The 10 Incredible Tips I Learned In One Chef School Class.

I’m not a chef but I did go to chef’s school for a day.  And in one day I learned A LOT. Here are the 10 most incredible tips I learned.

The Stratford Chef School is one of the most respected chef schools in Canada. I looked into going to it once or twice.  Three times at the very most.  But it’s a 2 level course that each take 16 weeks, so I’d have to live in Stratford full time, which is an hour and a half drive away from my house.  Like, I’d have to move there.  Without my chickens.

Not that living in Stratford would be a hardship, it’s a stunning little town (hometown to the Beebs – Justin Bieber), but I don’t really have any need to go to chef school other than for fun.  Even if it is a pretty town.

And if I’m going to spend $17,000 on fun, it’s probably going to involve tattoos and a blindfold.  Either that or a new chicken feeder.

So a couple of weeks ago when I ran into an old friend who graduated from the Stratford Chef school  and he mentioned that they run individual classes, both beginner and advanced, I had booked a class with my sister by that night and was sitting in the course within 2 days.

Fried chicken anyone?

I have an uncommonly weird obsession with figuring out how to make the most perfect version of the most basic foods;  fried chicken, pizza, potato salad, that sort of thing.  So when I saw there was going to be a class in making fried chicken in two days I HAD to sign up. It would have been irresponsible not to.

Imagine my elation when I got to the course and discovered we were ALSO GOING TO LEARN A NEW POTATO SALAD RECIPE?!  If you can’t imagine my elation, I’ll describe it for you.  I opened our class handout, read we were doing a potato salad, stood on the stainless steel counter,  knocking my head on the very long handle of a saute pan in the process, and declared “WE ARE MAKING POTATO SALAD TOO!  I AM ELATED.”  So there you have it. Elated.

I’m not sure what I was expecting to get out of this course, but it wasn’t the recipes that I walked away thinking about so much as the techniques.  That’s the thing about cooking no one seems to pay enough attention to.  The technique you use is just as important as the ingredients.

Take meatballs for example.  If you’re too violent when you form them and you mash those balls with a vengeance, pummelling them into round little balls of submission – they’re going to be dense and icky.  Roll them too wimp-like and they’ll have  no structure. They’ll be mushy.

You need to have the right technique to make them just perfect.

Fish Pedicure and I hopped in her weirdly silent hybrid car and took off for Stratford.

Now, I should say that her takeaway from this class were very different than mine.  Her one big takeaway was, and to quote her, “There is such a thing as too much butter in a biscuit”.

We shall disagree on that point.

I’ve put together a list of the 10 best takeaways I took from my chef school class courtesy of The Stratford Chef School (no, not a sponsored post, just a shout out) and Chef Eli Silverthorne.

 

10 Incredible Tips I Learned at Chefs’ School

(even though I am not a chef)

  1. If you’re making a brine you normally have to boil the water to get the salt to dissolve then wait for the solution to cool to put your chicken in.  Instead use only 1/4 of the water in your brine solution, and freeze the other 3/4s of the water.  At the end of the boil, pour the hot brine over the frozen water and  you have instantly cool brine that’s still in the original proportions.   ex. For a 4 cup brine, use 1 cup of water to boil and freeze the other 3 cups.

2. Taste bud temperature is 135. That’s the optimal temperature for food.

3. To mix biscuits throw OUT your spoon.  Stretch your fingers to the bottom of the mixing bowl and simply lift the ingredients up. Do this a few times and you’ll have perfectly mixed, light, fluffy biscuits.

4. FREEZE biscuits before cooking them and cook from frozen. This prevents flat biscuits. It makes a HUGE difference.

5. Like making potato salad?  Mix in the dressing while the potatoes are hot.  Do NOT cool the potatoes first.  The heat allows the flavours to absorb right into the potato instead of just sitting on top.

6. When you break down a whole chicken, remove the wishbone first. It’s the thing holding everything together.

7. If you’re cutting in the right places, a whole chicken cuts apart easily. You should be right in the middle of the joints not through bone. It shouldn’t take very much pressure at all.  When in doubt, follow the MAP the chicken actually gives you for breaking it down … the fat lines.  If you aren’t sure where to cut, follow the fat lines, they’ll show you where to go.

8. Those bubbles that go crazy when you put something into a deep fryer is actually the water escaping from whatever you’re cooking.  The water is being vaporized by the oil.  Those bubbles also mean your food isn’t absorbing a whole lot of oil, the water is pushing it away.  When the bubbles start to stop then either the temperature in the fryer has dropped too low or your food is cooked (and has no more water to release)

9. Wearing an apron? Tuck a tea towel into the back where you tie it up so it’s always on hand.  (not in front where it’s more convenient I assume because it’s also less likely to go up in flames if it slips and gets too close to a gas burner)

10. Cook deep fried chicken at 360 degrees Fahrenheit until it comes to 178 if you’re a food safety inspector, or 168 if you’re a chef. There seems to be some discrepancy between the two types of people.

