Ask the Critic: Searching for Consistency 

Why do my meals taste different each time I cook them?

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Question: How do chefs manage to achieve consistency in their dishes night after night in restaurants, but when I cook at home, things always seem to come out different from one time to the next?

I think the most common mistake home cooks make in the kitchen is not tasting as they go. If you’re ever in a restaurant kitchen, you’ll notice that professional chefs usually have a spoon or set of spoons in their breast pocket. They use them to taste dishes as they are cooking them, not just the final product. If you “taste as you go,” you can control for factors such as saltiness, texture, tenderness, the right amount of seasoning and so on before it’s too late to do anything about it. So, for consistency’s sake, always taste as you go, and then one final time before plating your food.

In two-plus decades of food and wine writing and restaurant reviews, I’ve learned a lot of valuable tips and tricks from professional cooks, sommeliers and chefs. Got a cooking, wine or general restaurant question? Send it to me, and I’ll do my best to find an answer.

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