Priceless Chef Tricks Every Home Cook Can Master at Home
Have you spent years trying to perfect what should be a simple recipe, only to have it repeatedly fall flat? That seems to be the case for many home cooks with items like pizza dough, sweet potato fries, and others culinary basics. But we all know that once you figure out that go-to hack, there's likely no going back. Thankfully, there are dozens of professional chefs and food bloggers who have eagerly revealed their tried-and-true kitchen tips.
Here, we've rounded up chef-approved cooking and kitchen tricks—from ingenious ideas to help you master classics like grilled cheese and scrambled eggs, to simple solutions for saving and preparing vegetables. So go ahead and try your hand at these (you can thank the pros later).
Alex Guarnaschelli's bacon recipe only includes three simple ingredients (brown sugar, pepper, and the bacon itself), plus using two baking sheets to help it cook evenly. Less really does prove to be more with this perfectly sweet, oven-baked candied variation.
Fluffy Scrambled Eggs
Alton Brown's signature scrambled eggs have two key components: whisking them with whole milk before cooking, and serving them on a warm plate.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts
According to Plated's own chef Giuseppe, the key to achieving the perfect level of crispiness when oven-roasting Brussels sprouts is to set the temperature to at least 425 degrees and to make sure they're well coated (not just drizzled) in olive oil.
The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond's top trick to making a supremely crispy grilled cheese sandwich is an easy one: simply cook it on a cast-iron skillet.
For perfectly poached eggs, executive chef Eric Damidot of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans told Stylecaster that he advises adding equal parts water and white vinegar to the pot, and bringing it to a boil before cracking and adding the eggs.
Top Chef winner and Spiaggia executive chef Joe Flamm has three key tips for cooking better pasta: make sure you're using good-quality pasta, be mindful of how much salt you add to the water, and only cook it halfway in the pot with boiling water and then halfway in the pot with your sauce.
To ensure your baked potato comes out extra fluffy on the inside, chef Molly Stevens of Stonewall Kitchen recommends piercing the outside with a fork before wrapping it in foil to bake in the oven.
Chef Damaris Phillips' secret for these fluffiest pancakes? Mix a carbonated liquid—such as seltzer water—into the batter.
Chef Maneet Chauhan from Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville recommends flavoring your homemade popcorn with Cajun spices or smoked salt for a good kick.
Crispy Sweet Potato Fries
If you want your oven-baked sweet potato fries to come out a bit crunchy, chef Lynne Curry advises cutting them into thin strips, coating them in oil, and spacing them out evenly—without crowding them in your pan—before baking.
Zesty Avocado Toast
Avocado toast is such an easy breakfast, lunch, or snack option, and you'll truly come back craving this tasty variation from Holly of Spend With Pennies, which involves rubbing the toast with garlic for a zestier taste.
Boiled and Sautéed Vegetables
Chef Melissa d'Arabian's simple trick for sautéed vegetables, such as broccoli and asparagus, is to blanch or boil them briefly to achieve optimal firmness before sautéing them to add flavor.
If you love your brownies more chewy than cake-like, you have to try Alton Brown's go-to move of lowering their inner temperature halfway through baking.
Cooking a cast-iron skillet steak at home is an art. To ensure you'll come out with a juicy and flavorful finished product, try this recipe from Elaina of The Rising Spoon, which involves baking it in the oven after cooking it on the stove.
When frying chicken at home, chef Marcus Samuelsson advises letting your chicken rest for 10 minutes after frying it, and then returning it to fry once more for three minutes.
To keep your homemade cakes and pastries moist without going soggy, Eataly's pastry sous chef Kyle Bartone suggests placing a silica packet in an airtight container with the confections. Just make sure it doesn't touch your treats!
Still-Green Leftover Guacamole
Not much compares to wonderfully homemade guacamole, but there's a common frustration in storing it overnight—finding your dip has gone brown the next day. The Kitchn's genius hacks involve pouring a thin layer of water on the top of your guac in its container, and then pouring it off and stirring when you're ready to enjoy it again.
Overnight French Toast
According to Chopped's Marc Murphy, one pro tip for cooking the perfect batch of French toast is to soak your bread in an egg and cream mixture overnight in the refrigerator. This will keep the bread from falling apart, and result in rich and crispy toast when cooked.
If you've always struggled to achieve restaurant-quality salmon that doesn't come out dry on the inside, try Food & Wine culinary director Justin Chapple's advice: poach it in a BPA-free plastic baggie.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
According to Lindsay of Pinch of Yum, it's all about the butter when it comes to perfecting your homemade chocolate chip cookies. First, be sure to use good quality, salted butter and melt it halfway in the oven before bringing it back to room temperature and beating with your eggs and sugar.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
If you've ever been to an authentic Tex-Mex restaurant, you'll quickly notice how much better homemade flour tortillas taste than store-bought. Chef Egg shows us how easy they are to make with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry.
Juicy Chicken Breasts
If you're tired of ending up with dry chicken every time you oven bake it, heed the advice from Wide Open Eats: brine your bird in salt and water (and lemon juice and herbs if you'd like additional flavor) for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Stored Fresh Herbs
Struggle to use up a bundle of fresh herbs because they wilt and go brown too fast? Take The Pioneer Woman's advice to extend their life. Trim the stems before placing the herbs in a Mason jar with a bit of water (like flowers in a vase) and covering with a plastic baggie.
You know how when you try to cook a large batch of rice, it can end up a sticky, mushy mess? Anetta from The Wanderlust Kitchen uses a secret weapon: a dish towel, which should be placed over your pan and underneath the lid as soon as the rice is almost finished cooking to absorb any excess condensation.
You might think making toast is as basic as it gets in the kitchen, but for perfectly crunchy—yet not burned—toast, Jamie Oliver prepares his bread in a frying pan before immediately spreading it with good quality butter.
Super Fresh Salad Greens
Keep extra salad greens fresh and crisp by adding a few paper towels to the bag or container, per Melanie Cooks' advice.
Restaurant-Style Refried Beans
To make canned refried beans taste as smooth and creamy as your favorite Mexican restaurant's version, try this simple tip from Michaela from An Affair From the Heart: mix in some whole milk or sour cream when heating them up.
Softened Hard Bread
If your baguette is as hard as a rock, rest assured that it's not a lost cause. The Kitchn recommends wrapping hardened bread in a damp paper towel and warming up in either a 200-degree oven for five to 10 minutes, or in the microwave for 10 seconds.
Homemade Thin-Crust Pizza
The secret to homemade pizza crust perfection? The temperature of the water you mix into your dough. Lisa from Wine and Glue uses a thermometer to ensure it's 110-115 degrees so you won't kill your yeast.