*This post originally appeared on Bjorn Koch.
Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family or somebody you want to impress, it’s always nice to feel confident in your culinary abilities — no matter how much experience you have. Here are 5 tips that will help you cook like a pro:
1. Always Prepare Before You Cook
No matter how simple your dish, it’s important to take the time to lay out all of the necessary tools and ingredients before you even flip on the stove. Otherwise, you could run the risk of burning something while you turn away to retrieve that bulb of garlic you forgot to pull out of the fridge.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty
It may sound taboo, but using your hands in the kitchen is entirely natural and acceptable — after all, they’re the best tools you have. Use your hands in measuring portions, applying marinades and seasoning to meat, and even toss salads. These methods not only save you time during preparation, but in the clean-up department as well.
3. Don’t Waste Food
…Unless it’s moldy and entirely unsafe for consumption, of course. According to head chef Abra Berens, however, there are several ways you could use to get rid of the older food in your fridge without being wasteful, including: turning your wilting lettuce into a delectable soup, making chicken or another form of stock from your leftover bones, and zesting your oranges before eating them.
4. Shop Smarter
It may be tempting to just go to your local grocery store and pick up your necessary ingredients in one fell swoop, but many chefs recommend you hold out on purchasing your fruits and vegetables until you get to a farmer’s market. More often than not, the produce sold at farmer’s markets are fresher and have been exposed to fewer pesticides and other toxic substances than their supermarket counterparts.
5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Sometimes, it’s good to branch out from rigid recipes and test out a few ingredients of your own choosing — though this isn’t recommended when you’re cooking for somebody other than yourself.
Or, if you feel comfortable in your ability to choose complementary seasonings and garnishes, try a new cooking technique. Many master chefs recommend testing out methods like sautéing, French frying, and poaching, as these are some of the easiest to learn. Please don’t experiment with methods that incorporate an open flame, like flambéing, as these take a decent amount of professional training to safely perform.