Top 30 Chef Tips

During my week at Ashburton Cookery School back in October I learnt a heap of simple cheffy tips, that I have been applying in the kitchen ever since.  My entire group on the course hung off every tip our chefs uttered and frantically scribbled the extra tips down on our oil, garlic and salt stained comprehensive notes throughout the week. Some of these tips induced ‘eureka light bulb’ moments in my brain, and I wished I’d known them when I started spending half my life in my kitchen!   Though the three most valuable things I learnt were quite simple – how to joint a chicken, how to effectively slice an onion and how to poach an egg!

With Christmas on the horizon, which means lots of time in the kitchen ahead I have decided to share the wisdom of what I learned.  ‘Tis the season to be jolly after all, and also sharing is caring.

My cooking creations at Ashburton.  Top row:  scallops cooked in ghee (tip 12).  Middle row L-R:   fresh pesto (tip 7&8), tart trimming skills (tip 29), lamb and veg prepped in advance (tip 2&11), Pan-fried mackerel cooked in a very hot pan (tip 13&14).  Bottom row:  L-R Cheese topped haddock (tip 16), a lovely bit of plaice (tip 11).

My cooking creations at Ashburton. Top row: scallops cooked in ghee (tip 12). Middle row L-R: fresh pesto (tip 7&8), tart trimming skills (tip 29), lamb and veg prepped in advance (tip 2&11), Pan-fried mackerel cooked in a very hot pan (tip 13&14). Bottom row: L-R Cheese topped haddock (tip 16), a lovely bit of plaice (tip 10).

Top 30 chef tips

  1. Salt brings out the flavour in everything.
  2. There is a way or preparing everything in advance to make pulling a big dinner together easier – you just need to figure out how, and get lots of storage pots! (The lamb and mackerel dishes above are a case in point)
  3. Using appropriate sharp knives makes everything easier.  We liked Robert Welch knives.
  4. When making lemon zest, put a piece of baking parchment in between the grater and the lemon, that way the zest doesn’t get stuck in the grater (have you ever tried to pick out zest from a grater – it is impossible!)
  5. When squeezing lemon juice into a recipe fresh from the lemon, place a piece of cling film over the cut lemon edge, and pierce before squeezing. This stops the pips from falling into the dish.
  6. When using ingredients such as bay leaves and star anise, tear or break them before putting into recipe – it releases the flavour.
  7. Pesto is best made with a pestle and mortar.  This way the basil leaves are bruised to release the flavour rather than just being cut in a blender.
  8. In pesto the warm toasted pine nuts will gently warm the garlic and take the edge of it in raw pesto so get them in quick.
  9. Bruise lemongrass before you use in a recipe to release the flavour.
  10. When handling raw fish, wash your hands in cold water, before hot so the fish smell isn’t absorbed into your skin.
  11. Rest meat for half of the time you cooked it for.
  12. Scallops cook well in ghee rather than oil (clarified butter) as they have a high sugar content.
  13. Score fish skin before pan-frying, it helps it cook quicker.
  14. Use a very hot pan If you don’t want your fish to stick to your pan.
  15. Freezing fish isn’t recommended, due to high moisture content.  White a definite no-no though you can get away with meatier fish such as salmon.
  16. Soak cheese in liquid prior to topping fish / toast (not me!), so it cooks quicker and you won’t get burnt edges.  Will then cook at same time as thing it is topping.
  17. Keep eggs out of the fridge – but if storing in fridge leave them in their cardboard box, (not the egg holder) as the cardboard soaks up unwanted moisture.
  18. Root vegetables are boiled from cold water.
  19. Don’t salt water when boiling potatoes for mash.
  20. Salt water for blanching green veg – it keeps the green chlorophyll in the veg.
  21. Nutmeg cuts through the earthiness taste of spinach.
  22. White chicken stock is from raw carcasses, brown from cooked.
  23. To skim fat from a hot stock, put cold water in to bring the fat to the top.
  24. Reduce chicken/meat stock to ice-cube size for storing & Freezing.  You can add water x 10 volume to rehydrate for use.
  25. Veg stock can be frozen but it doesn’t reduce well.
  26. Don’t add salt to fish stock, it doesn’t need it. Also avoid carrot in the stock as it is too sweet.
  27. You don’t need to buy expensive baking beans for blind-baking tarts.  Re-using dried eating beans will work too.
  28. This Bake-O-Glide baking sheet is amazing and saves on hideous scrubbing of baking trays after use.
  29. Trim ugly pastry edges from a cooked tart with a vegetable peeler.
  30. If you can’t work out how to plate up your food to make it look good, you’ve probably got too many ingredients on the plate.

Got any tips to add to this list?  Please add a comment below!

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4 thoughts on “Top 30 Chef Tips

  1. Ren Behan (@RenBehan)

    Some really great tips here Ceri and I think all the food looks really amazing. How lucky you were to spend the week there. I’d be in heaven! The Simple and in Season round up is live in my blog now featuring your lovely winter squash x

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Ashburton Cookery School | Cucina Ceri

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