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Top 10 Tips for Great Home-cooking

Mom424 . . . Comments

Both my Grandmother and my mom were / are good cooks, so I come from good stock and picked up quite a few skills from the get-go. As a young woman I sold restaurant equipment and therefore knew many chefs and got lots of tips… then my younger sister went and married a traditionally trained french chef, it just got better and better. So, this is my top 10 tips to make your home-cooking really special.

10. Shop like Your Grandma

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My Grandma’s cupboards were always full to overflowing, and they smelled good; of cinnamon and cloves and a myriad of other spices. Lots and lots of food, and you know what? No boil n’ bag, No Noodles n’ Sauce, No Canned Ravioli. My Grandma, and for that matter my Mom, bought stuff to make food preparation easier, not prepared food. Shop the prepared foods, just don’t buy them; use them for inspiration. I’ve modified the “Larder List” but not much, I buy low salt varieties when available and I avoid trans fats. I’m not going to bother listing staples; flour, sugar, oil etc. but here’s a good start:

Canned Tomatoes – diced or whole
Tomato Paste
Canned basic tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
Cream Soups like Mushroom, Chicken, and of course Tomato
Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix
Beef Stock
Chicken Stock
Worcestershire Sauce
Soya Sauce (dark)
Ketchup
Mustard (Grainy and regular)
Vinegar (I keep white and red wine and balsamic, but you can make do with white)
Wine – red preferably but white works, and buy the kind you can drink
Spices – All the normal ones plus 1 decent seasoning salt (I like Hy’s but don’t buy Lawry’s; it tastes as if it has sugar in it, and buy the NO msg kind – just in case), Dry Mustard, Mrs. Dash or other veggie based salt substitute, lemons and basil pesto in the fridge.

See recipe 1 and recipe 2 on the recipes page.

9. Brown The Meat or The Hotter the Better

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Meat must be browned properly in order to have flavor, the natural sugars caramelize and make that nice brown crunchy tastiness. I love my steak rare, but it better be dark brown on the outside! The pan must be hot, like really hot, like bouncing water hot. Don’t worry; Hot pan – Cold Oil – Food Won’t Stick (thanks to Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet). All cuts of meat, even if you’re going to stew it, benefit from this treatment. Don’t crowd the pan or the meat will foam up and boil. Grey meat is yucky. Don’t stir or flip the meat until you lift a corner and see the dark brown goodness.
Whatever you do invest in a pan that can take the heat…or be prepared to replace the cheap one every year or two as the bottom will warp.

See recipe 3 on the recipes page.


8. Remember The Golden Ratio

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No, not the one that makes Nautilus Shells, this one…2 tablespoons fat, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 cup milk. This is a basic white sauce recipe. Remember this and you can make oh so many wonderful things. This same technique is used for gravy, cream soups, and of course cheese sauce.

See recipe 4 and recipe 5 on the recipes page.

7. How To Season Properly or Gee Whiz Watch the Salt

Salt1

None of the first four recipes called for salt. Not because I’m a salt phobic but because the recipes use commercially prepared bases; either soup or stock. They are salty enough on their own (even the reduced salt varieties). Same thing with the cheese sauce, cheese is salty. Anything with soy sauce, and don’t forget margarine and butter, they both contain salt. If you go to the trouble (c’mon you won’t) to make your own soup stock you will need to add some.

Dried spices benefit from crushing and toasting. Crush ‘em a bit in the palm of your hand, and sauté ‘em for the last couple of minutes before you add the liquid to soups, stews, or casseroles. Take it easy on the spices. I saw a recipe that called for 1/4 cup of basil pesto for pasta that served 4 people. You may as well chug Aqua Velva, it’d have about the same level of aromatics. Go easy at first, you can always add more.

See recipe 6 on the recipes page.


6. Balance, Balance, Balance

Oomh Lemons Full

Jamie talked about the five flavors in his food list; sweet, sour, salty, bitter and earthy (he knows the correct word; I just call it dirt flavor, raw mushrooms and soy both have it). I’m only concerned with the sour. Acid is missed so frequently. Stew that’s too beefy tasting, desserts that are sickly sweet, soup that tastes flat; all are missing acid. Try making the stroganoff recipe without the tomato paste, it just doesn’t taste right. There’s little or no tomato flavor, but the acid counteracts the richness of the beef stock, browned steak, and mushrooms. The sour cream does this to a certain extent but because of the richness of it, it’s not enough.

See recipe 7 on the recipes page.

5. Throw out The Cornstarch or How To Make Proper Gravy

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Gravy should not be see-through, nor should it plop and jiggle on top of your meat. It should be velvety, meaty, and not too thick. You’ve already learned the basics with the white sauce, so figure out how much gravy you want to end up with and you’re going to use roughly 1/4 to 1/2 the proportion of flour.

Cook the meat and don’t forget #2, good quality beef can be dry roasted on high heat so it browns itself, otherwise brown it first. Take the cooked meat out of the pan, put it on a plate and wrap it with saran wrap, don’t be stingy, lots of saran wrap and then a towel. It’ll stay hot and juicy. Put the roast pan on top of the burner or use 2 if your roast pan is big enough. Add or remove fat as required, but leave all the chunky bits in the pan. Generally the only time you will need to remove fat is with cheap pork (which tastes way better than loin), and poultry. Turn the burners on high or med-high if you have gas. Throw a handful of fine sliced onion into the fat, cook it for a minute or two and then throw in the flour. You want to really brown the flour, so you just keep moving it around with the spatula, its going to stick, don’t worry about it, just keep scraping it up till it gets really brown. Now it’s really hot and smoking, sticking to the spatula and the pan, and you are starting to panic, pour in a good slosh of red wine and a couple or three of cups of beef stock. Whisk it until it comes to the boil, turn it down to medium and let it cook down a bit….Voila perfect gravy. You can take the hand mixer to it, but I don’t usually bother. If you don’t have any wine you can skip it, but do add a little vinegar or lemon juice.

