Our 10 Favorite Tips from Ina Garten’s New Cookbook

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The whole premise of Ina Garten’s latest cookbook, Cook Like a Pro, is to help home cooks gain confidence in the kitchen with the help of Ina’s no-fail recipes and ingenious tips and tricks. There’s a “pro tip” on almost every page, designed to help recipe followers avoid any hiccups and pitfalls that may arise along the way. Here are some of our favorites.

(To get the rest, you’ll have to get the book!)

1. Don’t under-salt your food.

If you’ve ever watched a single episode of Barefoot Contessa in your life, you know how much Ina swears by Kosher salt. In her new cookbook Ina sings its praises even more. “Salt has gotten a bad rap, but it’s what ramps up the flavor of everything you cook — both savory and sweet,” she says. She then proves her point with this ever relatable situation: “Anyone who’s tried homemade chicken stock made without salt knows it can taste like dirty dishwater.” TRUE. In all of her recipes, Ina actually tells you how much salt to use, down to the quarter teaspoon. Listen to her. Your food will taste better.

2. Only juice room-temperature citrus.

Throughout the book, Ina calls for splashes of lemon and lime juice left and right to finish off a dish, to make vinaigrettes, and even in desserts. Her two biggest citrus tips are as follows: First, don’t juice a lime or lemon while it’s cold. Wait until it’s room temperature, because it will produce more juice that way. And secondly, only zest whole citrus. So zest, then juice!

3. Dress grain salads while they’re warm.

There’s a Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad recipe in Cook Like a Pro that Ina says she could happily eat every single day for lunch and never get tired of it. It’s closely followed by a farro tabbouleh with feta, which is a twist on traditional tabbouleh made with bulgur wheat. For both, Ina recommends stirring vinaigrette into the salad while the farro is still warm. This is so it better absorbs the dressing and holds on to all that flavor.

4. Cut beets on a sheet of parchment paper.

Beets are really tasty (especially in Ina’s warm roasted beet, butternut squash, and apple salad recipe), but they’re not your friend when it comes to the havoc they can wreak in the stain department. Ina recommends cutting this root veggie on a cutting board covered with parchment paper to avoid all of this. Brilliant.

5. Cut cauliflower from the stem end.

A fun tidbit in the book is when Ina reveals that the concept for Cook Like a Pro was partially the result of an email from a fan who earnestly wanted to know how to cut cauliflower without getting it all over the kitchen. Ina realized that for many home cooks, it’s probably not second nature to cut cauliflower head-size down (like she usually does to avoid a mess) and thus, this book filled with pro tips was born!

6. Make vinaigrettes in a measuring cup.

Fans of multi-tasking will appreciate this suggestion from Ina in the salad department: When making a vinaigrette, use a liquid measuring up so that you can get the right ratio of ingredients but also whisk them all together at the same time. One less little bowl to wash come cleanup time!

7. Cut corn off the cob on a kitchen towel.

When we chatted with Ina about Cook Like a Pro, she spilled the beans (read: kernels) about her most favorite tip in the book. Similar to the cauliflower tip (see #5) Ina suggests cutting corn off the cob over a kitchen towel to avoid the hazard of getting bits of corn everywhere. Once all of the kernels are removed, simply lift the kitchen towel and usher the kernels into a bowl. No mess.

8. Toast nuts before cooking with them.

There is no shortage of nuts in this cookbook (hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, and more). They add flavor, texture, and a little crunch to dishes both savory and sweet, but there’s one crucial step you’re probably skipping when you cook with nuts: Toast them first to bring out the flavor. Just be careful not to burn them!

9. Use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls.

This tip makes your dishes look a little extra fancy! If you’re making dessert (like Ina’s chocolate pecan meringue torte), Ina recommends microwaving a bar of chocolate for just 15 seconds, then using a vegetable peeler to get the right-sized shavings. It’ll look like a restaurant dessert.

10. Prep your ingredients before you start cooking.

Ina wants to make your life easier, whether you’re making dinner for one person — or 100. The key to that is having all of your ingredients ready to go when it’s time to get cooking. But before you light a single burner, Ina recommends measuring and chopping so that you have everything in arms reach for a speedy assembly and can confidently say to yourself, How easy was that?