Top British chef Tom Kerridge gives us ten core skills for every beginner to learn and improving cooks to master...
Given he’s had over 20 years of experience in professional kitchens and gained several Michelin stars in the process, Tom Kerridge is certainly qualified to educate us on the foundations of cooking. As part of his series of exclusive recipes for BBC Good Food, Tom shares his expert tips on going from kitchen novice to serious cook...
Tom Kerridge’s 10 steps to being a better cook...
Learn how to sharpen your knives first and foremost, then learn how to chop properly. The first thing you should learn to chop is an onion, as it’s the base for so much cooking.
2. Reading a recipe
Always read a recipe twice before attempting it. How many times have you started a recipe and got halfway through and thought ‘Oh! That needs to be left overnight” and you only have half an hour left to get it ready? So, make sure you’ve double-checked your method, ingredients, the lot.
Understand cuts of meat – teach yourself how to work with cuts of meat that are hard-working and need slower cooking. Then, master lazy cuts like fillet and loin that don’t need as much work and can be cooked quickly. The cuts are pretty much the same for every animal. If you can deal with a whole cow you can scale that down to a rabbit. From loin and leg, to shoulder and fillet – it’s pretty much the same.
Read our guides to getting the most from meat
4. Then use “hard-work” joints to great effect
5. Set up a mise en place
Mise en place is a really cheffy term (meaning ‘putting in place’ in French). Basically, if a recipe states ‘add chopped onions’, you’ll have the chopped onion ready in a bowl since you do all the chopping beforehand. It means you can then concentrate on the cooking and not the preparation, giving you an understanding of the method and structure by which you’re going to cook. It’s a much cleaner way of working.
6. Have a go at making bread
Making your own bread is very simple, very easy and actually quite relaxing. It’s also very inexpensive. One insider tip from me – you can never overwork the bread, so don’t turn off your machine too early.
7. Understand seasoning
This doesn’t just mean salt and pepper – consider all of the senses. Salty, sweet, savoury and sour, plus texture. A crunch really does make a difference. It’s all about balance. If you want food to have a sour taste, play around with vinegars and lemon juice. Understand acid too – things like tomatoes and Granny Smith are high in acid, for instance.
8. Taste, taste, taste
This one is simple enough.
This is for two reasons – normally seasonal food is cheapest, but also it tastes better. Try to buy strawberries in December and they’ll be much more expensive and taste rubbish. As for buying seasonal food, if there’s an amazing local market or a farmers market nearby, I’m all for them, but I’m the same as everyone else and I look for convenience. But while supermarket quality is getting much better, I would argue that you need to find a good high street butcher.
10. Use water as an ingredient with confidence
Water is a completely underused and overlooked ingredient. People usually just get a pan of water and put things in it, but it’s also good to use as a base ingredient, for instance just a little layer of water when cooking vegetables.
Put some of your new skills to the test by trying out Tom’s fish stew recipe. We’d love to hear some of your skill suggestions too – what were the first things you picked up when learning to cook?