A wise French chef from a Pixar movie once said, “Anyone can cook.” And he’s right. With some thoroughly tested recipes and a few crucial pieces of kitchen advice, any home cook can succeed in the kitchen. From doubling the sauce to salting at every stage, here’s the advice that NYT Cooking editors can’t cook without.

Always mise

Cut all your proteins and vegetables, and measure out your spices before you even turn on the stove. Chefs call this mise en place, and it makes sense if you think of each recipe as a series of chemical reactions on a fixed schedule, much like a science experiment. By chopping and measuring the ingredients you’ll need before you begin, you’ll have the best shot at replicating the finished dish the way it was meant to be. — Sara Bonisteel

One thing that separates the good cooks from the mediocre is mise en place. I became a much better cook once I took the time to prep all the ingredients in advance and made sure everything I needed to prepare a dish was right there next to the stove. Organization: Get into it. — Kim Severson

Taste as you go

Don’t wait until you’ve finished cooking to taste your dish. It helps me to keep a bunch of clean spoons in arm’s reach while I work, so I can grab one and do a quick taste at each stage of cooking. — Becky Hughes

Don’t crowd the pan

Think of it as culinary distancing: Whether searing meat in a skillet or roasting vegetables on a sheet pan, do it in small batches, with space between the pieces. If you crowd them, the fat and water they give off will steam them, producing tough meat and soggy vegetables. — Patrick Farrell

Double that sauce

Nine times out of 10, there isn’t enough sauce to my liking, so I automatically double it. Never regretted it. Too much sauce? That’s what crusty bread is for. — Margaux Laskey


Organize savvily

Organizing your fridge according to FIFO (“first in, first out”) goes a long way in helping you avoid food waste — and becoming a more efficient cook. Ingredients about to perish — like leftover takeout or greens that may soon wilt — go in front, while the staples that have a longer shelf life go in the back. You can also apply the term FIFO more broadly to organize your kitchen and pantry, placing the ingredients, cooking utensils and cookware that you use most frequently at arm’s reach while setting the ones you use less in the back or on higher or lower shelves. — Alexa Weibel

Season, season, season

Lemon juice and flaky sea salt added at the end will improve most recipes. — Melissa Clark

Read the recipe. Really.

My advice is to read all the way through a recipe before you start cooking it. That way you can make sure you have everything you need and just cook your way through the process. — Kasia Pilat

Add salt

There’s a shift in your cooking when salt becomes an indelible part of it. There is very little that it can’t improve. It elevates salads, chocolate chip cookies, steaks (nothing worse than a poorly salted steak) and even pasta water. And you need more than one: kosher salt for everything and flaky sea salt as a finishing touch. Feel free to throw your table salt away once you’re finished with this article. — Nikita Richardson

Make it room temperature

If a baking recipe specifies room-temperature ingredients, there is a reason: chemistry! The temperature of your ingredients plays a very big role in the final outcome. I, for one, rarely have the forethought to take my ingredients out of the fridge ahead of time. An easy way to bring your eggs up to temperature is to fill a bowl with lukewarm water and submerge the eggs for about one or two minutes. — Vaughn Vreeland

Use a garbage bowl

When I’m cooking, I keep one large bowl for food scraps nearby. It keeps the prep cleaner and eliminates a back and forth to the trash or compost. — Kim Gougenheim


Put chopsticks to work

Chopsticks are among the most versatile tools in the kitchen. They’re great for turning greens to coat evenly with salad dressing, tossing noodles or pasta with sauce, plucking deep-fried treats out of oil or boiled dumplings out of water, beating eggs for scrambles or omelets, and flipping roasted vegetables on a sheet pan. With baking, they fill the tool gap between whisk and wooden spoon, incorporating wet ingredients into dry without over- or undermixing. — Genevieve Ko

Start garlic in cold oil

I wish I could remember who taught me to start garlic in cold oil. Whenever my first step is to fry garlic, I put the garlic and oil into a cold pan and then turn on the heat, so the fry is gentle, slow and even. The garlic and oil heat up together, so the garlic doesn’t immediately singe on the edges because the oil got too hot, or start to color too quickly. — Tejal Rao

Mind your dish towel

Always keep a few dish towels on hand, neatly folded, to wipe down the stove as you cook, to help clean off cutting boards, to dry knives you’ve washed after cutting the chicken, before slicing the ginger. — Sam Sifton

Always place a dish towel under your cutting board. It’ll keep the board from slipping as you chop or cut. — Krysten Chambrot

Regulate your oven

Store a pizza stone on the bottom rack of your oven. The hot stone works as a buffer between the oven’s heat source and the food, which helps regulate the temperature of a fussy or uneven oven. It also helps the oven return to temperature faster when you open and close the door. — Scott Loitsch

Don’t forget the broiler

An oft-underused appliance in most kitchens (some people don’t even know they have them), broilers are the best at high, concentrated heat for a short period of time — perfect for charring green vegetables like broccoli and asparagus or for caramelizing a miso-glazed side of salmon. — Eric Kim

Declutter with a plan

Purge and organize your kitchen mercilessly and regularly. Take two weeks to track the tools you actually use: Put a box on your counter and, as you use things, put them in that box. Then store them in your best kitchen real estate. There’s no rule that all of your pots and pans have to live in the same place. Get the tools you don’t use out of the way — store them up high, or donate them. Making your essential tools easily accessible makes it easier and more enjoyable to cook. But remember too that our lives, habits and needs are always changing, so don’t stress over perfection. Know that the organizational system you land on today might not be right in six months or a year, and that’s OK. Observe your habits as they change and tweak little sections of your kitchen accordingly. — Emily Fleischaker

Make cleaning part of cooking

While cooking, clean as you go so that you’re not faced with complete chaos when the dirty dishes come piling up at the end of the meal. — Florence Fabricant