Culinary expertise isn’t about memorising recipes – it’s about learning the skills, tricks and food hacks that can take years to pick up.

We asked some of our favourite chefs to rustle up some quick tips so you can benefit from their knowledge in minutes.

34 Chef Approved Cooking Hacks You Need To Know | Men's Fitness UK

Photography: Getty Images


When chopping chillies, rub a little cooking oil into your hands before you start. The oil creates a barrier so the chilli doesn’t get into your skin. Then, once you’ve chopped the chillies, rub some fresh lemon juice into your hands – the acid neutralises the chilli, removing it from your hands more effectively than soap and water.
– Jo Pratt, The Gorgeous Kitchen


Use a toothpick to check your fish is cooked. If you can insert it easily into the thickest part of the flesh, it’s cooked perfectly. Any resistance means it needs a little more time.
– Gee Charman, The Gorgeous Kitchen


Cook onions slowly to draw out their natural sweetness. Once they’ve browned in the pan, turn down the heat and stir frequently for 20-30 minutes – you won’t need sugar.
– Oliver Gladwin, The Shed


Beans – borlotti, haricot blanc, butter, cannellini, kidney, turtle and black-eyed – are high in protein and nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. Either cook them from dried in boiling water or open a tin, rinse and throw into a salad.

You can use them to replace rice or potato, or crush them with olive oil, lemon zest and garlic for a tasty dip. When cooking dried kidney beans, soak them first and boil for half an hour to remove toxins.
– Anna Haugh-Kelly, London House


Substitute pancetta for nuts and seeds in salads. When making a Caesar salad, instead of adding fried pancetta, try pumpkin seeds and Marcona almonds. Both add protein, essential oils and vitamins, and they provide a meaty punch.
– Andy Cook, The Savoy Grill


Look for interesting dried ingredients such as dehydrated balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, powdered seawater – yes, that’s a thing – and kombu dashi.

Mixing these together can lift the flavour of a fresh tuna steak or turkey escalope when used as a dry rub marinade. Dry-fry in a non-stick pan for an intense taste.
– Antony Bennett, La Tasca

34 Chef Approved Cooking Hacks You Need To Know | Men's Fitness UK


Use chickpea flour for batter – it’s gluten free and high in protein. To make our classic pakoras we use a batter made from chickpea flour, water, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, chillies and coriander.

Use it to coat spinach and onions and deep-fry in small balls, tempura style.
– Raju Rawat, Zumbura


Take your time – eating too quickly forces air into the digestive tract where it can get trapped, causing your stomach to bloat.

Chewing each mouthful thoroughly produces enzymes that start to break down fats, simple sugars and starches, so your food reaches your stomach in a more manageable form. This cuts down on fermentation in the gut and reduces the production of gas.
– Jeff Tyler, Novikov


Most risottos are cheesy, creamy and very calorific. For a healthier version, replace your fancy arborio risotto rice with pearl barley and use the same cooking process.
– Danny Brown, Flava-It


We salt-bake a lot of our vegetables before blending them for soup. It helps us to avoid adding extra butter, oil or salt, and it concentrates the flavour.

Bake a butternut squash in its skin on a bed of sea salt, then peel and blend (not the salt) with vegetable stock for a creamy soup.
– Andy Cook, The Savoy Grill


Apart from tiny things such as squid, prawns and so on, protein cooks better if it’s at room temperature first.
– Jacob Kennedy, Bocca Di Lupo


To tenderise squid, cover it with milk and chopped kiwi or pineapple. Store it in the fridge overnight, then rinse and dry thoroughly. The fruit enzymes will break down the meat perfectly.
– Rob Bragagnolo, Marben

34 Chef Approved Cooking Hacks You Need To Know | Men's Fitness UK


Add finely chopped shallots to salad dressing. Vinegar loves shallots, and they add great flavour and a bit of bite. They’re the secret ingredient in my classic French vinaigrette, but I add it to all my dressings.
– Judy Joo, Jinjuu


Soak raw almonds to eat as a snack or add to your favourite food. Soaking nuts makes the proteins more readily available for absorption.
– Shirin Kouros, The Good Life Eatery


Use the back of a plate to sharpen your knife. Place your knife at a 20° angle on the ceramic ring on the bottom of a plate, then slide the blade back and forth five or six times per side. It will be remarkably sharper.
– Rob Bragagnolo, Marben


If you have a sensitive gut, avoid onions, garlic and leeks – which contain fermentable carbohydrates called fructans. Instead of these, use the green, leafy parts of spring onions, leeks and chives to flavour your recipes.
– Dr Joan Ransley,


If you need a very hot pan to cook something such as a steak, add your oil after the pan has been heated to the required temperature or the oil will burn.
– Shirin Kouros, The Good Life Eatery


Cooking en papilotte – inside paper – is a great way to cook fish and vegetables, and avoids oily frying and baking. Cook organic salmon with fennel and summer squash, and enhance the flavours with fresh basil and lemon.

