I’m always looking for ways to get excited about home cooking and actually look forward to eating the meals I make at home. There are so many benefits to eating food made in your own kitchen, from financial to health ones, but we can probably all admit that we fall out of love with our own cooking. I fall into ruts, buying the same boring stuff that I don’t even like that much but that I know how to make. I also often resent my food because I know I didn’t do the very best things I could have done with my ingredients. I didn’t bring out their flavors the way I know I can and I didn’t mix them with the right things. When I get into that place, I’m tempted to just dine out. But, if you use these hacks to make your food feel like it came from a restaurant, you can fall back in love with home cooking.
Sear meat and fish first
Restaurants won’t give you a piece of fish or steak without searing it first. Home-cookers can be afraid of high heat, but you need it to get that perfect sear. Put oil or butter in a pan on high, and when it begins to steam a bit, put that raw piece of fish or steak on there, and sear on either side, for just around 15 seconds. Then take it out, and put it in the oven to continue cooking the inside. The sear traps all those great juices inside and adds a nice texture.
Make better mashed potatoes
Add something special to your mashed potatoes by doing this. After peeling your potatoes, save the peel. Fry that cut up peel (preferably in bacon fat or with some pancetta) while you’re making your mashed potatoes. Add the crispy, fried, and savory peel into your mashed potatoes.
Cook food in butter
If you can tolerate dairy, then stop cooking with oil and start cooking with butter. This may not be a diet-friendly option but it is what makes restaurant food so darn good. From your string beans to your chicken, it was made in butter.
Avoid dried spices and herbs
Restaurant chefs don’t waste their time on dried, bottled herbs and spices. The fresh stuff always packs such a better punch and really brings a dish to life.
They’re patient with their steak
After making your steak, don’t cut into it right away. The juices have pooled in the center so when you cut it right away, they all spill out, leaving the food dry. Let your steak sit for a minute before cutting into it, so the juices can redistribute throughout.
Grate fresh Parmesan
First of all, invest in a quality handheld grater. From lemon zest to Parmesan, it can create that perfectly flaky, flavorful addition to any dish. Next, stop using bottled Parmesan and only add the fresh stuff to dishes.
Add cumin, paprika, and/or cilantro to hummus
Have you ever noticed how hummus in restaurants is just better? That’s because they dress it up. They add pine nuts, fresh lemon juice, paprika, cumin, and cilantro—to name a few items.
Do this to your beans
When it’s taco night in your home, do this to your refried beans to make them tastier. Mash them up with some hot sauce, and then melt mozzarella cheese on top of them. That’s what makes them so tasty in the restaurant.
Warm up your plates
You know how your server says, “Be careful—this plate is hot?” That’s because restaurants heat up their plates before plating the food. It keeps the food warm throughout your meal. Try it at home.
Add this to nachos
Your home nachos need an improvement. Canned, sliced olives, canned green chilies, freshly chopped onions (to be added at the end), a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and (and this is the secret ingredient) enchilada sauce. Put a light layer of the enchilada sauce directly on the chips, before adding the other ingredients.
Get ramekins for sauce
Ramekins let you separate your sauces and really capture the umami of each one. So buy a set, and keep your miso, soy, and fish sauces separate on your plate for sushi night.
Add crystalline salt at the end
Crystalline salt is that slightly thicker salt that looks like tiny crystal rocks. Add it to your food after it’s done cooking, and immediately before eating. It really brings out the flavor in fish and potatoes.
Add prosciutto rinds
Prosciutto rinds can make just about any Italian dish better, from ravioli to minestrone soup. Keep some on hand to add salty goodness to your meals.
Flour up your bacon
Restaurant professionals know this secret and it’s why their bacon is better than yours: cake each piece of bacon in a thin layer of flour before cooking. It makes it crispier.
Invest in good wine
And, finally, you don’t find restaurants serving bad wine. So stop buying the bad stuff for your kitchen—it doesn’t do your perfectly-well-made meal justice.