23 Pieces Of Small-But-Crucial Cooking Advice That Changed Everything After People Learned Them

The art and skill of cooking are all about learning and honing your craft. And like all things in life, some of the best lessons come from others around you. So, redditor u/Sleepyavii asked, "What’s something that someone has said that made you a better cook?" Here's what people said.

1."If you think something might need more salt but are unsure, try acid first. It's a game changer."

A pair of hands stirring a drink in a glass with a spoon on a wooden counter next to a bowl of chopped vegetables
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2."Never pick up something hot without knowing where you're going to put it down."


3."Salt and butter are not bad things. Use them both wisely."

A hand uses a spoon to baste sauce over sizzling pieces of fish fillets in a frying pan on a stovetop
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4."Just follow the recipe first as it's written, then make changes."


5."Massively improve the quality of your proteins with fond. Fond is the dark brown stuff that sticks to your pan when you're cooking. It's not burnt unless it's black. To get it off the pan and on the food, pour in alcohol or acid to dissolve it and get the now-brown liquid to coat your protein. Different proteins work best with different alcohols. A good rule of thumb: dry white wine for chicken or any lighter meat, red wine for beef, and lemon juice works great for almost everything."

Two chicken breasts being cooked in a frying pan. One piece is being handled with tongs
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6."I was watching some chef's video a while back where he was making a simple roux for a gravy. In it, he mentioned to keep cooking roux until it smelled like pie dough. I had been hit or miss with gravies before, but since hearing this advice, all my roux are now winners."

A frying pan on a stovetop with a semiliquid batter cooking, showing bubbles forming on the surface, indicating it's being cooked
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7."Clean as you go. My dad has tried his hardest to instill a clean-as-you-go mentality in me since I was young, and only once I got my own apartment did I realize he was right. It's wild how dishes don't pile up if you do them while food is simmering or resting!"


8.“'Cook the onions longer,' said my wife for years. I finally caved, and by god…it really is better!"

Onions being sautéed in a frying pan, stirred by a wooden spatula held by a person's hand
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9."As Wolfgang Puck said, 'buy the best ingredients you can and then try not to f*** them up.'"


10."Dress the bowl, not the salad. This distributes the dressing evenly. Also, dress your salads twice: first with a baseline oil-salt-lemon or vinegar mix, then with your salad dressing. This ensures every leaf is seasoned."

A fork holding a bite of Caesar salad above a plate filled with lettuce, croutons, radishes, and chicken
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11."Samin Nosrat said something along the lines of 'salt makes food taste more like itself,' and that instantly unraveled a lifetime of contorted attitudes toward salt. As soon as I stopped treating anything more than a dash of salt as, at best, an indulgence and, at worst, a threat to my well-being, I began making food on a whole new level. I know many people say Salt Fat Acid Heat had a huge influence on their understanding of food and cooking, and it deserves every accolade it gets."

A person's hands sprinkling salt over a bowl of salad with sliced bread on the side on a wooden table
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12."Low and a lid will simmer the same as medium, but it won't burn to the bottom of the pan."


13.“You can always add a little more seasoning, but you can’t take a little away.”

A person sprinkles seasoning onto kale cooking in a pan on a stove, with a pot containing another dish visible in the background
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14."Just leave it the f*** alone for a minute. This applies to most of my cooking that’s not scrambled eggs or stir fry. I learned a lot of skills and techniques, which is knowing when and when not to touch something."


15."Most of cooking is prep work, so have all the ingredients and necessary utensils handy."

A plate of sliced heirloom tomatoes is surrounded by a small bowl of pepper, a bowl of salt, fresh basil leaves, and a bottle of olive oil on a decorative table
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16."Read the directions first. There aren't many worse things to read — when you're halfway through the main dish recipe and already working on the sides — than reading 'cover loosely and let rest overnight.'"


17."If your cookies look totally done when you pull them out, they are already burnt."

A person takes a tray of five freshly baked cookies out of the oven using a pair of cloth towels
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18."Way back in the day, I heard Bobby Flay say something on one of his shows about how most people stir and shake their pans too much. The food can't cook as efficiently if it's constantly in motion, and you won't get as much tasty brownness if you're constantly tossing the pan. It's so simple, but I had never really thought about it until that moment."


19."For thick and nice pasta sauces, use the starchy water that you boiled your pasta in."

A person is serving spaghetti from a frying pan into a white plate, with utensils and additional cookware visible on the stove and countertop
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20."Remember to salt from above and not too close to the food so that you get an even distribution."


21."The amount of garlic flavor depends on WHEN you add the garlic. Add it early for light flavor; add it late for bold flavor."

A close-up view of a steak being cooked in a cast-iron skillet, with a hand holding a spoon to baste it with melted butter and herbs
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22."Unless you're baking, always go by taste rather than the exact measurements of a recipe."


23."Treat olive oil as a condiment — it's great as a garnish but terrible to fry with. Use vegetable oil or any other 'neutral' oil to fry or sauté; it has a higher smoke point and is pretty much flavorless."

Close-up of a person drizzling dressing on a salad with various greens, tomatoes, and cheese on a wooden board with a lemon and a bottle of olive oil
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What's the best cooking advice you've ever heard that has drastically changed your kitchen technique, outlook, or skillset? Tell us in the comments or drop your responses into this anonymous form.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.