Being an only child, my mom has always been much more than just a mom to me. She’s also my best friend. Sure, there were plenty of times when—as a parent—she dropped the iron hammer, but we’ve always had a closeness that was more like friendship.
Growing up she obviously taught me a lot of very important things: work hard, make good choices, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. But when it comes to cooking, the most important thing she instilled in me was small: Keep an organized work station, and clean up as you go.
Naturally, I hated this as a kid—who wants to waste time wiping down the counter or washing prep bowls in between licks of cake batter off the spoon? Couldn’t everything wait until after we were done? No, my mom insisted. This was the way professional chefs worked. And it turns out she couldn’t be more right.
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So when I finally started living on my own in college (albeit with roommates), when I cooked, I couldn’t help but make sure every part of the recipe had been prepped, wash the dishes as I went, or wipe down spills and splatters as they happened. I’m a much more organized, prepared home cook as a result—not to mention, by the time I’m ready to eat, it’s nice to know that most of the cleanup has already been taken care of.
Of course, my mom’s not the only one with advice to spare. So in honor of Mother’s Day, I asked Food52 and Schoolhouse team members to share the best cooking tips they’ve picked up from their moms. From game-changing ingredient swaps to timeless kitchen wisdom, here are the very best tricks and techniques we’ve picked up:
“Always keep your sink scrubbed clean so when you have a vegetable (or the like) to wash, it’s ready to go and won’t feel like a chore. Similarly, she would always wash and prep all produce as soon as she got home from the grocery store so she could pack it neatly into the fridge, and it was more likely to get used. Un-prepped vegetables have a way of being neglected until it’s too late!” —Amanda Hesser, Food52 co-founder and CEO
“Make dishes that are good at room temperature for a dinner party.” —Merrill Stubbs, Food52 co-founder
“Always serve a big green salad. When making said big green salad, rub the inside of the serving bowl (preferably a wooden one) with garlic to get extra flavor in there.”—Madison Trapkin, associate editor
“My mom also taught me to always save a few chocolate chips for the end when making chocolate chip cookies. Then, right before you put the cookies in the oven, you can fill in any ‘bare spots.’ Beautiful cookies, every time.”—Maurine Hainsworth, senior copywriter at Food52
“My mom tells me it’s important to have a few dishes that look and taste amazing, but are super easy to make.”—Abby Boulton, customer success manager at Schoolhouse
“She taught me that cooking doesn’t need to be intimidating and that casual, unfussy meals at home can still be delicious and special. But more specifically, she taught me to constantly taste dishes as I’m preparing them and to make adjustments and build flavor as I go. Whenever I ask her how much of an ingredient to add to a dish, her response is invariably ‘to taste!’ While pretty frustrating, I credit her for teaching me to be a more intuitive home cook.” — Laura Wolfgang, UX designer at Food52
“Order Thai food.” —Mollie Doherty, senior producer at Food52
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“Maybe more of a hosting tip but: Invest in quality cookware that prioritizes both function and form for easy kitchen-to-table presentation!“—Elizabeth Yunmi Hokyo, senior editor at Schoolhouse
“Read your recipe first and make adjustments where you see fit.” —Sarah Yaffa, data analyst at Food52
“Upgrade your dinner party by adding seasonal flavors to your store-bought butter. Add maple syrup and red pepper flakes for a fall meal, add rosemary and honey for summer. Just mix, reshape, and put in the fridge before serving. A homemade touch without the effort.”—Kiernan Black, studio manager at Food52
“My mom is a big proponent of keeping recipes simple and really focusing on making sure every ingredient is prepared in a way that makes it maximally delicious. (She feels most recipes are not honest about how long you actually need to spend caramelizing onions.) Another one: The only acceptable thing to eat for dinner if you’ve been sick all day is homemade chicken noodle soup that’s almost utilitarian in its final presentation. You might get two to three noodles total in your bowl and each is the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted; the only other components are an excellent, thrice-strained broth and tiny pieces of carrot and shredded chicken. Served with cola that’s been sitting out in a glass so it’s flat.” —Ella Quittner, Absolute Best Tests columnist
“Clean as you go. Keep your pan handles turned in. Save and reuse bacon grease to pan-fry green beans, potatoes, etc.”—Dani Kyllo, supply planner at Schoolhouse
“Pretty sure it may be a Rachael Ray tip originally, but my mom’s favorite tip to share is always cook with a big ‘garbage bowl’ on the counter for scraps.”—Jacquie Cosgrove, freelance producer at Food52