I'm a trained chef. Here are 13 of my best tips for making foods everyone should know how to cook.

Chicken pot pie on a green and white checkered napkin
There are simple ways to upgrade classic meals.Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock
  • As a trained chef, I know a few cooking techniques that will make common dishes better.

  • Create croutons by hand and peel your celery before adding it to cold salads.

  • Make sure to chill your cookie dough before baking and to add salt to sweet treats.

As a trained chef, I know that even the smallest tweak can make the largest difference on your final plate.

Here are 13 tips for preparing the foods everyone should know how to make:

Cook roast chicken along with hearty veggies

Turn your beautiful roast bird into a one-pan meal by scattering chopped carrots, onions, potatoes, and any other hearty vegetables around the chicken in the pan.

As the meat cooks, it will release delicious juices and flavor, and those ingredients will then soak it up.

By the time your chicken is cooked through, you'll have some of the most flavorful veggies to serve with it.

Make the crispiest croutons by using your hands

Croutons cooking in oil on a black baking sheet
Don't slice your croutons with a knife.Steidi/Shuttershock

Achieve really crunchy croutons — so loud that you can't hear your dinner companion over your bite of Caesar salad — by hand-tearing slightly stale bread instead of slicing it with a knife.

Tearing creates wonderful nooks and crannies that soak up flavorful olive oil and seasonings. Plus more surface area means more room for browning in the oven, and ultimately, crunch.

Make French onion soup in large batches

Skip the fuss and extra dishes by making a large batch of one-pot French onion soup using an ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven.

Once it's about done, top the soup with a layer of toasted croutons and shredded Gruyère, pop the entire pot under the oven broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and serve it family-style.

Give your eggs the low-and-slow treatment

Turn down the heat on your scrambled eggs and stir them as little as possible for the creamiest, most tender texture.

Instead of jostling the mix in the pan, gently pull the outer edges toward the center a few times as they cook.

And don't forget to remove your scramble from the skillet before it looks fully cooked — done in the pan is dry on the plate.

Peel your celery before adding it to tuna or pasta salad

tuna salad in a black and white bowl on a white table
The outer layer on celery can make it a bit chewy.Joanna 12/Shuttershock

Next time you make tuna or pasta salad, make sure to run a vegetable peeler along the length of each celery stalk.

You'll remove a thin but highly fibrous outer layer that can make eating celery unpleasant and chewy.

Keep puff pastry on standby

With a box of puff pastry in your freezer, you'll be able to whip up an impressive appetizer, dinner, or dessert with minimal effort.

You can make a one-crust chicken pot pie (no one will miss the soggy bottom, I promise), elegant twisted cheese sticks, or a stunning tarte Tatin (a dessert baked with caramelized fruit) with just a few extra ingredients.

Add some sweetness to your sandwiches

Slide a thin slice of apple or pear between the bread and cheese for an easy and gourmet way to upgrade your next grilled cheese.

The fruit releases natural pectins, or sugars, that infuse the sandwich with a subtle sweetness — the perfect complement to umami-rich cheese.

Chill your cookie dough before baking

cookie dough
Chilling keeps the cookies from spreading too much.ThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

To make the thickest, chewiest cookies, chill the raw mounds in the fridge or freezer to solidify the butter so they don't spread as much or cook too quickly in the oven.

Then remove the cookies from the oven a minute before they're ready and leave them on the baking sheet for five before cooling on a wire rack.

The only thing that beats homemade ice cream is frozen custard

To upgrade your creamy dessert game, make a simple custard with egg yolks, sugar, cream, and your favorite flavorings.

After churning and freezing, the result will be infinitely creamier, with a richer flavor that blows the store-bought stuff out of the water.

Your food processor is your friend, especially for homemade mayo

Discover the wonderful world of homemade mayo with the help of your food processor.

Turn an egg yolk and high-quality oil into fluffy and delicious mayonnaise for your next sandwich, potato salad, or dressing.

Soak your potatoes

Peeled potatoes soaking in water
Soak potatoes after peeling or slicing them.Proshkin Aleksandr/Shuttershock

Whether you're making crispy fries or fluffy mashed potatoes, soak your spuds after peeling or slicing them.

Potatoes oxidize quickly, so their white flesh will start to turn brown soon after it's exposed to the air, but plunging them into a water bath prevents this from happening.

Cook chicken in water to make a delicious homemade broth

Make the most soul-warming chicken-noodle soup by cooking the whole bird in a pot of simmering water to turn the mix into broth and cook the meat at the same time.

Then remove the chicken, add your veggies, and shred the meat. Stir everything together at the end with noodles for a homemade soup that'll stop any cold in its tracks.

Salt the sweet stuff

Add a sprinkle of flaky salt to cookies, brownies, cakes, and pies when they're still warm and fresh out of the oven.

Salt naturally enhances flavors, including sweet ones. Plus it adds a nice textural component to your soft baked goods.

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