A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Cooking Tricks That Are Only Taught in Culinary Schools

Cooking like the pros is easier than you think!

1 / 10
Angus steak fried on vegetable oil on iron cast
Bartosz Luczak/Shutterstock

How to get the perfect steak

If you’re one of the many people who takes a piece of meat out of the refrigerator or freezer and throws it directly on the grill, it’s time to learn the error of your ways. For the best-tasting steak, you’re much better off taking it out of the cold and letting it sit for an hour or two before bringing the heat. If you start cooking the steak when it’s already at room temperature, it will cook much more evenly. Yes, it’ll take longer, but the difference is worth it! Here are some common mistakes people make when cooking steak.

2 / 10
Roasted chicken in pan on the rustic wooden background. Selective focus.
Andrew Pustiakin/Shutterstock

How to get delicious juicy meat

How are restaurant chefs able to get their chicken and pork chops to have that perfect delicious amount of juiciness? The answer is (fairly) simple: they brine it. Nope, brining’s not just for turkeys! Soaking the meat in cold salt water infuses it with rich flavor and a juicy texture even before you cook it. Brining also helps keep your chicken or pork from drying out and provides a safeguard against overcooking.

3 / 10
Variety of different colorful salt yellow saffron, pink, black himalayan, white sea and fleur de sel in wooden spoons over black burned wood background. Top view with space
Natasha Breen/Shutterstock

Don’t be scared of salt

Culinary students learn pretty quickly not to be stingy with the salt. “For the first several months of school, I kept getting docked for serving under-seasoned food,” Culinary Institute of America graduate Jesse Szewczyk told BuzzFeed. If your food tastes bland, there’s a good chance it just needs more salt. If you’re hesitant to ramp up your salt addition, use this trick to avoid over-salting: garnish your creation with salt continuously as you cook, rather than salting it heavily at the beginning and/or the end. Sprinkle the salt from up high so that it will be evenly distributed throughout your dish.

4 / 10
background of sugar cubes.Cube sugar background
photo one/Shutterstock

Sugar makes a great seasoning

It’s not just for baked goods anymore. If you add a pinch (or three) of sugar to a recipe that uses tomatoes, you’ll notice a delicious difference. The sugar counteracts the natural sour taste of the tomatoes to create a rich, pleasant flavor. Szewczyk even noticed that adding a bit of sugar to a dish he was making with slightly out-of-season tomatoes made it “taste like it was made with perfectly ripe ones.” There’s a great way to salvage some extra tomatoes.

5 / 10

Preparing a batch of ground beef patties or frikadeller on grill or BBQ

How to produce a perfectly-shaped burger patty

This super-simple tip will help you step up your hamburger game—and it takes less than ten seconds. First, toss the patty down hard on your cutting board to force out the air bubbles. Then, press an indent into the center of the patty. These two simple actions prevent the patty from puffing up in the middle and create a nice, even burger. They also keep the burger from bubbling while you cook it.

6 / 10
Japanese soup stock make broth from bonito flakes

How to prepare a clear broth

The trick to making the clearest—and tastiest—chicken broth involves lots of chicken and lots of patience. Take your chicken meat—and bones, if you’re using them—and cook them in a small amount of water (just enough to cover them) for at least three hours. Cook on a low heat, and make sure to skim off any suds that float to the top. This will make the stock clearer and tastier. Don’t add your vegetables right away, wait to add them after about an hour and a half to two hours. For the clearest broth possible, strain the liquid through cheesecloth.

7 / 10
TOP VIEW: Human hands pouring olive oil on the frying pan

A little olive oil goes a long way

What do pasta dishes, pizzas, fish dishes, and meat dishes all have in common? Well, aside from being super delicious, they can all be enhanced with a dollop of olive oil. Many professional chefs, including Brooklyn Kitchen culinary instructor Sydney Willcox, top off nearly all of their dishes with a sprinkling of this liquid gold. Make sure you’re using a good quality extra virgin olive oil, which will add a flavorful kick and “make for a silky finish,” Willcox promised StyleCaster. Heads up: Make sure you’re not making any of these 50 kitchen mistakes.

8 / 10
Pan fried golden fish fillet cubes, frying in real butter, in a non stick rustic pan.

How to cook perfectly crusted fish

One word: heat. You can’t produce a perfectly seared piece of fish without a piping hot pan. “If you are looking for a sear, you need to bring on high levels of heat,” says Willcox. Willcox also warns against overcrowding the pan while searing; that could seriously diminish the heat and prevent your fish from developing that succulent brown crust. Keeping the pan nice and hot also prevents bits of the fish from sticking to the pan when you flip it over; when cold, the proteins in the fish are more likely to adhere to the metal. Here are 9 more ways you’ve been cooking fish wrong.

9 / 10
An empty pan on a wooden table and tablecloth
Serge Ka/Shutterstock

The only reason to use nonstick pans

They sound good in theory, but nonstick pans really aren’t going to produce the best dishes. If you’re cooking anything that you want to develop some kind of crust—think meat or fish—avoid using your nonstick pan. “It’s a different kind of heat, with nonstick pans,” New York City chef Amanda Cohen told BuzzFeed. “It’s not quite as hot, it doesn’t get things as crispy since it’s really protecting things from the heat underneath.” The nonstick coating acts as a barrier between the heat and your food, which can prevent it from developing that rich, crispy texture. Don’t toss your nonstick pan altogether, though—it’s still great for eggs, pancakes, and French toast.

10 / 10
Pasta carbonara

How to cook the tastiest pasta

Want restaurant-quality, flavorful pasta no matter what sauce you’re tossing it in? Before your pasta is fully cooked, transfer it into the sauce for the last few minutes of cooking. Doing this will help the noodles absorb the flavor and help the sauce cling to them better. If the sauce comes out too thick, add a little bit of the leftover pasta water until it reaches the texture you want.


  • Tasty: “The 16 Best Cooking Tricks I Learned In Culinary School”
  • StyleCaster: “26 Cooking Tricks to Steal from the World’s Best Chefs”
  • Tasty: “17 Genius Cooking Tricks That Professional Chefs Want You To Know”

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.