It’s November 2020, which means you’ve most likely been working from home for the past nine months. Maybe in the beginning you tried to get creative in the kitchen and make your own bread, but as the weeks went on, you started to rely more and more on your easy fallback meals, and all of your usual take-out spots started to taste the same. After looking at a screen all day, it’s much easier to whip up some macaroni and cheese instead of making a full meal.
But it’s time to get out of that rut. Making more complete meals might seem daunting, but we scoured the web for the best home cooking tips from chefs to make lunch and dinner a little easier for you and your family. Here are some of our favorites:
Make more one-pot meals
One of the reasons many people hate cooking at home is because of all the dishes that pile up in the sink. But, when you make a one-pot meal like chef and nutrition coach Sarah Adler suggests in this article, you only have one pot to wash (and maybe a cutting board and a knife). You could use a large soup-pot or use the slow cooker. That way, your meal can cook all day while you work and will be ready to eat once you’re done. Some of our favorite one-pot meals include soups, pasta, baked rice dishes, and curries.
Fresh herbs are your friend
According to this article, you should always have a few fresh herbs on hand when you’re cooking. Fresh herbs, like cilantro and parsley, are affordable and can add another layer to whatever you choose to make at home. You mostly want to use them at the end of a dish because certain herbs lose flavor as you cook them. They’ll add a pop of color and some freshnes to almost any meal.
Save herb stems and other scraps for stocks
Speaking of herbs, don’t throw the stems away when you’re done with them. You can use them to make your own stock at home that’s full of great flavor. You can also save chicken bones and scraps from garlic, onion, celery, and carrots to enhance your homemade stock. Once you have a great stock, use it to make soups, rice dishes, or braised meat.
Be nice to your meat
Aaron Taylor, national executive chef at STK, says that you should never, ever stab meat with a knife or a fork to flip it over. Yes, we’re probably all guilty of doing that because it’s quick and easy, but Aaron says that this allows the juices to escape. You’ll end up with dryer, less flavorful food. Instead of a fork or knife, use a spatula or tongs to flip your meat over without puncturing it. And when it comes to meat, Aaron also suggests being patient when it’s done cooking. Letting your meat rest for 10-15 minutes before eating it will allow the juices to disperse evenly and give the dish better flavor.
Taste and season your food as you cook
How many times have you sat down for a meal you just cooked, and it tastes weird when you take your first bite? This can all be avoided if you taste and season as you go. Don’t be afraid to add some salt, other spices, or lemon juice as you cook to enhance flavor. If you’re going through all of the effort to cook at home, you want the meal to taste great. And this article recommends using a pinch of kosher salt rather than a salt shaker because it’s easier to evenly distribute and easier to control the amount you’re using.
Invest in a meat thermometer
A meat thermometer will make all the difference for certain dishes. Rather than having to take a piece of chicken out of the pan and cut it to see if it’s still pink, a meat thermometer will instantly let you know if your food is cooked to the right temperature. It’s also helpful if you’re cooking steaks for multiple people in your household and everyone prefers a different doneness.
Get in the habit of mise en place
Several chefs recommend that home cooks do “mise en place” before starting to actually cook a dish. It refers to the process of having all of your ingredients in place and prepped. Organize, chop, and measure out everything you’ll need for whatever you’re making. Then, when you start cooking, it will be much easier to follow along with the recipe. You won’t have to quickly chop an onion or run back and forth to your pantry to grab and measure the spices you need.
Clean as you go
The clean-up is the part almost every home cook dreads. But, if you clean as you go, you’ll make your life much easier when the meal is over. Throw away trash, put spices back where they go when you’re done measuring, and load dishes into the sink or dishwasher once you’re done with them. When the meal is over, you won’t have to take another hour to clean everything up.
While we hope these cooking tips from chefs help you upgrade your at-home meals, we’re also very excited for the day we all head back to the office and we get to cook for your teams again. Top Nosh offers customized, scalable on-site dining solutions that fit your workplace culture and needs. We’ll provide employees with meals made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and food options for health-conscious employees and those with dietary restrictions. Plus, we send out frequent food surveys so you’re getting regular feedback about your dining program.
If you’re excited about the opportunity to create an engaging workplace-dining environment that will boost health and productivity when your employees return to the office, contact us here.