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The Basics

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Whether it is "****'s Kitchen" (Which I think is a joke of a show), "Kitchen Nightmares" (The British version is the best), or "Top Chef" (I love it) of the criticisms that the chefs common give the contestants or "chefs in peril" on KN is that they don't know the "basics" of cooking.

As someone who is self-taught, and continuing my self-education, I am constantly figuring out what those "basics" are. Since I have started to cook in 2003, I have identified "seasoning" as one of those basics. In the last few years, I have been working on my knife skills...something that I am continuing to work on. Proper usage of heat in cooking...that's one of those basics. To what I saw on "Top Chef" the other day..."butchering" is also one of the basics.

The basics, in any field, are very important. I am a classically trained percussionist, and I used to teach students. Before they would beat on a single drumhead, which was their normal inclination, I would tell them, "You can't touch a drum, until you know how to hold your sticks". And then, like most students, they have to learn the basic 16 rudiments. My normal day job, I work as a staffer for the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, also having worked for other Members of Congress in the past. If you don't know the three branches of government, and what the specific duties of the U.S. House of Representatives, or the difference between a "H.R." and a "H.Res." designation of a should work here. As a chef, I think it is super-duper important to not just know what the basics are, but to master them. I want to master them.

For the chefs out here, I would like to know from you all what are the 10 or 15 "basic" things that every chef should know and master. I would really appreciate it. ChefTalk Forums have really been beneficial.

post #2 of 14
ok while I dont feel im a chef but am professionally trained here are my personall thoughts on basics in no order.

Seasoning (completely agree, very under done all the time)
Proper heat temps (baking, satuee, sweating, roasting etc....)
Techniques (frying, roasting, grilling etc...)
basic food pairings
product identification
knife skills
meat fabrication
buthering of whole poultry
herb identication
post #3 of 14
Clean as you go x15
post #4 of 14
lol now thats the truth
post #5 of 14
The Chef should have a working knowledge of the cost of making the dish. Keeping food cost in line is as important to a restaurant's success as serving great tasting and attractively presented food.
post #6 of 14
Before you even pick up a knife :-
  • Hygene
  • Safety for yourself and those around you
  • keep your station clean
  • keep to your station during service
  • organisational skills ( make check lists)
  • Communication ( If you're not sure, ask. Don't just muddle on )
Lots more, but that's my very basic
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #7 of 14
Ther are many ways to define "the basics", and others have got a lot of the bsics down pat.

For me "the basics" will also include HOW to cook, which, for me, is broken down in to the 14 methods of cooking. Each method has it's set of rules and range of practical uses. Once these methods are mastered, along with knife skills and economy of movement, you can really get creative.

Deep fry
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #8 of 14
Pump, you've only got 13. You've exchanged "Baste" for both types of braising (braisir), braising meat, and braising fish and vegetable.

For everyone else: The "fourteen methods" are an academic conceit of some French type schools. While all the methods are staples of classic cooking and its teaching, "the fourteen methods" per se is hardly universal. Universal or not, it seems to have stuck with Pump pretty well. And for good reason, it's a powerful way of thinking about and organizing the culinary world.

Further, the two types of braising are considered different mostly because the aromatics are placed beneath and along side the meat, while they are placed above the fish and vegetables. Also, meat braises are usually made with considerably more liquid.

Also, for those who might not know poeler refers to "covered roasting," aka (sometimes) "butter roasting." It's a technique not used very much, modernly. It produces a lot of juices which can be used to structure a sauce later. It's the classic method for walking into a derivative technique and service called en cocotte. It's also the classic method for cooking caneton bigarade and anything Sauviroff. But when's the last time you saw anything en cocotte or Sauviroff on a menu? And FWIW, bigarade usually means the duck is blanched off then roasted (1/2 duck) or sauted (breast) and served with an orange sauce. In other words, it's cooked with entirely methods.

post #9 of 14
You're right, BDL, I forgot "gazing/glacage"

Basting for me is that a minum of oil is heated, the product put on, and little or no liquid added, a tight fitting lid put on, usually low heat is applied, and the product cooks with the steam it produces.

Braising for me is broken down into two types: For dark meat/large pieces, and for fish and vegetables.

Then again, "poaching" can be broken down into two types: With movement-as in sabayon, or without, as in creme caramel.

"Blanching" can be broken down into blanching with water, or with oil--as in blanching f. fries.

"Roasting" can be done in the oven or on the spit.....

I beg to differ about the 14 methods. They are not the sole property of the French, the French only collected them, nor are they "classical" The Chinese, for example are no slouches when it comes to steaming or sauteing (a'la wok), and have been for a few thousand years now. Every culture and it's cuisine embraces some or all of the 14 methods.

Think of the 14 methods of cooking as tools, or if you are a chemist, think of them as the periodic table of elements. They can never be outdated, as they are techniques, not recipies or ingredients. An artist will use the techniques of perspective, shadowing, and colour in his work irregardless if the piece is a classical work, or an impressionist work, or a cubist work; the technique is a tool, to be used as seen fit. Now, take for example Sous-vide, the new darling of the culinary world. For all of it's high-tech gadgetery, it is, very simply, poaching-in-a-bag. And from very humble beginings too, I might add, it was developed in the early '70's for hospitals and other large institutions.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #10 of 14
I'm getting really confused.