For poultry gravy I don’t usually use wine, just stock, but add a little bit of beef stock to your poultry gravy. It improves it immensely. You can substitute or add fine diced mushrooms with the onions for mushroom gravy. I make this without the drippings, just oil, flour, onions, red wine, and stock to have with pork chops. I kid you not, quicker than gravy in the package.


4. Make a Breading that doesn’t stick to the pan

Ei1A03 Veal Milanese E

Thanks to the brother-in-law for this one, I tried for years and failed. Good thing I pay attention.
There are a few secrets to good breading, I will divulge them all.

You need 2 pans and a bowl, square cake pans work best because they have steep sides. Pan 1 is plain flour. The bowl in space 2 is either beaten egg whites or whole eggs. Egg whites work marginally better, but unless I’m going to make custard, I use whole eggs. Pan 2 is the breading; dry bread crumbs, seasoning (try a packet of chicken Bovril and a teaspoon of lemon-pepper for fish, I like seasoning salt, salt, and lots of pepper for pork.), and the secret ingredient, a handful of Parmesan cheese. In this instance be liberal with the seasoning. The flavor is all on the outside, and you want the taste to last the entire chew. The parmesan adds little or no flavor, other than a bit of salt, but the texture is improved immeasurably. Dredge the meat/fish in the flour, pat off the excess. Dip the meat in the egg mixture; use the side of the bowl to scrape off any excess. Plop the meat into the crumbs, use a spoon and mound the crumbs over it. Pat firmly. Flip it over and do it again. Now for the real important part; put them uncovered, in a single layer, in the fridge for an hour or so. The egg evaporates and you have a crust before you even cook it. Either pan fry in a mix of a little oil and butter, or olive oil, or alternately spray with Pam© and bake. Baking works well with stuffed chicken, no cheese leaking out everywhere, but it tends to get a little gooey on the bottom. Just scrape it off; that’s the side that’s on the plate.

3. How to Make Salad Dressing / Marinade

Vinaigrette L

Good salad dressing requires the correct proportions; 1 part acid, 1 part water, 1 part oil. I make it in an old relish jar, but a bowl and a whisk works just as well. This is our family favorite; it works wonderfully on Greek Salad or as a marinade for chicken. Add a little extra salt and garlic for marinade. Mince 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of onion, a good forkful of grainy mustard, a shake of Mrs. Dash, a grind or 2 of pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Squeeze a lemon over the seasoning. Lemons where I live are never fresh and juicy, they are extra tart, so I have to double the juice with water to get 1 part acid. Add the correct amount of water and good quality light-tasting (if you like the yucky green flavor of extra-virgin, go ahead) olive oil. Shake or whisk like mad, let it sit for an hour on the counter to blend flavors.

An excellent way to cook fish, skip the water, add a bunch of chopped tomato to the mix, pour over dense fish and bake…mmmmm

Balsamic dressing; sub the vinegar, omit the Mrs. Dash and the mustard and 1/2 the garlic.

An excellent dressing for layered cucumbers and tomatoes; Sub white vinegar, quadruple the onions, omit the Mrs. Dash, 1/2 the garlic, add a pinch of basil and a tablespoon of sugar.


2. How To Make Custard

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Not the kind that goes on trifle. Lord, I get a headache just taking out the double boiler. Buy Bird’s, I can’t make it any better than that. I’m talking about baked custard. Bread pudding is custard, Rice pudding is custard. The proteins in eggs stiffen up when heated. Even soufflé is custard, the whites and yolks are beaten separately to incorporate air, but the principle remains the same. I use a proportion of 1 part egg to 3 or 4 parts milk, with a few extra yolks added in for good measure. A dozen eggs, add 3 extra yolks.

See recipe 8 and recipe 9 on the recipes page.

1. How To Make Soup

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We eat home-made soup once a week. Soup is filling, cheap, and good for you. We have it with crusty bread or brochetta.

Chicken Noodle… Skin and pick the fat from a bunch of cheap chicken legs with backs attached. Season it with a fine dusting of poultry seasoning, a generous shake of Mrs. Dash©, and a very light sprinkling of seasoning salt. (We are going to use prepared stock later). Bake on a rack at 350 until well done. Dried out even, you want most of the fat rendered from the meat. Pick the meat from the bones and reserve. Rough chop a large onion, a couple stalks of celery and a small carrot. Sauté in a bit of oil in the soup pot, add the bones, tendons, and other gross bits from the chicken. When the veggies are beginning to brown add a bunch of water. Boil for an hour or two, skim the scum and run it through a sieve. Throw out the bones, veggie bits etc. Return the reserved meat to the broth and bring back to the boil. Reduce by 1/3. Now taste the broth and add 2 or 3 or 4 cups of prepared stock, the seasoning on the chicken determines how much is required. Bring back to the boil, skim, and add a couple cups of cheap frozen mixed veg. Bring back to the boil, pop in the noodles, adjust seasoning (sometimes it needs a tsp of vinegar or a shake of Worcestershire), and serve when the pasta is done. Soups and stews are both better the next day, so make it on the week-end, just add the pasta at the last minute.

See recipe 10 and 2 bonus recipes on the recipes page.

Contributor: Mom424



  • I love home-cooked food. This list has loads of great tips, but I prefer my custard the ‘normal’ way, especially on rhubard crumble.

    The tip for #10 is great, we’ve always got loads of stuff like that around the cupboards in our kitchen & we can use em for anything.

