Web Cooking Classes with Chef Todd MohrWeb Cooking Classes with Chef Todd Mohr

By Chef Todd

The Chef Test Reveals The 7 Skills You Must Have
If You Want To Learn To Cook

Over the years, I’ve had to hire dozens of chefs and cooks. During their interview process, I don't have them cook their signature dish. Just like the handful of dishes you can cook at home without a recipe, a chef has practiced their signature dish many times and that doesn't help me to determine their overall cooking abilities. Instead, I want to see some basic skills.

This is my chef-test and it highlights the skills everyone should possess if they want to learn to cook anything at any time and be confident it will always come out great.

I'm going to share with you the seven basic skills that I think everyone should have to cook food consistently in the kitchen and be proud of the results. If you already have all seven of these skills and cooking techniques, you can work for me. On the other hand, if you have only one of these skills, that's fantastic! Why? Because I know you'll want to add other skills and learn to cook based on the methods behind all recipes and Make Your Cooking A Winner Every Single Time.

Here are my 7 chef tests to reveal their knowledge of basic cooking methods:
1. Use a chefs knife correctly and cut vegetables into three sizes
2. Anticipate when oil is about to reach the smoke point
3. Develop color during sauté
4. Thicken a liquid to make a sauce
5. Softly poach an egg
6. Roast a delicate item like fish
7. Tell when a grilled steak is done

I’ve blogged about fear of cooking, about doubts in cooking, about guessing in cooking, and now inconsistency in cooking. I'm sharing all of this with you because they all stem from the same basic root. Fears, doubts, and guessing come from a lack of knowledge about underlying cooking methods. In order to cook food like a chef, you need an understanding of the techniques that chefs use to cook food.

Think about watching a magician. Magic is always amazing when you watch the magician’s hands like he wants you to. However, once you’ve been shown how the trick works, you start looking for the re-direction. You now know his method, you can anticipate when he’ll repeat it and the mystery and wonder is gone.

The mysterious magic and wonder in cooking is destroyed by repetitive cooking method. These are certain basic skills that you can duplicate again and again. Just as a magician can make a playing card, coin, dollar bill, credit card, all disappear in the same slight of hand, you can cook chicken, fish, steak, vegetables, pork, in the same repetitive method and the magic will appear for you.

Here are the answers to my chef test:

1. Using a Chefs knife correctly
The first indicator of an experienced cook from a novice is the way they handle the most used tool in the kitchen, a chef’s knife. In culinary college, my students have to cut carrots into three sizes: Brunoise, Batonette and Small Dice. Brunoise (“broon-wah”) is the French word for an eighth-inch cube. It’s a tiny little cut that you’d find in chicken salad or soup. Batonette (“Bat-ton-et”) is a 2 inch stick that’s a quarter-inch on all sides. Small Dice is a quarter-inch cube. Small Dice comes from Batonette as cubes are always cut from sticks.

Pass: The result of this chef test should be three items that are precisely twice or half the size of the others. Consistency of cut is consistency of cook, so knife skills are very important for excellent results.

Fail: Items are cut into a wide variety of shapes and sizes, or items all cut to the same size.
If you’re using two hands on the chefs knife in a “mezzaluna” motion, you’ll create inconsistent cuts.

2. Anticipate when oil is about to smoke
The skill here is understanding the convective cooking process. When liquid in a pan begins to move as it heats up, it rises to the top of the pan and cools again. You can actually see this movement in hot oil. Soon after this convection begins, the oil will begin to smoke. You know you've got this skill down when someone can put 3 oils in front of you and you can tell them which has the highest smoking point by observing their reaction to heat.

Pass: The chef notices the oil changing from being perfectly smooth to beginning a convection process and adds the protein product to the pan just before there is visible smoke.

Fail: The oil smokes and you have to start again.

3. Develop color during sauté
Nicely browned foods are attractive foods. To develop a golden color in the sauté’ pan, you have to get the sugars to caramelize at 320 degrees Fahrenheit. The key is getting the pan hot enough to start. You can observe this and quantify the temperature in a pan by sprinkling a few drops of water and witness the reaction.

