Secret tips from PCC Cooks

This article was originally published in September 2012

How do great chefs make the most of fabulous ingredients? What tricks do they have for ease in cooking and turning out stellar recipes? We asked our PCC Cooks instructors to let us in on their little secrets — and were surprised and delighted by what we learned. The techniques and tools they recommend are as simple as can be.

When measuring honey or other sticky liquids, lightly oil your measuring cup or spoon before adding the honey. It will easily slide out into your mixing bowl. — Lisa Palmatier

“Keep whole ginger stalks in the freezer, wrapped in an air-tight container. No need to peel. When completely frozen, the ginger creates very fine dust if you grate it using a Microplane. It grates easily and beautifully with a standard grater as well. Add grated ginger to salad dressings, stir-fry, even chocolate cake.” — Ami Karnosh

Avoid the mess of peeling corn before you grill it: Leave the husks on and cook the ears on a medium-hot barbecue, turning occasionally, for about 12 to15 minutes. When done grilling, take a sharp, serrated knife and cut off the bottom of the ear, making sure to remove the entire base. With a towel, grasp the silk end of the corn and twist to pop the ear out. The husk with its silks attached will remain in your hand. — PCC Chef Lynne Vea

Bring out the flavors of homemade soups just before serving by squeezing in lemon or lime juice or adding a splash of cider vinegar. — Marie Donadio

Store tomatoes stem-side down, at room temperature: It’s counterintuitive, but it prolongs shelf life and prevents them from getting mealy.

Make flavor cubes — Use ice cube trays to freeze portions of pesto, tomato paste, curry paste, citrus juice or wine (for cooking, not drinking). Once solid, transfer cubes to a resealable freezer bag and freeze until use. A cube or two often is all you’ll need for a recipe. You also can freeze cubes of juice, coffee or tea and use them instead of ice so your drinks don’t get diluted.


Our favorite kitchen tools

Many of our cooking instructors swear by these, available at PCC

Spice jars —Glass with air-tight lids, perfect for keeping spices organized and fresh. (PCC carries a huge selection of dried herbs and spices in bulk.)

Kitchen shears —Snip chives, cut open dried chiles for seed removal, cut lengths of twine for securing a stuffed flank steak, cut apart old linens for straining yogurt, run out to the garden for a bouquet of basil…

Microplane zester —Great for finely grating ginger, citrus zest, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese and chocolate.

Related reading