The 10 Cardinal Rules of Cooking, According to Top Chefs

Cooking is both an art and a science, but these top chefs manage to elevate it to law with these top 10 rules of cooking.

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Person using a knife to chop peeled potatoes into cubes
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Care for your knives

All of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s Letters to a Young Chef consists of cooking advice, but the final chapter boils it all down to Boulud’s top ten cooking commandments. The first of these is to make sure your knives are sharp. “Your most basic tool is your knife,” Boulud says. “To cut well, all of your knives must be sharp. Make sharpening a daily ritual at the very least.”

Here are the best knives for everyday cooking.

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Taste of Home

Season food well

“The taste of every ingredient is elevated by proper seasoning,” Boulud writes. “There is an exact point at which ingredients are seasoned correctly.” For the best results, he believes you should tweak your tastes based on the fundamentals of classic recipes as well as feedback you get from friends and family.

Here are some great seasoning mixes you can make at home.

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A Food theme: pasta in a boiling water.

Don’t add oil to pasta water

This is a major no-no, says to Gianluigi Zenti, president of food culture organization Academia Barilla. According to Smithsonian, “Olive oil is said to prevent the pot from boiling over and prevent the pasta from sticking together,” but it can do more harm than good, including preventing the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

If you start now, these pasta dinners can be ready in 30 minutes.

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Meal prep. Stack of home cooked roast chicken dinners in containers ready to be frozen for later use as quick and easy ready meals
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Prep for the week

By spending a few hours prepping ahead of time on Sunday, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis manages to whip up “easy, healthy meals all week long,” she told Health magazine. “If I’m around on a Sunday, I cook off two, sometimes three, grains, and I keep them plain,” she says. She repeats this process with vegetables, blanching them in a little salt and water and protein. One of De Laurentiis’ go-to proteins is chicken thighs, and we’ve got a bunch of reasons to cook with them.

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Taste of Home

Respect all kinds of food

Author, food veteran, food adventurist, and travel enthusiast and self-described appreciator for “doing things the right way,” Anthony Bourdain has a deep respect for food of all stripes, and wishes people would stop “cleansing” themselves of certain foods. He proclaims that food is meant to be enjoyed, not to be the object of guilt or shame.

Indulge yourself with these chocolaty recipes.

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Taste of Home

Please don’t bake with “low-fat spread”

British food writer and longtime cooking-show staple, Mary Berry may be best known for BBC’s beloved Great British Bake-Off. So when she says she wouldn’t consider baking a cake with anything but real margarine or butter, it would be wise to follow suit. “Most of my emails and letters are from people having problems as they’re using what they think is margarine, but is, in fact, a low-fat spread which they think is healthier,” she says. “They tend to be full of water.”

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Plank Grilling
Taste of Home

Hands off food while it’s grilling

“When you put something on the grill, leave it alone!” says celebrity chef, restaurateur and reality TV star Bobby Flay, who is also the author of Boy Meets Grill. “The most common mistake is when people continue to touch the food with their tongs or spatula to see if it’s sticking. And that’s when it sticks!”

Get our pro burger-grilling tips here.

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Taste of Home

Embrace non-stick pans

Anyone who’s ever watched television’s Hell’s Kitchen knows that award-winning restaurateur and TV chef Gordon Ramsay can be a bit, well, opinionated. And something he feels quite strongly about is not being “above” using non-stick pans. “I mean, seriously,” he told Ask Men, “with a non-stick pan there’s less fat, less butter, you let the pan do the work and, also, it galvanizes. It conducts heat, you can take it off and things can continue cooking. And the sear on a fish or piece of scallop is exactly the same.”

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Kitchen tools hanging from a bar over the counter
The Family Handyman

Get organized

“Whether I’m cooking at home or in the restaurant, having a game plan is essential,” chef and author Emeril Lagasse told Prevention. Prep ingredients in advance, according to the order used in the recipe. Then put all your cookware and your tools out on the counter. This way, “you can get in the kitchen and really have some fun!” If you like Emeril’s recipes, try our favorite jambalaya recipe.

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happy family funny kids are preparing the dough, bake cookies in the kitchen
Photo: Shutterstock / Evgeny Atamanenko


Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s most famous bit of cooking advice is to have no rules in the kitchen. “I think cooking should be about fun and family,” she says. That said, she admits she’s not a trained chef. “I don’t pretend to be, and I think part of my appeal is that my approach to cooking is really relaxed and not rigid.”

In other words, cook according to rules, but capitalize on your innate talent and infectious charm!

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.