Pass: A chicken breast with a beautiful brown plate-appeal shows the ability to control heat so that the item develops color but doesn’t lose moisture or burn.

Fail: A chicken breast that is pale, that has shrunken, stiffened and lost moisture. This shows a lack of involvement with the preliminary steps in sauté.

4. Thicken a liquid to make a sauce
There are different thickening agents that can be used to make a sauce. For me, I would want my chef to be able to make a blonde, brown, or brick roux. Flour and cornstarch are wonderful thickening agents but you need to have an understanding of how much to use and this can only happen with controlling the process of gelatinization of starches.

Pass: A cup of milk turns into a thickened sauce that is shiny, velvety and without lumps. This sauce should be pourable, not plop-able.

Fail: A cup of milk that looks like mashed potatoes or cottage cheese. Without an understanding of how starches thicken liquids, it’s difficult to make consistently great sauces.

5. Softly poach an egg
This is a moist convective process and means that the chef would need to have an understanding of the difference between boil, simmer and poach. A common mistake of home cooks and chefs alike is always boiling items. Boiling is NOT a cooking method. Once you understand how to control the reaction of liquid in a pan, you will be able to perfectly poach a very delicate item like eggs without making Egg Drop Soup.

Pass: A nicely poached egg that looks like it should be in a magazine. The egg should have a bright yolk that sits high on the albumen and should be fully in tact.

Fail: An egg that has been busted up into pieces because of simmering or rapidly boiling liquid. This egg is dull, the yolk cannot be identified and won’t be in a magazine.

6. Roast a delicate item like fish
This is the ability to control dry convective heat. In controlling dry heat, there is a fine line between the coagulation of proteins at 165 degrees Fahrenheit (when the food would stiffen and shrink) and 212 degrees Fahrenheit when moisture starts evaporating. The key to cooking in dry heat is being able to cook in that temperature zone where the food cooks before it dries out.

Pass: A piece of fish that is fully cooked and retains its moisture without drying out. With delicate items, convective heat will dry the item before sugars caramelize, so I don’t expect the fish to be brown.

Fail: A piece of fish that is brown and dry, it’s much smaller that its raw state because of the drying effect of the oven. This chef doesn’t know how to retain moisture in a dry cooking process.

7. Tell when a grilled steak is done
The best test that I can think of for this is to hand my chef three steaks and ask the chef to cook them to order: one rare, one medium, and one well done. So how do you do that? Use a thermometer. Cooking with a recipe and without a thermometer is like driving down the road with a map while you're blindfolded. You've got all of the directions, but you'll never know when you've gotten to your destination....if you can even get close!

Pass: Finished steaks that have attractive grill marks and are equally browned, but cooked to different internal temperatures. The cook that uses a thermometer passes this test.

Fail: Three steaks all cooked to the same doneness, or the inability to tell which steak should be rare, medium, or well done. This chef can’t control direct source conductive heat and would create waste rather than sales for the steaks being sent back to the kitchen.

This is what’s going on in my kitchen! But if you want to cook great food more consistently and learn to cook in your own home, then you will want to pay attention to cooking techniques and have repeatable methods. These are the same methods I reveal in my webinar, Discover the 3 Secrets to Making Your Cooking A Winner Every Single Time.

Understanding these methods will allow you to make sense out of any recipe or to not use a recipe at all because of your increased understanding of how different cooking techniques work. You’ll be creating things the way you want them and be able to do it again and again.

Discover the difference between how professionals and home cooks are taught in my next
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By Chef Todd

The Harsh Realities of Inconsistent Cooking

I know I've been asking you a lot of questions lately and I want you to know that it's with good reason. To cook like a chef at home, you have to break old habits and old habits can't be broken if you aren't aware of them. It's important to me to make sure that you understand the science of cooking as well as the cooking techniques that are going to make you feel more comfortable and confident.

