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Cooking is a skill, but with the proper practice and techniques, anyone can do it well. And whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice home cook, you can always get better. So Reddit user u/jellysnake asked, “Chefs: what’s your number one useful cooking tip?”

Here are some of the best responses. If you have another cooking tip to add, share in the comments!


Master cooking techniques rather than specific recipes.

A cookbook and an egg resting next to it.

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“Don’t approach recipes like they’re magic spells in the Harry Potter universe. If you wiggle your nose wrong or put in a bit too much of some seasoning, you’re not going to end up with a completely different dish. Alton Brown does an incredible job of teaching a cooking technique and then showing you a recipe that applies that technique. If you learn a process instead of a rote recipe, you will know how to cook dozens of dishes, and it’s really the only way to develop skills in the kitchen.” —u/gkevinkramer


When it comes to ingredients, less is often more.

“Something with three or four ingredients that go really well together is better than something with 12 ingredients that clash with each other.” —u/daneoid


Salt gets the most attention — but acid is actually just as important.

Someone squeezing a lemon into a pot of peaches.

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“If there is one ‘a ha!’ moment I’ve had in the last 20 years of cooking, it’s that when salt isn’t ‘helping’ a dish, what’s missing is acid. Lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid (if you have some) transforms a dish in a surprising way.” —u/FoodandWhining


Learn how to properly hold a knife.

“Chop with the rear part of the blade, not the tip, in a rolling motion.” —u/RicharKing


Don’t be afraid of seasoning.

Hands seasoning a steak with herbs.

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“If you’re cooking with chicken or pork, season aggressively. Both meats are wonderful seasoning sponges. Find a regional spice map or guide and start combining flavors.” —u/KKalonick


But be sure to add that seasoning little by little.

“Season in small amounts and taste as you go, you can always add more but once you’ve over done it you’ve over done it.” —u/ChicagoCowboy


Remember that food continues cooking even when it’s removed from heat.

Two pieces of roast salmon over sliced lemon.

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“Heat will remain in your food after turning off the stove and it will continue to cook, so pay attention to your timing. For example, when you want to add cheese to your omelette, cheese should melt in a plate with heat of the eggs, otherwise you will have overdried omelette. Same thing with overcooked pasta.” —u/cranky_shaft

“When scrambling eggs, get them out of the pan before they look done. If they look done in the pan, they’ll be overdone on the plate. Carry-over heat does a lot more cooking out of the pan than it gets credit for.” —u/just_a_handle

“Something I see constantly is people leaving proteins on the grill, or in the oven until the protein is completely cooked. By the time it hits the table, it’s over cooked. Pull the protein a few minutes before you normally would , and let it sit. It will finish cooking on the table.” —u/LostInReddit22


Don’t serve hot food on cold plates.

“Heat your plates before serving. Cold plates leech the heat right out of an otherwise tasty meal. This is especially true if you don’t have everything set to finish at the same time.” u/OrdinaryPanda


Onions can be a secret weapon when they’re prepared well.

Onion sautéeing in a pan.

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“Learn how to properly dice an onion into small and even-sized chunks. Raw white onion belongs on way less food than you think it does, especially when it’s cut into large uneven chunks. If you want onions on something, try sweating, roasting, caramelizing, or seasoning them with some acid or salt.” —u/pizzalovingking


Beware of oil splatter.

“Don’t cook with oil while naked.” —u/yugotprblms

“Especially bacon.” —u/ManagersSpecial


Save vegetable scraps to make homemade stock.

Various vegetable scraps.

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“Make your own stock! Save the parts of veggies you didn’t use — like ends of onions, innards of peppers, and chicken bones — in a Ziplock in the freezer. Just make sure you don’t put anything bitter like cabbage or broccoli in. Sweet things like carrots or squash are a must, even pieces of apples are delicious.

When you have enough, put it all straight from the freezer bag into a pot. Cover with water, throw in a few bay leaves, and salt and pepper, and simmer for two hours.” —u/______yikes

“Save remnants from the veggies you don’t use while cooking (ends, tops, scraps, stuff that may be just past pretty) and chicken bones (the more bones, the better) in the freezer. When you have enough to fill a large pot you can make your own stock.” —u/stella_the_diver


Finish savory sauces with vinegar.

“For sauces and gravies, a splash of apple cider vinegar gives a lot of complexity to an otherwise simple sauce.” —u/Soranic


With herbs and spices, learn how to add and when to taste.

Clams tossed in fresh herbs in a skillet.

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“When tasting something like soup or sauce here’s a guide to adding herbs and spices:

• Salt: You can taste instantly. After stirring it in, if it tastes bland, add more.

• Black pepper/dry herbs/most other seasonings: After adding more, don’t taste until at least 15 minutes have passed. These ingredients infuse and release over time and you can really overdo it.

• Beer/wine/alcohol: Alcohol should be added before the other ingredients and simmered. Taste it after 20 minutes. If it still tastes alcohol-y after this, remove the lid and let it cook off more.

• Fresh herbs: Add late and as close to serving as possible (in the last 15 minutes of cooking). These are full of flavor and are generally best added near serving time for best flavor.” —charizard_72


Don’t over-flip your food while it’s cooking.

