Anne Burrell's 14 Kitchen Secrets from Behind the Restaurant Doors

Anne Burrell's 14 Kitchen Secrets from Behind the Restaurant Doors
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Anne Burrell's 14 Kitchen Secrets from Behind the Restaurant Doors

Chef Anne Burrell spills 14 cooking secrets she's picked up throughout her illustrious career.

Organization Makes Cooking Easier.

"Working in a restaurant requires a lot of organization because it is incredibly fast-paced and there are a lot of people working in a very small area," Burrell explains. "People [at home] have a tendency to say, 'I’ve got all this space,' or they make the excuse, 'my kitchen is too small so I can’t cook.'"

No matter what size your kitchen is, it's important to get organized! "Get out all your ingredients, do all of your prep work before you start cooking so you can clean as you go and be organized [to] make things much, much easier."

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Turn Your Dining Room into a Restaurant.

Burrell shares, "A lot of times when we eat at home, we just do things family-style. [Instead, try] making pretty plate presentations for your house. It is a little bit fancier and more "restaurant-y" than what would happen at your house, let's say, on a Tuesday. But guess what? It's free!"

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Cleanliness Makes Food Safer.

"You can get really sick from eating bad food," warns Burrell. "Make sure that your food is fresh, that it is refrigerated, that you wash your hands [and] that your work space is clean. If you are handling raw proteins, be careful about cross-contamination: touching raw protein and then moving on to something else that is not going to be cooked."

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Don't Over-Cook Proteins.

"Not every protein needs to be cooked all the way through," reminds Burrell. While chicken should always be cooked through, "you don't need to cook it to death," she says. Pork should be enjoyed medium and steaks can be medium or even rare. "I grew up eating pork chops that my mother would cook for about 45 minutes and they were as thin as a piece of paper. [They were] so dry, so that is why people don't like them."

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Try Chicken Thighs Instead of Chicken Breast.

"I'm always a big fan of cooking chicken thighs; they are dark meat so there is more fat in them, so they stay juicy and have more flavor," shares Burrell. "You can take the skin off of them and that saves a lot of calories and fat. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are so boring to me and flavorless, [although] I'm definitely a fan of a good old grilled chicken sandwich."

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Try the Poke-and-Peek Method.

When preparing chicken, Burrell advises cooking it about two-thirds of the way to done on the bottom before flipping it, and, especially if you have a thick or uneven piece, tossing it in the oven after for a couple minutes. "Until you get really comfortable with it, you can do what I like to call the poke-and-peek method: Cook something and when you think it's done, poke it and see what you feel," she says. "[Raw] protein is squishy. The more it cooks, the more firm it is. If it is really squishy, it is probably not done yet."

If you are still uncertain if your chicken is ready, make a very tiny cut in the piece with a paring knife and check out the inside. The more you use your stove or grill, you'll begin to understand how long it takes, so you won't need to rely on poking-and-peeking.

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Let Healthy Ingredients Bring Flavor to Basic Dishes.

Herbs, vinegars and spices work wonders to amp up boring meals. Burrell recommends buying spices in small amounts so you can experiment with them. According to the chef, "you can make different sauces out of different vegetable purees. These things are all really flavorful and healthy."

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Keep these six staples on hand.

"Salt, olive oil and bacon are what I call the holy trinity in my kitchen," enthuses Burrell. "If you have some dry pasta and a can of tomatoes, you can always make dinner." The chef explains that eggs are also incredibly valuable as they are "the most versatile thing we have in the kitchen."

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Produce that Looks Fresh, Usually Is Fresh.

When picking out fall produce, simply use common sense and reach for squash, pears and apples that actually look fresh. Squashes last forever, but make sure when you are selecting one, that it feels heavy for its size. For apples and pears, avoid fruits with bruises or punctures.

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Ask Your Fishmonger to Smell the Fish.

According to Burrell, "the best thing you can ask your fishmonger is to smell it. If it smells like fish, you don't want it. Fish should generally look moist and have a nice translucent sheen. If it looks dry or compromised or if the flakes are separating, you don't want it."

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Stock up on Frozen Corn.

"I'm always a fan of some frozen corn," relays Burrell. "You can always toss it in some soup, some cornbread or make corn pancakes or polenta. It is a piece of cake; you don't have to do anything, just open the bag and toss it in."

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In a Rush? Make an Omelet or Pasta.

"[Two] super-fast meals that I always find very satisfying are an omelet [and] a dish of pasta," offers Burrell. "If you have a can of tomatoes and pasta you can whip up a delicious meal or with eggs and bacon or pancetta, you can whip yourself up a carbonara!"

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Bring on the Escarole.

"Everyone is talking about kale these days, but I'm a big fan of escarole," Burrell shares. "It is great in salads, but sturdy enough to hold up to cooking. It is a little out of the norm, and it's pretty!

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Read The Entire Recipe Before You Start.

The best piece of cooking advice Burrell has been given was from her mother, who advised, "Read your recipe before you start cooking. Understand where you are going, get out all the ingredients and make sure you have everything." Some of the biggest mistakes new cooks make are being "over-ambitious, not planning out their time well and not being organized," explains Burrell. Reading a recipe in full can help with all of this.

"It is the basics that no one ever likes to do, but if you don't have an idea of where you are going or if you don't have all the ingredients, it is really hard to cook well."

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With her trademark spiky hair and a best-selling cookbook entitled Cook Like A Rock Star, Anne Burrell is definitely not your average superstar chef.

Burrell has been interested in cooking since she was young and her passion eventually lead to her to Italy, where she studied at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners. The Italian culinary world has hugely influenced her own cooking, and it shows as she simplifies restaurant-quality recipes without sacrificing flavor.

Burrell has worked in some of New York City's top restaurants like Felidia, Savoy, Lumi and Centro Vinoteca, and went on to join Mario Batali as his sous chef on Iron Chef America before hosting a range of Food Network shows herself. Now, Burrell shares her experiences and expertise with us! From what you should make instead of chicken breast to six staples you should keep on hand, learn 14 secrets from the master chef.
Check out the slideshow above for 14 insider tips to cook like a pro.

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