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Join us on a journey of cooking FAQs or hacks, if you would, we’re here to expose some of the most common tips and tricks used in commercial kitchens used by chefs to produce some of your favorite dishes. Prepare to step up your home cooking game using these simple tricks.

Adding pasta cooking water to pasta dishes:

Pasta in hot water

Our recipes often ask you to save some of the cooking water when you drain cooked pasta. The reason for this is that the cooking water, which has starch in it from the pasta, as well as flavor and some salt, is a much better moistener than, say, the olive oil most people are tempted to use. If you keep adding oil to a pasta dish to moisten it, you’ll end up with a very oily dish. If you add pasta water, you’ll end up with a dish that is light, flavorful, and the sauce will thicken just the tiniest bit from the starch in the cooking water.

See: Pasta w/ Vodka Sauce

How to coring and seed bell peppers:

Girl seeding bell pepper

Slice off the top of the bell pepper. Down inside is the core, a sort of pithy heart that holds all the seeds and is attached by ribs to the pepper. Pull it out. Some of the seeds will drop into the pepper, so turn it over and tap it on the counter so the seeds fall out.

Slice the pepper in half, lengthwise. Those pithy ribs are still there, and they’re not tasty, so trim them out. Trim the stem and any pith from the top of the pepper. The pepper is ready to eat or cook.

When you chop or slice a bell pepper, do it from the inside, rather than the shiny outside – the knife will sink in more easily, making your job easier.

Fish liquid:

cooked fish

Freshly cooked fish will exude a certain amount of liquid. The liquid isn’t particularly tasty, and it gets the plate all wet, as well as thinning a carefully made sauce. To avoid it, transfer freshly cooked fish to a platter, pay attention to other things for about 5 minutes, then lift the fish out of the liquid and serve it. It’s as easy as that!

How to peel a cucumber and remove the seeds:

women Peeling cucumber

The peel of cucumbers can be really tough, and if the cucumber isn’t organic, it can be waxed with a fungicide wax, which is awful. In these cases, peel the cucumber. If you’ve got a nice, tender-skinned organic cucumber you don’t need to peel it.

You don’t need to remove the seeds, either, though many people think the seeds are indigestible.

If you want to remove the seeds, cut the cucumber in half, lengthwise. Get a stainless steel soup spoon and run it down the center of the cuke, scraping out the seeds as you go. It’s as easy as that. Now you’re ready to slice, chop, dice, mince, grate or just eat the cucumber!

How to peel ginger:

Man Peeling ginger

Take a teaspoon from your regular cutlery, and use it as a scraper to scrape off the skin from the ginger. It works like magic.

Peeling and removing the pith from citrus fruit: To remove the peel and the pith from an orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit (or any other citrus fruit you run across), begin by cutting off the peel from each end of the fruit, going deep enough to get to the juicy flesh inside. That way, you’ve created flat surfaces to help balance the fruit on the cutting board, and to make it easy to begin.

Now set the fruit on one of its flat ends. Using your nice, sharp knife and starting at the top of the fruit, cut down towards the work surface through the peel and pith, following the contour of the fruit. When you are finished with your first cut, you should have a strip from top to bottom of the fruit that is without any peel or pith.

Continue doing this until the fruit is peel-and-pith-less. If necessary once you are finished, you can trim away any bits of pith remaining on the fruit.

How to peel and pit an avocado:

Girl Peeling and pitting an avocado

Remove the small, hard knob on the stem end of the avocado. Cut the avocado in half, lengthwise, then twist the halves to separate them. Remove the half without the pit, and either cut it in half lengthwise and peel off the skin, or if you want to keep the avocado half intact, use a stainless steel soup spoon to separate the flesh from the skin. To remove the pit from the other half, hit it sharply with a sharp bladed knife so the blade sticks in it, then turn the knife blade and the pit will turn with it (go carefully and may thine aim be true). Lift the knife and the pit will come out. Proceed with peeling this half.

How to select an avocado:

avocado

An easy way to tell when an avocado is ripe is to give it a push with your finger tip.  It should offer about as much resistance as the tip of your nose.

How to remove bones from fish:

Man Removing bones from fish

Run your fingers along the fish fillet, to feel where the bones are.  If they are running down a line in the center of a skin-on fillet, make a cut on either side of the line of bones, with the knife angled at about 45 degrees so that you’re cutting UNDER the bones, and cut right to the skin but not through it. Pull out the strip of meat with the bones in it. Voila, you have a boneless fillet.  If the bones are not in a straight line, you need pliers, a strawberry huller, or fish bone puller to pull them out individually. Pull them out WITH the grain of the fish, so they slip out easily.  If the bones are on the extremities of the fillet, just trim them away with a good, sharp knife.

Snapping the root end off of asparagus:

Girl Snapping asparagus

Asparagus grows straight out of the ground, with part of its stalk under the soil. This part, attached to the root and called the “root end,” can be very tough. It has to be removed from the stalk. The best way to do that is to hold the tip of the asparagus in your left hand, and the root end of the stalk in your right. Bend the stalk down on both ends, and it will break right where the tough root end meets the tender stalk. You will be left with tender yumminess in your left hand, and tough stringiness in your right. Sometimes the tough stringiness represents a good portion of the entirety, which is too bad. Toss the tough stringy root end (or do as some like to do – peel it, cook it in salted water with some herbs, puree it, add cream, and call it asparagus soup. For our money, though, it’s lots of work for little flavor.)

Squeezing citrus juice:

Man Squeezing Lemon

To avoid getting those little seeds in your citrus juice, take a half a lemon or orange (limes don’t usually have seeds), and squeeze them in your right hand, through the fingers of your left hand, so any seeds stay behind. If you’re a leftie, do the opposite. You can also squeeze juice through a strainer.

How to toast walnuts:

Roasted walnuts in tray

OVEN:

Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes, checking frequently.

MICROWAVE:

Spread walnuts in a single layer in a microwave safe plate. Microwave on HIGH for 5-6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.

STOVE TOP:

Cook walnuts in a dry skillet on MEDIUM HIGH heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Trimming radishes:

Radishes with knife

You can trim a radish so it stays beautiful, or torture it into submission. Here is how to do the former: Trim off the tiny little root end so the end of the radish stays rounded. Trim away all the leaves except for one or two pretty ones. Voila. A beautiful radish. The leaves are edible, so they can go into whatever dish the radish goes into.

How to trim scallions:

Man Trimming scallions

Remove any of the outer leaves that look sad, or yellowed, or blemished. Trim off the root end right up to the white part, but don’t cut into the white part – the root end keeps the scallion together so that when you slice or chop it, it doesn’t separate and slip around.

For more on stepping up your home cooking game, visit our home page.

About the Author

They say that 10,00 hours working a skill makes you an expert. By that standard I qualify as an expert cook. I eschew the title Chef because I do not have formal training…but dang, do I have hands on work, with the burn and cut scars to prove it. [Read More]

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