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4 Things I Learned in Culinary School That I Use in Everyday Cooking

I'm in utter disbelief that I'm coming up on a year post-culinary school! Going to culinary school was by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself, and I really savored every moment. There are so many things that I learned in my time there, but a handful of tips stick out to me that have totally changed the way I cook at home everyday. I am hoping these tips are helpful to some of you too! Here are my top 4 culinary school gamechangers:

1. Mise en place-Day one, the chefs teach you mise en place (pronounced me-zohn plahs) meaning "everything in it's place." It's hard to argue with the French on this logic. Prior to culinary school, I was totally guilty of digging into the procedure of a recipe without gathering all of my ingredients and measuring them first. Going about a recipe without prepping everything can be chaotic and can even lead to missing a step along the way. Gathering all of your ingredients, measuring them out and dicing your vegetables, herbs, etc. prior to starting your recipe may seem like a lot, but it actually removes any stress and allows you to really enjoy the cook along the way knowing that you've got all the accurate ingredients ready. I like to use ramekins for mised herbs, spices and oils and measuring cups and mixing bowls for larger ingredients. Ramekins linked here:

2. Get yourself a table pan, stat!-If you take nothing else from this post, let it be this tip: use a table pan when you cook (aka a small table trash bin). While unexpected, this is one of the most valuable tools I have because it saves me all that back and forth to your trash can every time you have to dispose of your eggshells, potato peelings, herb stems, etc! Trust me when I say that this is a TOTAL GAMECHANGER to make your cooking game more efficient, clean and organized. Linked here:

3. Sharpen those knives-This one seems obvious, I know, but I didn't take it seriously until going to school. It's really important to sharpen your knives, not just to make dicing, slicing and chopping easier and more precise, but for safety. The chefs drilled it into us that a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp knife and it's true! Let's say you're slicing an onion with a dull knife. It is much more likely to slip on that onion skin rather than puncture it like a sharp knife does. It's those knife slips that cause so many cuts and injuries and I can tell you from too much experience that it's not worth it! Everyone has their own rule of thumb on how often to sharpen kitchen knives, but I find that sharpening knives every 4 months works great. You can, of course, do this yourself (YouTube is your friend here) or you can take your knives to Sur La Table to be professionally sharpened (totally worth it in my opinion).

4. Make a cooking timeline-I absolutely could not meal prep or host a dinner party without this invaluable step before cooking. Before every class, we were required to draft a cooking timeline for the steps of each recipe we were scheduled to cook the next day-from mise to plate. I never thought about the strategy behind cooking before school and now I know it's a crucial piece of any larger cooking feat. Whether it's a dinner party, weekly meal prep, Thanksgiving dinner, putting a little strategy around your cooking schedule will help immensely to execute your menu on time and without unnecessary stress. Things I always think about when I'm making my timeline is how are these dishes being prepped? Are they going in the oven, stovetop, blender, no-cook, etc? Can any of these items go in the oven at the same time? What can I make on the stove while that item roasts in the oven? Is there anything that needs to marinate, chill or soak ahead of time? What about items that need to cool/chill after cooking? All these things will help you coordinate the order of your cook, what's feasible to complete in your allotted cook time, and which items to cook first vs save for last before plating. Not only will a cooking timeline save you so much of your sanity, but will lead to a much more enjoyable eating/hosting experience following all of your hard work!

I'd love to get your feedback on these tips or hear from you if have any additional tips/hacks that have changed your kitchen game in the comments below!

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