Adam Liaw my list of five simple tips that will help make you a better cook ooking is one of the most useful skills a person can have, and even the smallest improvement in how you cook can go a very long way. Here’s my list of five simple things good cooks almost always do, and that you should be doing if you want to cook better.
Understand seasoning The easiest way to improve your cooking is to understand seasoning. In western cooking seasoning is often thought of as adding salt (and sometimes pepper), and in Asian cooking it’s finding a pleasant balance of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami flavours in a dish. Whatever your definition, just remember – don’t season to make food taste salty (or sweet, or sour etc), season to bring out the natural taste of your ingredients. Aside from salt, the most common seasonings I use (particularly in Asian cuisine) are soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, fish sauce and citrus juices.
Find the umami
If you were confused by the word “umami” in the previous paragraph, let me set you straight: umami is the secret to making food taste good. It’s a taste perceived by your taste buds, just like saltiness or sweetness, and it’s everywhere. In Italy it’s in tomatoes and parmesan, France loves its stocks and jus, Vietnam can’t get by without fish sauce, and in Japan take your pick from kombu, miso or any of a dozen other sources of umami. Umami-rich foods are central to just about every cuisine in the world, and just a touch of any of these kinds of ingredients can be a big boost to flavour.Do you know where the umami in your food is coming from? Whenever I cook I always make sure that the dish has at least one source of umami, whether that umami is contained within the ingredients (browned meats, Chinese cabbage, kombu, parmesan, anchovies) or added as seasonings.
If you ask me what the best kind of knife is to have in the kitchen, my answer will always be “a sharp one”. Watch a butcher at work and you’ll see them honing their blade every few seconds, but yet at home some of us haven’t even sharpened our knives once since they came out of the box. There’s no point buying fancy knives if you’re not going to maintain them. A whetstone is best, but if you don’t know how to use one just get one of those wheel sharpeners and give your knife a few runs through it every day or two. How you cut your ingredients creates texture in your food, and it’s very hard to make good cuts with a blunt knife.