Tips and Tricks You Might Learn From Our Chef

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It has been almost 20 years since I finished Chef school in Wellington. I have worked in restaurant kitchen, catering company, my own cafe, luxury hiking lodge and now with Otao Kitchen. Quite often, people invest a lot of time, money and efforts into cooking and then when you taste the food you start to wonder how to make your cooking easier. I have few tips i can share with you:

Tips and Tricks You Might Learn From Our Chef

GET YOUR KNIFE SHARP

The very first thing you go to work in the kitchen, you will need to make sure you knife is sharp. Learn the sharp knives with a stone from Chef's Armoury . These guys have a great ideas and they do have a class for knife sharpening if you are keen on learn from the best. A sharp knife makes chopping so much faster and easier. You might want to learn to chop properly and that would make the chopping more fun.

USE THE RIGHT PEELER 

If peeling carrots or potatoes feels like it takes forever, it’s probably because you’re using the wrong peeler. My advice? Throw away the rusty swivel one that’s been sitting in your drawer for years and order a new one from ebay. 

GET READY BEFOR YOU COOK - MISE EN PLACE

This is how commercial kitchen works with “putting things in its place,” and it refers to getting all of your ingredients out, measured, and prepped before you start cooking. This is how restaurant kitchens get food out so quickly and efficiently. And while you don’t need to be quite so exacting at home, it’s much easier to follow a recipe when your ingredients are all ready to go in advance.

DRY YOUR MEAT AND FISH BEFORE COOKING

This is a great tip as skin to crisp, you need to get rid of as much moisture as possible — because moisture and steam kill any chance of crisping and browning. This will also prevent the meat and skin from sticking to the pan as it cooks.

KEEP THE HEAT TO MEDIUM

Even if you want food in a hurry, push up the heat to high isn’t always the best way. Slowly sautéing aromatics — like onions, shallots, or garlic — in oil over medium-low heat will bring out more flavour and will keep them from burning and getting bitter - in Asian cooking. Cooking meat or veggies over medium heat will give them time to cook all the way through without burning on the outside. Simmering soups or braises instead of boiling them will cook the ingredients and meld the flavours without making meat tough, or breaking veggies apart.

CUT VEGGIES IN UNIFORMED SHAPES

Those fancy vegetable cuts you see in nice restaurants? There’s reasoning behind them besides just looking impressive. Smaller cuts will cook quicker than big ones, so using a mix of both can vary the texture of a dish. We don't want something is soggy while something is still uncooked so we keep them uniformed.

CLEAN AS YOU GO

You’ve heard this before, but a clean kitchen bench is so much easier to work in. Wipe down your chopping board after you finish prepping each ingredient. Put pots, pans, and utensils in the sink or dishwasher as soon as you finish using them. Space is tight in restaurant kitchens especially the ones in Melbourne or Sydney. Cooks can spend the afternoon prepping for 100 guests or more, all from a single cutting board. 

FRY SMALL AMOUNT OF FOOD EACH TIME

Food can’t caramelise or brown in a crowded frying plan. A handful of sliced vegetables cooked in a hot frying pan with a layer of oil will come out brown, crisp, and deeply flavoured. Too many things cooked in the same pan, same time and the same oil will come out pale, soggy, and less flavourful. Same technique goes for roasted vegetables in oven tray. Piling ingredients on top of each other creates moisture that gets trapped which means your food will steam instead of crisping or browning.

KNOW YOUR OIL AND FAT

Butter is delicious but it can’t stand up to high heat, since the milk solids in it can burn. Neutral oils, like canola or vegetable oil, don’t add any flavour but are perfect for roasting, frying, and searing because they can stand up to high temperatures without burning.  High-quality olive oil, avocado oil or pumpkin seed oil are not good for high heat as they would burn.  However they are great for salad dressings and for finishing dishes once they’re cooked.

SEASONING 

You know our taste is based around sweet, sour, spicy, bitter, salty and a bit of umame.  For example, all food cultures use salt brings out flavour, which means good seasoning make food tasty. To really maximise all the flavours in a recipe, season with a bit of salt every time you add a new ingredient.

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