Chef Secrets: 10 Simple Tips To Get The Best From Your Meat & Fish

by Travelling Peach

1. WHEN COOKING FISH, THE SECONDS COUNT 
Recommended by:
Andy McFadden. Head Chef at Pied-A-Terre
Andy says ‘It might seem like a very small amount of time usually but when cooking a piece of roasted fish 15 seconds is an absolute lifetime. Remove the fish from the heat before you think it’s cooked because the heat will continue to penetrate the fish, continuing to cook it after you remove it from the pan. If you wait  until you think it’s ready and then it continues to cook, by the time you eat it, it will be ruined.’

… And Chef Christian Le Squer agrees. He says ‘Never cook your fish too much or too early, especially when poaching it in milk because when you add the milk, the milk will be hot and it will continue to cook the fish. That’s when it becomes dry and chewy. Such a waste. To prevent this from happening, use the freshest fish possible, try to cook it as close to serving as possible and serve it pinkish so that it stays succulent and delicious.’ 


2. CURING & PRESERVING SEAFOOD
Recommended by:
David Bizet. Executive Chef at L’Orangerie restaurant in The Four Seasons George V Hotel, Paris.
David saysPut your fish or seafood in a mixture of sugar and salt for 5-10mins before cooking. Not only will it help it to last longer, but it will also give it a finer taste and create a firmer texture so that it won’t fall apart during the cooking process.’

‘I love preparing food this way. You can do it with everything but remember that each raw product should be treated in a different way so don’t forget to adapt the quantities of salt and sugar depending on the size of the octopus, for example. You can also adapt the flavourings to your own taste but the basic principle is the same.’



3. ALWAYS REST YOUR MEAT BEFORE & AFTER COOKING
Recommended by:
Andy McFadden. Head Chef at Pied-A-Terre
Andy says ‘Always take your meat out and make sure that it’s at room temperature before you cook it. This will ensure that it cooks evenly, with its juices flowing around to keep it succulent, and that it’s hot in the middle – particularly important if you like your steak rare for example.’

… And Chef Christian Le Squer agrees. He says ‘Never rush the cooing process. Take the time to cook, to let things cook properly, at their own pace because raw ingredients need to be cooked and have time to rest after being cooked. For example, with beef, if you cook if for 30 minutes, you need to let it rest for 25 minutes to ensure that the juices evenly distribute, the fibres relax and the meat is tender and juicy, not tough and dry. It sounds simple but makes the world of difference.’


4. PERFECT LAMB & HOMEMADE GARLIC SALT
Recommended by:
Anthony Marshall. Executive Chef at The Hilton Hotel, Park Lane
Anthony says ‘When making roast lamb, I always use homemade garlic salt. It completely enhances the natural flavours of the lamb and transforms the dish. Simply add a clove of garlic to Maldon rock salt and leave to infuse. It’s something you can keep in your store cupboard and the longer it stays there, the more the flavour will intensify. It’s great for roast chicken, sprinkling on steamy homemade chips and other dishes too.’


5. ADDING DEPTH TO GRAVY
Recommended by:
Andrew Dargue. Head Chef and Owner of Vanilla Black
Andrew says ‘When making a lusciously full-flavoured gravy, throw in one star anise, let it bubble, then, just before serving, take it out. Brilliant!’


6. ROAST DINNER: HOW TO GET MOIST, SUCCULENT MEAT ALL OVER
Recommended by:
James Durrant. Head Chef at The Game Bird restaurant in The Stafford London Hotel
James says ‘When cooking whole birds (e.g. chickens, pigeons etc. for a Sunday roast), always separate the legs from the breasts and cook the crown separately. They all have different cooking times so for well-cooked, moist meat, you need to accommodate that in the cooking process. I also remove the bones, roll and tie the meat. That way you can cook it all together and there’s no wastage because the meat can be sliced nicely.’ 


‘Follow your instincts. Remember that recipes are only ever a guideline. Use your senses… sight… touch… taste… smell… If something looks ready, it usually is.’ James Tyrell. Head Chef at L’Escargot, London.


7. DON’T GET YOUR PAN TOO HOT TOO QUICKLY
Recommended by:
Brian Grigor. Executive Chef at Number One restaurant in Edinburgh’s The Balmoral Hotel
Brian says ‘I was always told that you can never get the pan hot enough to cook scallops but that’s nonsense. I think if you start them off with a high heat, in a really smoking hot pan, you tend to get too much caramelisation on the outside, even if they may still be raw on the inside.’

‘The best way to cook perfectly succulent scallops is to start on a medium heat, put the scallops into the pan, press them down and then raise the temperature gradually to a high heat. When they’re almost cooked, take them off the heat and finish them off with butter.’ 



8. SASHIMI
Recommended by:
Jordan Sclare. Executive Chef at Chotto Matte, Black Roe and Fucina 
Jordan saysSashimi cutting is a real skill to master but it is achievable. The key to slicing beautifully clean, long, thin strips of sashimi is to use a really long, really sharp knife so that in one clean movement the meat/fish is ready. Use the full length of the knife and don’t use short knives, otherwise you’ll end up sawing at the meat/fish and end up with a serrated finish.’


9. TO SEASON PROPERLY, SEASON THROUGH THE MIDDLE
Recommended by:
Jordan Sclare. Executive Chef at Chotto Matte, Black Roe and Fucina
Jordan says ‘Most people are scared of seasoning; they either add too much or not enough. The key to good seasoning is to judge the thickness of the meat. For example, with a piece of beef, you can see how thick it before it’s cooked. Most people think they only need to season the outside. Big mistake! You need to season through the middle. That’s very important, especially with dishes like tataki, because it’s very difficult to infuse flavour into something you’re serving raw so good primary season is vital.’


10. USING CHOPSTICKS
Recommended by:
Jordan Sclare. Executive Chef at Chotto Matte, Black Roe and Fucina
Jordan says ‘I taught my children how to use chopsticks when they were 3 years old (even for ice cream!) so the younger the better and, once you master the technique, it’s surprisingly simple.’

‘1. Start by holding the top chopstick like a pencil, as if you’re writing normally.
2. Slide the second one underneath and move your hand up. The top one should stay like a pencil and the second one goes through your finger and thumb to hold it.
3. Use one finger to lift the chopstick up and the other finger to move it down. The key is to keep your supporting ‘squeezing’ fingers firm. They’ll control the pincer movement.
4. When cooking with chopsticks or using them to mix noodles, the top one should be slightly longer. That way, you can use it like a claw to grab the ingredients.’

 




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