You've probably watched at least one celebrity chef on television and thought, "Hey, I can do that!" Well, until the TV network comes knocking, you can always use your own kitchen as a stage to create unforgettable meals. Whether you are new at cooking or an old pro, you can always use some cooking tips. Here are a few to get you started. Try parsnips for a change! A lot of people tend to avoid parsnips, as they are not exactly sure how to cook them. Look for a creamy white or beige parsnip with a smooth skin. Cut into 2 inch long 'sticks' and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They impart an intense nutty flavor that is nothing like the boiled parsnips that you remember from your youth! To ripen fruits like tomatoes, pears and bananas faster, place the pieces of fruit in a paper bag along with an apple of any variety. Apples emit ethylene gas -- a natural plant hormone -- as they ripen, which will affect the fruit inside the paper bag, accelerating their natural ripening process.
After you have cooked your favorite pasta, grate fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese on it while it's still hot and then toss it into your sauce. This will not only act as a great thickening agent, but it will also give the sauce something that it can really stick to. When roasting a whole chicken, remember to season well and separate the breasts from the legs. The legs need a longer cooking time than the breasts, if you don't take out the breasts they will overcook. If you want to preserve fresh basil longer, keep the stems in water and store it at room temperature. This will considerably extend the usability time of the herb, preserving the taste and saving you money in the long run. You can do this with other fresh herbs as well.
No matter what you are making, season the food that you are cooking at the beginning of the process, during the process and at the end of it. Gradual seasoning of every component will make the most of your recipe's ingredients and will give your finished product, the most amount of flavor. When cooking a steak, place it in the pan on its side, and let the fat drip into the pan. The side has a pocket of fat on the narrow edge, and the flavorful, rich fat makes for great-added flavor when you continue to cook your steak flat on both sides. When it comes to seasoning fish, less is more. Use simple seasonings that will not overpower the natural flavor of the fish. Pull it off the grill or from the oven and finish it with a splash of lemon. Lemon will always enhance the flavor of the fish, regardless of how it has already been seasoned.
Try cooking your favorite baked casseroles in muffin tins. Not only will you have individually-sized servings, but each person can have some of the crispy, brown edge pieces. As a bonus, the casserole freezes well in these portion-sized pieces, so you can pull out leftovers for lunches and thaw them more quickly. To avoid burning food, when you cook on the stove or in the oven, use a loud timer to help you remember to check on your food. Also, set the timer a little early so that it will give you extra time to grab the potholders and the cooling racks. If you need extra cooking time, don't forget to reset your timer. To prevent the top layer of cheese from peeling off your lasagna or other casserole when you remove the foil, spray the foil with cooking spray prior to covering the dish with it. When you remove the foil so the cheese can brown, the cheesy layer will remain intact.
Always taste and season your food as you cook it, and do not depend solely on the recipe's instructions for how much or how little of a seasoning to add. Also, if you over-salt one component of your dish, you can adjust the amount you add to other layers or ingredients to balance out the flavor. Do not flip your food too often. Flipping not only affects the sear on a piece of meat, but it can cause delicate foods to break and may cause the breading to slip off of pan-fried foods. Wait until the food slips easily off the pan or the food is halfway through its cooking time so that you only need to flip it once. When adding flour or cornstarch to drippings for making gravy, whisk the ingredient into a bit of water to create a slurry and pour this liquid into the pan, instead of just dumping in the dry ingredients. This will prevent unappealing lumps in your gravy, and it makes it easier to add just a bit of thickener at a time.
To check and see if biscuits, cakes, cornbread, muffins and other bread-like foods are finished, insert a wooden toothpick into the center. If there are any crumbs or batter stuck to the wood when you remove it, pop the food back into the oven for a few minutes to allow it to finish. Be careful which apples you use when making apple pie. When an apple pie recipe calls for Braeburn apples, don't substitute for Granny Smiths apples. They will give the pie a tart flavor. Also, try not to use Golden Delicious apples, as the flavor doesn't hold up well when used for cooking. Store cooking chocolate correctly. Cooking chocolate must be stored below 70 degrees, which means the refrigerator, especially in warm weather. Wrap it tightly and keep it away from any strong smelling foods. When it comes time to use it, leave it in the wrapping until it reaches room temperature. Dark chocolate will keep in the fridge for up to one year, milk chocolate for up to six months. All chocolate can be kept in the freezer for up to one year.
Cooking can be great fun and a chance for you to show off. Make sure to keep these tips in mind to add to your cooking a bit, and to enhance the skills you already have. And who knows, maybe one day you'll be the celebrity chef on a TV network!