    I find buagette (spelled wrong probably) crisped up in the oven & with butter is a really great thing with to go with soup.

    I’m so lucky my mum is a good cook :D

  • GForce

    First

    • bucketheadrocks

      Stupidity lives everywhere

  • GForce

    Thats the first and last time I try that. So ashamed of myself.

  • GForce: Lame, but at least you learned your lesson ;)

  • Barnacle

    This is a great list.

    The thing about the acid is particularly helpful.

  • dangor: you are right – I had soup and baguette for dinner two days ago – it is lovely!

  • ooooh.. food.. whilst I am soo hungry! I like this list but it different to how we cook in the UK, my mother would cook almost like this – but its not the type of food I like!

    I disagree with the dressing – a 3 to 1 ratio of good quality extra virgin with an acid is the prefered method over here, adding seasoning to taste – using a jam jar, and always adding the oil to the acid to help emulsification [sp] load of things can be thrown in – garlic, good mustard, fresh chili, basil…etc

    I think a note of how to make stock should be made – its simple, lasts ages and tastes so much better shop bought boulinion or stocks. !!!

    Dribbles!!

  • ihavelegs: I agree with the idea of a stock on a list – maybe a list of basic preparations for cooking, like stocks, basic sauces, etc. I made a stock from a Thomas Keller recipe once – unfortunately it was a disaster, but what an amazing recipe – he does everything twice – remove all the veges when done, then add a whole new batch and start over with the first lot of stock.

  • DiscHuker

    most of the items on the list i can not advance with my current levels of knowledge and experience. but here is where i can help. the two things i make the best are brownies and choc. chip cookies. here are the two big secrets…

    1. when dealing with chocolate, give about 50% MORE salt than is required. i realize this flies in the face of #7 above, but salt enhances the flavor of chocolate in an incredible way. give it a try next time and you will find whatever you make is more “chocolatey”
    2. when dealing with baked goods, don’t skimp and use imitation vanilla extract. having good vanilla makes baked goods jump in your mouth. my favorite, mexican vanilla. but, make sure you look at the ingredients. if it says anything about corn syrup stay away. that means cheap. the good ones say only, vanilla beans, alcohol and maybe water.

    i am overweight. i can speak with authority about desserts. like my grandma always said “never trust a skinny cook”

  • bucslim

    jfrater – I do the veggie thing twice when I make stock. The resulting stock is nectar of the gods if you do it right

  • yeasure

    tuc + nutella! for the love of god try it!

  • Mom424

    I wrote the list and I know how to make stock; beef, chicken and veal. Most people won’t bother. Jeff Smith (he died a few years back, he was “the Frugal Gourmet” and a pentacost preacher) even has instructions on making your own oxo cubes..
    His recipe calls for dry roasting bones with bits of meat attached ’till really dark brown, damn near black, remove from oven, de-glaze pan, add to stock pot with bones, add salt, celery, a bouqet garni, onions and cook down,,,and cook some more, refrigerate, remove fat, cook some more,,strain, refrigerate, remove more fat,,,etc, etc,etc
    very time consuming to do it properly

  • Mom424

    DickHuker; I am not salt phobic, prepared soups and stock just has lots,,,
    Try the oatmeal test, make it without salt, then make it with salt….Salt improves the flavour, way nuttier…..
    Salt is required with most things to boost flavor and provide balance…

  • bucslim: I knew it would be great – the problem was that I cooked the meat bones for too long at the beginning – it was a slightly odd start to the recipe – you deep fried the bones in a LOT of oil and used the oil in the stock.

  • DiscHuker: I wasn’t aware of the extra salt in chocolate – interesting. Another interesting chocolate idea (which I am planning to make tonight) is a chocolate chantilly – it is like chocolate mousse but better – better because it contains nothing but chocolate and water – using molecular gastronomy tips you can get it to the right temperature to whip like cream. Because you only add water you are not drowning the flavor of the chocolate in cream or egg. You can substitute flavors for the water if you like – I am going to try one made with lapsang-souchon tea – to give it a smokey flavor – I am hoping it will be like Heston Blumenthal’s tobacco chocolate.

  • Mom424: You would love the English ingredients at the better quality supermarkets – I have never once bought a ready-made stock with salt in it in this country – and it is all made from organic ingredients. The only fault is that they obviously make their stock on too high a heat as it is always cloudy.

  • Mystern

    Mom424: Somehow before I even finished reading this list I knew you had written it. Thank the Gods that there are still people in the world who know how to cook outside of the box. Excellent list. I’m an amazing cook (and not humble about it), and there were a couple things on this list that even I didn’t know.

  • Oh – and don’t be afraid of MSG people! It is fine in small doses (just like salt) and it adds the umami flavor you can’t get from most other things. Umami is the “savoury” fifth taste sensation (along with salt, sweet, sour, bitter) and it should not be neglected :) Mushrooms have natural umami taste so you can use mushroom derived sauces to add umami if you are absolutely opposed to the wonderful benefits of MSG (E621 in the UK and NZ)

  • cparker

    this is a great list. I am a stickler for making asmany things yourself as you can. Cooking is loads of fun, it is worth the tasty reward by making your own stocks ad sauces. One other great rule or cooking is NEVER RUSH ANYTHING. After browning the outide of the meat cook it at 325 instead of 400, ou will taste it.

  • cparker: I agree about slow cooking – but better yet, roast a whole chicken at 70c for as many hours as it takes for the entire chicken to reach that temperature, then blast it for a few minutes at a really high heat to brown it off and you have perfect chicken! It is like the 24 hour leg of lamb cooked at 50c – you can cut it with a spoon.

