Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten leads what you might call an aspirational life. Not only is she a Food Network star with a myriad of cookbooks and hit TV shows, but she also pals around with celebs like Taylor Swift and Jennifer Garner and has been married to her soulmate for than 50 years. But in her latest cookbook, Cook like a Pro (out on October 23), she shows her fans how anyone can cook like the Barefoot Contessa at home.
“It’s all about understanding the easiest or best way to prep food,” says Garten when I chatted with her over the phone earlier this month. She has no time for silly food hacks that dirty extra equipment (such as using a bundt pan to take corn kernels off the cob) and instead aims to emulate how professional chefs work — but in her own home kitchen. And she’s happy to share those tips and tricks with her readers. “If cooking is less stressful because you know you’re doing it the right way,” she says, “Then you’re going to cook with more confidence.”10 Baking Hacks From Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten
How to start cooking like Ina Garten now
“People are more casual than I am about measuring things accurately and so [their recipes] don’t always come out the same every time,” says Garten. Many of us keep going back to our favourite restaurants because we love the consistency of the food. Garten explains that the key to consistency is accurately measuring your ingredients. With cooking, you can certainly freestyle it with spices and seasoning, but if you want your dishes to taste the same every time (like at a restaurant) measure your ingredients properly — don’t just throw in a pinch of this or that.
You don’t need to spend a ton on most quality kitchen tools…
Handy tools, such as a kitchen scale (for accurate measuring, especially when baking), dry and wet measure and sheet pans don’t cost a lot of money. For Garten, these are essentials, and if cared for properly, they should last you forever.
…but there are a few you can invest in wisely
If you want to take your cooking to the next level, there are a few tools Garten recommends investing in: All-Clad cookware (because it distributes heat well), Le Creuset cookware (for making soups and stews) and high-quality knives. Garten favours Wusthof.
Sharpen your knives!
Those high-end knives are useless unless you keep them nice and sharp. Garten depends on her Chef’s Choice electric knife sharpener, which she says is much easier to use then a traditional steel or stone.
Practice, practice, practice
“I think everyone thinks they can follow a recipe and make a wedding cake on the first shot, but some things take a little more skill. I think that really is it. Don’t make it the first time for an important dinner party,” says Garten. “Make it on your own when it’s quiet and you have time to think about it and get comfortable with the techniques, and then you’ll be ready when it’s the important dinner party,” she continues. If you want to use a pastry bag to decorate baked goods, for instance, don’t start by trying to pipe roses onto a cake. Instead, fill up that pastry bag with icing on a weekend afternoon and practice piping onto a piece of parchment paper. That way you’ll feel much more comfortable when it comes time to actually decorating a cake.
Don’t forget the salt
“I think people over the years have gotten afraid of salt, but if you taste a chicken stock that doesn’t have enough salt in it… it’s just flat. and if you add the right amount of salt, it just has bright, vibrant flavours and you taste everything in the soup,” says Garten. Salt makes flavours pop, so season as you go until your dishes taste just right.
Use good ingredients
“I know people tease me about it, and I think it’s funny, but use good ingredients,” says Garten, poking fun at one of her signature catch-phrases. She explains it’s not about using the most expensive ingredients, but it’s essential to use ingredients that taste good to you. Even Garten and her team taste-test ingredient to see what they like best. Recently, for instance, Garten and her assistant taste-tested six different high-quality chocolate brands to see if Lindt bittersweet, which Garten had been using for years, was still their favourite for baked goods. The result? “It turns out, reveals Garten, The Lindt is the one we liked the most.”