Apartment Chef Tips

Apartment Chef Tips

Through writing out recipes, there are some apartment chef cooking tips that just keep popping up! Everything from how much salt to use, which cooking oil to use, to which meat/seafood to buy. I’ll do my best to document them here.

Under Seasoning Food (Especially salt)

You’ll cook more if you like what you cook. It’s a fact. Salt will help add flavor to any dish, increasing your chances of you liking what you create. When I first started cooking, I was hesitant to add a lot of salt since I was always concerned I would oversalt my food. Yes, oversalting can happen, but it’s much harder to do than you think. My advice would be to add how much salt you think you need and then double it.

Keep in mind, you have no idea how much salt that restaurants put in your food! They don’t list salt quantities on their menus – they don’t want you to know! I have found that when cooking most of my own meals and living an active lifestyle, I run a higher risk of being salt deficient. Moral of the story, pile it on! As a budding home chef, you’re consuming less salt than you think!

Buying Spices in Bulk

Buying spices in bulk will make you feel like the richest person in the world. Try it next time you’re at the grocery store. You will feel like a king. Be sure to save any spice containers you already have and keep refilling them! The most expensive part of buy spices is paying for the container they come in!

saag paneer
The best way to make my $1.75 and 30 Minute Saag Paneer is to go heavy on the spices!

Buying Meat

The key to buying meat is transparency. The more information you have, the better choice you can make for your health and your wallet. When at the grocery store opt for organic, grass-fed, grass finished meat whenever possible. Yes, it will be more expensive but it will even out in the long run as your meat portion sizes decrease and you start adding more delicious vegetable dishes to your meals such as $1.50 and 20 Minute Crispy Brussels Sprouts and $2.25 and 45 Minute Eggplant Curry.

Buying “On Sale” Seafood:

Don’t have your mind made up before you get to the fish counter. There are always plenty of options: Salmon, trout, shrimp, scallops and sometimes even lobster tail or swordfish. And usually one or more of them will be on-sale! It’s no secret that seafood isn’t the cheapest food at the grocery store, so through Cafe4111 recipes, I strive to give you the confidence to take advantage of any deal they offer. It adds to the excitement, helps your wallet and leads to amazing spontaneous meals.

It is recommended to eat fresh seafood within 2 days of purchase and around here it is usually served every Sunday night. Opt for fresh and wild caught whenever possible, but, at the end of the day, a diet that contains homecooked seafood is better than one that does not. For more of my thoughts on the why should should buy more seafood, check out my “Brave the Fish Counter” post!

swordfish recipe
If it’s on-sale, this could be the week you make $6 and 20 Minute Swordfish!

Buying “In Season” Vegetables

Buy vegetables when they are in season. This will lead to more variety in your diet along with tastier and cheaper meals because your ingredients are fresher and more plentiful. If a type of vegetable is out of season in your area, the produce you will find at the grocery store will have been picked too early (think about how long it takes to ship produce from across the equator where the seasons are flipped) and therefore will usually be smaller (less bang for your buck) and less tasty. Check out the Seasonal Food Guide for a list of fresh vegetables available in your area by month.

Chopped versus Pre-Chopped Fruit/Vegetables:

A quick way to make that expensive chef’s knife pay for itself: chop up your own food whenever possible. Not only do you get to practice your knife skills and chop the food to the size you want, but you’ll save money every time you do it. Example:

  • Large mango (~11 oz): $1 + a couple minutes to peel and slice
  • Pre-chopped mango pieces (~11 oz): $5
10 minute salad template
$2 and 10 Minute Salads are always better when you cut your own produce!

Oil Smoke Point

Exceeding an oil’s smoke point – the temperature at which an oil literally begins to smoke – will cause the oil to decompose and lose its health benefits. See this article for an explanation of different oils and their smoke points. My rule: I use avocado oil for baking (Smoke Point ~ 500F), grapeseed oil for sautéing (Smoke Point ~450F), and olive oil for dressings/sauce (Smoke Point ~ 325F).

Heating Oil

To test whether oil is hot enough that meat will sizzle when it hits the pan (unarguably one of the best sounds in the world), use a couple drops of water. If the water droplets pop and bubble off immediately, you’re good to go.

Using a Brush

Using a brush is the trick to coating your fish or vegetables in a thin layer of oil to prevent them from drying out while in the oven. Glugging out oil all over your food is not only wasteful but can make it taste greasy. You can substitute in a paintbrush, just double check to make sure that it is clean!

Baked salmon or trout recipe
$4 and 15 Minute Salmon utilizes the oil brush technique

There you have it, my current apartment chef tips!

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