  • Mom424

    jamie; i have no problem with msg,,,accent is msg, but I know quite a few people sensitive to it, that’s the only reason I don’t bother…

  • Mom424: really? I didn’t know people could be sensitive to it – that is interesting.

  • Mystern

    Mom424: I’m surprised at number 8. Why didn’t you tell how to properly make a white sauce? All you listed was the ingredients. My mum always taught me to melt the butter, then add the flour and keep stirring until you have a cohesive substance. Then add a couple ounces of milk and stir until you have one (for lack of a better word) lump that pulls easily away from the sides of the pan. Then continue adding milk a couple ounces at time making sure that you have one substance before adding more. Eventually your dough will turn into a sauce.
    You can just add all the ingredients together but there is a large chance of a lumpy sauce. I prefer the way my mum taught me (even though it takes longer) because you always end up with the perfect consistency and you can make it as thick or as thin as you like.

  • Mom424

    Jfrater; we do not have any decent stocks available here…they say organic, but its a load of bullshit. The only thing organic about them is the fact that the toxic chemicals they use are naturally occuring….
    My way of combatting the mega-corp crap is to buy local.
    Small farms inherently use the least amount of fertilizers and insecticides because they are paying for them and have a vested interest in sustainable agriculture. It doesn’t matter to me if the chemicals are man-made or naturally occuring, each is as toxic as the other….ie; cowshit has the same phosphorous, nitrates etc as manufactured fertilizer, plus some e-coli thrown in for good measure…I still prefer the cowshit, because we have tons of it readily available, not because its better for you….

  • Mom424

    Mystern; check the recipe page,,,i originally had the recipes tacked on to each tip,,,jamie changed it because of confines of space…

  • Mystern

    Mom424: I did check the recipe page before I wrote that. It says to just add the milk and use a whisk. I never use a whisk when making white sauce.

  • Mom424

    no it says melt the butter, add the flour, cook a bit, add the milk and whisk,,,,the flour should be cooked, and you can add the milk all at once, it won’t lump up because each grain of flour is basically suspended in a globule of fat….

  • Mystern

    Okay. I get it now. My mother taught me differently. Have you ever tried it my way?

  • Mom424

    Mystern, I make white sauce, gravy and cream soups much the way you do,,,this list was for people who mostly buy prepared foods, its easier when you start out to have a standard to base your cooking on….I want thinner sauce,,,less flour,,,etc….

  • Mystern

    Makes sense. Wonderful list.

  • I have seen two methods of making a white sauce – one (which I saw Fanny Cradock make) involved combining everything and whisking. The other is the French method desribed by Mystern – that is the method I use too – I never put a whisk in my white sauces – I always use a wooden spoon. You can see Fanny here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJKaFpsrNxE&feature=related – she is so hilarious – this was, of course, well before my time.

  • Mom424

    Mystern;
    oooo I make a bomb cream of broccoli soup with cheese…..
    peel and chop broccoli stems coarsley, saute in pan with olive oil, onions, celery, till soft add flour mixed with a generous handful of parmesan cheese, cook like Mystern said, till the chunks and flour make a cohesive paste,,,add chicken or veg stock a little at a time till consistency of a very thin white sauce, grind up with hand mixer, add broccoli florets, return to the boil, cook till soft, grind again, season
    serve with a handful of grated old cheddar melting on top

  • Mystern

    Mom424: Mmmmm. That sounds yummy. I think I’ll have to make a nice dinner for my love tonight. I’m skipping out on World of Warcraft tonight so I can spend some time with my honey.

    jfrater: That clip is HILARIOUS! Good info though.

  • Here is a better clip of Fanny Cradock – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1fIj6_lDZ8

  • SocialButterfly

    A friend of mine is actually allergic to MSG… she couldn’t eat at alot of restaurants growing up.

    The recipes on here look fabulous Mom424, I am so excited to try the dressing.. I have been looking for a basic recipe for making salad dressing. What would you do if you wanted an italian dressing? Or is this for an italian dressing?

  • Mystern

    Cool. I don’t watch TV anymore (I don’t even have basic stations) so I never get to see any cooking shows.

  • Mom424

    Social butterfly; omit the mrs dash and sub crushed italian seasoning or alternately 2 parts oregano, 1 part basil, pinch of thyme, pinch of rosemary. If you want it to taste more like the purchased kind you will have to add a bit of sugar (I don’t).

  • SocialButterfly

    Wow.. that’s awesome Mom424… I’m excited to try this now. My fiancee and I love italian but again it’s hard to find a good recipe.

    You are quite the talented chef!

  • Mystern

    SocialButterfly: If you like Italian and have about 2 1/2 hours of extra time on your hands I suggest manicotti. You can find it in the pasta aisle of the store. Most boxes have a recipe for cheese manicotti on the back. I generally use that recipe and add some Italian sausage and a couple spices/herbs for flavor.
    The only reason I suggest so much time is cause that’s about how long it took me my first time making it but it turned out amazing.

  • bucslim

    A lot of this stuff can be learned by watching “Good Eats” on the Food Network – assuming you’re not Mystern, that is. Alton Brown does a great job of explaining the whys and the hows. I’ve been cooking meals since I was 16, but I’ve learned a lot of new skills by watching that show on a regular basis, plus he’s a funny guy.

    Emeril’s Essence is a great spice to add to just about anything savory. I’m pretty sure you can find the mixture recipe somewhere on the web, but it’s basically paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, white pepper and salt.

    Take it from a fat guy, it’s good and good for you.

  • SocialButterfly

    That sounds really good Mystern.. I am not a great cook yet(still learning) but I love to try things. I’m going to have to check that out.

