At America’s Test Kitchen Kids we believe teaching kids basic cooking techniques will set them up for a future of successful cooking and baking. Learning how to prepare ingredients before you even start cooking is a great first step. Teaching your young chefs these seven techniques will prepare them for a wide range of recipes.
1. How to Chop Onions or Shallots
Chopping onions and shallots is the first step in many recipes: soups, stews, braises, stir-fries, and more. Three easy steps will have kids safely preparing these alliums in no time.
1. Halve onion through root end, then use your fingers to remove peel. Trim top of onion.
2. Place onion half flat side down. Starting 1 inch from root end, use chef’s knife to make several vertical cuts.
3. Rotate onion and slice across first cuts. As you slice, onion will fall apart into chopped pieces.
2. How to Peel and Mince Garlic
Using a garlic press makes quick work of peeling and mincing garlic. However, if you don’t have a press, young chefs can safely learn to mince garlic using this simple method:
1. Crush garlic clove with bottom of dry measuring cup to loosen papery skin. Use your fingers to remove and discard skin.
2. Place one hand on handle of chef’s knife and rest fingers of your other hand on top of blade. Use rocking motion, pivoting knife as you chop garlic repeatedly to cut it into very small pieces.
Garlic is sticky, so you may need to carefully wipe it from the sides of the knife to get the pieces of garlic back onto the cutting board, where you can cut them.
3. How to Chop Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs add bright flavor and a pop of green color to many recipes. Knowing how to prep them is a key technique in any cook’s repertoire. Be sure to wash and dry herbs before they are chopped.
1. Use your fingers to remove leaves from stems; discard stems.
2. Gather leaves in small pile. Place one hand on handle of chef’s knife and rest fingers of your other hand on top of blade. Use rocking motion, pivoting knife as you chop.
Opinel Le Petit Chef Cutlery Set (2 Pieces)
This small knife impressed our 8- and 9-year-old testers. Its wooden handle has a small, round finger hole that encourages kids to hold it safely and securely.
4. How to Grate and Shred Cheese
Grated or shredded cheese finds its way into pasta recipes, egg dishes, quesadillas, pizza and more. When kids tackle grating or shredding, they should always start with a large block of cheese to keep their hands safely away from sharp holes.
To shred cheese: Semisoft cheeses like cheddar or mozzarella can be rubbed against the large holes of a box grater to make long pieces of cheese.
5. How to Crack and Separate Eggs
Everyone should know how to crack an egg, whether they’re making breakfast tacos or birthday cupcakes. The next level—separating the egg white from the yolk—finds its way into recipes from French toast to custard. Here’s how we recommend teaching young chefs:
1. To crack an egg: Gently hit side of egg against flat surface of counter or cutting board.
2. Pull the shell apart into 2 pieces over a bowl. Let yolk and white drop into bowl. Discard shell.
3. To separate yolk and white: Use your hand to very gently transfer yolk to second bowl.
6. How to Zest and Juice Citrus Fruits
Kids will come across citrus zest and juice in loads of savory and sweet recipes. Two pro tips they should learn: (1) Always zest before you juice, and (2) if any seeds find their way into the juice, use a small spoon to scoop them out.
To zest: Rub fruit against rasp grater to remove colored zest. Turn fruit as you go to avoid bitter with layer (the pith) underneath zest.
To juice: Cut fruit in half through equator (not through ends). Place 1 half of fruit in citrus juicer. Hold juicer over bowl and squeeze to extract juice.
7. How to Melt Butter
Butter can be melted in a small saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat, but we think using the microwave is easier.
1. Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. Place butter in microwave-safe bowl.
2. Place bowl in microwave and cover bowl with small plate. Use 50 percent power to heat butter until melted, 30 to 60 seconds (longer if melting a lot of butter). Watch butter and stop microwave as soon as butter has melted. Use oven mitts to remove bowl from microwave.
Looking for more information on cooking with kids? Check out these articles:
Introducing the Young Chefs' Club
Every month, young chefs ages 5 and up receive a themed box filled with kid-tested recipes, hands-on activities and experiments, and other creative items, such as art projects, achievement buttons, a kitchen tool or special ingredient, and more.