Some of you have been grateful for the extra questions and answers. Others of you have been upset that I haven't actually been cooking more. Well, I've been listening and have come up with what I think is going to be a great solution for everyone. I'm going to have my first Free Live Video WebCast coming soon. In fact, you'll be able to tell me what to cook and interact with me live while I cook. I'll have more details for you soon.

In the meantime...have you ever thought this?

“I can cook things, am considered a good cook by my family,

but I don’t understand why my cooking is inconsistent.”

This statement is perhaps the number one comment I get from students in WebCookingClasses.com.

Most people I talk to like to cook or love to cook, but suffer from not being able to duplicate their results each time. They’re missing an internalization of the science of cooking, the internalization of basic cooking techniques. It's impossible to cook like a chef if you can't maintain consistency from meal to meal.

Being able to duplicate excellence is what makes people outstanding! Think about it...an athlete can duplicate their motions exactly each time by using muscle memory.

  • What if Tiger Woods swung his club in a different direction each time?
  • What if basketball player shot fouls differently each time?

Consistent excellent results is the definition of greatness. As a result, as a professional chef, cooking consistently is absolutely imperative to me. It stands to reason that in order for you to cook like a chef, you need to be able to repeat methods for consistent results.

Now, I don't think that consistent flavors are as important to you as a home cook, because I believe each of your meals should be a new inspiration. But, to cook like a chef at home, you do have to duplicate methods, regardless of the final flavoring or seasoning for your meal.

So, let's bring in the harsh realities of practicing inconsistent cooking:

  • Undependable results
    • Sometimes things look appetizing, sometimes not.
  • Variations in doneness
    • Of two items in the same pan, one is cooked, one is not.
    • You don’t really know which hamburger is “medium”.
  • Varied portion sizes
    • Your cookies are all different shapes and sizes.
  • Purchasing foods for convenience rather than flavor
    • You’re buying sauces in a jar or dry packet.

Eliminating these harsh realities of inconsistent cooking with a few standard cooking techniques will also eliminate much of the stress and fear of cooking. (You see, it all ties together!) Stay tuned and you'll learn more about the science of cooking and cook like a chef in no time.

Next time, I’ll give you my 7 step chef test to becoming a more consistent cook at home.

Cook like a chef at home in 16 weeks, guaranteed with my online cooking classes.

Get a FREE 14 day trial in WebCookingClasses.com

By Chef Todd

If You Don’t Prepare for Daylight Savings Time Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Daylight savings time is the practice of advancing clocks so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Although it was originally designed to reduce electric usage, there’s controversy over whether it’s actually had this effect. Now, daylight savings is primarily used a marker for the beginning of a season and to take care of certain items like changing your clock and changing your smoke detector batteries. You may be saying, "But, Chef Todd! This is interesting and we love the info, but what in the world does it have to do with the art of cooking?"

I'm so glad you asked!

Whether we change the clocks or not, the days get longer naturally. This is a signal for the plants to start getting ready to provide fruits vegetables, herbs and spices for us in the coming growing season. Now we're cooking!

If you have a love of cooking, there are some cooking tasks that you should associate with daylight savings time. The most cooking fun of the year is cooking outdoors. Some might say it's an art form.

As with any artist, some preparation is in order for you to prepare for the season of fun, outdoor cooking. First, to be able to practice the art of cooking outdoors, you will need clean cooking tools.

Let's start outside:

  • Inspect and clean the BBQ grill, smoker, and/or your outdoor cookers.
  • Look for spiders and dirt.
  • Check your gas tank for leaks (put some soapy water on a pastry brush and brush the liquid mixture onto the top of the tank, turn on the pressure...you don't want to see bubbles)

Cooking is a lot more fun when you have enough gas, charcoal or wood chips for your outdoor cooking. It's certainly no fun to run out of gas in the middle of cooking a steak.

