FOOD

How To Chop Onions Without Crying, According To Justine Schofield

Plus other everyday kitchen questions, answered.

06/07/2017 7:15 AM AEST | Updated 06/07/2017 7:20 AM AEST

How far up do you chop a spring onion? Should you add oil when cooking pasta? How do you cook a chicken breast without making it stringy?

If you've ever uttered these questions in the kitchen, you're not alone. When it comes to everyday cooking, there are so many things that are meant to be super easy (hello, like boiling an egg) that are actually quite difficult if you don't have the necessary know-how.

To get to the bottom of these kitchen conundrums (and in celebration of her new cookbook 'Simple Every Day') HuffPost Australia spoke with 'Everyday Gourmet' host and MasterChef alumni, Justine Schofield, for her hot tips on everyday cooking.

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How to boil an egg

"There are so many different techniques to boiling eggs. If you want it hard boiled, put in a pot of cold water, bring to boil, and once it's boiling, cook for 8-10 minutes. Then chill in iced water," Schofield advises.

"The problem is if you have super fresh eggs, if you put them straight from the fridge into boiling water, it can stun the egg and then they crack. If you are wanting to do a hard boiled egg I recommend starting from cold water and bringing the water up to heat."

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For a perfect gooey centre, try the five minute egg.

"If you're after an egg that's really gooey in the centre with the white parts set, I'd do the five minute egg. Once the water is boiling, take a room temperature egg and put in the boiling water [for five minutes].

"Sometimes I put a bit of salt in the water. There's an old wives' tale, actually, put a bit of salt in it and it will stop the cracking of the egg."

How do I chop an onion without crying?

"Well, there are a few tricks, like putting goggles on," Schofield says.

"But if you don't want to do that, there are a few other things, like washing your hands straight after chopping the onion. That seems to stop the tears.

"Also after you've peeled them, pop them in a big bowl of water for a little bit. That takes away some of that pungent strong feel from the onions, and you can start slicing them after that.

"There's also the trick of putting them in freezer but to be honest that makes them [more watery] which is not ideal.

"If you just have one onion, I'd just say get it done quite fast. A little cry here and there is good for you."

Rob Palmer

Should I add oil when cooking pasta?

"So many people ask that question. I think there was a trend 20 years ago where it was popular to add oil to the water so the pasta wouldn't stick. And honestly, you don't need to do it," Schofield says.

"Rapidly boiling water is your friend when it comes to pasta. That, and a good pinch of salt. The worst mistake you can make is putting in oil because it makes [the pasta] greasy and it will take you ages to clean the pot.

"If the water isn't rapidly boiling, that's when the pasta sticks."

How do I cook chicken breast?

"Chicken breast is really lean so naturally it's going to be a bit tough if you don't cook it right," Schofield says. "A great tip is to brine it first. I know it's very in vogue at the moment to brine any protein but with chicken breasts, it works really well.

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Chicken breast can be tricky to cook as it dries out easily.

"Make a ratio of salt to water, put raw chicken in it, and let it brine for a few hours. What happens is, not only does the chicken tenderise, but it but keeps it super moist when you start to cook it.

"So after you take it out of the water, pat it dry and then grill it or bake it in the oven. You will get seriously moist chicken.

Low and slow cooking will give you a really fantastic result on a lean piece of meat like chicken.

"Then the other way, if you didn't want to brine, is just poaching. To poach one single chicken breast, bring pot of water or chicken stock to boil, pop the chicken in, then turn the heat off completely and let the chicken cook pretty much as the water cools down.

"So pop it in as it's boiling, turn it off, lid on, then it will gently poach. Low and slow cooking will give you a really fantastic result on a lean piece of meat like chicken."

For more ways to jazz up chicken and other lean proteins, check out these tips.

How far up do you chop a spring onion?

"You want to use the white part, which is the tender and sweet part, and also the light green part," Schofield says. "You usually get rid of the dark green tops, only you don't actually need to, because they make the most delicious stock.

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There's no need to throw a single bit of your spring onions away.

"Another trick is cut [the dark green bits] and open them up so they are flat. Chop them finely and put them in iced water and they will start to curl. This makes a really nice garnish.

"For the record, the same rules apply with leek. You want to use most of the white part and the light green part, but don't use the top as a garnish because they are not very nice. They can work in a stock, though, as there's a lot of flavour."

How do you bake potatoes?

"Talking about the classic roast potato, the best way is to parboil them. Use starchy potatoes, like the classic brushed potato you get from the major supermarkets, and then peel them, cut them, pop them in cold water and bring it to the boil. Boil for five minutes and then strain them," Schofield advises.

"Moisture is the enemy when it comes to crispy potato. So once you have strained them, let them sit there and steam for a bit.

"Once you see all the steam subside, and [the potatoes] have dried out a bit, put them on a tray with a little bit of oil so they are nice and even and they aren't touching Then just cook for about 50 minutes, constantly turning them, and they will go super duper crispy."

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Yum.

"Another thing you can do is heat up some oil on a tray before you put the potatoes on. Give a bit of a seal and gives it a bit of a crust.

"You just can't stuff that up with potatoes if you parboil them first, dry them out (so let them steam) and put in oven after that."

What about sweet potato?

"Sweet potato is trickier as they tend to not go as crispy," Schofield says. "But one thing you can do is toss them in a bit of cornflour beforehand.

"So drizzle with oil, toss in a bit of cornflour, put them on a tray and roast them, constantly turning the whole time."

Should you put a hot pan in cold water?

"I don't actually do that because I think going from extreme heat to extreme cold isn't good for your pan," Schofield says.

"I let it cool down first and then wash it. If you have a lot of oil there, instead of putting it down the drain, I just wipe it with some paper towelling and then wash it in the sink.

"Never just stun it under the cold water, I don't think it's good for it at all."

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