Tired of your usual recipes?
Eating out every night isn't an option for most people. But you can take tips from chefs with restaurant cooking hacks at home.
Using the same cooking methods as restaurant chefs can ramp up the flavor of your favorite recipes for dinner. These kitchen hacks are easy enough for anyone to use.
Keep reading to learn 10 top tips for restaurant-style meals at home.
1. Prep Ingredients First
In commercial kitchens, chefs practice mise en place. This simply means doing all of the prep work before you start cooking.
Doing the same thing at home makes it easier to cook. When you prep, get out all of the ingredients you need. Peel, chop, marinate, and measure ingredients.
Get all of the pans, tools, measuring utensils, and other gear you'll need for the entire meal.
Prepping ingredients is much easier when you have an organized kitchen. It makes your prep faster and easier when the things you need are within reach and placed in specific spots.
Take a hint from commercial kitchen organization.
Restaurant kitchens typically use different stations for tasks such as prep, cooking, and cold food. You might not have space for individual stations, but using your kitchen space wisely for different types of cooking can help.
Keep your utensils within reach of your cooking and food prep areas so you don't have to run all over the kitchen.
2. Choose Quality Ingredients
Your meal can only be as good as your ingredients. You might think all butter, oil, meat, and other ingredients are similar, but choosing higher-quality brands, cuts, and types of ingredients can make a difference in your cooking results.
Start by upgrading some of the staples in your kitchen. Grab a bottle of gourmet olive oil to see if you notice a difference in the flavor of your dishes.
Imported European butter tends to have a higher fat content. This gives the butter and your dishes a richer flavor. Test out different brands of butter to find one that makes your dishes taste best.
3. Follow the Recipe Closely
Have you ever noticed that your favorite meals at your go-to restaurants taste the same every time? That's because the chefs use the same recipes, ingredients, and methods each time.
Recipe creators spend a lot of time refining the ingredients and steps. Following recipes exactly can help you get restaurant-quality results, especially if you're trying a new cooking technique.
Always read the full recipe at least once before you begin working. If you don't, you might realize you need to start part of the recipe earlier or do prep work you didn't do.
Measure your ingredients accurately to balance the flavors. Some recipes rely on specific ratios of ingredients, so if your measurements aren't correct it could affect the results.
Don't skip things like searing meat or toasting nuts. They might seem like extra, unnecessary steps, but they'll add lots of flavor to the recipe.
4. Invest in a Wok
Bring restaurant-style Chinese food into your home by investing in a wok. You can make stir fry in a regular skillet, but you'll get better results with a wok.
The conical shape and high sides on a wok give you a greater heated surface with good heat retention. You get a hot pan with lots of cooking surface. Woks also let you stir fry food with less oil so the meat and veggies don't get soaked in oil.
Let the wok get hot over medium-high heat before you add the oil. Rotate the wok to cover all sides with the oil before adding your ingredients.
Stir the ingredients while they cook. The wok cooks the food quickly, so watch your ingredients closely to know when they're done.
5. Use a Pizza Stone
Another restaurant staple is a crispy, gooey pizza loaded with your favorite toppings. If you've tried homemade pizzas, you might find it tough to replicate a restaurant-style pie.
The key to a crispy crust without a burnt pizza or overdone toppings is cooking it in high heat. Most home ovens don't get hot enough for restaurant-quality results, which can leave you with soggy, lackluster crusts.
Most people don't have pizza ovens at home to hit those high cooking temperatures. But a pizza stone can give you similar results in your home oven.
To use it properly, the pizza stone goes into the oven first so it can soak up lots of heat. When you put your pizza on the hot stone, the crust cooks quickly with crisp results.
6. Try Fresh Herbs and Spices
Dried herbs and spices are easy to use, and you don't have to worry about them going bad as fast as fresh.
But fresh herbs and spices tend to have a better flavor. They also add to the visual appeal of your meals.
Try cooking with fresh herbs when your recipe calls for them.
An easy way to always have fresh herbs on hand is to grow your own herb garden. You don't have to worry about herbs going bad in the fridge, and they're always fresh and ready to go.
You can grow herbs easily in pots in your kitchen if you don't have an outdoor garden area.
7. Create Homemade Sauces
While canned and bottled sauces offer a time-saving option when you're in a hurry, they're often bland and boring.
Instead, whip up your own sauces for your favorite recipes so they taste more like restaurant meals.
You can make a simple pasta sauce by sauteeing onions and garlic. Add crushed tomatoes, a little butter, and some pasta water to create a flavorful sauce.
Homemade stir-fry sauces are also easy to make and much more flavorful than bottled versions. Common ingredients in stir-fry sauces are soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and sesame oil.
Even salad dressings are easy to make at home.
Making your own sauces means they're fresh and flavorful. You can also play with the ingredients to customize them to your tastes.
8. Make Restaurant-Style Pasta
Pasta is an easy, inexpensive meal at home, but it never quite tastes the same as restaurant-style pasta dishes.
One option that's easier than it sounds is to make homemade pasta. Eggs and flour are the main ingredients of homemade pasta.
If you don't want to make it from scratch every time, make one large batch and freeze your homemade pasta. Freeze it on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes so it doesn't stick together. Then store it in a freezer bag until you're ready to cook it.
Whether you do homemade or a gourmet store-bought pasta, choose a large pot so the pasta has lots of room. If you overload the pot, the pasta takes longer to cook and can get gummy or soggy.
Add salt to the water to flavor the pasta and help the noodles cook faster. Stir the pasta regularly to avoid clumping.
For a chef-quality pasta dish, cook your pasta 2 minutes less than the instructions before it reaches al dente. Instead of fully cooking it in the water, you'll finish it off in the sauce.
Have your sauce already heating so it's ready to go.
Drain your pasta and return it to the pan. Pour the sauce over it and cook it over medium heat while stirring it for the final two minutes to finish it.
Add a few tablespoons of water, either water from the tap or reserved pasta water, to the mix while you stir and cook. This helps the sauce stick better to the pasta.
9. Prep Your Food Like a Chef
What you do to the food before you cook it can mean the difference between a boring meal and something fit for a restaurant menu. Meat especially benefits from marinating and brining.
The obvious benefit of marinating meat and veggies is the added flavor you get. Marinades are versatile with options for making your meals spicy, sweet, smokey, and more.
The marinade helps soften tougher cuts of meat. It's an easy way to make those tougher, inexpensive meats taste better.
It also adds moisture to your meat to keep it from drying out while it cooks.
A similar option is to brine your meat before cooking.
A very basic brine is water and salt mixed together to help tenderize meat. It works best on lean options that tend to dry out during cooking, such as poultry and seafood.
You can also add other seasonings or sugar to add flavor while you brine the meat.
10. Warm Your Plates
Do you ever notice how your server sometimes warns you about your plate being hot? Restaurants often heat the plates to help keep your food at the right temperature.
Some dishes lose flavor and overall appeal when they cool too much. Even if it comes out of the pan tasting great, your meal can seem lackluster if it's cold by the time it hits the table.
Place heat-safe plates in a low-temperature oven for a few minutes before the food is done. Grab the warm plates when you serve the food to keep your dishes warm while you eat.
Use Restaurant Cooking Hacks
Test out restaurant-style cooking hacks at home to elevate your meals. With a little extra effort, your recipes get a boost in flavor to make eating at home more enjoyable.
Check out our home and kitchen gadgets for more ways to make cooking easier.