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ManChef Tips

Master two items for each mealtime. Find two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners that aren't complicated and master them. This builds a platform of confidence to branch out from there.

Recipes are only a guideline. Feel comfortable replacing ingredients with similar ingredients that you like. If you like oregano but not thyme, use oregano.

To kick up a standard grilled cheese sandwich, sprinkle a little freshly grated parmesan cheese on the outside of the bread while it's cooking then flip it over in the pan so the cheese will cook/stick to the bread

A Pinch of Salt. Use a small bowl of kosher salt and add pinches as you cook and taste. It's easier to control the amount and ensures even coverage.

Don't overcrowd the pan when you're sautéing - it'll make your food steam

Cut the ends off onions, tomatoes, cantaloupe, etc. Pretty much do this for any other food that does not stay stable on the cutting board to make a flat surface. This allows you to have complete control of the item as you chop.

Sweet Squash The cooler months are prime time for winter squash, sweeten it with a little honey.

Always taste before serving. That way, you can adjust your seasonings and cooking times to your liking.

Sear chicken breast & finish in oven Chefs sear a piece of meat, poultry, or fish in a pan and then place it in the oven. Not only does this free up burners, it results in a much moister result.

Cook with a 1:1 ratio of butter and oil. Oil stops the butter from burning and the butter adds richness to the dish.

Make Cooking Fun. Shoes off, music on, favourite beverage in hand - enjoy your time in the kitchen!

Rest, rest, rest!
Always let your meat rest. Especially off a hot grill!

Tongs are an extension of your hand. Walk into any kitchen and you'll see a set of tongs in almost every cook's hand-usually gripped low down on the handle for maximum control. Use it to flip meat, pull a pan out of the oven, and stabilize a steak while slicing.

Rule-of-thumb for baking fish is to measure fish at the thickest part and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. for every inch measured. For example, a 1 1/2-inch thick cod steak would bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Want to know if your oil is hot enough for frying? Here's a tip: Stick a wooden skewer or spoon in the oil. If bubbles form around the wood, then you are good to go.

Recipe for weight loss. Cooking is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet and stick to reasonable portions. This is a recipe for weight loss, if you're willing to swallow it.

It's no small potatoes To keep potatoes from budding in the bag, put an apple in with them.

Chopping Technique The side of the knife rests against the knuckles. Tuck fingers back. Guide hand.

Happy house plants. After boiling pasta or potatoes, cool the water and use it to water your house plants. The water contains nutrients that your plants will love.

Leftover wine. If you manage to have some leftover wine at the end of the evening, freeze it in ice cube trays for easy addition to soups and sauces in the future.

Cooling wine. To cool wine, or beer, or even bottled water quickly, quarter-fill an ice bucket (or similar-sized container - even a large saucepan will do) with ice, then sprinkle heavily with salt and top up to half-full with cold water from the sink. Dunk in the bottles to be cooled. The salt will reduce the temperature of the ice/water well below freezing - perhaps as much as five or six degrees - while the water allows close thermal contact with the glass/plastic.

Thicken with Corn flour. Sometimes sauces, stews and casseroles are not as thick as you want. Stir a heaped teaspoon or two of corn flour (cornstarch) in a little cold water to dissolve - use a cup or mug - then stir into the errant dish as quickly as possible For fresh-tasting lemon or lime juice year-round, freeze lemons and limes whole; thaw in microwave before squeezing. Lemons stored in a sealed jar of water will produce twice the juice.

Lemons & Limes: For fresh-tasting lemon or lime juice year-round, freeze lemons and limes whole; thaw in microwave before squeezing. Lemons stored in a sealed jar of water will produce twice the juice.

Clean your kettle with vinegar: To clean an electric kettle with calcium buildup on the heating element, boil a mixture of half white vinegar and half water, then empty.

Fruit (other than berries) shouldn't be stored in the fridge. Refrigerators dull the taste of most produces, so if you bought something that doesn't need to go in there leave it out. Most fruits including apples, oranges, pears and bananas don't belong in the refrigerator unless you're not planning on eating them soon. I don't refrigerate tomatoes, avocados or peppers either. Very hot climates are an exception, however.