“In general, just leave your food alone while it’s cooking. Stirring and flipping it a lot might feel like you’re doing something but you’re only making it take longer. Just walk away and let it do its thing. For example, if your grilling or pan-frying a chicken breast, wait until it’s half-way cooked before flipping it to the other side. Flipping it more than once slows the cooking process and you won’t get that golden-brown coloring you’re looking for. You’ll also likely dry out the meat.” —u/awwjeah

“The best thing you can do for your meats is leave them alone. After you put it in the pan, on the grill, or whatever, DO NOT TOUCH IT. Do not poke, prob, press, squeeze, lift, turn, or anything else until it is time to flip it. Moving it will cause the juices to leak out and disrupt the cooking process, leaving your meat dry and flavorless.” u/farsified


Fry eggs over medium, not hot.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

“And once you’ve cracked your egg, cover it. Use a pot lid or something. This means your egg cooks from the top and the bottom, so you get a perfect runny yolk without any undercooked white around it.” —u/tigerjess

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

“And once you’ve cracked your egg, cover it. Use a pot lid or something. This means your egg cooks from the top and the bottom, so you get a perfect runny yolk without any undercooked white around it.” —u/tigerjess


Three knives are all you need.

“You don’t need 10 kitchen knives. Three good knives of different sizes, properly sharpened and cared for, should be all you need. Then, only buy other knives if you have a need for them (like one for peeling, etc.)” —u/kniebuiging

“Pairing knife, chef’s knife, and bread knife. I have never had a need for anything else.” —u/AugmentedOnionFarmer


Sharpen your knives often.

Thinly slicing herbs with a sharp knife.

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“Sharp knives make every thing easier.” —u/Kingsolomanhere

“I think about 95% of homes badly need to pack their knives up and take them to a professional sharpener.” —u/marumari


Read the *entire* recipe before you do absolutely anything else.

“Always always always read the recipe through before starting.” —u/eclipse_sav


Take a cue from the French and mise en place.

Various ingredients like cubed salmon, grains, onions, herbs, and oil all mise en place.

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“Mise en place. Have all your stuff lined up and ready to go before you start. You don’t want something to burn because you’re busy looking for the tablespoon or opening a can of something.” —u/tacocatx2

“Mise en place, which really is just the French’s tactful way of saying “get your shit together before you start.” —u/ostermei

“Mise en place. If you have everything out and organized before you cook, you have eliminated like 90% of your stress load.” —u/echisholm

“Prepping ahead of time, getting everything ready like chopping up garlic or dicing onion. This will make cooking 80% stress free as you wont be racing against time / overcooking your food.” —u/Krimzomk


Always deglaze your pan.

“This one simple trick will change your life. Basically, sauté onions, garlic, etc and then pour in some boiling water from a kettle and stir vigorously. Not only will it pull all the beautiful caramelized flavor a from the bottom of your pan but it will also be spotless when you go to clean it which will take all of about 5 seconds.” u/jaycoopermusic


Not all meat should be cooked the same way.

A Dutch oven filled with pork carnitas.

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“Think of where on the animal the meat came from. If it’s a muscle they use a lot (legs, butt, etc) it probably needs low and slow cooking, if it’s a muscle they use a little (back, tenderloin, etc), it probably needs high heat and a faster cook time. There are exceptions to that rule but that works more often than not.” —u/pizzalovingking


Don’t overcrowd the pan.

“One thing I see frequently done wrong is crowding the pan. If you want to brown your meat, don’t fill the pan to the brim. It will only boil in its own juices until it’s still pale but also tough. Just put a few pieces in at once, you can place them on a plate once they’re done and then do the next ones.” —u/notapantsday


There’s no such thing as too much garlic.

Peeling garlic on a cutting board.

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“The only recipe that should have only one clove of garlic in it is a recipe for one clove of garlic. Two MINIMUM, people.” —u/Bigolekern

“When you see a recipe that calls for X cloves of garlic, just cross out cloves and write in bulbs.” —u/nickkon1


Freeze meat before slicing.

“If you are cooking a dish that asks for thinly sliced beef or pork, throw that meat in the freezer. Way easier to cut thin when semi-frozen.” —NotZombieJustGinger


Don’t worry about being too precise.

Serving a bit pan of paella.

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“Cooking is an art, but baking is a science.” —u/DFTBAbben101

“Cooking is an experiment you can kind of play with. Baking is exact, or the result will not be good.” —u/rawrygilmore

“Measuring spoons are for baking, not for spices.” —u/beer_is_tasty


Let your meat rest.

“Rest your meat! If you cut into it and the juices flow out, you are cutting too soon.” —u/oogachaka123


Be careful with the vanilla.

“Vanilla extract comes out of the bottle REALLY fast.” —u/IH8Clothing


Before you serve something, do a final taste-test for salt.

Someone salting their meat in the kitchen.

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“Make sure it’s seasoned. And different sizes of salt depending on what you are doing. Typically, seared meat is better with coarse salt. Fine salt us best used when you don’t want the texture of course salt or you are worried it won’t incorporate properly into the food.” —u/pizzalovingking

“Salt your food. It’s amazing how much better things taste with just a little salt.” —


Clean as you go.

“Do the dishes / clean your workplace while cooking every time you have time. Makes a huge difference in the end.” —u/yourbraindead

“You can clean while you cook.” —u/aecht

“When you let food simmer, wash up while you wait. Bring to boil, wash up while you wait. Cook until softened/browned, wash up while you wait, etcetera etcetera. —u/iLikeMeeces


Forget the term “cooking wine.”

Pouring wine into a pot.

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“Only cook with wine you would actually drink yourself. This means, don’t use ‘cooking’ wine. As in, that garbage that is all salty from the grocery. Cheap wine is just fine, just stick to wines you’d find on the shelf that aren’t in the cooking aisle.” —u/SetPhasersToStun00


Or swap white wine for vermouth.

“Julia Child says you can use dry vermouth in place of white wine in recipes, which is great if you only need a splash and don’t want to open a whole new bottle.” —u/Skirtlongjacket


Treat your pasta water like liquid gold.

Someone cooking pasta and meat sauce.

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“Save a little pasta water before you strain and use it to help the sauce thicken and bind to the pasta.” u/stella_the_diver

Note: Some answers have been lightly edited for length and/or clarity.


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