The 6 Most Helpful Things I Learned from Kitchn’s Cooking School

updated Jun 13, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

It turns out that no matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there are always new lessons and skills to be learned. I should know: I’m a culinary school graduate, a food editor, and a cookbook author — and I still learned a ton when we launched our Cooking School last October.

Cooking School was a group effort: The entire food team contributed. So while I helped write some of the lessons, I also discovered smart tips, tried a few techniques that nudged me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen, and became a more confident cook.

Here are six of the most helpful things I learned.

1. There’s a better way to crack an egg.

Before Cooking School, I would almost always crack my egg on the edge of a bowl or frying pan. It was the way I’ve cracked eggs for years. And while this method isn’t necessarily wrong, Day Four of Cooking School suggested that there’s a much better (and safer) method for cracking eggs: on a flat surface.

A confident tap on a flat surface is far less likely to result in broken yolks, or in egg shell ending up in the bowl or pan. Though I had gotten good enough that broken yolks weren’t a constant problem, this method reduces them to nearly zero.

2. The “knuckle method” makes cooking rice much easier.

Despite the fact that I cook rice regularly, I can never remember the ratio of water to rice. And while I know I can use the

pasta method

Day Seven of Cooking School to the rescue! It introduced me to the one-knuckle method for cooking rice.

It works like this: You pour the rice you’re going to use in the pan, level it out, and touch the top of the rice with your finger. Then pour water until it reaches your first knuckle. Done! It’s not an exact science, but the one-knuckle method is a super smart trick that gets the job done. I’ll take it!

Credit: Faith Durand

3. Give cooked beans an ice bath.

For most of my cooking career, I’ve been reluctant about making dried beans. I know they’re cheaper and tastier than canned, but it always seemed so complicated and time-intensive. Cooking School Day Seven was the nudge and inspiration I needed to finally change my ways.

While cooking beans is pretty straightforward, the lesson taught me that salting the water adds flavor and doesn’t make the beans tough — honest! An even smarter tip? Plop cooked beans into an ice bath. This helps prevent the beans from overcooking and splitting or falling apart. The texture is fantastic.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Stop draining pasta.

Cooking School Day Eight taught me to stop draining my pasta, and I think you should try it too! Here’s what you do instead: Transfer pasta directly from the pot of water to a skillet with sauce using tongs or a spider, depending on the pasta shape. This way some starchy water automatically makes its way into the skillet, and the rest is still in the pot in case you need it. Which lead me to my next insight…

5. Buy a spider for pasta night.

Okay, this isn’t exactly a lesson, but Day Eight of Cooking School nudged me to buy a new kitchen tool, and I’ve been using it all the time.

I regularly used a spider (also called a skimmer strainer) when I was in culinary school, but somehow it didn’t occur to me that it was something I might want to use as a home cook. Turns out, it’s super helpful for scooping all sorts of items out of all sorts of hot liquids! Pasta is just the beginning. I wish I’d bought one years ago.

Credit: Lauren Volo

6. Every dirty pan is a sauce in waiting.

The biggest payoff probably came from Day 13 of Cooking School. Making a pan sauce wasn’t exactly a new lesson, but it was one I definitely needed to be reminded of. Pan sauce is basically a freebie anytime you sear meat or vegetables on the stovetop. It takes such little effort and time for a huge reward.

Your turn! If you participated in Kitchn’s Cooking School, what were the most fun and helpful things you took away? (If not, go here to sign up or see the lessons, and let us know after!)