1. How do you stop food from sticking to the pan?
The easiest way is to use a Teflon-coated pan. If you using a surface without Teflon, like an iron skillet or a steel pan, you must properly preheat the cooking surface to prevent certain foods from sticking, like meat or pasta. Preheating your iron skillet or steel pan also allows the ingredients to brown nicely and adds more flavor. Because iron and steel conduct heat differently, they each have different steps to preheat them. Iron requires higher heat because it does not conduct heat as efficiently as steel.
To preheat an iron skillet, place it over high heat. When you start to see smoke rising from the surface of the skillet, it is preheated and ready to cook on. At this point, you can add oil or butter (depending on the recipe), and then you can place your ingredients on the skillet. Immediately turn down the heat to the level that the recipe calls for. Generally, you should allow the ingredients to sit and cook for a few moments before stirring.
To preheat a steel pan, place it over medium heat and add some oil. When you start to see smoke rising from the surface of the steel pan, it is preheated and ready to cook on. Now you can place your ingredients in the steel pan. Immediately turn down the heat to the level that the recipe calls for. Generally, you should allow the ingredients to sit and cook for a while before stirring. A good rule of thumb is that when the ingredients are ready to stir, they will not stick to the pan. If you stir it too early, it will stick to the pan. Note that for steel pans, you should not cook higher than medium heat because the ingredients will burn.
2. Use bay leaves to enhance the flavor of your soup.
If you are making soup, add one or two whole bay leaves. Make sure to remove bay leaves before serving, because they are not usually meant to be eaten. Bay leaves work well for chicken soups, minestrone, and the other vegetable soups.
3. Always wash spinach thoroughly.
Mature spinach bunches tend to have a lot of dirt and sand, so you must wash them thoroughly to avoid an unexpected bite of sand. Chop off the ends and roots of the bunch and place the spinach in a large bowl of water. Wash the spinach in the bowl of water to loosen up the sand. Let the spinach sit for 5 minutes to let the sand settle at the bottom. Remove the spinach and drain the bowl of water. Rinse out all of the sand from the bowl. Repeat the steps until you do not see any sand at the bottom of the bowl. It usually takes about 3-4 washings to get the sand out of the spinach.
4. How do you melt chocolate or sugar without burning it? What is a double boiler?
Chocolate and sugar can easily burn so you need to use indirect heat. Double boiling is a good way to safely melt chocolate or sugar, because it uses water as a regulated temperature buffer between the heat source and the ingredients. You can purchase a double boiler which will consist of an inner pot and another pot, or you can create your own double boiler if you have two different sized saucepans.
To use the double boiler, add water to the outer saucepan and bring it to a boil. Put the inner saucepan over the water and add the ingredients to the inner saucepan. Allow the ingredients to melt, while stirring occasionally.
For melting chocolate, you can also use a microwave. Cut the chocolate into smaller pieces and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for intervals of 7 seconds. Each time, check to see if the chocolate has started to melt. When it starts to melt, stir the chocolate. Repeat the process of microwaving and stirring until the chocolate melts almost completely, because the remaining heat will continue to melt the chocolate.