Back to the Basics: 8 Simple Food Tricks with Justin Chapple

In Just Cook It!: 145 Built-to-Be-Easy Recipes That Are Totally Delicious, Justin Chapple shares his tricks for making cooking easy, from weeknight dinners to memorable entertaining.

Kara Rota
3-minute read
Episode #196

book cover of just cook it by justin chapple

I have way too many friends who rely on Google for the most basic cooking questions you can imagine. Hopefully this section will get them off their computers by offering best practices for preparing everyday foods. Plus, I’ve shared cooking temperatures for the usual suspects—chicken, beef, and pork—as well as some handy measurements.


The secret is (wait for it . . .) the oven. Preheat it to 400°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty foil. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and crisp. Using tongs, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and crisp more.


Use a saucepan just big enough to hold your eggs, which will help control how quickly the water comes to a boil. Cover the eggs with water and bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-high heat for 8 minutes. Drain and cool the eggs under cold running water or in a bowl of ice water.


These are eggs with firm whites but runny yolks, delicious warm or cold (see page 45). Fill a medium bowl with ice and water to make an ice bath. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower the eggs into the water and simmer over medium heat for exactly 7 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to cool. Very gently crack the eggs on a work surface and then carefully peel off the shells.


Fry an egg over high heat and you’ll end up with unpleasantly chewy whites and dry, crumbly yolks. Instead, warm 1 to 2 tablespoons of fat (oil or butter) in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. One at a time, crack the eggshell on a flat surface and drop the egg into the skillet, then immediately reduce the heat to low and cook sunny-side (yolk) up until the whites are firm and the yolks runny, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper.


You can usually buy pre-cleaned shrimp, but you should definitely learn how to clean them yourself because you never know when you might have to. Plus, it’s easy! Start by peeling off the shell. Whether you choose to leave the tail intact or not is up to you. Using a paring knife, score the shrimp lengthwise along the back to reveal the vein. Lay the shrimp flat on a paper towel, then scrape out the vein.


This is ideal if you’re making peel-and-eat shrimp (see page 191), or if you want to grill the shrimp shell-on (this keeps ’em juicier). Using the tip of a scissors blade, cut along the back of the shrimp through the shell, leaving it otherwise intact. Using a paring knife, remove and discard the vein. Fold the shell back around the shrimp. Done!


I can’t even tell you how many people ask me how to steam white rice. Start by rinsing your rice well, until the water runs clear. This will help ensure the grains don’t clump (if you want your rice sticky, don’t rinse it). For every 1 cup dry rice, use 11/2 cups water. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and a generous pinch of salt, but don’t stir it yet. Return the water to a boil and then stir it once, cover, and simmer over low heat until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes for 1 to 2 cups rice. Turn off the heat and let it steam, covered, for 20 minutes, then fluff it up with a fork.


My friend Kay Chun taught me this spectacular way to cook quinoa, and I’ve used it ever since. First, rinse your quinoa as it’s coated in naturally occurring compounds called saponins, which can make it taste bitter. Plus, quinoa can get a bit dusty. Next, fill a medium saucepan with water, bring it to a boil, and add a generous pinch of salt. Add the quinoa and simmer over medium-high heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain it well in a fine sieve, shaking out any excess water. Return the quinoa to the hot saucepan, cover, and let it steam for 10 minutes. Fluff it with a fork and serve, or spread on a large baking sheet to cool and use later.

Excerpted from Just Cook It!, (c) 2018 by Justin Chapple. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photography © 2018 by David Malosh

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.

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