    Thanks :)

  • Mystern

    SocialButterfly: No problem. It’s actually a really great idea for some fun at home. You and your fiancee get some wine, stuff the manicotti together, stick it in the oven, have some more wine, and then eat it.

    Wow. That sounds dirty.

  • goof_ball

    This list is really good. I knew how to make some homecooked meals, but this helps. America really needs some real meals, not fastfood or artificial crap

  • Mom424

    Socialbutterfly; use the recipe for spaghetti sauce, make extra to use for the manicotti….
    I prefer ricotta cheese to cottage cheese (its like one big curd of cottage cheese) but if you use cottage cheese (its way cheaper) drain it in a collander or with cheese cloth. Mix cottage cheese or ricotta with some grated mozzarella, a beaten egg, some cooked drained chopped spinach (this is optional), some parmesan, a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Spoon a layer sauce into a rectangular baking dish. Stuff cooked manicotti noodles or large shells with cheese mixture, pour some more sauce on top. Cover and bake for about an hour. Uncover and grate a bit of mozza on top, bake 15 more minutes or so, till cheese is melted…

  • Mystern

    Mom424: What about the sausage? I love adding sausage to the recipe.

  • JwJwBean

    Thanks! I am awesul at cooking. But I think it is because I don’t know all the tricks. I will try some of these out and see how my cooking improves. Oh and the recipes. YUMMY!

  • SocialButterfly

    Mom424: Oh wow… I am drooling right now.. that sounds soo good!

    Mystern: hahaha that just sounds bad coupled with your last comment…

  • Mystern

    SocialButterfly: LMAO! I didn’t even look at that. Wow. I’m actually speechless.

  • SocialButterfly

    LOL!! Wow… I think that’s a first. ;)

  • Mom424

    Mystern; I often use a mix of spicy Italian sausage, removed from the casing, and ground beef to make the sauce…..
    Good tip for bbq raw fatty sausage, once browned, use a serrated steak knife and cut it up the back…it will flatten out…put it on the top rack on low, close and cook real slow,,,the dripping fat hits the burner and smokes the sausage….also as an added bonus, most of the fat renders out making sausage not a heart clogger…..

  • bucslim

    (in my book) There’s no use in eating the sausage unless it clogs the heart. Sausage isn’t diet food. That’s the great thing about being chubby, you can eat whatever you want. I might die of a stroke or heart attack, but at least I’ll have a smile on my face when I’m laid out at the wake.

    Pork fat rules!

  • Mom424

    ooo ooo this technique works wonderful for whole chicken too…
    hack out the back-bone of a chicken,,,there’s no meat there anyway and now the chicken will lay flat…
    Season extra well, a ton of seasoning salt and a ton of Mrs. Dash or your favorite seasoning mix,,,
    Brown on Med High on barbque, till skin is a bit scorched,,,it wont be brown yet, just scorched,,,remove to top rack and turn off the flame on the side of the bbq with the chicken…leave the other side on med-low or low depending on the bbq,,,again as the fat renders out it hits the coals and will smoke the chicken,,,the skin is soooo good and crispy and yummy

  • Lizim

    My mom taught me how to make turkey stock when I was 12 years old. I use the leftover turkey carcass from thanksgiving, which is always huge. That way I have enough to freeze for the whole year. I was so blessed to have a mother that was an excellent cook and who demanded that I learn as well. My oldest daughter is three and I have her in the kitchen with me almost every night helping with dinner.

  • Mom424

    Bucslim; I agree and i either bbq or pan fry quality pork sausage whole,,,the cheap shit is another matter, it has so much fat…I would rather just dip toast in bacon fat,,,same clogging better flavour…

  • jadester

    Mom 424: Thank you, I am making v-day dinner for my boyfriend tonight and I am not an amazing cook. I would love to see a vegetarian list for cooking on here one day.

  • downhighway61

    socialbutterfly-
    if you make the manicotti do not use cottage cheese! bleh!!!
    spring for the ricotta.

  • Lizim

    Mmo424: You totally just gave me a flashback! Toast in bacon grease! My father LOVED fried bread. Make bacon and then fry the bread in the grease. My mom would only do it for him on his b-day because she was afraid of him dropping dead. I could actually hear his arteries clogging. Shiver.

  • Mom424

    jadester i know 2 very good vegetarian dishes….
    soak a bunch of veg,,,zuchinni spears, or ovals, broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc,,,in italian salad dressing, either make your own or buy no-name healthy choice variety, for a couple of hours on counter…heat the bbq or broiler to smoking and char/brown the veg….meanwhile cook up a bunch of angel hair pasta, toss individual servings of pasta in a frying pan with some melted margarine, olive oil, fresh garlic, a bunch of the veg, a handful of parmesan and grinds of black pepper
    or
    Stir fry a bunch of zuchinni sliced on the diagonal, sliced onion and garlic,,,when the zuchinni starts to go see through and brown around the edges add 4 or 5 chopped fresh extra ripe tomatoes and a good slosh of dark soy,,,reduce a bit till the tomatoes collapse
    serve over rice….

  • SocialButterfly

    Thanks for the advice downhighway61. I was wondering where I would find a cheesecloth… I think they sell ricotta cheese in my grocery store anyway.

  • Mom424

    Lizim, heat up the grease from cooking bacon, and make egg in a basket, cut a whole from bad for you white bread, plop it in the grease, crack an egg into the hole, fry, flip, lots of pepper…food of the gods….

  • Lizim

    Mom424 I think my dad would love you. I, however, hate eggs. I save my bacon grease and use it to grease pans for certain recipes.