As soon as you feel the last frost has come, spend some time preparing your herbs indoors and outdoors. Window box herbs will give you a small, quick start, but your outdoor garden should be tilled and fertilized for the coming season. If you start putting some love into your garden now, you'll be ready for some fun, tasty cooking early in the season.

But your outdoor herbs aren’t the only things that need attention for you to have some fun cooking. In my next post, we'll talk about how the art of cooking outdoors also requires some inside preparation.

Cook like a chef at home in 16 weeks, guaranteed with my online cooking classes.

Get a FREE 14 day trial in WebCookingClasses.com

By Chef Todd

Worst Cooks in America Finale

The Blackboard is Gone

The final two contestants on Worst Cooks in America have learned to cook like a chef! They’ve done it in only ten days!

How do I know that Jenni and Rachael have absorbed a few tricks about the science of cooking? It’s because there’s no blackboard in the final episode of the Food Network reality mini-series. Once the written recipes were removed and they had to concentrate on basic cooking methods, even the worst cooks in America were cooking gourmet to fool top critics.

While early weeks concentrated on creating controversy and tension for the cameras, the last two episodes have shown that it takes very little actual education to gain cooking confidence.

If you don’t know how to boil water, it’s okay. It’s not your fault that you don’t know how to cook. Cooking like a chef is not an innate skill. You weren’t born having taken cooking classes in-utero. So, it’s okay to start now.

We’ve witnessed on Worst Cooks in America that just a few cooking method tidbits can create a curiosity in anyone. This passion then seeks out cooking lessons, online cooking classes, or even a school of cooking.

I’ve heard from two of the contestants on this show, and they mention a sudden passion for cooking videos, cooking websites and a desire to learn to cook.

This isn’t because they enjoy following a recipe on a blackboard.
It’s not because they like the cooking method of being yelled at by a chef under tight time constraints. They love what they create from their hearts and minds.

Every contestant on this show has experienced what I teach people all over the globe on a daily basis.
Any school of cooking, even online cooking classes, or cooking videos that ignore written recipes to focus on basic cooking methods will empower you with confidence. Confidence leads to risk-taking and curiosity. Curiosity needs to be fed information.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but “Thank you Food Network, for finally teaching someone to cook.” And thank you for proving the point I’ve been making for years. Learn to cook by basic cooking methods and forget the written recipe, especially if it’s written on a blackboard.

Previous Posts about Worst Cooks in America:
Finally! Cook-fidence!
The Flavors in Jennifer Cross' Head Saved her Butt
Cooking is About Crying and Salt
Worst Cooking Instructors in America
Are You the Worst Cook in America?

By Chef Todd

Worst Cooks in America Ep 5

Finally! "Cook-fidence"!

Worst Cooks in America was back with their penultimate episode last night, leaving me conflicted. It’s a lousy show. Bringing family members to the cloistered can’t-cooks is a divisive tear-inducing tactic, but I’m still compelled to watch.

Why do I keep watching this Food Network show? It’s because I’m chuckling under my breath at the irony of Worst Cooks in America. Among all their celebrity chefs, new catch-phrases, and cross-promotion for product placement, the network is actually teaching someone to cook! I don’t think they expected THAT to happen.

While the MTV of Food has been focused on the juicy “reality show” clips of crying when cooking
for the past 4 weeks, something has happened. With the audience having been excluded, the 4 remaining contestants suddenly know all kinds of culinary terms and techniques.

What could possibly be the difference that turned off all the waterworks? It’s sudden cooking confidence. I’ll coin it “Cook-fidence”!

Cook-fidence is what the contestants of Worst Cooks in America suddenly have. It’s not because they’ve learned EVERYTHING about cooking. They’ve learned enough to leave the written recipe behind. It’s liberating! Tears of joy and accomplishment replace tears of frustration.

Just a small amount of knowledge, just a pinch of basic cooking methods, and the permission to create things on their own has inspired them with great confidence. They don’t possess every cooking secret, they’ve learned a simple few that then allows their creativity to take over.

