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Brought to you by our Chef here at Donald Russell

From seasoning to marinating, our Chef has all the top tips that he uses whilst cooking and prepping any dish!

Cooking tipsCooking tips
Cooking tipsCooking tips
Cooking tipsCooking tips
What is the best way to season meat?

We recommend you season steaks with salt and pepper after cooking, not before. Seasoning too early draws moisture out of the steaks and can make them dry and tough. However, we recommend you season roasts with salt and pepper shortly before cooking, because salt helps to crisp up the outside while cooking in the oven.

How do I marinate meat?

Marinades can be both wet or dry. The meat must have some time in the marinade to absorb the flavours, but this can vary from under an hour to over a day (in the fridge). A classic marinade is a combination of acidic ingredients (e.g. wine, lemon juice or vinegar) along with olive or flavoured oil (e.g. sesame oil) and aromatic ingredients (e.g. garlic, vegetables, herbs or pepper).

Acidic ingredients soften the proteins in the meat, making it tender. Aromatic spices and herbs add flavour but should be used sparingly. Before cooking, drain the meat and pat dry, as a wet surface will prevent it from browning properly.

Tender cuts of meat should be marinated for no longer than 4 hours as the marinade can overpower the flavour and break down the meat structure, which can affect the texture.

Humbler cuts can be marinated for up to two days stored at 4ºC in the fridge. Liquid marinades can be used as an ingredient in braised dishes, but should be boiled first to kill any bacteria.

Are all ovens the same?

No, so cooking times and temperatures should be used as a guide only. Within individual ovens the temperature can also vary. An oven thermometer is a good way to check the actual temperature(s). Always be prepared to check your dishes are cooked properly before serving and be aware they may be ready earlier than expected. The best advice is 'get to know your oven!'

How long can I keep meat warm?

Meat (especially steak) does not need to be sizzling hot, and in fact the full flavour can be appreciated much more when the meat is warm rather than hot. You can keep steaks warm for up to 30 minutes and roasts for up to 60 minutes in a warm oven (without fan) at 60ºC while you get everything else ready. If your oven does not have a control this low simply switch the oven off, open the door to let out some heat, then shut it again. It will stay warm at just the right temperature.

Is it possible to prepare meat dishes a day before serving?

Slow cooked dishes such as stews and casseroles can be prepared the day before, which actually helps improve the flavours and texture. Any fat that has settled on the top is very easy to remove. Store the dish in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving, ensure that the dish is reheated correctly. For complete safety, use a thermometer which should reach 82ºC. Only ever reheat once.

What does deglazing mean?

Deglazing is the adding of liquid to a pan or roasting tin once the meat has been cooked and removed. Stir in stock, wine or water to dislodge any cooking residue, and to incorporate all those rich flavours into the liquid. Then simmer down into a reduction or make into a gravy or other sauce.

How can I make a quick sauce?

Use the pan juices to prepare a sauce. For a dark sauce, braise chopped onion in the used pan until golden brown and caramelised. Deglaze by adding 200ml red wine, port or Madeira and simmer to reduce the liquid by half. Add 200ml stock and reduce to desired consistency.

For a cream sauce, fry the chopped onion slightly. Deglaze with 200ml white wine or grape juice. Reduce by half. Add 200ml double cream and reduce to desired consistency.

As an alternative to sauce, lightly drizzle the meat with olive oil or flavoured oils (e.g. seasame oil) and some fresh chopped herbs.

What type of wine should I use for sauces and braising?

Use the wine you are going to serve along with your dish for cooking.

How much veg should I add to my stew?

When slow cooking, about one third of the weight of the meat you are using will give you the weight of vegetables you should add. Try onions, carrots, celery and leeks. Make sure they are cut into fairly uniform chunks, and the smaller the better, as root vegetables especially can take a long time to cook at a low temperature.

What about boiling meat?

We do not recommed boiling meat as a high temperature will affect the texture, making it tough and stringy. Simply put the meat into a large pan, cover with cold water, add root veg, and an onion or leek. Season and bring to the boil slowly, then turn down to a gentle simmer. It is better to have to cook it for longer and enjoy tender chunks of meat.