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Tips from culinary school for kitchen work

August 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Even if you learned to cook from Grandma Nita, Aunt Jane or mom, they may not always know best. Well even if you're not running a kitchen, we're learning the tips and techniques from culinary chefs.Cordon Bleu Culinary School instructor Louis Eguaras wrote "101 Things I learned in Culinary School" to help future students and home chefs that want to navigate the kitchen like a pro. He said even his mom could use some help, especially with knife skills.

"A lot of times you don't want to correct them out of respect," Eguaras said.

Eguaras first lesson was on what's known as choking the knife. The thumb should be on one side of the blade, the index finger curled on the other - not on top - and the remaining three fingers curl around the handle.

According to Eguaras, there are five knives that do 95 percent of the job.

He likes a filet knife to filet fish, a boning knife to cut meat or chicken, a paring knife that works well on garnishes and small products, and a serrated knife and the chef knife, which is considered the work horse and can do almost all jobs.

One of his easy rules of thumb is using your hand as a gage to determine if meat is done.

Lightly touch meat when cooking. If it's rare, it will resemble the soft spot between the thumb and index finger.

Medium rare will feel similar to the same spot when thumb and index finger are held together.

Medium well will resemble the feeling of thumb with three fingers. When meat is well done, all fingers with the thumb or even a fist mimics the texture.

And prior to cooking, get all the ingredients out and have them chopped or minced as directed. This is known as "mis en place," which means everything in its place.

"It's faster, it's easier and ? you're more prepared in a sense," Eguaras said.

Don't worry about having matching pots and pans. Sometimes a good skillet or old stock pot does the trick. Fancy doesn't always equate to flavorful.

Fish tips are also important. The fish shouldn't have an ammonia or fishy smell, and the eyes should be clear and gills bright red.

Perhaps one of the most important tip is when to add salt.

Salt and season prior to cooking; don't wait until the very end.

Salt and season meat three or four hours prior to cooking as it helps distribute the salt so you don't end up over salting.

The same goes for any food. Season as you go so the salt can have a chance to enhance.

Eguaras' Favorite Tips

  • Know how to properly use the knife.
  • Have 5 good knives for cooking: filet, boning, paring, serrated and chef knife.
  • Let the space between the index finger and thumb help you test the doneness of meat.
  • Prior to cooking remember "mis en place" or put everything prepped in its place.
  • Don't worry about having a set of fancy pots and pans. Hang on to those skillets and pans that work for you.
  • When buying fish, know how they should look and smell.
  • Don't wait until you finish your dish to salt.

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