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 pirouetted my way through their front door for an intense night of cooking and eating.
Fried chicken, potato salad and biscuits.
The class was hands on, with recipes and chef instruction throughout. We made and got all the tricks for restaurant quality fried chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits.
I almost walked out when people started talking about their love of Instant Pots since Instant Pots raise other more violent emotions in me, but convinced myself to stay. I mean, fried chicken was on the menu.
I've put together a list of the 10 most helpful 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, I am an enthusiastic home cook)
- 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 ¼ of the water in your brine solution, and freeze the other ¾s 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.
- Taste bud temperature is 135. That's the optimal temperature for food.
- 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.
- FREEZE biscuits before cooking them and cook from frozen. This prevents flat biscuits. It makes a HUGE difference.
- 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.
- When you break down a whole chicken, remove the wishbone first. It's the thing holding everything together.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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).
- 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'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 techniques you use are 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 with a delicate hand and they'll have no structure. They'll be mushy and insipid.
You need to have the right technique to make them just perfect.
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.