15 Things We Learned from Chef Michael Symon

15 Things We Learned from Chef Michael Symon
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15 Things We Learned from Chef Michael Symon

Chef Michael Symon tells us his exclusive insider secrets on everything from shopping to prepping to cooking. Check out what we learned from the chef himself!

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Reach for the seasonings and oils.

Chef Symon's favorite aisle at the grocery store is where the seasonings and oils are because they give you “the ability to set your food apart and make it unique,” expains the chef

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Resist the urge to cut the salt.

People frequently under-season their food, which prevents it from retaining maximum flavor. “You can’t make good food without salt,” Symon asserts.

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Be Discerning When Buying Beef.

Being particular about purchasing beef is a must. “Never buy the meat that is already precut and shrink wrapped, usually what is next to the meat counter," assures Chef Symon.

Additionally, people mistakenly look for beef that is bright red, but beef should really be "a deep, deep, almost maroon red. It should be heavily marbled with inner muscular fat. The more inner muscular marbling there is, the higher the grade of meat it is," he explains.

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Be careful with color.

“Look for chicken that is its natural color, not the neon yellow that is sometimes promoted," says Symon. "They should be more of a milky white. Look for pork that is a deep pink, pork isn’t supposed to be white.”

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Cook With Seasonal Produce.

”I love fall because I love braising, and that is when that season starts," enthuses Chef Symon. "You get the tougher cuts of meat and [can] slow cook them. All the different squashes that become available are fantastic. Fall gets a little more hearty, which I always look forward to by the end of summer, after I’ve eaten my weight in corn and tomatoes."

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Hands off your food!

It's good to avoid "moving food around too much in the pan or on the grill, and not letting it caramelize," he explains. "People are afraid of color on their food for some odd reason."

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Use a Zester.

“I use so much citrus in my food and I use [a microplane/zester] to grate parmesan, fresh nutmeg, fresh spices, so that is pretty indispensable one for me," explains Chef Symon. "You can get them at a hardware store for $4."

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Imitate Grocery Stores.

"Look at how [food] is stored in the store because if anybody needs to make it last, it is the grocer," explains Chef Symon. "Items that you bought that were sitting out at room temperature are going to be best stored at room temperature in your home. “

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Let Food Rest!

Resting meat after cooking “allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat so when you cut it, all the juice doesn’t end up on your cutting board," he explains. "I always tell people for however long you cook it, you need to let it rest two to three minutes per hour of cooking. If it’s a quick cook, it could be a minute or two minute rest, but if it’s a longer roast it is going to have to rest for five or 10 minutes.”

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Don't assume that low-fat means healthy.

"We have been trained to shop for food that is low-fat, lean and tender," explains the chef. "People buy low-fat foods [that] typically have higher sugar and higher sodium, which are worse for you than the fat."

Symon also expresses concern with our culture's meat choices. "I'd much rather have a chicken thigh than a chicken breast," he begins. "Please don’t take the bone and skin off my chicken, it is supposed to be there. Then, if you do take the bone and skin off the chicken, why is it twice as expensive? Beef tenderloin is the most flavorless cut in the entire steer, why is it the most expensive?"

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Store Herbs As You Would Flowers.

“With herbs, I treat them like I’d treat a flower," offers Symon. "I trim the bottoms of them and put them in a glass of water with a damp towel overtop. I’ve had them last for 10 to 12 days.”

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Pick Quality over Quantity.

Symon credits his mom for teaching him to pick quality over quantity, which he believes is one of the best pieces of advice he's ever been given. “Never skimp on quality," says Symon. "I’d rather buy less of something high quality than more of something not good. I’ve been cooking for 30 years, but if you give me a bag of bad stuff, even with all my tricks, I’m going to have trouble making it a good meal. If you give me great stuff, 100 percent success [rate].”

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Let food warm up.

According to Symon, a common cooking mistake is not letting food come to room temperature before cooking it and not letting it rest once it has finished cooking. Bringing food to room temperature helps it cook evenly.

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Learn from your family.

“My mom taught me that more than anybody else," Symon recalls. "Chefs that I’ve worked with too, but I’ve learned most from my family."

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Eat with people you love.

Symon tells us that his perfect meal depends on “the people that you are surrounded by. I’ve had plenty of bad dinners with great friends and still had a good time. If you have a great dinner with people [you] don’t want to be around, you aren’t going to enjoy yourself. The people I’m sitting down and breaking bread with are always more important than the meal itself.”

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Born into a Sicilian-Greek household it's no wonder Michael Symon grew to love distinctive and bold flavors. Today, whether he's opening restaurants or busy serving as an Iron Chef on The Food Network, Michael Symon is always cooking something up. If you're a fan of The Chew, you've seen him share his expertise with the world, creating countless dishes on screen while offering helpful tips for the grocery store and the kitchen.

Now, as he debuts his latest cookbook, Michael Symon's 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinner, Symon also tells us his exclusive insider secrets on everything from shopping to prepping to cooking. Along the way, we learned to navigate the kitchen like a pro.

Check out the slideshow above for 15 things we learned from Chef Michael Symon.

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