  • kiwiboi

    Mom424 – got any recipes for shark ?? ;)

    Seriously though…I love cooking too, and your list has some great tips. Well done ! (if you’ll forgive the pun)

  • Phenderbender

    I guess Im lucky! My mom is Italian and my dad is Moroccan, so I get to learn how to make two great types of food (I get to eat them too!). I’ve never had canned ravioli, or canned anything really! Great list!

  • Sidereus

    Wow, great list! Very helpful. I hope to see more cooking lists.

  • PeteFloyd

    #1 tip for great cooking…
    Don’t listen to a british person

  • kiwiboi

    Pete – huh? Why not listen to a British person ? For example, the chef/owner of the world’s #1 rated restaurant is British.

    Or am I missing something ?

  • JwJwBean

    kiwiboi: It was weird oyu said that because I am catching up on all the old shark week episodes. Poor sharks. Scary sharks.

  • JwJwBean

    I have a funny story for you. My husband worked with a British woman. She told of when she first got married to her husband. He bought himself a HUGE T-bone steak. Was so craving a good steak. She boiled it! He NEVER let her cook his steaks again.

  • kiwiboi

    Jw – good luck with the sharks catch-up. Actually shark is a lovely tasting fish. When I was growing up we had shark once a week (fish and chips). Using shark is probably less prevalent now, though jfrater would have a better idea than me.

    As for the “steak-boiler”…I have a similar story. I love curried sausages. So, just after we got married my wife decided to cook me some. Trouble is, she used *hot English mustard* powder instead of curry powder. Of course, I felt sorry for her and had to eat it. Man was that hot ! :)

  • JwJwBean

    I have had shark before. The last thing said on this last episode I watched was that we have done more damage to sharks than they have to us. It also talked about getting mercury poison from eating shark. It is yummy, but scary.

  • SocialButterfly

    I saw an episode of Iron Chef once, this is the real Iron Chef not the American version mind you(if you haven’t seen it you need to) and sharks fin was the secret ingredient.

    I also remember seeing somewhere once that Shark was used as a “natural” ingredient to help ward off cancer.

  • Mom424

    Kiwiboi; I love shark meat, dense, like eating steak, mmmmmmm
    but its never in season here,,I had it in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

  • downhighway61

    social butterfly- i always find cheesecloth randomly in the stores. like hanging on one of those thingys that’s on the shelves. i don’t know where exactly it would be. i dont know if you’re in the US or not, but maybe at bed bath and beyond.

  • kiwiboi

    Mom – of course, my mentioning of sharks was a reference to our little “popular science” debate the other day (though I guess you knew that) :)

    And yep…shark sure is a superb eatin’ fish…

  • bucslim

    So now “Jaws” is not only an influential movie, but a culinary inspiration too?

  • kiwiboi

    LOL…so it would seem :)

  • Csimmons

    I hevw eaten shark before, pretty good, but not as good as panda! LOL!

  • Csimmons

    Its like reading the food channel.

  • Csimmons

    thats weird, i meant to say have on #77

  • Csimmons

    Mom: didn’t you talk to Jamie about making a food list on some recent list?

  • Csimmons

    Jamie: thanks for the tips on cooking meat, im having a cookout this week for the Daytona 500 and needed some tips. :)

  • Csimmons

    on #10 in the picture, i see “Shake n’ Bake” Is that an actual food? I thought Ricky Bobby made it up. LOL!

  • JwJwBean

    Shake n Bake is real, and not that bad tasting. High sodium, but even acceptable by weight watchers standards.

  • SocialButterfly

    downhighway61: I live in Canada but we have stores similar to BB&B here… I will have to check there!

  • nelia

    My mom makes amazing gravy, but I haven’t managed to learn how to make it yet. It is pretty much a once a year thing, as she makes it from the drippings from the turkeys at thanksgiving. It is so good, you could eat it on its own… Its like a thick soup.

  • Diogenes

    do you play music when you cook? or throw in more spice to cover up an otherwise pale complexion on the buds? how about “southern style” of re-using the same left over congealed fat in the frying pan? Have you repeated a 3week/ $30 mantra of basics over and over again in variation?just thoughts.

    this is really more of a sauce list. its like liquid spice to me.
    i enjoy a slow bubble and to fill the room with intoxicating aroma.

    i’m guessing your a powerhouse of a woman, Mother Two Hundred And Twenty Four.

  • Jadester

    mom424, those sound amazing!!! i cant wait to try them, but you’ll never get my boyfriend to be a veggie, he hates zuccini!

  • Harsha

    Diogenes : She’s Mother Four Hundred And Twenty Four!!
    WOW!! Great list by the way mom424!

  • Drogo

    My poor mom, try as she might, she can’t make gravy. She’s confounded by it. One time it was literally thicker than the mashed potatoes that we were putting it on. It tasted good though.

  • Jono

    You didn’t really give a custard recipe. =/

    My favourite way to have custard is a very healthy way, and a bit different to what you might expect. I prefer my custard very thin, like a soup.

    First, I get 2 eggs, and I whisk them until they are completely smooth. Remove sinew if there is any, it’s tough and tastes gross. Maybe sieve the egg mixture if you want to. Then get a small quantity of milk (skim or full, doesn’t matter), and heat it in the microwave until it’s rather frothy and has just about over boiled. Stirring the milk aggressively , slowly pour in the egg mixture until it’s one yellow mixture, stir this aggressively to avoid coagulation. Then it’s time to add some vanilla extract, and to sweeten it I use Splenda (if you want to use sugar, stir it into the milk while it’s super hot, pour the milk into another glass, and reheat it, you don’t want granulated sugar in your custard). And for the final step, I like to add a few teaspoons of almond powder to give the custard some texture. :]

  • nelly

    woww wonderful list=)

  • pretty poison

    Great list! I love to cook and am trying to move my family to a healthy eating plan without chemicals and processed foods. Thanks so much for posting this!

