Food is delicious, but only if it's well-prepared. If your culinary skills are lacking, or you could stand to improve, take a little time this weekend to learn some new tips, tricks and skills to help you cook and bake a whole lot better.
Before diving in to all the tips, the best thing you can do is get yourself organised and prepared to cook well and efficiently. Be sure to read our station-by-station guide to becoming a kitchen pro so you're ready to cook like the best.
Start With Some Great Recipes
There's no point in cooking anything yourself if it's going to suck, so you ought to have some great recipes. Although Lifehacker is not a recipe blog, we've shown you how to make a lot of great things. We even have a compilation of the 10+ dishes everyone should know how to make, including some of our own favourite recipes.
If you're a fan of fast food, however, and would like to learn how to make some of your favourites at home, we've got 10 great fast food recipes you can replicate yourself. Outside of our collection, Gojee is a great place to find a lot of great options. So is Epicurious, How2Heroes and Cookthink.
Effortlessly Prep Your Ingredients
The joy of cooking doesn't come from peeling garlic or dicing an onion -- at least if they're the sorts of task that feel tedious and unpleasant. Skilled chefs have no trouble getting through these tasks quickly, but you don't necessarily have the time and devotion to master the culinary skill set required to do what they can do. In some cases it will take a lot of practice to prep your ingredients as fast as a professional. In other cases, you can learn in just a few minutes.
Garlic is a perfect example, as you can shake an entire clove in a bowl to peel it in 10 seconds. De-seeding a watermelon is also very simple if you simply know where to cut. Similarly, if you cut an onion properly you won't have to worry about any eye irritation.
There is also a best method for slicing and dicing an onion quickly and easily. (Once you have a handle on prepping garlic and onions, you should learn how to get the most out of them in your cooking.) Whatever tricks you're using to get the job done faster, you'll save yourself even more time and effort by prepping in an assembly-line style. This not only makes it easier while you're cooking, but also saves a lot of time when cleaning up as well.
For more great skills you can pick up quickly, check out our top 10 how-to cooking videos.
Learn A Few New Cooking And Baking Techniques
Successfully cooking something isn't too hard, but certain techniques can make an enormous difference in the quality of your food. Such is the case with the fickle egg, which if cooked right, can be pretty amazing. For more tender and flavourful meat, you'll want to learn sous-vide. For those of you who prefer to grill, we've got a guide to mastering you grilling skill set.
Sometimes great techniques just involve a few little alterations. Marinating hot dogs, fruit and steaks can add a lot of extra flavour when grilling. You can make better smoothies and desserts with the syrup from canned fruit.
If you've fruit or veggies that could use some refreshing, an ice bath is good for lettuce and hot water will keep the mould off your berries. If you want to cookie pasta fast and with an easy sauce, cook it in a frying pan with cold water.
For the bakers, there are a few handy tips to bake better and more efficiently. If you find you're burning the bottoms of your biscuits too much, just run the biscuit sheet under cold water between batches. For healthier baking, you can substitute applesauce for eggs.
For a fun project, make your own cake pops or create your own cookie cutter shapes from a foil pan. And finally, one of our favourite tricks is making biscuit bowls by baking biscuits on an upside-down muffin tin.
Cook Quickly And Easily In The Microwave
You may not look at your microwave as much of a cooking tool but, rather, just a reheating mechanism. While it's not going to replace your oven or stove, there's a lot it can do in the cooking and baking department. Also, for those times you're reheating food, there are several ways to do it better. But before you go off and microwave anything, know the best placement for your food.
If you're at all familiar with cooking in the microwave, you're probably aware of at least a few things you can make in a mug. Eggs and chocolate cake are two popular options. In the mug-less category, you can also make candy, potato chips and movie theatre-calibre popcorn.
Microwaves, of course, were made for heating or reheating, not cooking, but they don't always leave food in the crispiest condition. There are ways around this. Parchment paper is one of them. When you're reheating pizza, for example, using a sheet of parchment paper will help keep it crispy. Microwaves are also great for restoring stale foods like bread. Even if your food isn't stale, sometimes a few seconds in the microwave can help as well. This is the case with cheese, for example, as it helps bring out the flavour.
Although this is the case with anything in the kitchen, microwaves are especially prone to mess due to the way they reheat food. Fortunately there are quite a few tricks you can employ to keep the mess to a minimum, or at least clean it up easily when you can't. A damp coffee filter, two bowls, or even a shower cap are simple ways to stop the splatter. If things do get a little unruly, however, steam cleaning with vinegar can help you tame the mess a lot faster.
For more microwave cooking tips, and just some other cooking skills that'll save you time, check out our guide to low-effort cooking.
Image: Vanilla and Lace.
Got any other great culinary tips you love? Share 'em in the comments!