Melissa Dean.jpg

I have learned a few things along my culinary journey.

1. Just because you’re a “chef” doesn’t mean you won’t burn something every now and then.

2. Just because you’re a “chef” doesn’t mean everyone will love your food every time.

3. Just because someone tells you you’re a good cook, doesn’t make you a chef.

Just a few things that I have found hard to swallow at some point, but I’m better now. Doing what I love makes me a happy person and that is all that matters.

The list is meant to be a joke, but I have been told these things by a couple of reputable chefs. (I laugh out loud, at this point.)

So, today’s thoughts are this. If I could back when I was first learning to cook and learning how to run my kitchen, I would have given anything to have been gifted these few but very important helpful hints.

Ok, so I have seen several pictures on Facebook where some of you are using foil when baking cookies. Not a good idea, and here’s why. Your cookies will always stick. Always. They will never not stick. They will always stick, even if it’s a little bit. They can also tend to spread out into a “sheet” of cookies, rather than individual, perfectly round cookies. And here is why. Foil is essentially a conductor of heat. A “heat-keeper” if you will. That’s why we cover food with foil after it comes out of the oven to keep it warm. So, when you use foil while baking cookies at the indicated 350 degrees Fahrenheit for the allotted 10-12 minutes, you are speeding up the baking process, in a sense, making for a melty oozy mess of cookies. Just try my proven method of using parchment paper. I promise your cookies will turn out perfectly round and delicious every time.

Next hack also involves parchment paper and foil. They are both like a go-to pantry staple, along with waxed paper. So, here it is. I make my bacon in the oven. Always have. Always will. And here is the why and how. I make it in the oven because it comes out perfectly crispy every single time and it also doesn’t make a frying greasy mess on my stove top. I cover a baking sheet with foil, ensuring that the ends and both the sides have a little overhang and wrap said overhang around the edges of the pan. Then, I take a sheet of parchment paper and place it on top of the foil. I lay the strips of bacon out on the parchment making sure that the sides of the bacon don’t touch. I then bake it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it has the desired crispiness that I require in my bacon. I take it out of the oven, remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to remove some of the grease. After the pan has cooled, and here is the hack, I take the overhang of the foil and fold it in on all sides. First the long edges and then the shorter edges and then kind of roll them together to the center. And voila! Easy peasy clean up! I know, I know. What about all of that delicious bacon grease? I save it sometimes, but not always. I mean, I use it sometimes for cooking or in vinaigrettes, but again, for me, it’s all about easy clean up. Especially in my small, quaint, perfect kitchen. Bacon comes out perfect every single time and cleanup is easy. Life is good.

Next, and my last easy hack.

Have ever wanted to try a new recipe that called for something that you didn’t have on hand? Or didn’t have enough on hand? For example, lemon juice. I always have lemons and limes on hand, but I use them more than most at home cooks do. So, let’s say your recipe calls for a couple of tablespoons for lemon juice but, dang it, you only have one lemon and it may or may not yield that much juice. First and foremost, I always, always zest any lemons I use for cooking and I will tell you why in just a minute. Now, you can microwave the lemon for a few seconds. This will help to get its juices flowing, so to speak. You can also roll it around on the cutting board a little. This will also help. And when you go to extract the juice, I use a fork. Cut the lemon in half and then insert the fork and twist and twist. (You can shout if you want to, also. That’s a little joke.) But if you still can’t get enough of the lemony goodness that your recipe is requiring, use that lemon zest you have sitting on your cutting board! It will give you that lemon flavor that most likely the recipe is asking for.

I hope these few little tricks will help you in your culinary endeavors. Hopefully, everyone is using this crazy and uncertain time to step out of the box and try some new things. I wish you health, happiness, love and good food! Much love.

Tune in next week, when we talk about my top 10 kitchen utensils and why I won’t cook if I don’t have them.

Recommended for you