The paper envelope keeps all the flavours together so you lose none of the healthy fats from the fish or the nutrients from the veg.
– Andy Cook, The Savoy Grill


If you perfect the art of making marinades, your meat will taste so good you won’t need a rich sauce or dressing. Blitz lemongrass, ginger, garlic, spring onions, coriander, salt and olive oil together in a blender for a perfect Asian-style marinade.
– Caroline Mili Artiss, The Gorgeous Kitchen


Never season fish before you cook it as it will draw the water to the surface and create steam – that’s why you don’t get a crisp skin.
– Andrew Turner, Hotel Café Royal

34 Chef Approved Cooking Hacks You Need To Know | Men's Fitness UK

Twenty One:

For perfect fried eggs, remove them from the heat when the whites are nearly set, add 2tsp of boiling water, cover with a lid and steam for one minute. They’re great with grilled asparagus spears.
– Alan Gibb, Gleneagles


Scrub vegetables rather than peeling them – that way you preserve the skin, which contains lots of nutrients.
– Steve Pidgeon, The Arundell Arms


Like cut flowers, fresh herbs benefit from having their stalk ends cut and placed in cold water to freshen the leaves.
– Tony Kitous, Comptoir Libanais


When poaching or steaming – which are the healthiest ways to cook – flavour the liquid first. Throw in aromatics, herbs and spices. These will infuse through the water and steam, making whatever you’re cooking more fragrant and flavourful.
– Judy Joo, Jinjuu


When adding a dressing to salad leaves, drizzle it around the inside edge of a mixing bowl, then add your salad and toss together. This will ensure a lighter and more even coating than you would achieve by pouring it on top of the leaves.
– Jo Pratt, The Gorgeous Kitchen


Trying to remove bitterness? A pinch of salt often works better than sugar – especially when you’re using dark chocolate.
– Rob Bragagnolo, Marben


To peel garlic more easily, use two bowls the same size. Put the garlic cloves in one bowl, place the other one on top and press down to crush the cloves. Shake vigorously to release the skins.
– Rob Bragagnolo, Marben


When boiling beans, flavour the cooking liquid. I like to use a crushed garlic clove, half a peeled onion, two bay leaves and half a fresh chilli. Once the beans are cooked, drain them and discard the aromatics.
– Tony Kitous, Comptoir Libanais


Lean meats tend to dry out more easily while cooking, so it’s important that you rest them afterwards to distribute the juice through the meat. As a rule, rest your meat for one minute per 100g. Cover big cuts loosely in foil to stop them getting cold.
– Gee Charman, The Gorgeous Kitchen

34 Chef Approved Cooking Hacks You Need To Know | Men's Fitness UK


To stop vegetables drying out while you’re roasting them, throw a load of super-ripe cherry tomatoes over the top of them halfway through cooking.

The juices from the bursting tomatoes will blend with the water from the vegetables and make some seriously concentrated tasty pan juices that you can drizzle over the top of the final dish.
– Antony Bennett, La Tasca


Use a spoon to peel ginger. The skin comes off easily and you’ll waste less flesh than you would with a knife or peeler.
– Rob Bragagnolo, Marben


Most greens – including sugar snap peas, mange tout, fine beans, tender stem broccoli and spring greens – should be sautéed from raw in a very hot pan with coconut oil and cooked very quickly to maintain their crunch and goodness. Season with Maldon salt flakes and cracked black pepper.
– Taher Jibet, The Dining Room


Make a simple herb butter by mixing chopped herbs with soft butter. You can then use this when grilling meat, fish and vegetables, basting them with it while they cook.
– Tony Kitous, Comptoir Libanais


For creamy-tasting porridge, bread and vegetable pâtés, use sunflower seeds and walnuts that have been soaked overnight. They add texture and nutrients to dishes.
– Dr Joan Ransley,