Next Iron Chef Marco Canora solves four of the most common mistakes made by almost every home cook
Last week I had the pleasure of watching Chef Marco Canora, who you may know from The Next Iron Chef, work his magic in the kitchen. I couldn’t have been more excited to attend the cooking class, hosted by Tupperware, considering I coincidentally celebrated my birthday last year with amazing wine and delicious small bites at his wine bar Terrior. Let me tell you, this guy’s food is good! While watching Chef Canora work I had several aha moments and finally realized a few things I’ve been doing wrong in the kitchen—and you probably are too.
Crowding the pan
Home cooks tend to crowd the pan too much when cooking. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but if, like me, you don’t want to wash two dishes when you can get away with one, you pack that pan full every time. Here’s what finally convinced me to dirty the second dish. When you sauté vegetables their natural water content comes out. If the pan is too crowded, the liquids don’t evaporate and you actually end up boiling, not sautéing your food! For good flavor, the liquid needs to evaporate quickly and the vegetables need to come into contact with the pan. Finally, I understand why my veggies often come out a bit mushy!
Being stingy with seasonings
According to Chef Canora most home cooks have no idea how much seasoning to use. And after watching him salt and season his stews, sauces, and skinless chicken breast, I realized I don’t know how much to use either! In general, he recommends the home cook be more generous with their seasonings—including salt. Coating the outside of whatever you are cooking with seasonings is what gives it that delicious crust on the outside you tend to see at restaurants, but rarely get when cooking at home. And don’t worry about the added sodium; a palmful of table salt in your next pot of sauce isn’t going to send your blood pressure through the roof. As long as you’re cooking your own food from scratch, as opposed to using a jar of sodium-laden sauce, you’ll be ok.
Burning the (midnight) oil
Rather than adding oil to a hot pan and burning it, like I frequently do, Chef Canora recommends putting oil in a cool pan and letting it heat up until the oil shimmers and moves across the pan. The thinner and faster the oil runs across your cooking surface the hotter it is. If the oil is staying put, it’s not ready yet. This technique is particularly useful when infusing oils with herbs or garlic to get their full flavors without burning them. And, going back to cooking tip number one, don’t crowd the pan, it will bring the pan's temperature down!
Cooking meat until it's dry, dry, dry
If one of your biggest challenges is cooking meat and fish all the way through without drying it out, this tip is for you! Allow meat or fish to come to room temperature before you cook it. This is especially important if the cut of meat is thick because the center will remain cold while the outside overcooks. By the time the center warms up and cooks through the meat will dry out and the outside may be singed.
As an editor at SHAPE I have the chance to learn about the healthiest ways to cook, eat, and live from all sorts of experts but I’m also a single girl living in NYC with a busy schedule, active social life, and chocolate cravings. I’m here to share what works for me—and where I need a little help from you.