As the two-time host and champion cooking coach on Worst Cooks in America, Anne Burrell has seen her share of bad cooking. Not ordinary bad-dinner-party-at-the-neighbors’ bad cooking, but unfathomably bad, practically gag-inducing cooking. “I’ve seen food so burned, so over-spiced that it’s inedible,” Anne says. “My favorite was a guy who boiled a whole chicken and dumped some tomato sauce on it and called it chicken parmigiana.”
Anne is back for round three on February 12, when Worst Cooks in America returns, going head-to-head with co-host Bobby Flay in trying to whip the country’s most disastrous home cooks into shape. We asked the former culinary school teacher and restaurant chef what bad cooks can do to step up their game.
Stop making excuses!
“I’m so over the ‘I have a tiny kitchen’ excuse. Restaurant kitchens are tiny, and there are a lot of freaking people who work in them, so that’s not an excuse. Also, don’t tell me French food is hard. It isn’t; it’s the French who make it more difficult than it needs to be.”
Salt, then salt again.
“When I went to culinary school, I’d bring my vinaigrette to the teachers and they’d say, ‘Needs more salt.’ I was scared to death of salt, so I’d go back and put in three grains of salt and it would taste the same. But salt makes things taste like what they are. If you don’t put in enough salt, you will never be a good cook.”
Brown your food.
“Brown the crap out of your meat until there is crud in the pan. That’s where the flavor is. People complain that I say ‘crap’ and ‘crud,’ but I say, ‘You heard me and remembered it, right?'”
Double dip all you want.
“While cooking, I taste my food, and people say, ‘Eww, you double dipped.’ Come on. Like you don’t lick a spatula and put it back in the bowl? You have to taste your food.”
Get over yourself.
“I’m always shocked that some people know they are bad cooks but they would die before they would consult a recipe. If you didn’t know how to do something, wouldn’t you get directions?”
When in doubt, roast a chicken.
“When you are having people over, you want a dinner that’s super easy. So make a roasted chicken (find Anne’s recipe at foodnetwork.com/anneschicken). Roasted chicken is always a little bit fancy, but all you do is lube it up and pop it in the oven.”