Whether you think of yourself as Bobby Flay re-incarnate or not, there are a few cooking tips to keep in mind when grilling, cooking and sautéing.

The Frequent Flipper/Stirrer

Your food needs to cook. In order to cook, sometimes you just need to leave it alone. I know, I know…. It is so tempting when you hear that sizzle to move the chicken in the pan or to flip your burger on the grill, but trust me. Just. Let. It. Cook. Recipes come with times as to how long they need to cook per side and regardless if you think it needs to be flipped, stirred or moved, sometimes it is best to leave well enough alone to ensure you get a great sear.

I remember watching TV when Michael Smith had his show on the Food Network and he used to say that meat needs to cook and will “release” from the pan when it is ready to be flipped. In other words, the meat you are cooking needs to stay put in order to ensure a great sear prior to flipping to the other side.

Too Much Food in the Pan

When you are heating your skillet or your pan, it reaches it’s peak temperature when you are heating your oil. When you start adding your food, overcrowding decreases the temperature and will not give your food the perfect sear or any sear for that matter. You know those recipes when it says, “Add meat to the pan, but be sure not to over crowd. Finish this step in batches”-it is referring to overcrowding your pan and decreasing the temperature of the pan which impacts not only the cooking time, but also how your food will turn out.

Cook your food in batches and be sure not to overcrowd-think stews that you need to brown prior to adding your liquid. Or stir fry pieces. Don’t pile on top of each other and stir around forever. The meat will cook, but it will take longer, it will not create a crisp crust.

Adding Garlic Too Early

Listen. Garlic burns super fast.

When you are cooking, you want to heat your oil or butter over medium heat and then add your garlic. It needs to be stirred often to avoid burning. Think shrimp with lemon butter and garlic. Once your butter is warm, add your garlic, stir, stir, stir, then add a couple squeezes of lemon and a hit of white wine. and voila! The perfect sauce for your shrimp!

Or, if you are cooking with other ingredients that take a while to cook-think chicken breast or onions- start cooking the other ingredients first. Then add your garlic. This way your are sure not to burn the garlic.

And by the way, when garlic burns, It’s nasty.

Pull It Out… You Heard Me

When I started cooking, I was in my 20’s living alone in an apartment. I would pull out my pan, add my oil and turn on the burner. Then I would furiously follow the recipe one step at a time until dinner was done. In other words, when the recipe said “Add your chopped peppers” I would run to the fridge, grab the pepper and chop it in a mad rush while my oil was smoking. If the recipe then said, “Add your chopped potatoes,” well, you got it. I rushed to grab a potato, peel it and then chop it to add to the peppers. All this to say, it was hectic, I burned a lot and I did not enjoy cooking. At all.

One day it just dawned on me: Read the recipe in it’s entity prior to turning any appliance on, grab everything needed for the recipe and put on the counter. Chop, mince, slice and peel everything, then once my ingredients were prepped, the pan was turned on. What a freakin’ difference!

So there are your 4 tips to make cooking easy: stop being a frequent flipper, don’t overcrowd, add garlic later and pull it out…. pull it all out.

Stay sassy friends.