knife and Keep it Sharp
Ask nearly any chef what their most essential kitchen tool is, and chances are the answer comes back to a chef's knife. Some might go the straighter-edged santoku route, but a big, firm-in-the-hand knife gets the real work done. Chef Roger Mooking breaks down some basic knifework on YouTube, and Popular Mechanics has a great primer on sharpening your own knives. Finding yourself suddenly in need of a great blade? Gizmodo has a guide to properly buying and maintaining good knives. (Original post: seriously sharp knife).
Learn basic kitchen ratios
It's feeling like a lazy Sunday morning, so you want pancakes. There's a recipe on the box, but it doesn't make the right amount. Should you go Google-ing for just the right recipe? No! Michael Ruhlman, who's contributed some food science both here and at Gizmodo, has explained how, using a good kitchen scale and some ratio knowledge, it's all too easy to knock out nearly any kind of baked good:
2 parts flour and liquid, 1 part egg and butter. That will give you a perfect muffin or, baked in a loaf pan, a quickbread. Now, you also need to have a little technique and common sense. A teaspoon of baking powder for every 5 ounces (cup) of flour is needed for leavening, a pinch of salt for flavor, but that's it. If you want a lemon-lime cake, add lemon and lime juice and zest; vanilla is always good, or add lemon and popyseeds, add cranberry and orange, blueberries, bananas ... If you season the batter with a little sugar and vanilla and pour it on a griddle, you have perfect pancakes.
If you're looking to learn more about savoury cooking, the Los Angeles Times has a similarly world-widening look at the chemistry of marinades and vinaigrettes.
No-knead, easy-peasy bread, in all its flavours
What can we say about the revelation of bread that doesn't require painful lessons in organic yeast chemistry that hasn't already been said? As Gina put it, and Apartment 2404 detailed, "All you need is flour, yeast, salt, cornmeal and about 24 hours." Print out the no-knead recipe and keep it handy, and check out the faster and whole wheat versions while you're discovering the patisserie in your kitchen.
Cook your eggs just right
One thing everyone can agree on with eggs, no matter which camp — poached, scrambled, fried, boiled, sunny side up or down — they're coming from, is that they have to be cooked just so. Go over or under, and a great breakfast turns into a nutritional chore. Lifehacker tackled the boiling of an egg previously, but found its perfectionist peak with the University of Oslo's how to cook an egg webapp. The Kitchn blog has shown us how to manage heat, time, and oil to perfectly fry an egg, and, while it's certainly a matter of opinion, we like the creamy approach celebrity curser/chef Gordon Ramsay takes with his perfect egg breakfast. Then again, if you've got a fancy-dancy espresso machine and don't mind cleaning off the steaming wand, you can make fluffy eggs with it, too. (Original posts: perfect boiled eggs, Ramsay's eggs, espresso eggs).
What would you like to learn to cook, bake, or cut? Tell us about it in the comments.