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Matt Ventre


5 Things That Will Make You a Better Home Cook

It's about patience, measurements, and simple technique. Thomas Keller's favorite chicken recipe is like 4 ingredients. It doesn't have to be fiddly or a pain in the butt to feed you and your loved ones.


    1. Use Salt and Pepper and Season Properly to Taste

    Some junk science from the 70s (isn't always some junk science from the 70s?) said that salt was bad for your health and people haven't recovered. If you grew up thinking salt = bad. Get over it. Salt = good. Salt = life (not exaggerating, you're probably low in electrolytes). Salt = flavor. Get some good kosher salt and USE IT in your cooking. You aren't going to have a heart attack after you use a few pinches of salt.

    2. Not Everything Goes on High Heat

    Heat doesn't always equal speed. Usually speed of cooking comes down to cubic volume of the ingredient and water content. If you're used to throwing the burner on high and just letting it rip, stop it. Slow down. Some things need time to develop, even the shorter recipes need to be cooked at the correct temperature.

    3. Use a Thermometer

    What do your finger, your lip, and your eyeball all have in common?

    They are the wrong tools for measuring the temperature (also known as "doneness") of your meats, fish, and poultry ingredients (cakes and baked goods, too). Get a reliable thermometer that reads nearly instantly and USE IT. 125 degrees F is ALWAYS MEDIUM RARE no matter which grill, pan, or oven you're using.

    4. Read Reputable Recipe Sources

    I recommend Serious Eats (mostly J. Kenji-Lopez Alt's content is top notch) and Cook's Illustrated, though that requires a subscription. These are science-tested recipes by chefs who KNOW why food behaves the way it does when you cook it. You will find the best techniques and ingredient lists here. USE THEM.

    5. MSG is Your Friend

    More junk science from the 70s (maybe the 60s) and a bunch of popular culture references led to the dreaded "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" myth. MSG is a safe compound. It also makes everything taste off the charts umami good. Get a pound of it and toss a pinch into anything you want to be more savory and well-rounded.

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