An Easy Way to Work on Your Pan Flip Technique

Culinary School Diaries

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Culinary School: Week 4 (of 12 weeks)
Last Week's Diary: Culinary School Makes Me Wonder Why I Refrigerate My Eggs

The difference between a chef and an amateur, according to my instructor in culinary school, are all in the small details: keeping your place clean, having good mise en place, washing all your vegetables correctly. All that good stuff. When you're racing around trying to finish a recipe before the end of class (or service), it's the small things that are compromised, but end up being so important.

A small detail I've been trying to work on is mastering my pan flip technique in order to save time and get things perfectly browned in the sauté pan. My instructor taught me this simple trick to perfect this kitchen essential.

A good pan flip looks like this:

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The pan flip allows everything in your pan to cook and brown evenly. It is difficult to work on this technique, however, when real food is at risk. You don't want to mess up dinner because you wanted to work on flipping food.

Instead, my instructor recommended that everyone in the class buy a bag of dried beans and work on flipping them in the pan. That way if the beans spill, it's not a big deal. Flipping the beans in the pan requires a kind of small circular motion with your hand, combined with a quick jolt right as the beans are in the air to flip them and bring them back to the pan

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Other things I did this week in culinary school

We made a couple different kinds of soup (French onion!) and tried our hand at beef consommé.

French onion soup for days
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Beef consommé. Not easy.
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I also filleted my first flounder and trout. Surprisingly not that hard! But not cute.

Flounder
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I turned that flounder into this delicious dish. It was definitely the tastiest thing I've made so far in school.

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After dreaming about culinary school for the last five years, I finally signed up for a course this summer at the International Culinary Center in New York. The course, "Culinary Techniques," is a three month class that meets two nights a week, and focuses on classic culinary traditions and methods like knife skills, stock-making, classic recipes, and some pastry.

(Image credits: Ariel Knutson; shiroyamarei)