If you’re pushing 30 and the sight of phrases like “al dente”, “sauté”, and “braised” in a recipe make you break out in a cold sweat and send your trembling hand to the nearest app on your phone, you should get your cooking act together pronto – at least according to a handful of top .
By the time a person hits the big three-zero, the likelihood of faking your way through hosting daunting dinner parties becomes higher by the day, and having some basic cooking techniques under your belt can turn the experience from a stress-filled blur to something enjoyable. (In theory, anyway).
The Independent has asked top chefs to run down the cooking techniques that a person needs to master by the time they’re 30, and when they’ve passed that milestone.
Silvia Baldini is a New York-based chef and winner of Food Network’s Chopped
Learn to steam, poach and boil. These simple techniques are a great and healthy way to cook delicate seafood and veggies.
When a person hits 30, they should also be able to cook eggs. Three minutes for a proper egg and soldiers; six minutes for soft boiled and 10 minutes for hard boiled. If you feel adventurous you can learn how to poach an egg. I add two tablespoons of white vinegar to salted boiling water then I drop a cracked egg, gently, in the water and I cook it for no more than thre minutes. I use a slotted spoon to spin the water and shape the egg or you can always use a poacher.
You should also be able to prepare pasta properly in boiling salted water. It should taste like the ocean. Follow the cooking time on the package and cook it al dente, which means soft on the outside but with a little bite and firm on the inside, not raw.
And learn to roast a chicken. You can follow my recipe on my for a delicious tangerine and honey chicken. It always turns out moist inside and with a great crispy skin. And it’s important to know how to make dough from scratch. Everyone loves a good homemade pie!
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Robert Prendergast is the executive chef at the Waldorf Hotel in London
In truth, it’s patience. People rush food these days. Long gone are the days of sticking in the roast beef Sunday morning first thing on 56 degrees and then going out as a family or with your mates and coming back at lunch time to find this beautifully cooked beef in the oven or the slow volcanic simmer of making a hearty chunky beef stew which is left to carefully go about its business so all those cubes of goodness flake away on the first mouthful.
I would also have to recommend braising as the key tool to master. Essentially there isn’t much mastering, more understanding and faith. But with the plethora of cuts out there that if braised correctly it can produce some outstanding results.
Marco Scire is a private chef in Edinburgh
By the time a person is 30, they should master the following. Proofing: understand the importance of leaving you dough to rest. This is secret of any good bread or pizza or anything else that you may see at local bake. Deglazing: it might complicated but in reality it is one of the simplest thing to do. It is a cooking technique to remove browned food residue from a pan to flavour sauces, soups and gravies. And al dente, which literally means “to the tooth”. It is firm to the bite and it is essential for any pasta lover – or whoever likes to cook Italian food – to master.
James Howe is a based in King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Casserole and stewing. They’re ideal for the modern busy person, a one pot wonder and can save the day after a busy shift.
Morganne Ilett, is a private chef based in Cardiff
These are cooking techniques that people should know before they’re 30 that I learned with my mother at home between the ages of six and 15. Everyone should learn how to make béchamel sauce – the base for a good cheese sauce; stocks from beef, chicken, fish and vegetables.
They should also know how to cook rice; poach eggs; make vegetables al denté and crispy; braise meat; create sweet and savoury pastries; make dips for parties – including pesto, hummus, and garlic mayo – and get to grips with tasting and seasoning.
With this small list in your arsenal – you can come up against most culinary challenges and delight any family member or guest. Mastering these techniques will enable you to generally understand food and what you are trying to achieve with most recipes.
Steve Groves is head chef at Roux at Parliament Square, London, and former winner of MasterChef: The Professionals
Master sauces. Obviously this is a very broad area, but having a good repertoire of sauce can be a game changer. A sauce can really bring a dish to life or it can be the element that just brings the whole dish together.
It could be a meaty jus or gravy to help carry the flavour of the main event through the dish, or it could be a piquant salsa verde to bring freshness and acidity to help bring balance to something rich. Sauces I would look to master are: meat jus, gravy, butter sauce or beurre blanc, cream sauce or veloute, mayonnaise and hollandaise. Armed with these you have hundreds of options to deliver extra flavour.
Loic Le Pape is a private chef based in Brighton
As well as the basic cooking skills such as poaching, steaming and roasting, people should learn to appreciate ingredients and master how best to cook eggs, fish, vegetables and meat.