Hi! It's me, Joris.

It looks like I've linked you here myself. Linking people to a blogpost I wrote is often a bit akward, especially at work.

I likely shared this blog in an attempt to further a conversation. Usually the post does a better job at succinctly sharing information than I could by talking.

In any case, I hope me sharing this post doesn't come across as humblebragging, that's really the opposite of what I'm trying to achieve.

Thanks for reading!

Notes On Cooking
6 min read

Simple things that make a difference

I do most of the cooking at home, yet never really learned how to cook. Truth is, I still mostly just wing it, while trying to balance speed, taste and variety. Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years that I now use all the time. No complex kitchen wizardry, just practical tidbits and thoughts for fast, everyday cooking.

Ingredients

Frozen herbs

Many herbs can be bought frozen in handy containers. When you use them, they come pretty close to using fresh herbs, without the hassle of limited shelf life, cleaning and cutting them. They’re ways better than dried variants. You don’t have to unfreeze them before using them, just add them immediately to your dish. This is pretty much the only way I use garlic these days.

Frozen herbs - highly recommended!
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Frozen herbs - highly recommended!

Time your spices right

There’s no hard rules here, but in general fresh/frozen herbs go in at the end, otherwise they dull due to the cooking process. Dried spaces and strong flavors (e.g. pepper) are better at the start so you have more time to balance them out in case you added too much.

Use more salt than you think you need

This might be common sense, but I grew up using very little salt and hence never learned to use it properly. Salt is a universal flavor enhancer: use it liberally, even in things that are supposed to be sweet. Not every salt is created equal.

These salts look the same from afar, but closer inspection will show they have very different shapes. I use Salt Flakes for cooking, [Fleur De Sel](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur_de_sel) for on plate seasoning.
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These salts look the same from afar, but closer inspection will show they have very different shapes. I use Salt Flakes for cooking, Fleur De Sel for on plate seasoning.

Replace water with stock

If you want to add extra flavor to a dish, try cooking with bouillon/stock/broth instead of (or in addition to) water. Works especially well with rice. No need to prep the broth yourself (that takes a lot of time), just buy it in your local supermarket. In my experience, the liquid versions are much better than the dried cubes.

Stock cubes are good enough for soup, but I much prefer the liquid stuff for other food
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Stock cubes are good enough for soup, but I much prefer the liquid stuff for other food

Add a spoon of sugar

A spoon of sugar will make a lot of things better. Brussels sprouts, (glazed) carrots, green beans, tomato sauce. A small amount of sugar won’t make your dish sweet, it will just work to tone down other bitter or sour tastes.

Techniques

Use low heat when needed

I’ve often used too much high heat on the kitchen stove, usually because I am trying to get food on the table quickly. I’ve now learned that some things require low heat and a bit more patience to do right. Especially sautéing onions, garlic and mushrooms are easy to mess up on high heat.

Finish Pasta in the pan

Use a stir-fry pan to make your pasta sauce, cook your pasta separately. When your pasta is almost done, add it to your sauce pan and add some of the pasta water as well (don’t overdo it!). The result will be a more smooth pasta - the starch in the pasta water will do that.

Not really how I make my bolognese, nor the best example of mixing sauce and pasta in the pan, but by far the funniest pasta making video I've ever seen 😂

Cook meat right

Everyone can cook a steak. For most of us however, cooking a steak properly is an acquired skill. This doesn’t only apply to steak, but really to any piece of meat (or fish). Some things I learned:

  1. Taking your meat out of the fridge at least 30min prior to cooking so it can adjust to room temperature.
  2. Salt your meat liberally and dry it with a paper towel before cooking. Excess moisture will contribute to steaming your meat - not what you want.
  3. Take meat off the stove a bit too early and let it rest for 5-10 min after taking it off, as it will continue to cook inside. Wrap it in aluminium foil to keep it warm.
  4. For larger pieces of meat, sear the outside in a pan and put it in a pre-heated oven to finish cooking inside. Cooking a large piece of meat solely in a pan without burning the outside is much harder.

