Take My Word For It

Chef Dennis Clay shares some interesting bits of kitchen wisdom that he's gained over the years.



Here are some tips and tricks that I've found helpful in my own kitchen.

Tip No. 1:

Save empty plastic water bottles, wash them out, fill them with clean water and freeze them. When you are making large batches of soup or chili you can use the” ice wands” to cool your soups down quicker for safe handling. It is important not to place a large pot of hot food directly in your refrigerator because this will warm up the environment and the food around it, making it a haven for bacterial growth. After your pot is off of the heat, fill a clean sink up half way with cold water and ice. Place the pot in the sink, making sure the water line does not breach over the lip of the pot. Place two or three ice wands inside your pot and stir every few minutes for a total of one hour. Once the hour is up, you may pull the pot from the sink and discard the Ice wands. Your food is now cool enough to store properly. Remember, the danger zone for food is between 41 and 135 degrees Farenheit within a four hour window.

Tip No. 2:

Everyone knows to keep a box of baking soda in their refrigerator and freezer to promote freshness but did you know there are many more uses for sodium bicarbonate than just baking and keeping your fridge odors neutralized? Add ¼ teaspoon per three eggs when you are making omelets or scrambled eggs for a fluffier end result. Run ¼ cup of baking soda through your coffee maker to clean the lines. Did imbibing too much barbeque and libations giving you a killer case of heartburn? Create an antacid by mixing ½ teaspoon of baking soda with ½ cup of water and drink it down.

Tip No. 3:

Everyone sees the commercials for really great kitchen gadgets that have a very specific purpose. I like shiny things as much as the next person, but my pragmatism and proclivity to make one tool do the job of many doesn’t allow me to cave to the whimsical nature of these fly-by night must-haves. They are space invaders, filling every cabinet and shelf without much purpose.  I travel for work sometimes; having to cook in bare kitchens and bringing my own tools is something I have become accustomed to. Here is what I can bring to make any meal happen: chef’s knife, paring knife, bread knife, slotted spoon, large spoon, whisk, heat resistant spatula, wooden cooking spoon, offset metal spatula, fish spatula, zester and vegetable peeler. If you can’t make good food happen with these simple tools, no crazy contraption will be able to save your meal.

Tip No. 4:

I love having small amounts of cooked rice in the refrigerator. I can whip up an array of dishes with this simple ingredient and having it precooked saves a step when I am on the go. I find the key to rice being the texture of the granules. If they are cooked for too long, the rice becomes homogenous. Not long enough and it's al dente. My trick for perfect rice every time is to cook it like pasta. I start with 6 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt. When your water reaches a boil add two cups of your favorite rice. Cook on a medium heat and stir it often; taste your rice for for texture along the way. Once it is almost completely cooked, about 12 minutes, pull it from the heat, strain through a fine mesh strainer and run the rice under cool water while it is in the strainer. Now you are ready for quick-fire dinners and to-go lunches!

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