Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers- Lesson 71 Quick Tips

The last class was all about fritters and I certainly hope you all “frittered” some time away! Being a chef, I am constantly asked advice on a myriad of cooking questions. So I decided to compile some quick tips that answer the questions I am most frequently asked.

Pull out meat/poultry one hour before cooking.

This will let the meat warm up a little and will insure even cooking.

Always let cooked meat/poultry rest.

The reason you do this is to allow the juices to redistribute back into the meat. If you cut meat hot out of the oven, the juices end up all over the cutting board and this results in dry meat. For larger cuts, tent with foil and rest at least 30 minutes. Smaller cuts, tent at rest at least ten minutes.

Always use unsalted butter when cooking.

You do this so you have complete control over the seasoning.

Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in dressings and to finish.

You want to enjoy the fruitiness of this oil which is why you use it in things that will bring that flavor out. Cook with vegetable oil or a regular olive oil.

Add peeled garlic, fresh herbs and peppercorns to the water when you boil potatoes.

Doing this allows you to add another level of flavor to any dish you are going to make with the potatoes.

Tap shellfish on a counter BEFORE using.

If they close, they are still alive. If they remain open, discard them, they are dead and you cannot use them.

Grate Parmesan as you need it.

When grating from a Parmesan wedge, don’t grate ahead of time. This will dry out the cheese. Grate it as you need it to get the most powerful flavor.

Pull cheese for cheese plates out of fridge at least 45 minutes before serving.

If a cheese id too cold, you can’t experience its full flavor. Additionally, if you are serving cheeses like Brie, you want them warmer so they have the correct soft, runny consistency.

When you want more of a “bite” than Parmesan, use Romano.

These are not interchangeable. Romano has a distinctive bite at the finish, while Parmesan tends to be warm and nutty. I like to use Romano on salads and roasted veggies.

When making biscuits, scones, shortbreads, do NOT twist when using the dough cutter.

If you twist instead of pulling the cutter straight out of the dough, it will impede the rise of the product.

Check your dried spices.

Yes, they do lose potency. My advice is to go through your spices every six months and replace any that either are no longer fragrant or that you have not used in a while.

Take pan off the flame when you add alcohol.

If you don’t you risk lighting yourself on fire. The flame can travel up the bottle and ignite. So remove the pan from the flame, add the alcohol and then put it back on the flame.

Balance acid with sugar.

This creates a gastrique. So if you are adding citrus juice, vinegars, etc. always add in some sugar.

Don’t store tomatoes in the fridge.

Doing this kills the flavor. Store them on your counter and remember to give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper before serving or using, this will amp up the taste even more.

Ripen avocados in a brown paper bag on the counter.

I NEVER buy ripe avocados! I find the flavor is much better if I buy them green then ripen them at home. Simply place in a paper bag and fold it down so no light gets into the bag. Once they are ripe, transfer them to the fridge.

When cooking meat on a bone, remove from oven 5-8 degrees BELOW desired temp.

This is because the bone acts as a heat conduit and will continue cooking that meat after it is removed from the oven.

Don’t touch mouth after handling artichokes.

If you prepare fresh artichokes and don’t immediately wash your hands, then inadvertently touch your mouth, oh boy! EVERYTHING you eat for two to three days will taste like metal.

Store yeast in the fridge.

Cold retards the action of yeast, but allows it to remain alive. Heat will kill the yeast, so it won’t work when you go to use it for your baked goods product.

Only cook with wine you would drink.

Remember, cooking with wine concentrates its flavors, so good bad wine becomes unpalatable.

Have fun!

The joy you feel while cooking transfers to the dish. So relax, be creative and enjoy yourself.


Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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