Pre-heat your oven

This might be another no-brainer to most people, but I used to never pre-heat my oven as someone once told me it wasn’t required for hot air ovens. I now know it makes all the difference - cooking time actually matches what the packaging says.

Timer-based kitchen appliances

I love kitchen appliances I can just turn on and not pay attention to until the timer goes off.

A vegetable steamer for example was a life changer for me. If you buy your (fresh) produce pre-cleaned and cut, you can just toss that in the steamer and your dinner is already half ready. They say it’s healthier as well as you don’t wash away “the good stuff”.

Combine steaming with putting some meat or fish in the oven on a timer or time-based contact-grill and your active cooking time is reduced to something like 10 min for simple but healthy meals.

Others timer appliances:

  • 👍: Soupmaker (recent discovery!), egg cooker.
  • 👎: Airfryer, we just use the oven instead. And a real deep fryer if we want to eat fries. Too small volume, too slow, too much cleanup.
  • 🤷‍♂️ (not tried): Rice cooker (we don’t eat that much rice), bread maker (one day…), slow cooker/multi-cooker (not sure if we’d use it that much after the newness wears off).
The ***Braun* *MultiGourmet*** food steamer. Although basic, we've used it intensively for 10+ years.
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The Braun MultiGourmet food steamer. Although basic, we’ve used it intensively for 10+ years.

The ***Ninja Mixer & Soup Cooker HB150***. Used often to make fresh soup. Does sauces, smoothies and milkshakes too.
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The Ninja Mixer & Soup Cooker HB150. Used often to make fresh soup. Does sauces, smoothies and milkshakes too.

The ***Tefal Optigrill Plus XL*** contact grill - the food  *doneness sensing* (really just the thickness of the meat) is amazingly accurate.
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The Tefal Optigrill Plus XL contact grill - the food doneness sensing (really just the thickness of the meat) is amazingly accurate.

One challenge will all of these of course is having the space to store them all. Cleaning can be an issue too as they’re not always (entirely) made to go into the dishwasher.

While some all-in-one devices exists (e.g. multi-cooker), I’m hesitant these are devices that are just mediocre at everything they do, often with limited meal volume and a dozen accessories that are a pain to store and clean. IMO, there’s more room for innovation here.

Recipes

I do meal planning inside of [my digital brain](https://jorisroovers.com/posts/my-digital-brain) (i.e. Notion). I will share an export of this list at some point in the future. Recipe names are in Dutch, sorry!
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I do meal planning inside of my digital brain (i.e. Notion). I will share an export of this list at some point in the future. Recipe names are in Dutch, sorry!

While the internet is obviously full of recipes, I still maintain my own list that is tailored to my family, preferences and what ingredients are easily available in our local supermarket. Most are just one-liners or a list of ingredients without instructions but there are periods during which we use that list very extensively to determine what to eat.

I’m planning to create a dedicated post about meal planning at some point in which I’ll share this list and some other thoughts.

Meanwhile, here’s 3 egg related recipes I found fun.

Breakfast sandwich

A while ago I saw this post on reddit on how to easily make a good breakfast sandwich. I’ve tried it a few times and it works well! Direct link to 30 sec youtube clip.

Cloud Eggs

A friend recently recommended these to me. Looks fancy and pretty tasty too! Recipe.

Cloud eggs. Photo courtesy of [Happy Foods Tube](https://www.happyfoodstube.com/breakfast-cloud-eggs/), mine didn’t look as good 😬
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Cloud eggs. Photo courtesy of Happy Foods Tube, mine didn’t look as good 😬

Poached eggs

I rarely eat poached eggs, because 1) I didn’t grew up with them - I only learned of them when seeing them on a hotel breakfast menu and 2) I’ve only tried making them a few times and most of them failed. However, last time I followed these instructions (vinegar, fresh eggs, drain the whites, vortex) and they turned out ok!

What are your favorite cooking tips?