The 10 Best Pieces of Cooking Advice From Julia Child

By Paul Michael on 11 August 2015 0 comments

Julia Child was an inspiration to many, and not just because the lady could cook. She didn't enroll in culinary school until she was 37 years old; to many, that's quite late in your life to begin a new career. And her first television cooking show, The French Chef, premiered on February 11th, 1964. At the time, Julia Child was 50, and it went on to become an enormous hit.

What we can learn from Julia, beyond her incredible drive and ambition, is that it's never too late to change your life. And when it comes to learning skills in the kitchen, she was a very deep well of useful information. Here are 10 of the best pieces of cooking advice I learned from Julia, and still use to this day.

1. Use the Shake and Jerk Omelet Technique

For years, my omelets were nothing to write home about. Basically, large flat discs of egg that, when cold, could be used as Frisbees. Then, I saw a video of Julia Child making an omelet that forever changed the way I made them. You need to have your burner on the highest setting, and get the pan very hot. Place a nob of butter in the pan, swirl it around, and add your whisked eggs. Then, you do the shake and jerk technique. It literally takes seconds to make, and the omelet comes out incredibly light and smooth. It almost melts in the mouth. Try it.

2. Squeeze Your Spinach!

The title on this great clip says it all: "Squeezing it seems like sacrilege." For many of us, the idea of treating a vegetable this way is abhorrent. You're crushing the life out of it, right? Well, not at all. After cooking your spinach, you have to get rid of all that water before you chop and braise it (butter-braised spinach will turn spinach haters into spinach lovers… trust me, I am a convert). If you don't, you'll end up with tasteless, watery mush. It's also vital to do this when you layer spinach in lasagna, or add it to a dip.

3. Pre-Cook Poached Eggs in Their Shells

I remember the mess my mum and dad's poached eggs would make in the pan; bits of egg white floating everywhere, and the end result was a very bizarre and misshapen set of eggs. Julia Child solved that little problem for me. You simply prick the ends of your eggs with a pin, to let the air escape, and then dip them in the boiling water for 10 seconds, with the shells on. Then, when you crack the eggs into the water, they will hold their shape incredibly well. And remember, add a splash of vinegar to your water, too.

4. Never Be Afraid to Fail

Not just a tip for the kitchen, but a tip for living your life. Julia Child stated, in no uncertain terms, that "cooking is one failure after another, and that's how you finally learn." This should be something you embrace as you set out to cook anything, be it something as simple as the poached eggs mentioned above, or an elaborate dinner. Failing is just learning another way not to do something, and it can only make you a better chef.

5. Cut Up the Turkey Before Roasting

I enjoy a whole roasted turkey at least twice a year… once on Thanksgiving, and again on Christmas Day. Some people prefer to change it up and have a different meat at Christmas, but it's turkey for me. Anyway, if you pick a particularly large bird, it can take four to five hours to cook the beast. However, using the Julia Child method, you can cut that time in half. What she does is separate the breasts from the legs and wings, and cooks them in the same pan. It's an awesome way to get the same tasty meal but much more quickly, and you can still assemble them to look like a whole bird at the table.

6. Sharpen Knives in Circles

Most of us have a knife set in the kitchen, and that will include a sharpening steel. When you see chefs do it on TV, they do it so quickly it's hard to make out the technique they're using. But on just her second episode of The French Chef, Julia showed everyone just how to sharpen a chef's knife using a sharpening steel. The technique is one of holding the knife at a 20 degree angle and bringing it down the steel in a circle — NOT straight up and down. Do this on either side, and do it every time you use the knife, to keep it razor sharp. It has worked for me for years.

7. Add Oil to Your Butter When Sautéing

A simple tip, and it may seem obvious to many. But for years, I would try (and often fail) to cook food in butter without it turning brown and burning. As Julia explains, by adding a little oil (peanut or olive) to unsalted butter, you fortify it, preventing it from burning. Do it every time, it's so great not to see your butter turning dark brown.

8. Test Baking Soda in Hot Water

Did you know baking soda has a life expectancy? Well, it does, and it's about six months. You can test your baking soda to ensure it is still active by simply adding a teaspoon of it to a cup of hot water. If you don't see it bubble and fizz, it's time to throw it out and get a new box.

9. Soak Your Potatoes Before Frying

I love chips, or as you prefer to say in America, French fries. From an early age, I remember seeing the cut up potatoes soaking in a big bowl of water several hours before my parents would fry them up. Julia Child advises you to do the same. By soaking the potatoes, you remove the excess potato starch. This stops the fries from sticking together in the fryer, and also makes them come out crispy. Never fry freshly-cut, unsoaked potatoes. They just won't be very good.

10. Give Dough the Smackdown

If you don't bake your own bread, you're missing out. Aside from the incredible smell, and the taste of fresh, warm bread, it's also insanely cheap to make. French bread is a favorite of mine, and Julia Child teaches you how to make great dough. The biggest lesson learned is that you really need to smack that bread down hard on the work surface. Really throw it down hard on the counter from a height, repeatedly. This, according to Julia, is the best way to get the gluten molecules to bond together, forming an elastic dough. And it's also great stress relief!

Any tips from Julia Child that you rely on everyday?

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mary

I miss her everyday, I was given The art of French cooking in 1970 and I have used it a lot..I enjoyed her joy of life and all she did for civilized people to dine together..I loved her takes on modern life, she has a sweet cooking show on pbs here and all who are great bakers and chefs were there to learn from the Queen Bee as I call her, rest in peace Miss Julia there will never be the likes of such a person on this earth again!