Even if you consider yourself a good cook, turn on nearly any TV food show these days and chances are someone will be showing you something new, turning you on to a different cooking technique, or flatly declaring you "don't belong in the kitchen" unless you know how to perform a certain skill.
With all the chatter out there, I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs to cut to the chase: Three cooking skills everyone should know. Period.
Here's what they said:
Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro
1.) Baking, because it comes in handy all the time -- from desserts and breads to side dishes. 2.) Knife skills allow people to have more comfort in the kitchen. 3.) Cooking proteins is a combination of searing, indirect cooking, and resting the meat to get the proper temperature.
Shin Toyoda Sushi Master at Sushi Roku
1.) How to cook the perfect egg (however you would want). 2.) How to cook on a grill. 3.) How to pan-fry (it basically boils down to managing the proper amount of heat).
Aaron May Chef and Restaurateur
1.) Knife skills are paramount, but [so are] basic stock- and sauce-making (2.) and at least a primitive understanding of butchery (3.) are also important. I guess those all go hand-in-hand, in terms of the need to know one to advance to the other.
Farah Khalid Chef and Owner, Curry Corner
1.) Being able to cook meats and fish properly. 2.) Being able to dice an onion. 3.) Boiling rice (this may sound like a joke, but a lot of people can get this wrong!).
Silvana Salcido Esparza Chef and Owner, Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen
Everyone should know how to wash dishes, clean a kitchen, and defrost properly. Then, you can start cooking.
Chef Andrea Volpi Local Bistro
1.) Understanding the correct temperature for cooking rare to well done, and everything in between. 2.) The proper use of seasoning. Over-seasoning food, as well as under-seasoning, can ruin any great dish. 3.) Understanding and perfecting the art of deglazing. It can add so much depth to many different kinds of sauces.
Chef Monte Healey Del Frisco's Grille
1.) How to saute: It's important to use hot pans, which create a great sear on the food. 2.) How to bake: Learning the importance of thermometers, timers, and patience. 3.) How to grill: Finding the sweet spot on the grill and experimenting with wood chips to change and enhance flavors.
Chef AJ Benga RnR
1.) How to pan-sear a fish. 2.) How to dice an onion properly. 3.) Knowing when to season food.
Bernie Kantak Chef and Partner, Citizen Public House
1.) Using and caring for your knife. 2.) Cooking meat: What cuts to use for certain applications, how to accurately tell how cooked something is simply by touch. 3.) Roasting vegetables and meats properly: It maximizes, builds, and changes the flavor of whatever you're cooking.
Chef James Fox Milagro Grill
1.) Knife skills: The knife is the most essential tool in the kitchen. Be confident using it and know how to keep it sharp. 2.) Time management. 3.) Technique: So many home cooks don't know the difference between sauté, braise, or simmer, and it drastically changes the end result.
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
There are four important cooking skills: Taste, touch, sight, and smell. Tasting everything is essential to developing your palate and adjusting spice levels. Touching helps you to gauge the temperature and quality of the product. Sight is important for judging the quality of your product and how it's cooking. And smell helps to determine freshness and helps you know when something is ready to be put in the pan.
Chef Joe Meyers, s.e.e.d. café at the Madison Improvement Club
1.) How to properly use a knife: Cooking becomes more confident, prep work gets done efficiently, and food looks more beautiful. 2.) Properly searing your proteins and letting them rest before serving. 3.) Proper preparation of vegetables. You want brightly colored vegetables that aren't overcooked.
Gina Buskirk Chef and Owner, Gina's Homemade
1.) Use great ingredients from reputable sources like farmers, ranchers, etc. Ingredients really do mean everything. 2.) Learn how to make a good, simple marinara and how to cook pasta al dente (good life skill). 3.) Don't burn the garlic!
Chef Stephen Toevs The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
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1.) Butchering and fabrication of proteins. 2.) Vegetable cookery. 3.) Stock preparation.
Eric Flatt, Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House
1.) Always sauté in a preheated hot pan. 2.) Always season every ingredient. 3.) When it just doesn't taste like the one in the restaurant, make a reservation and try it again.