 

 

I had never made fried chicken until the week before I took this class.  In that week, I made fried chicken 3 times.  Then of course there was the class in fried chicken and the leftovers of fried chicken we got to take home.

Suffice it to say I’ve still haven’t had my fill of fried chicken.  Or buttery biscuits.

Nothing to do this weekend?  Go out! Take a class.  Learn something. Have fun. Eat butter.

Have a good weekend!

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The 10 Incredible Tips I Learned In One Chef School Class.

77 Comments

  1. Mary W says:

    How did I miss this post before? All the tips! THANK you

  2. RJ says:

    re: freezing/making: good ideas! Thanks! RJ

  3. Molly says:

    Maybe I’m pretty dumb, but why do you need cold brine?

  4. Peter says:

    Air fryer instruction say to cook chicken at 390° I guess I’ll try at 360° now

  5. LOIS M BARON says:

    I love cooking classes. Now that we’ve all been vaccinated (I hope), please go to some more!

  6. Lez says:

    Please could someone explain what a “Biscuit” is in Canadian & American culture?
    In South Africa, a biscuit is a cookie, to eat with tea or coffee, is this like a scone rather?
    I’m also confused as to how Trump has insulted Canada/Canadians? Although it doesn’t surprise me, as he referred to all of OUR countries on the African Continent, as “Sh*t holes”!
    I’m not sure he realises we have 54 individual countries here, & that “Africa” is NOT a country!
    Sigh… :(

    • Karen says:

      Oh! In the days prior to this post he called our Prime Minister “very dishonest”, “weak” and a few other things. Then someone in his government said there was a special place in hell for our Prime Minister. Trump and his cronies were furious because our Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) said that if the US placed tariffs on Canada, we would place reciprocal tariffs on the US. ~ karen!

      • Lez says:

        Wow! Thanks Karen! No words for that crazy man…

      • Roxanne Scott says:

        We, at least most of us cannot stand drump! we’re sorry anyone had to put up with him!!! 😣 love Canada! And love you too Karen!

      • gmf says:

        “Very dishonest and weak” seems like a particularly accurate description of our Prime Minister don’t you think? When your ethics commission needs to spend much of its time investigating the PM shouldn’t we take notice?

      • Karen says:

        No. I don’t think. I’m not the biggest Trudeau fan, but I’d take him over a racist, lying, snivelling coward of a snake oil salesman any day. ~ karen!

    • Ecoteri says:

      Just in case you didn’t find out the answer to your OTHER question, a Biscuit is also referred to as a baking powder biscuit. it is kind of like a scone but no sugar. Just flour, salt, baking powder, butter (various strongly opinionated methods of cutting that baby in), plus liquid (Milk). If made as a wettish dough, can be dropped by spoonfuls onto the baking tray, as shown in Karen’s photos. If made as a slightly less wet dough, can be rolled out and then cut with a SHARP cutter into (traditional) round biscuits. Those sometimes get a milk or butter wash. In either case, after all the butter inside, once cooked (to a lovely steamy inner and usually gently browned and sometimes crispy exterior) they are cut in half and the insides liberally drenched with more butter. In the southern USA they often are, instead, drenched in gravy made with ground sausage, but I have never eaten those.

    • Debbie Gibson says:

      A biscuit in America is a quick bread. No yeast or sugar. We call a cookie what you would refer to as a sweet treat to be eaten with tea.

    • Naomi says:

      Really, that’s your takeaway!

    • Judy says:

      Hi there, I’m a Canadian who grew up in Zambia so I can de-code for you. A biscuit is like a scone but not quite. A scone is richer with the addition of eggs, sugar and cream. A biscuit has no eggs or sugar and uses milk instead of cream…according to my recipes handed down from my mother. My hubby and I watch a lot of British TV shows and I regularly have to de-code for him. Funny how the same word can mean so many different things. Even a biscuit can be a scone.

    • Holly Whiteside says:

      American/Canadian biscuits (sometimes called Southern biscuits) are soft, a little like the texture of crumbly cake, but they are not sweet and instead slightly salty (in a nice way). They are simple to make but take a little practice to make them well. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. I don’t know if you have dumplings in S.A., but it is also a bit like a batter dumpling only a little thicker and you do not put it in broth to cook.

      This is a bit like trying to describe snow to someone who’s never experienced it!. I’m not sure I described it well at all!

