Chef Rick Bayless Talks The Smashburger, Authentic Mexican Food, And Creating A Cookbook

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What are some tips you have for home cooks looking to improve their kitchen? And what are some common mistakes home chefs make that they should try to avoid?

Two things I’ll say right away, and the first is that most people don’t use enough heat. They always wonder why things taste so good in restaurants. This is because we are not afraid of the heat. Many people put pans on low or medium heat when they should have been on high. I know a lot of home cooks who would never put a pan on high, but if you want that nice, rich brown crust, you have to use heat. So the first thing is not to be afraid of the heat, to be able to play with it. I also say that many people have light cookware, which often tends to burn rather than brown. I always tell everyone that what you really, really need in your kitchen is a 12 inch cast iron skillet because it will hold the heat. You can heat it slowly over a period of time, but it will retain the heat and brown things incredibly nicely. The heat and the proper equipment to work with that heat, I would say is my first and foremost recommendation to home cooks.

The second is to taste your food and season it with salt, because many people will simply take a salt shaker, sprinkle it on a dish and say, “That’s salty.” Well, yes, you sprinkled a little salt on it, but that doesn’t mean the dish is salty. So what I always say is taste it. Taste it and add a little salt. And then taste it again and add a little more salt if you feel the need. Observe the transformation of food over a period of time as you add a little more and a little more. I think a lot of people are so scared that the worst thing you can do in the world is over-salt the dish. Everyone salts the dish, then it’s disappointing. I always say that what probably differentiates a home cook from a professional cook is the guarantee of salting, because you have to get everything to where all the flavors come out, and if you don’t add enough salt, then they won it doesn’t come out.

These two things, the fire and the salt, I think are the two most important things. The other thing I would say is to have a real knife in your kitchen. It would be something like a six to ten inch chef’s knife and learning the absolute basic knife skills. You can find tutorials on YouTube and learn them, because that’s what will make cooking safer for you and everything will go much faster for you.

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