From how to poach an egg to the perfect steak: 5 cooking techniques to master while you're at home

These five essential kitchen skills are great basics to master while you're spending more time at home

If you can't go out for perfectly cooked steak, learn to prepare your own. Courtesy The Meat Co
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Now you've got a bit more time to spend in the kitchen, why not use the opportunity to brush up on your culinary skills? Here are five skills that every would-be chef should master.

Poaching an egg

Poached eggs can be tricky to get right. iStockphoto
Poached eggs can be tricky to get right. iStockphoto

The perfect poached egg – a smooth ball of egg white encircling a soft yolk that spills out when you cut in to it – can be elusive. So elusive, in fact, that some of us venture out for breakfast on the weekends just to avoid having to attempt to do it ourselves.

To master this technique, you’ll need a saucepan, a slotted spoon and an egg that is cold and fresh – these have a thicker white around the yolk so are more likely to hold their shape. Crack your egg into a bowl and add a drop of white vinegar. Bring a pan of water to a gentle simmer and then gently stir the water to create a whirlpool effect. Slowly tip your egg into the centre of this whirlpool. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave for five minutes. Do not check, stir or prod your egg in this time. Just be patient. Remove your egg with the slotted spoon and serve immediately.

Getting rice just right

Rice si the foundation of many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. Courtesy Royal Biryani
Rice si the foundation of many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. Courtesy Royal Biryani

Rice is the cornerstone of many Middle Eastern and sub-continental dishes, but can be tricky to get just right; you’re either left with a slightly sticky or soggy mess, or with grains that are a tad too al dente. But all you need for perfect fluffy rice is a mug, a pan and some boiled water, says Jamie Oliver. Place one cup of white basmati rice into a pan, followed by two cups of  water  (boiling or cold). This should be enough to serve four people. Add a pinch of salt, cover your pan, put on a high heat and cook for eight to 10 minutes. Simple as that.

Cooking a steak

Cook your steak in a hot griddle pan for the best results. Courtesy Nourishing Dubai
Cook your steak in a hot griddle pan for the best results. Courtesy Nourishing Dubai

Heat and speed are your friends when it comes to cooking a good steak. The cut, type and size of your steak will depend on your preference and budget, but pan frying is widely agreed to be the most effective method of preparing any steak. Make sure you have a large saucepan that gives your steaks plenty of space to sizzle – a heavy griddle pan or skillet are your best bet as they get very hot and then retain that heat. Take your steak out of the fridge an hour before you cook it, to bring it down to room temperature. Steak purists will need nothing more than some olive oil, salt and pepper to marinade. Rub your meat over with these three ingredients and leave to sit. Drizzle some oil into your frying pan and leave on a high heat for a minute. Add the steak, a knob of butter and some thyme or rosemary. For a medium-rare finish, cook for six minutes, turning it over every minute so that both sides are cooked evenly. Once cooked, leave to rest for five minutes.

Dicing an onion

Learn to dice onions with dry eyes. Christopher Pike / The National
Learn to dice onions with dry eyes. Christopher Pike / The National

The secret to tear-free onion chopping is leaving the root on, says Gordon Ramsay. You'll also need a sharp knife. Slice your onion in half, through the root, and then peel and place one half, face down, on your chopping board. Using strong, steady strokes, finely slice, lengthwise, at five-millimetre intervals, getting as close to the root as possible. Push the onion back together and then angle your knife horizontally and cut across the middle of your onion. Now slice downwards across the width, until you get to the root. You should be left with a finely diced onion and dry eyes.

Pitting an avocado

JMGWR6 Ripe fresh avocado with leaves on blue wooden table. Irina Naoumova / Alamy Stock Photo
Learn to pit an avocado without causing an injury. Alamy Stock Photo

The Internet was rife with examples of “avocado hand” a couple of years ago – nasty injuries inflicted as people tried to pit avocados with knives and unwittingly sliced into their own flesh instead.

The answer is to place your avocado on its side on a chopping board. Place one hand on top of the avocado and then slice into the flesh with your knife’s blade parallel to the board, halfway up the fruit. Then start rotating the fruit so that your knife slices through the flesh, without either of your hands getting any closer to the blade. Once you’ve made a complete circle around your avocado, simply twist apart the halves. Grab a spoon and gently ease the pit out. This should leave you ready to prep some guac, with all your fingers intact.