Why you should chop garlic with a knife: Although it's convenient, a garlic press makes a brutal attack on the poor garlic. First the juice gets squished out, and then the pulp and you're left with all those bits inside the press that are so maddening to clean out. Pressed garlic doesn't hold up well when you heat it, either - it turns bitter and quickly loses its characteristic flavour. The best way to chop garlic is to use a chef's knife with a sharp blade and cut with a rocking motion. If you want the garlic flavour to disperse through food quickly, gently purée the chopped pieces by pressing on them with the flat edge of the knife.

Cottage cheese will remain fresher longer if you store it upside down in the refrigerator. This slows the effects of oxidation

When mincing garlic, sprinkle on a little salt so the pieces won't stick to your knife or cutting board.

Mixer/Grinder: Grind some common salt in your mixer/grinder for some time every month. This will keep your mixer blades sharp.

For maintaining the bright colour of any vegetable don't forget to put it in ice cold water immediatly after blanching.

Romaine lettuce is loaded with vitamins compared to iceberg. It has three times as much Vitamin C and six times as much Vitamin A.

Don't try and catch a falling knife.

Never ever, ever leave cooking foods unattended - not even for a minute.

Handling Knives: (a) Always cut away from your body when using a knife. It can slip and cut you, (b) Always use a cutting board, (c) Protect your counter tops, (d) Keep blades sharp, (e) Keep knives clean (including handle) ? slippery handles can cause injuries, (f) Don?t put knives in a sink of soapy water ? they may not be seen and accidents can occur, (g) Wash and dry carefully keeping sharp edge away from your hands, (h) Always lay them flat, never on the back or edge, (i) Don?t attempt to catch a knife as it falls ? better it hits the floor than cut your hand, (j) Wash knives with warm soapy water after each use. Use one cutting block for raw meat, and one for everything else.

Chopping Boards. Buying a couple of good-quality, heavyweight wooden chopping boards are a good investment. (You're a man - you're not worried about lifting a few heavy weights, are you?) These will last forever with a little care - just wipe them down after use (never put them in the dishwasher). Use one for uncooked meat and everything else on the other, to avoid any unpleasant incidents with bacteria

Pre-heating Ovens. We mean this. When a recipe speaks of "putting something in a pre-heated oven", it really means "turn on the oven and set the temperature at least five minutes before you need it". This is an example of kitchen timing at work. If you fail to do this, then the cooking times will be wrong and (with a gas oven) you risk burning the back edge of your dish.

Wooden Spoons: I prefer to use wooden spoons and spatulas for most cooking purposes. These tend not to damage the inner surfaces of the pots and pans, and they seem to clean up well enough in the dishwasher.
Be careful not to leave the utensil in the food while it is cooking, however, since it will tend to taste the food. I also like to use a wooden fork for making scrambled eggs.

Boil a Kettle. It is amazing how often hot water is required in a kitchen, whether to thin down a soup, stew, sauce or gravy; to top up boiling potatoes, rice or vegetables; or to warm up the washing-up water. When entering the kitchen, make it a habit to fill (at least half-full) the kettle and set it on to boil.

Olive Oil. I tend to use Olive Oil in lots of ways that, traditionally, butter would have used, on the grounds that olive oil is probably better for you. It can be used as a dressing for potatoes or vegetables, for example.
Try to get at least two grades of oil- a cheap one used to prevent pasta from sticking,and a much better grade for salad dressings and the like.
Don't be tempted to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil for deep frying, though. Olive oil has a low boiling point - so the food will not cook properly - and tends to burn if heated too much. French Fries just won't cook properly in olive oil!

Grow your own Herbs. You can grow a wide selection of herbs in even the smallest garden - even a large pot on a sunny balcony works well. Buy established plants and peat-free compost, and water frequently.

Fine cut: Cut onion in half and place it on a cutting board with the cut side down 1.) Move your fingers out of the way and grip the onion firmly at the root end. 2.) Make 1 or 2 parallel cuts, depending on the size of the onion. 3.) Slice evenly in parallel vertical cuts from one side of the onion across to the other. Thinner cuts will result in smaller dice; thicker cuts for larger dice.

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ManChef Toronto Cooking Classes

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