By "gazing/glacage" do you mean coating, like coating a chocolate truffle? As one of the 14 methods? I never went to cooking school, but I've done a lot of reading. The "14 methods" don't come up a lot at all. I've certainly heard of them though, have seen lists and thought I knew what they were. I've never seen glazing or glacage listed.

Again, this is new to me. I understood "basting" as meaning spooning or mopping liquid on large cuts of meat during the cooking process to maintain moisture.

Yes to braising. I know flans like creme caramel are considered to be "poached," although I never understood why. I didn't realize that saboyans were, too. What about hollandaise and its progeny? Poached? This illustrates one of the problems I have with the idea of "the 14." You have to stretch techniques too much to make things fit. Also, it seems to me that your two divisions leave out the most common types of poaching -- in water, broth or court bullion. Surely, poaching a fish in court bullionthe same as cooking a flan in a ramekin.


I'm not trying to bust your hump, not at all. I agree that the French didn't invent each and every one of the 14 methods, but no one said they did.

Also the "14 methods" do not cover every cooking method, although some French person at some time may have thought they did. In fact, they miss some of the most common cooking methods -- both current and long standing. Chowing in a wok is NOT sauteing a'la [sic] wok. It's related, but different. As another example, there's already been a thread in this forum discussing how modern barbecue smoking fits in the 14 -- and it does not.

I agree strongly with the general idea you're expressing. Cooking is essentially modular, and the modules are comprised primarily of technique. My only reservation is that I do not accept the 14 as the be all and end all, but I do appreciate the effort.

Whatever it is, it's not poaching. Even flans come in contact with the liquid in the form of steam. Poaching does (or should) require direct contact between the liquid and the food cooked in it.

No. The facts are well known and recent. It was developed by George Pralus for the Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne.

I respect your cooking a great deal, as well as the depth of understanding and ability to convey information you display in these forums. I just believe you're mistaken about those things mentioned above. Perhaps you can direct me to some online resource or link that explains "the 14" as you use them.

post #11 of 14
Man BDL. Reading your posts is like chewing a rather large piece of steak!
I love well written steak. LOL
Fluctuat nec mergitur
Fluctuat nec mergitur
post #12 of 14
By glazing, I mean one of the, yes, 14. Usually reserved for vegetables with a decent sugar content like carrots, parsnips, pearl onions, and chestnuts. The product is blanched, sweated with butter, a little bouillon or water added, and then covered and allowed to cook over low heat in some cases a bit of sugar can be added. When about 3/4 done, the lid is removed, the liquid reduced under high heat and at the same time the product tossed and glazed with the resulting syrup-like liquid.

I am not thrilled with the word "basting" but it is the englisch translation most often used in books to describe "Etuver" or, as I learned it, "Duensten".

A good sabayon is whipped over warm, barely simmering water. Hollandaise and related sauces depend on a sabayon (here, with yolks and reduction) as base to which clarified butter is then later added. 90% of the time when a Hollandaise breaks it is because the sabayon is not stable.

No great need to argue whether cooking in a wok is sauteing or not, but the criteria are the same: High heat, hot oil, relatively small pieces of product, the product being constantly moved, no liquids added during the cooking process. Yes?

Poaching, by many cookbook definitions only requires two criteria: immersed in liquid, and never exceeding 80 celcius. It is not a radiant heat, nor convection heat that cooks, but direct, moist, low temp. heat,-- and on the whole surface area of the product.

Yes, Pralus did come up with the idea of Sous vide---in 1974. Rumour has it he took his idea to Cryo-vac to get a bag develped for his foie gras idea. Cryo-vac saw a good idea, and knew they could sell a lot more bags by going convenience instead of high-end. Many Hospitals and other large institutions adopted this method by the early 80's. It does however, meet the poaching technique criteria: Surrounded by liquid, and the temperature not exceeding 80 celcius.

You will find the "14" described in detail in Pauli's "Classical Cooking the modern way". This book, well into it's 12 edition, is the basis for the Swiss Trades Culinary program and is brain-washed into every Swiss apprentice cook (after 20 years I still can't shake it off...) as well as apprentice waiters/esses. You will also find it referred to in more familiar books such as CIA's "The Professional Chef", in the reference material section.

Please feel free to pm me. Whenever you and I get into a weenie-wagging contest, we tend to hi-jack the whole thread.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #13 of 14
A#1**---Don't get caught up in skill lists!

1. Learn from those whom you have actually seen perform the tasks you desire to learn. The culinary industry has been innundated with people who have spent too much time with,, wikipedia, and various search engines.

2. As a musician, you know that education and practice will enrich and enhance the ability to perform of those who are graced with talent. It is no different in the culinary world. One born without a sense of the art, will never become a master of the art; functional as a cook, perhaps.

3. If you have talent and potential, the skills will follow.
post #14 of 14
very well said!
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