Kitchen Wisdom, Volume 1

by Matt on July 5, 2011

Over the past few weeks as I’ve been doing media and press for my book, On A Stick!, there’s one question that sometimes gets asked after the usual “why sticks?” People ask if I have any culinary or cooking background, to which I say “Are you kidding me? You think I’m masochistic enough to work in a kitchen?!?” Ok, I don’t really say that. I just answer that all my knowledge of cooking comes from a lifetime in the kitchen with family. My grandmother, my mother, my father, my chef friends, my farmer friends, you name it – if I can glean something from them I will.

Many lessons have been learned through trial and error which I suppose is a good way to learn. I’ve made many mistakes and continue to make many mistakes (you should have seen my Korean song pyeon I tried to make the other day, I don’t even wanna talk about it). I thought I’d begin a series of things I’ve learned along the way and subject you to some bad illustrations I painted. Sometimes you just have to step away from the camera and change things up a bit. Ladies and gentleman, I give you MattBites Kitchen Wisdom Volume 1.

Kitchen Thermometers Are Your Friends.

There was a time when I tried to wing everything. The result? Soggy fried foods, destroyed melted sugar gloop, burnt butter (which isn’t a bad thing exactly but you know what I’m saying). And since deep frying plays a big part of On A Stick!, it’s important to know your temperatures and know when you’re where you want to be. Kitchen thermometers help with this. And they also help with roasting and baking so that you know when things like turkey and chicken are ready. We keep a variety of them in the drawer next to the oven and I’m not picky. Yes, some work better than others but I wouldn’t dream of being without a few in our kitchen.

 

Don’t Cook In The Nude. Don’t Fry In The Nude, More Importantly.

My handlers and the team of mattbites advisors have advised that I remain silent on the experiences that led to #2 in this entry. Suffice it to say that frying and cooking in the nude is not recommended, no matter how tall or short you are.  Trust me on this one.

One Good Sharp Knife Helps Tremendously.

When I visit friends who don’t cook or fess up that they don’t enjoy cooking I always ask them about their knives. Inevitably they’ll pull out a cheap $6.99 knife or something from the dollar store and say it’s their main prep knife. I’ll then do one of two things: buy them a very nice knife as a gift or tell them where to get one. You need the proper tools to be successful in the kitchen and a very good knife is the perfect place to start. You can skimp on other things in my opinion but you must begin with a good knife. It’s even more important than #1.

A Sandwich Made By Someone Else Will Always Taste Better Than One You Make For Yourself. Accept This.

You know what I’m talking about here. And I can’t figure out why and trust me, I’ve spent many sleepless nights thinking about it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make a sandwich for myself when I’m home alone. In fact, ever since shooting The Encyclopedia Of Sandwiches I’ve learned to appreciate making them for myself. But it still doesn’t come close to having someone else do it. It just doesn’t.

Never Buy Premade Salad Dressings. There Are No Exceptions To This Rule.

You must pay taxes, death is certain, and bottled salad dressings are a waste of time and money. These are the absolutes of life. And at the risk of offending my fine friends in the food industry I really mean it when I say that there’s just no reason to ever buy a bottled salad dressing. EVER. Nope, convenience and lack of know-of is not an excuse. Because nothing comes close to putting a few simple ingredients in a jar, emulsifying them and seasoning it to your liking. And when you think about the costs involved you can’t help but skip the dressings aisle next time you’re at the supermarket. Keep a good olive oil on hand (not too strong), a few great mustards, some vinegars and herbs and spices and you’ll have salad dressing in about 45 seconds.

 

Okay folks, what about you? What have you learned to be your culinary truths in the kitchen? I would really love to know!

 

 



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Kitchen Wisdom, Volume 1 | MattBites.com « cravebot
August 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee July 9, 2011 at 8:40 am

The sandwich thing is so true! But I think it goes beyond sandwiches to other things too! Maybe it’s the being served part. I have actually learned two useful things- a fire inside the microwave can usually be stopped by turning it off and you can use a blow dryer on a low speed to dry lettuce that for some reason won’t dry in the spinner.
P.S. Love your illustrations!

Mikki July 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Food always tastes better when someone else cleans up after you have cooked.

e July 12, 2011 at 12:14 am

no matter how delicious the pot of hot caramel looks, never ever stick your finger in it.
if you are baking, make sure you have everything you need (in the quantities necessary) before you cream the butter with anything.
precariously balanced pots (especially full ones) will inevitably fall and unleash hell on your kitchen floor

Katie (Mom's Kitchen Handbook) July 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Taste your food! ….adjust and taste again. Don’t just blindly follow a recipe without checking in on how things are going.

JUlie July 13, 2011 at 7:58 am

I love this! One of my favorite pieces of kitchen wisdom: Read the whole recipe first, all the way to the last step, before you stop cooking. Some people just look at the ingredients to know what they have to buy, start cooking something for that night’s dinner, then learn in the last step that the dish has to sit in the fridge for 3 days before serving.

Linda Lee July 14, 2011 at 7:50 pm

When baking, don’t wing it. Follow the recipe exactly as is. Measure your ingredients precisely, then weigh them and add them to the recipe. This ensures consistent results every time you bake.
And always assemble all ingredients before you begin cooking. This step saves you valuable prep time searching your spice rack for the cumin and prevents last-minute dashes to the store in the middle of a cooking session!

Mrs D July 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Oh Matt! Wisdom and truisms aside, this is so joyful! I just laughed out loud at number 2. In my office. At work.

Thank you…

Caitlin July 20, 2011 at 9:32 am

I wholeheartedly agree with all of your wisdom, but ESPECIALLY # 5. It makes me want to hurl when I walk by the sea of salad dressings in the grocery store. And they’re so expensive!

Mary Papoulias Platis August 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

Do as our mothers always taught us “Wash your hands”

The Gastroman December 7, 2011 at 2:47 am

Hello Matt, great work & agree on all points other than the sandwich philosophy….Have you seen some sandwich makers!? Although being an appreciator of proper food you probably wouldn’t let just anyone take up the responsibility…

For me, 1 thing that’s a must in my kitchen (along with the onligatory g&t and the ipod dock) is my muslin cloth!

As well as helping to make fresh coconut milk for my Thai adventures, it not only cleanses my stocks & sauces but I would go as far as saying (& without trying to sound like some kitchen herbalized wacko!) that during this process, I feel my soul is a little cleansed also (a constant requirement I find….)

Anyways keep it up Matt!

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