Kitchen Basics Part 1
Kitchen Basics Part 1
My Grandmother was, and is, my biggest teacher of kitchen basics. She comes from a long line of French women, which means, I do too. In fact, cooking is one of the things she has always excelled at, in my mind anyway. (She is also a master painter.) She cooks with flavor, and prepares many things that other people find difficult, and she does it all so easily. She’ll tell you that her pie crust didn’t turn out very well, or that she burnt the chicken, but it’s actually perfect. We’ve made many things together. When I think about the kitchen, I think fun, and it’s mostly because of what I’ve learned from her. I have many fond memories of baking cookies, whipping cream for pumpkin pie, helping with preparations for summer barbeques, making gravy for Thanksgiving dinner, and baking Biscotti for Christmas, among many others. Here’s to making your own fond memories in the kitchen!
Below are a few basics that every cook should know. We hope these basics help make cooking easier for you. More to come in Kitchen Basics Part 2.
1. How to Chop
There are quite a few techniques to chop foods, and which one you use depends on what you want to chop. However, the basic “rocking motion” works best for most things. Think of the wheels on a choo-choo train. You never want the entire blade of the knife to leave the board. Part of it should always have contact with the cutting board. The important thing to remember is to let the knife do the work. If you are pushing too hard, odds are good it’s time to sharpen your knife(s). These are the just the basics.
2. Handling raw meat
I’m just going to say it. I hate handling raw meat. Chicken is the worst. This is also one of the things that I’m a bit obsessive-compulsive about, and that comes with age. Something to look forward to. Yay. What I’m talking about is sanitizing and being conscious of all the germs that come from raw meat. You will want to trim all the fat off your cuts of meat, before you tenderize them, chop them, etc. So, after I handle a slimy raw chicken breast and trim all the fat, using a knife, and add it to my dish, I immediately wash my hands and my dishes. If you leave the dishes in the sink, that bacteria will transfer to your sink, and eventually onto whatever you put in your sink. This is also a reason to clean your sink weekly, with Comet or any other anti-bacterial sanitizer
3. Cornstarch basics
Cornstarch is a simple way to thicken soups and sauces. The most important thing to remember with cornstarch is that you can’t just toss it into your dish. It will just clump up into little balls. You need to make what is called a slurry. To make a slurry, you must use a cold liquid. If you use a hot liquid, you will get the same results as just dumping it into your dish. Mix equal parts cornstarch and cold liquid together in liquid measuring cup. Slowly add the slurry to your dish while stirring. Add a small amount at first, and let your liquid return to a boil before adding more. The liquid must return to a boil before the slurry will thicken it, but it happens fast. Remember, it’s much easier to use a slurry to thicken a loose sauce than it is to make a sauce less thick, so add slowly, and in increments.
4. Save items
I hate wasting food. Jeff and I have thrown away more food than I care to remember, because we made too much and didn’t have time to eat it before it went bad. To cut down on waste, try to make the exact number of servings for the amount of people who will be eating your dish. If that is too hard, and sometimes it is, save your leftovers in a container, and either put them in the fridge, to be eaten within the week, or the freezer, to be eaten within about 3 months. Any longer, and the frost begins to grow.
5. Freeze items
If you have a food saver, this is (obviously) a great tool for freezing food. If you don’t own a food saver, don’t despair! Wrap your items in plastic wrap, and then cover them in tinfoil. The tinfoil will help keep freezer burn out. Use a sharpie, or other permanent marker to write on the tinfoil and help you identify your food. That way, you don’t have to open it to find out what is in the tinfoil. If you want to get really particular, make a chart with date and food columns, and tape it to the fridge. You can now keep a running tally of what’s in your freezer, and when it should be eaten by. This will cut down on waste, and also help you save time and money, as you can just go to your freezer when you’re waiting for your paycheck.
6. Cleaning the kitchen
This is really a personal preference as to how clean and organized you keep your kitchen, but at the very least, try to sanitize your counter tops and stove top after every meal. I like to keep my kitchen as organized as possible, because I tend to forget about the spices and condiments I have if I can’t see them.
That’s all the kitchen basics for now, but check back for Part 2!
Crystal is the founder of Simply Playful Fare. She has been in the kitchen for as long as she can remember. She has a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing.