If you're pushing 30 and the sight of phrases like "al dente", "sauté", and "braised" in a recipe make you break out in a cold sweat and send your trembling hand to the nearest takeaway app on your phone, you should get your cooking act together pronto - at least according to a handful of top chefs.
We asked top chefs to run down the cooking techniques that a person needs to master by the time they're 30, and when they've passed that milestone.
Silvia Baldini is a New York-based chef and winner of Food Network’s Chopped
Learn to steam, poach and boil. These simple techniques are a great and healthy way to cook delicate seafood and veggies.
When a person hits 30, they should also be able to cook eggs. Three minutes for a proper egg and soldiers; six minutes for soft boiled and 10 minutes for hard boiled. If you feel adventurous you can learn how to poach an egg. I add two tablespoons of white vinegar to salted boiling water then I drop a cracked egg, gently, in the water and I cook it for no more than three minutes. I use a slotted spoon to spin the water and shape the egg or you can always use a poacher.
Robert Prendergast is the executive chef at the Waldorf Hotel in London
In truth, it's patience. People rush food these days. Long gone are the days of sticking in the roast beef Sunday morning first thing on 56 degrees and then going out as a family or with your mates and coming back at lunch time to find this beautifully cooked beef in the oven or the slow volcanic simmer of making a hearty chunky beef stew which is left to carefully go about its business so all those cubes of goodness flake away on the first mouthful. I would also have to recommend braising as the key tool to master. Essentially there isn’t much mastering, more understanding and faith. But with the plethora of cuts out there that if braised correctly it can produce some outstanding results.
Marco Scire is a La Belle Assiette private chef in Edinburgh
By the time a person is 30, they should master the following.
Proofing: understand the importance of leaving your dough to rest. This is secret of any good bread or pizza or anything else that you may see at local bake.
Deglazing: it might complicated but in reality it is one of the simplest thing to do. It is a cooking technique to remove browned food residue from a pan to flavour sauces, soups and gravies.
Steve Groves is head chef at Roux at Parliament Square, London, and former winner of MasterChef: The Professionals
Master sauces. Obviously this is a very broad area, but having a good repertoire of sauce can be a game changer. A sauce can really bring a dish to life or it can be the element that just brings the whole dish together. It could be a meaty jus or gravy to help carry the flavour of the main event through the dish, or it could be a piquant salsa verde to bring freshness and acidity to help bring balance to something rich. Sauces I would look to master are: meat jus, gravy, butter sauce or beurre blanc, cream sauce or veloute, mayonnaise and hollandaise. Armed with these you have hundreds of options to deliver extra flavour.