Cooking Tips and Shortcuts for Novice Chefs
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Salt doesn't just add saltiness.
One of your authors learned this rule late in life. After a couple of frustrating bouts with dull, bland home fries, she had a lightbulb moment when she discovered a key rule of cooking: Salt doesn't just make stuff salty; it's more like a magical ingredient that functions in a multitude of ways. Salt balances out the flavors of whatever you're cooking, making sweet, sour, or bitter flavors more prominent; tenderizes meat; and draws moisture from vegetables, which aids in caramelization. If your soup tastes bland despite the fact that it's packed with innately delicious ingredients, add a pinch of salt and -- abracadabra! -- taste it again. Same with stews, roasted veggies, meats, sandwiches, and even desserts. Don't overdo it -- add a pinch at a time and taste as you go.
Avoid sticky situations.
Don't you hate it when you measure something sticky like honey and half of it sticks to the measuring cup? Try oiling your measuring cup with vegetable or olive oil spray before measuring and even the stickiest ingredients will slide right out.
These tips were excerpted from The Lazy Gourmet: Magnificent Meals Made Easy, which contains even more valuable advice for rookie cooks, including how to get your butcher to do some prep for you, and all you need to know about nonreactive pans -- plus tons of truly do-able, delicious recipes.