  • Mom424

    jono; I didn’t tell how to make dessert custard, I said to buy Birds(c)….but thanks for the tip, I’ve never made it in the microwave…I just gave proportions for baked custard, take a look at the recipes…oh and I use 1% milk at home….

  • souxieq

    you know, it really amazes me that most people really don’t know how to cook anymore. I just turned 28, and people are in shock when they discover that I can cook. I grew up taking care of my disabled dad, so I was cooking full meals as far back as I can remember. People really rely on the boxed and frozen food sections wayyyyyy too much. Ever wonder what would happen if you suddenly couldn’t get Chef Boyardee or McDonald’s anymore. I honestly think that more than a few people would starve to death.
    Anyway, a few tips of my own, though many of the basics have been covered already:
    1. SLOW DOWN. Especially with meats, lower and slower makes tastier meals.
    2. Keep it simple. Lots of people think that you have to add all these exotic spices and things to make food taste good. If you have to do all that to enjoy something, then maybe it just isn’t the dish for you.
    3. You CAN make amazingly good gravy with cornstarch that isn’t see-through, and has plenty of substance, with time and practice. The trick is to start off by making a really rich broth. After that you just have to get the temperature and timing down to get it just right.
    4. Always make your own stocks and broths. It’s really not that involved if, once again, you’re willing to invest some time in it.

  • Mom424

    souxieq; I make my own stocks and broth, time permitting, but I am afraid with our current instant gratification society anything that requires time for a reward is ignored or passed over. The list was intended for people who live out of packages and the freezer and who don’t cook…

  • About #9 on this list: Who the hell cooks meat on a grill using a frying pan? You put that **** on the grill itself. Frying pans are for stoves, so keep it in the kitchen. Guys don’t care about bits of charred up remains from a previous meal getting stuck on their meat because we clean the grill every so often. And it’s not like tasting charred up barbecue sauce on our steak will kill us. Ditch the frying pan. You make it seem like every guy in the world is a sissy who can’t handle a bit of roughage on their meat. “Oh, my steak has grill marks on it, so I can’t eat it.” Right? WRONG. We just. Don’t. Care.

  • a lot of this seems like personal opinion. ex: sausage gravy tastes damn nasty with flour rather than corn starch, imo. Most gravies do unless you’re adding wine. I can taste the flour, corn starch just adds a little touch of sweetness. Just like anything else though, it comes with practice. My gravy is never over thick and plopping around on the plate. Just like your golden ratio with flour and fats, there’s a golden ratio for corn starch. I couldn’t tell you what it was off of the top of my head, I just kinda know, but it’s all preference. Like I would have added always use fresh herbs when possible to the list more than caring how you build a gravy. It just seems more important to me, especially since you use so many herbs on a daily basis than you do gravy.

    Aside from that small irritation (I can’t stand it when people pass opinions off as gospel with cooking) I think this list is very well written and has some great ideas.

    The entire world of french cuisine, and a lot of the cajun cooking, becomes immediately open to you once you learn a cream sauce. I might have made that one higher on the list. I know it had a hell of an impact on my cooking.

  • maxx – Speak for yourself. I always put foil or something down because the carcinogens on the grill are very bad for you and that crunchy shit tastes nasty, imo. Plus the meat sticks very easily to the grill itself unless you’re using one of those nasty ass chemical sprays to make the grill non-stick, which just adds more baked on nasty chemicals.

  • Mom424

    Maxx_the_Slash; that is an illustration I did not provide, I suggest you read the piece….
    secondly if you taste the damn flour you are not cooking it enough……
    I cook right on the grill of the bbq,,,damn the carcinogens…

  • see? opinion as fact. because I can taste it (everywhere I’ll add. I can always tell when someone’s used flour. it tastes grainy.) that means everyone isn’t cooking it properly and not that it’s a matter of taste.

    in cooking, as with all things, if you lock yourself into the “this is the ONLY way to do it” mindset you miss out on a lot.

  • Mom424

    sorry I was being flip, and am in a shitty mood,,,,,yes you are quite right, you can make the best damn caraway bread in the world and I’m not going to like it,,,I don’t like caraway….
    but honestly if you toast the flour, you won’t taste it, only a nutty flavour….

  • The best tip: marry an Italian woman. Sure the temper tantrums will make you wish you were dead but the food and sex are well worth it.

  • It’s cool, I was in a bad mood too and probably a bit more hostile than I should have been. Bad day.

    I am pretty picky. I’m a vegetarian, too, because I don’t like the taste of most meat most of the time. I use mascarpone cheese and cream rather than a roux for my alfredo sauces.

    Would you recommend a whole wheat flour roux? I’ve had great results from it in coconut curries and tomato cream sauces, and the sweetness of the whole wheat makes me taste the graininess in the roux a little less. I don’t know if it’s the bleach or what, but white flour always makes a roux taste more dirty to me. I can’t even eat them unless they’re unbleached flour. I don’t mind white flour in anything else, I make my own pizza dough with it. Strange.

    That leads me to another good suggestion. I could definitely see a part 2 to this. Learn to proof yeast. Bread, pizza dough, breadsticks, flatbread, home made funnel cake, zeppoles, and it’s an intro to a huge section of dessert baking. learn to recognize the types, and what they’re good for. How to activate them. I don’t know how I’d bake without it.

  • Cheers for that list, I am already a master at steak (a man needs to know how to cook a good rare steak) but tonight I mad that gravy and had it with pork. All I can say is mmmm, it was bloody beautiful (excuse the Aussie language there). I made an addition though, I fried up tiny pieces of onion and mushroom and cooked it in that. Soooo much better than that instant gravy crap.

