While dining out can be a lot of fun, there is nothing better than a home-cooked meal.
Eating at home is healthier for many reasons. You can control your portions, select the ingredients you like, and cook foods that are safe for any possible allergies.
Having your hands on the ingredients and putting love and dedication into all of your dishes will make your home chef meals experience even better.
Read on to find out how to make your home-cooked meals even better!
- Focus on the Ingredients
Any professional chef will confirm that fresh ingredients are better than dried or frozen.
When it comes to herbs, treat them like flowers. Keep them in freshwater, and help them stay fresh as long as possible. If parts of the herb start to wither or die, clip them off to prolong their life as long as possible.
While packaged spices are a time saver, there are few things more delicious than fresh spices. If you open up your seasoning of choice, and it doesn’t have much of a smell, it won’t have much taste either. Sautee fresh spices in a skillet or roast them to bring out even more fantastic flavors in your dish.
For citrus fruits, select in season or ripe fruits over pre-juiced alternatives. Depending on the fruit, make sure that they are mature and in their prime before cutting them open. Berries are fantastic when they are in season, but if you have a craving during the offseason, opt for frozen.
When shopping for veggies, try to buy in season and build your dish around them. If the recipe you are making calls for out of season produce, try to find alternatives that are in-season for the most impactful flavor profiles.
Always use butter instead of margarine, and settle for low-fat options. If you are watching calories, opt for smaller portions instead of changing the ingredients.
- Season to Taste
When finding a recipe to make, be cautious of recipes that don’t include salt in the list of ingredients. A little salt can help bring out a lot of the natural flavors in your dish.
Like the last section mentioned, fresh herbs and spices will go a long way in bringing your dish to the next level. If you don’t have access to fresh herbs and spices, opt for higher-end spices that are full of potent scent.
Don’t be afraid to add a little acid from fruit to your dish. During the last phases of your cooking, a squeeze of lemon can go a long way to brighten the natural flavors of your meal. Everything from veggies, meats, and desserts are more delicious with a little fresh acidity from citrus.
- Get It Prepped
Make the most of your cooking experience by practicing some of these tips that can help you save time while you cook.
Before you start cooking, read through your whole recipe. Make sure you have your ingredients out and ready to use. Get yourself familiar with the method, so you know what to expect.
Practice mise en place, which means, “get everything in place.” Now that you have all your ingredients out get them prepped before you start cooking. Wash everything, chop things up, measure everything out, and make your cooking experience as smooth as possible.
Like prepping, cleaning as you go is a great way to jumpstart clean-up. Save yourself some time cleaning any time you have downtime while cooking.
- Use the Right Tools
Even a novice home chef can appreciate great tools in the kitchen. The right tools can make cooking more fun, which is how cooking should be!
- A good chef’s knife will help you prepare your ingredients. Select a knife that meets your needs, feels balanced in your hand, and easy for you to control.
- Kitchen shears are great for cutting up delicate herbs, trimming fat off of your meats, and more. Ideally, a pair that can be separated is best, as they are easier to clean.
- A good pair of tongs can help save you from burns by extending your reach. Turn over meat while it’s cooking and can help you serve food items without needing to touch them.
- A Microplane is a great way to make your dishes feel more gourmet. Grate some fresh parmesan or zest lemon to pump up the flavor.
- Prepping/Mixing Bowls are a great way to practice mise en place.
- An instant-read thermometer will help you make sure that your food cooks perfectly every time.
- Keep It Safe
Food safety is essential to making sure that your family doesn’t get ill and that each dish is successful. Chefs have standards they have to fulfill to maintain their food safety requirements. At home, it falls on you to follow food safety standards.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA food safety) has implemented requirements to prepare home chef meals safety.
- Keep your hands and cooking surfaces clean.
- Don’t cross-contaminate foods.
- Make sure your food cooks to the right temperature.
- Refrigerate food, and don’t put hot food into the fridge. Hot meals will lower the interior temperature of your fridge, which makes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
- Switch It Up
If there is a dish you love, change things up by switching how you cook different ingredients.
If a recipe calls for steamed or sautéed vegetables, consider roasting them to bring out different flavors. Crisp up some nuts in the oven, add a pinch of cinnamon to carrots, and try a little bit of sugar in your tomato sauce to cut the acidity.
You can also add some dimension to dishes by cutting ingredients in different ways. Dice vegetables into various sizes, chop and shred meat, or mince and chop your herbs. Combinations like these will add depth and interest to your dish.
Make the Most of Your Home Chef Meals
Whether you upgrade your cooking tools and skills or stick to the basics, your loved ones will appreciate the effort you put into each meal.
Keep things simple, consider switching up how you prepare ingredients, and pump up your seasonings. When you’re ready to take things to the next level, invest in tools that will make your cooking experience more manageable. The right tools and skills will open you up to new recipes.
Try what works for your skillset and your budget, and enjoy every delicious bite you create.