  7. D Peterson says:

    Here is a link to very fast and easy biscuits to make. I am sure that they are no where as good as biscuits with “too much butter” but if you need something really fast these work, and you can slather butter on after baking. I prefer the version with the eggs.
    https://gramma-d.blogspot.com/2010/12/blog-post.html

  8. Sarah McDonnell says:

    Here is a “No Compete” biscuit recipe”
    2c plus 1/2 c White Lily self rising (or any low protein, soft red wheat, low gluten flour)
    1 c full fat cultured buttermilk, chilled. Cruze Farm brand is awesome.
    1/2 c butter. Actual lard may substitute for half. It’s hard to find. Frozen, either way
    Preheat to 450degrees
    Sift 2 c flour. Cut butter/lard into tiny bits or grate with a box grater. Pinch and fluff the butter into the flour until bits are unevenly the size of M&Ms. Make a well in the middle, add buttermilk. Mix until it is a sticky mess. Freeze for about 15 minutes. Roll or press dough onto a board dusted with part of the remaining flour. Fold in thirds, like a letter going into an envelope. Roll or press out again and envelope fold one or two more times. Use a floured cutter ( or glass, or recycle a well-washed used can as a cutter) to cut out biscuits. Avoid twisting the cutter so biscuits don’t fall. Freeze. Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes.

  9. Devon says:

    Fantastic tips, thank you! (And is there a story behind #9?!). You’re inspiring, and I appreciate you so much.

  10. Beth says:

    By the way, have you ever used Penzey spices? I have for years and really like their products along with their belief that cooks spread culture and love from all corners of the world. (Yes, another shameless plea for the biscuit recipe.). http://www.penzeys.com

    • Karen says:

      No! I’ve never heard of Penzey spices. I’ll have a look. Maybe we don’t have them in Canada. ~ karen!

      • Jenny Amy says:

        Penzy spices are available in the US, but not so far as I know, in Canada. My sister in Minneapolis brings cinnamon to us every Christmas – it is a blend of 3 or 4 different varieties (who knew!) and the result is a super smooth cinnamon taste in baking products. I tried to upgrade my Bulk Barn purchase by blending with some from a gourmet cooking shop. Still not the same. The Penzy product even smells different. Highly recommended.

  11. Beth says:

    May I also add a plea for the biscuit and potato salad recipes? And any other one that Chef cares to share…. I also want to add apologies for the incredibly boorish behavior from T and his cohort that Canada and Canadians have been subjected to. It seems that nary a day goes by without some new and stunningly awful behavior on their part. However, I am reasonably certain that making those luscious biscuits would soothe the soul. Just an idea to further world piece, one biscuit at a time.

  12. Kristin Ferguson says:

    I always wear my towel on the front. So much handier. It has never gone up in flames, knock on wood.

  13. Dale R Lacina says:

    So now I have to clean my garbage bin before I make a good potato salad. Gotta do it like the chef do. Side question, did the chef(s) in the class swear like Gordon Ramsey? I feel that when I am in a restaurant waiting for my meal I’m getting jipped if there aren’t obscenities coming from the kitchen!!

  14. susang says:

    WOW! love the tips. will you be taking more one-day classes for us? 100% agree – love Canada and i’m sorry about the recent problems we are causing. a bit late but a big thank you for your hospitality after 9/11. popping over at least 2-3 times a month just to spend a few dollars but not bring anything back. I won’t support the tariff.

  15. Ann Patton says:

    I must also send my love and apologies to all Canadians–the USA’s BEST FRIEND and BEST NEIGHBOR–for the travesty that is happening thanks to our president. So embarrassed and ashamed and hurt by this. Just glad to say I didn’t vote for him and pray for the day all this will be over and we can have some measure of peace in the world again. God bless Canada and all Canadians!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for your friendship. I am proud of your (gorgeous) PM and others taking a stand.

    • Lynn Johanson says:

      Amen!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Ann! Although I must say there are a lot of Art of Doing Stuff readers who are Republicans. I have nothing against Republicans and in truth think their economic strategies are usually pretty sound. I divert from them in terms of social issues of course. However. Try as I might. There’s nothing good I can say about Trump. And it does indeed worry me that so many people, desperate for change, have been duped into believing the things he says. As someone in the media (prior to my blogging career) I am especially troubled by his insistence that any news outside of Fox news is “fake news”. Just a look at the multitude of news outlets online from around the world proves the opposite is true. :/ ~ karen!

      • Claudia Clarke says:

        Wow, interjecting politics into this entertaining and informative article is so unnecessary. What a shame you and others feel the need to do this regardless of the subject matter. Politics has -0- to do with Sue’s humorous article. This was my very first article I read after signing up. How disappointing.

      • Claudia Clarke says:

        I meant Karen not Sue. I didn’t realize you were the same person that writes the articles. My mistake.

  16. MaryAnne says:

    Looks like a wonderful experience! I just looked up the school and signed up for the newsletter. Although I live in the US in the South, my husband and I are retired and love to travel. I am adding the town of Stratford and the cooking school to my “got to do” travel list!! Thanks!

  17. Tarra says:

    I dunno Karen those salad potatoes should have been cooked in the instapot. Totally agree that big lunk of a machine has limited uses; potatoes for salad/grill basket/fried is one of them. Beets too

    • Karen says:

      Ha!! Funny, we actually talked about the Instapot at the class. The instructor wasn’t a big fan either, lol. ~ karen!

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