Know Thy Kitchen
The people who use their kitchen on a regular basis will know it better than anywhere else. Recipes may give you instructions or advice that work perfectly well where they were formulated but won’t help in your kitchen at all. Gas stoves don’t cook the same way electric stoves will, some ovens cook hotter or cooler than others, the altitude may be higher in your kitchen than in another- all of these are things that cause advice that is good in one kitchen to be less than helpful in your own. The recipe is not law. Alter it to fit your needs.
Don’t cut off your finger tips! The proper way to hold a knife is to keep your finger tips curled away from the blade. You might still cut yourself this way, but you’re much less likely to cut off your sensitive finger tips. This will take some getting used to at first, and frankly, I’m still not very good at it, but it will save your fingers in the long run.
Clean Before, After, and While Cooking
This may seem obvious but I promise it won’t seem nearly so important when you’re in a rush and there is clutter on your counters. Take a little time to clean off your work space before you start, don’t wait until the moment you need the area. This often leads to burnt food or rising tempers as you desperately try to move things around while in the middle of doing something else. Don’t let the clutter build up while you’re cooking, either. In the little gaps where something is simmering or between one stir and another clean up a little around your work space. Through away wrappers or put away tools that are no longer being used. And, of course, clean up when you’re done, so you’re not stuck dealing with the mess right before the next time you want to cook.
When it comes to any sort of dough, be it cookie dough, bread dough, or pastry dough, things can get pretty sticky. Most recipes dealing with dough call for a set amount of flour and then “some extra, for dusting.” However, even with a little extra flour coating your work surface you can end up with dough sticking to things you would prefer it not. I advise lightly moistening any work surface that you will have coming into contact with your dough (this includes counter space, rolling pins, and even your hands) before coating them with a thin layer of flour. Make sure, when moistening, that you don’t use too much water. This little bit of water will make your flour layer stick especially well to the surface, keeping it between the surface and your dough. If you use too much water, however, you will instead create an unpleasant glue-like liquid which will have the opposite effect.
Wet Hand Dry Hand
When working in the kitchen your hands are bound to get dirty at some point, and you are going to have to wash them a lot. This is inevitable. However, to reduce the amount of time spent washing your hands I advise trying to keep one hand relatively clean while your other hand does the dirty work. For example, if you’re trying to season some chicken use your “dry” hand to dole out the seasoning and your “wet” hand to do anything that might require contact with raw chicken. Your “dry” hand is then free to reach for anything that might require a hand not covered in raw chicken, such as new seasonings.
If onions make you cry and you have a range hood with a fan above your stove then you’re in luck. The fan in your range hood is designed to suck up the fumes that result from cooking, but they work just as well for onions. If you cut the onions under the hood while the fan is running so long as you don’t lean directly over the onions the fan should sweep away the irritating onion gas before it can irritate your eyes. If you don’t have a range hood you could try using a regular fan pointed toward the onion and away from your eyes.