  • Chris: that sounds great! Speaking of mushrooms – the best sauce for steak is mushroom sauce:

    Melt a big knob of butter in a pot and fry off chopped bacon and onions until they are soft. Add a pile of mushrooms sliced, add salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms are soft and have reduced in size fully. Add tablespoon or two of flour and mix in – cook for about 5 minutes (to get rid of the floury taste) – don’t worry if it looks lumpy – it won’t be in the end. Start adding milk a bit at a time while mixing until you have a moderately thick saucy consistency – check for seasoning (add more salt and pepper if needed). Et Voila! It is really great on steak and even better if you have it with french fries too.

  • Mom424

    jfrater; I make that, yer right, damn awesome, bacon fat rules,,,
    Logick bomb; you are correct, brown unbleached flour is sweeter and nuttier,,,,and yeast, yes proof the yeast, warm water, it will foam, if it doesn’t, throw it out…..
    also I have never had coconut curry that I liked, how?
    Chris; I’m glad you loved the gravy,,,,

  • http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-make-thai-chicken-with-coconut-and-basil here’s probably the most simple of the coconut curry recipes I’ve found. I use a heavily modified version of it, myself. I use coconut milk rather than cream, I use fish and vegetable broth rather than fish sauce, and I start with butter, garlic, and onion to build a whole wheat flour roux.

    cutting back on some of the red chile and substituting sweet chili sauce makes a hell of a difference, too. I’ve found coconut curry is really one of those dishes you have to experiment with a lot to get a flavor you’ll enjoy.

    jfrater: that stuff is awesome. have you tried it with spicy sausage rather than bacon? also, great.

  • stugy

    I remembered seeing this list a while ago, and I looked it up to try the breading listed on this site. Here’s to a good dinner and a great resource for the kitchen illiterate.

  • Lip

    Is that a teflon pan on the BarB? Big no no to heat that up too high.

  • Jenova4

    I was going to say, if no one knows where to find cheesecloth, look no further than the isle that has laundry/cleaning supplies. It is usually near the dish sponges or Dish towels. I used to work in a grocery store, and I’ve found this to be common in stores I shop in the US.

  • saba

    Butter has salt in it??? Not in my world.

  • spinny

    “I saw a recipe that called for 1/4 cup of basil pesto for pasta that served 4 people.” that amount of basil pesto would have barely covered enough pasta for 4 people, it would have still needed cream or olive oil to extend it.

  • Meagan

    My five tips would be:
    1. EXPERIMENT-things sometimes get better when you try something new.
    2.LESS FEAR, MORE FUN- don’t be afraid of having a meal come out bad- everything in the kitchen is a learning experience.
    3. DON’T UNDER OR OVERSEASON- both are horrible.
    4. DON’T OVERCOOK.
    5. BE SAFE.

  • someonelse

    I hate cooking in general, I’m also not that keen on eating. Personally I think most people eat too much, and devote too much effort too it. I only eat once a day, and only from a microwave. anything else is a waste of time ad money to me.

  • gabi319

    From the Kitchen Myths website:
    Hot pan, cold oil – “…This works of course, so it is not a myth in that it is untrue. It is, however, false to think that this is the only or the best way to prevent sticking. What you really want is “hot pan, hot oil” and that’s what you are actually getting because the cold oil heats up almost instantly when added to the hot pan. You’ll get the same results if you heat the oil along with the pan rather than adding the oil at the last minute. In fact some cooks prefer this technique because the appearance of the oil in the pan can give you some indication of when the pan has reached the proper temperature.”
    I never heard the saying until I stumbled on that site. My mom’s a cook for a living and I had always seen her put oil in right when the heat’s turned on (but that could also be from an Asian superstition about leaving a pan empty).

    Thank you Thank you Thank you for recommending to splurge on some decent cookware! Well…you didn’t really recommend but but gave an either or situation… I used to work for a retail store that required us to take product knowledge courses and that’s one of the learnings that stuck with me. It’s not just because the store earned more money from the more expensive brands but also because the cheap college stuff doesn’t help make food taste good and can be dangerous from melted handles or handles that break off especially when you pick up a full pot (that happened to me and I was burned from belly to calves. Luckily they were only first degree burns) to bottoms warping causing uneven heating or tipping over…Knives that appear fancy but dull quickly, dent/chip off or cut at a dangerous slant… There are plenty of ridiculously overpriced items but splurging a little is a good investment for the long haul.

    One tip when cooking meat… leave it alone! Continuously flipping makes it lose flavor. Flip only once per side.

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  • Alletron

    Is it sad that I immediately recognized that bowl of salt as Alton Brown's on "Good Eats"?

  • ddubia

    I'm 59 years old. Been a single parent of my son since he was 3 (is 21 now). At that time I became the chief cook and bottle washer. Been trying to prepare good, tasty, wholesome meals since. I've been surfing food/cooking sites for several years. This is the best site, by far, of all I've seen. Good, basic instruction and tips. The chicken noodle soup and beef barley recipes are perfect. I make a good chicken noodle soup already. Have had many compliments from son and others. But your tips convince me my soup will be kicked up a notch immediately.

    I've become bored of my usual recipes and have been dreading cooking meals because of it. Always thinking I need new recipes. It turns out what I really needed is new methods to prepare the ones I already make.

    Thanks for a great site. I'll now go on to search the rest of it. I'm excited at what I'll find!

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  • Craig in Portland

    Don’t cook with salted butter! Salted butter is for spreading and eating, like on toast or corn, or muffins.
    Cook with UNsalted butter!

  • Create A Wiki

    I didn’t realize it, but most web hosts provide the option for creating a wiki site. I’ll be back again in the future!

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