15 Surprising Cooking Tips We Learned at Culinary School

Taste of Home food editors and test cooks share the most useful cooking hacks they learned in culinary school.

Culinary class in kitchen making salads as teacher is overlookingPhoto: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

Here at Taste of Home, our resident food experts are bursting with cooking knowledge. Our food editors and test cooks spent years at culinary school learning how to chop, roast, season and much, much more. Now, they’re sharing favorite cooking tips that you can start applying in your own kitchen today.

1. Use a damp towel to keep a cutting board in place.

It can be so annoying to try to chop on a cutting board that keeps sliding all over the counter. Lock it in place by placing a damp paper towel or dish towel underneath it. (Psst: Are you taking good care of your cutting board? Here’s how to do it right.)

 

2. Use a bench scraper to transfer ingredients from a cutting board.

It’s better than dragging a sharp knife across the cutting board, which dulls the knife over time. Plus, the bench scraper is large enough to hold (or push) a lot of food at once.

 

3. Add baking soda to tomato sauce.

If you don’t want to add sugar to a pot of marinara sauce but the tomatoes are a bit acidic, add a little baking soda. Simply stir 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon into the pot and cook for a few minutes to take the bite out of the flavor. Then, add the sauce to one of these delicious Italian pasta dishes.

 

4. Add sour cream for extra-smooth scrambled eggs.

Sour cream will keep them soft and, well, creamy for a long time while you’re holding them warm for a big brunch. Add about 1/4 cup per dozen eggs once you’ve removed the eggs from the heat.

 

5. Give in and get that really good set of knives.

Knives are probably the most useful item in your kitchen, so it’s important to have a quality set that will last for years. Here are the four types of knives every cook should have. And whatever you do, don’t put them in the dishwasher!

 

6. Keep those knives sharp.

It really does make slicing and chopping so much easier. Plus, you’re less likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife than a dull one, which would be prone to slipping on the food’s surface and landing—ahem—somewhere else.

 

7. Do the mise en place thing to stay calm in the kitchen.

Simply put: Prep all ingredients before cooking. That way, you’re not scrambling to chop the garlic when it needed to be in the pan 5 minutes ago.

 

8. Thoroughly dry all meats before cooking.

This helps them brown quickly and, on poultry, crisps up the skin. (Speaking of chicken skin, did you know it’s not really that bad for you?)

 

9. Let meat rest.

It’s important to let meat rest for a while before slicing into it. The longer you can let it rest the better; otherwise, the juices run onto the cutting board instead of staying in the food.

 

10. Toast nuts and spices.

This may seem to be an unnecessary step, but it actually perks up the essential oils and boosts a recipe’s flavor tremendously.

 

11. Use a small ice cream scoop to evenly portion out cookie dough.

It ensures each cookie is the same size, which means they’ll bake evenly. You can also use an ice cream scoop to evenly divide batter into a muffin tin. Need inspiration? These muffins are worth waking up for.

 

12. Cut cheesecake (or any dessert) with a warm knife.

Run a knife under very hot water and dry it off, and you’ll be able to make a clean cut through cheesecake or any other sticky dessert.

 

13. Add acid to perk up a dish.

Don’t be afraid of acid! If a dish is missing something and you just can’t put your finger on it, chances are it could use a touch more acid, such as wine, lemon juice or orange juice.

 

14. Use an egg wash to make baked goods look irresistible.

Brush a light coating of egg wash (one yolk + 1 tablespoon heavy cream) over baked goods while they’re baking to give them a shiny golden brown hue. Try it on Grandma’s Rosemary Dinner Rolls.

 

15. Invest in a kitchen thermometer.

Take the guesswork out of doneness and invest in a quality kitchen thermometer to make sure recipes are cooked to perfection.

Start using these tips today and you’ll instantly become a better cook!

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Emily Racette Parulski
Emily has spent the last decade writing and editing food and lifestyle content. As a senior editor at Taste of Home, she leads the newsletter team sharing delicious recipes and helpful cooking tips to more than 2 million loyal email subscribers. Since joining TMB seven years ago as an associate editor, she has worked on special interest publications, launched TMB’s first cross-branded newsletter, supported the launch of the brand's affiliate strategy, orchestrated holiday countdowns, participated in taste tests and was selected for a task force to enhance the Taste of Home community. Emily was first mentioned by name in Taste of Home magazine in 1994, when her mother won a contest. When she’s not editing, Emily can be found in her kitchen baking something sweet, taking a wine class with her husband, or making lasagnas for neighbors through Lasagna Love.