Cook-fidence has taken the place of written recipes and all the results are better on Worst Cooks in America. It can happen in your home when you learn to cook with basic methods over cooking recipes.

Previous Posts about Worst Cooks in America:
The Flavors in Jennifer Cross' Head Saved her Butt
Cooking is About Crying and Salt
Worst Cooking Instructors in America
Are You the Worst Cook in America?

Burn Your Recipes!
Cook with Basic Cooking Methods over written recipes!

Get the complete 3-DVD series HERE!

By Chef Todd

Beer Shrimp Scampi for Football Food

My top secret for keeping your tailgate party food hot was revealed yesterday, but today I want to cook my football food right in the parking lot. With a portable camper saute burner rather than a small charcoal grill, I'll demonstrate how to cook Beer Shrimp Scampi saute from Carter/Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

If you've been following my videos over the past two years, you know how I feel about outdoor grilling. It's the great male excuse. If you're trying to learn to cook, and were to cook a steak on your indoor stove top to a black char, it would be unacceptable. However, if you cook a steak outdoors, on a barbeque grill, and it's charred black, it's "nicely blackened". Burnt is burnt, indoors or out. I don't know why men think it's easier to cook outdoors than indoors. I believe the exact opposite.

If the outdoor barbeque grill you have at home is for natural charcoal, it's the most difficult heat in your house to apply consistently. If your grill is propane gas, it's hard to learn how to barbeque grill because it's probably the hottest element you have in your home.

Since controlling heat is the key to cooking, the barbeque grill is the most volatile cooking element you have at your disposal. You can compound this cooking challenge by trying to use a portable barbeque grill. The smaller grills are even harder to control, and more difficult to get even heat.

The most reliable source of heat will be direct, conductive heat as applied in basic saute. Bringing a portable camper stove and saute pan to your next tailgate party gives much greater variety in cooking. You can heat a saute pan more evenly, apply fats and compound flavors better than a barbeque grill, and deglaze the pan with liquids to make pan sauces. Your tailgate party saute will have more moisture and flavor than the 2 hour old grilled hot dog.

I'd rather saute any day. Whether at home, indoors, or in the parking lot preparing my football food for the tailgate party, the direct heat of a saute pan is easier to control and gives me greater options than a barbeque grill can.

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!

The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.


By Chef Todd

Football Food for your Tailgate Party

Planning football food for your tailgate party can mean bringing your tailgate recipes with you, or creating them at home. If you choose to bring food, I've got the secrets to keeping your football food hot until the game starts.

My first secret to successful tailgate food is to always bring two coolers to my tailgate party. One is a cold cooler to keep my ingredients for on-site cooking below the temperature danger zone of 40f - 140f (6c - 60c). This way, when I choose to make a saute of shrimp scampi tomorrow, all my ingredients will be fresh and safe.

The second cooler I bring is the hot cooler. The hot cooler is filled with the football food items that I've made at home, but am bringing to the tailgate party. Again, the challenge is to keep these hot items ABOVE the same temperature danger zone mentioned above. How do you keep items in a hot cooler as hot as possible? You can't have an open flame or charcoal in a plastic cooler.

I'm going to share my #1 caterer's secret for keeping food hot on-the-go with you, and it involves something that you look at every day. This household item will put out heat for hours if you prepare it correctly. Today's video will explain.

Throw a tailgate party before your favorite game and you have two choices
: prepare food at the game, or bring it with you. If you decide to prepare your football food before the game, you'll want to assure the tailgate food stays safe and hot until game time. If you choose to cook at the game, tomorrow's video will give you a new idea for football food at your tailgate party.

Cook like a chef at home in 16 weeks, guaranteed with my online cooking classes.

By Chef Todd

Cook Shrimp in Hawaii

Chef Todd Mohr will boil shrimp heads and tails to create a shrimp boil, shrimp soup, or shrimp sauce from the cooking shrimp he got at the Koloa Fish Market. The flavorful shrimp stock he creates can be used to cook shrimp for shrimp cocktail.

