5 Super-Easy Cooking Tips Every Aspiring Chef Should Know

cooking-tips

Something I talk about a lot on this blog is the importance of learning the basics of cooking. It’s great being able to cook a complex recipe, but to truly feel comfortable cooking you need to know how to peel an onion quickly…how to cook asparagus without it being too hard…or when to add a drop of lemon or pinch of salt.

With that in mind, here are five easy cooking tips that I think everyone should know about.

1. Slow Cookers Are Your “Cheat Code” for Healthy Foods

It would be great if we all had time to cook healthy meals every evening – but most of us are too busy (especially when you factor in washing up). With longer work days and less free time, it’s not surprising many people favour junk food.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to cook large batch meals without needing to spend your evening in-front of a cooker. It’s called a slow cooker – and it’ll change your cooking life.

The big thing to remember is that slow cooking requires less liquid than regular cooking. So when you’re cooking your favourite stew or casserole, reduce water by around a half a cup. Also, make sure you cut the vegetables to the same size, otherwise they won’t cook evenly.

2. Don’t Crowd the Pan

A common mistake many beginners make is to crowd the pan. If you put too much into a pan, the heat won’t be able to distribute as effectively. This doesn’t just reduce the flavour of your dish – it can also stop food cooking through, which could be dangerous.

For this reason, make sure there’s at least a couple of inches between things in the pan.

3. Add Salt When Boiling Pasta

When you’re making pasta, remember to add salt before you start cooking. This adds some extra flavour that’s sealed inside the pasta – which you can’t get from adding salt later.

Don’t add too much though. One tablespoon in a pot of water is enough. It can make a big difference to the taste of your meal though.

4. Cut Onions Correctly.

When you’re cutting an onion, don’t remove the root. Peel the onion while keeping the root in one piece, then slice horizontally. You can then cut vertically to create small and evenly sized pieces (try that without keeping the root intact – I bet you can’t do it!)

5. Allow Red Meat to Sit

Do your steaks often taste dry? If so, you may need to let it sit longer before you cut it.

In fact, all red meat should be allowed to sit in foil for around five minutes. This lets all the juices inside the meat settle before you start cutting.

Keep in mind that the steak will carry on cooking in the foil. So if you want a medium-rare stake, you’ll need to take it out of the pan fairly quickly.

 

What is the Paleo Diet?

As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of the paleo diet. It’s changed my life for the better by helping me cut out all the crap and synthetic products I used to eat.

But I’m aware that not everyone understands the paleo diet, or has even heard of it. There is a lot of bad information out there too, which can make it even more difficult to start. I get particularly annoyed by the “sales people” of the internet who try to make paleo as complicated as possible, just so they can sell a new book or product about it.

It’s really not that hard to eat paleo!

Here’s a simple guide to get started.

It’s all about the VEG

veggies

If you don’t like vegetables but want to do the paleo diet, you better start liking them as soon as possible! Some people say that lean meats are the bedrock of paleo, but I disagree – it’s vegetables. They contain an abundance of nutrients that are essential for proper health. Fruits are also good too, but they are much higher in sugar.

Eat lean meat only

meats

The protein you get in meat is ESSENTIAL for proper bone growth, strong muscles and a variety of other functions, so paleo includes a lot of it. The great thing about protein is that it gives you that satisfied “full” feeling, so you’re less likely to snack between meals.

Get healthy fats

nuts

We need fats, especially monounsaturated and Omega 3. They help protect against many diseases, including certain types of cancer, and can even limit decline in brain function. All of this might sound far-fetched, but only because the media long ago decided that fats were the devil if you wanted to be healthy.

The paleo diet recommends eating only lean meats for fats, but you can also get it from seeds, nuts, avocados and olive oil. If necessary, you can supplements omega 3.

What to avoid

Now you know what to eat, what shouldn’t you eat. You can throw away pretty much anything that’s processed, and get rid of sugary snacks. Here’s a quick run-down of other things not to eat:

  • Grains – these weren’t a part of the human diet in ancient times, so shouldn’t be now.
  • Dairy – for the same reason as grains.
  • Legumes
  • Alcohol
  • Starches

If you’re new to paleo, these rules can sound restrictive – and they are, to a certain extent. But don’t let that put you off. Once you start feeling the energy that comes with eating proper paleo, you’ll never want to go back to the sluggish feeling of eating processed, sugary foods that’s also slowly killing you.

I don’t say this to preach – I have only eaten paleo for the last year or so. But it’s made such a difference to my life that I want everyone to at least give it a fair try!

If you want more information than this introduction guide, check out this post on Nerd Fitness. It’s one of the best beginner’s guides I’ve seen.