10 Basics of Good Home Cooking

Our guest today is Sara Moulton, chef and award-winning cookbook author. Her new book, Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better, shares her philosophy on great home cooking in ten indispensable tips.

Kara Rota
2-minute read
Episode #92

1) Shake hands with your stove

Get to know it! Whether gas or electric, every stove behaves differently, so getting to know yours will help you predict how different recipes will come out. 

2) Buy a good knife

And keep it sharp! Dull knives lead to frustration and injury. The knife should do the work, not you. 

3) Get organized

Plan ahead when grocery shopping, at least vaguely. If you shop when you're hungry, you'll buy things you don't need and forget things you do.

4) Follow the recipe

The first time you make something, follow the recipe exactly AND read the whole thing through once or twice before you start. You don't want to get halfway through and then come to the "chill overnight" step!

5) Dispense with mise en place

Prepping all your ingredients (peeling, dicing, chopping, etc) before you start cooking can be time-consuming and intimidating-- instead, take advantage of natural lulls in the cooking process to prep the next ingredient you need.

6) Reach for the salt

Not just how much but when and how you add it makes a huge difference in flavor. Salting tomatoes before you cook them will make your end dish significantly better.

7) Balance flavors

If something is too salty, sweet, spicy, or watery, there are ingredients to add to counteract those qualities. 

8) Build umami

There are many different ingredients you can add to a dish to make it more flavorful.

9) Use all your senses

If you hear a stew boiling rather than simmering, that's a clue. Touch is also a huge indicator of how done some foods are. 

10) Don’t waste food

For our wallets and for the environment, learning to deal with leftovers is a huge skill as a home cook. Making stock and soup is Sara's go-to solution. 

Check out bonus recipes for Turkey Spinach Burgers with Pepperoncini Sauce and Crispy Pork Fried Rice with Pickled Radishes

Author photo by Lucy Schaeffer 

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.