The best way to buy fresh shrimp is with the heads still on. Having the heads on the shrimp assures it’s never been frozen. Frozen shrimp with the heads on will be obvious to the eye that they’ve been frozen, as the innards turn into a white goop.

Creating shrimp stock from the heads and shells of fresh shrimp is the other benefit
to buying fresh shrimp with the heads on. Similar to making a chicken or beef stock where the collagen in the bones gives flavor and structure, the shells and heads of fresh shrimp give all the flavor to the resulting stock.

Normally, you’d throw away the heads and shells of the shrimp you just cleaned
. Now, what you considered garbage can be the basis for a shrimp soup, shrimp sauce, or even as a poaching or steaming liquid to cook fresh fish or add another layer of shrimp flavor to your shrimp cocktail.

Get the most flavor from all the occasions that you cook shrimp by purchasing fresh shrimp with the head on and creating a flavorful shrimp broth to use in your next creation.

Previous episodes from Hawaii:
How to Open a Coconut
Goat Farm on Hawaii
Hawaii Fish Market

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!

The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

Goat Farm on Hawaii

If you want to see how goats cheese is made, go to a goat farm. If you go to a goat farm, you might as well go to one in the “upcountry” of Maui, Hawaii.

My trip to the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm in Hawaii was a great education and a fun day. The goats are treated very well, and their milk is treated even better. Plus, I found out there’s 50 females to one male goat on the farm. Not baaaaaaad. (sorry)

I’m always curious to find out exactly where my food comes from and a trip to a local farm is the way to do it. I’m a big fan of goat cheese, or chevre, because of its soft, spreadable texture, creamy but sharp flavor, but mostly for its melting abilities.

I often use goat cheese as a thickener for sauces.
My “South of France” chicken video that the members of WebCookingClasses enjoy is a perfect illustration how goat cheese can add flavor and texture to pan sauces.

The South of France Chicken starts with a basic sauté procedure. Pan hot first. A little bit of water in the pan evaporates so I know it’s at least 212f. Then, I add a very small amount of olive oil, and let that heat until convection begins. This is an indicator that the oil is just about to smoke. A chicken breast is cooked 75% on one side, watching the coagulation of proteins, then finished on the other side.

After sautéing shallots and mushrooms in the resulting pan fond, the pan is deglazed with white wine, and then mounted with goat cheese and whole grain mustard.

When you return the chicken to the pan, it bathes in a creamy white sauce that didn’t need roux or a slurry to make it stick to your fork.

Visiting the goat farm in Hawaii was a great inside look at what great care our local farmers are taking to provide the most wholesome ingredients for us to enjoy.

See how Hawaiians open a coconut from the Maui Tropical Plantation HERE

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!

The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

By Chef Todd

How to Open a Coconut in Maui

What better place to learn how to open a coconut than the Maui Tropical Fruit Plantation? Welcome to the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii. It's my favorite place on the entire planet, and today we'll learn how to open a coconut the Hawaiian way.

Even though I'm on vacation and have my pick of dozens of fantastic restaurants, I'm not taking a vacation from food and cooking. Nor am I on holiday from sharing my passion for food and cooking with everyone that watches my videos.

Cooking is not only my profession, but my hobby. I love to learn about new foods, cultural interpretations of ingredients, and cooking methods that I've never seen before. That's why my I love to seek out fruits, vegetables, fish, and spirits that are new to me. I love to cook when I'm on holiday because I have the freshest ingredients at my disposal. I can always apply basic cooking methods to a new item, never need a written recipe, and always come out with something terrific!

Over the next two weeks, we'll share my food and cooking journey through Maui and Kauai in Hawaii. We'll visit farmers markets, fish markets, a rum distillery, and cook great meals from a rental kitchen. And I didn't have to pack a single recipe book! Aloha and Mahalo!

“Burn Your Recipes” and Cook Like a Chef at Home with my cooking DVDs!

The Complete cooking DVDcollection for cooking without recipes.

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