Cooking Basics: What Everyone Should Know

In partnership with
Chef-Instructor Sean Kahlenberg, AOS
The Culinary Institute of America
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4.4 out of 5
27 Reviews
81% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 9338
Video Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn how to prep and cook vegetables, fish, poultry, and meats.
  • numbers Get tips and tricks for creating roux, gravy, and stew.
  • numbers Understand the importance of mise-en-place and timing your dishes.
  • numbers Take control of your kitchen by knowing how to organize your tools for a variety of tasks.

Course Overview

Have you ever wondered how professional chefs are able to prepare multicourse meals that are not only delicious, but consistent and all prepared to the perfect time and temperature? Or how they pair items and create plates that are beautiful as well as tasty? It turns out it is easier than you might think, once you have learned the right tools and techniques. Presented in partnership with The Culinary Institute of America and filmed at the CIA’s flagship facility in Hyde Park, New York, Cooking Basics: What Everyone Should Know provides the step-by-step instructions you need to become a confident, productive cook in your own home. Whether you’re brand-new to cooking or want to up your game after years in the kitchen, these 24 easy-to-follow lessons demonstrate everything you’ll need to create a wide variety of exciting, flavorful dishes.

Your instructor, Chef Sean Kahlenberg, brings his experience as both a culinary educator and professional chef to every lesson. Having mastered food science in the professional kitchen, he will show you what it means for your cooking at home as he carefully walks you through the dozens of original recipes in this course. You won’t find these specific recipes anywhere else and Chef Kahlenberg’s step-by-step demonstrations—filled with stories and invaluable tips and tricks—will let you learn as if you are right there in the kitchen with him.

Prep for Success

Your potential for success in the kitchen begins before you’ve even turned on your stove or oven. How do chefs produce a full meal that comes to the table all at the same time, perfectly seasoned and just the right temperature? The answer is mise en place. Never heard of it? Don’t worry—you’ll soon wonder how you ever survived in the kitchen without it.

Mise en place is the French term often translated as “everything in its place.” In the kitchen, this refers to having all your ingredients together before you start cooking—each item measured, peeled, or sliced exactly as you’ll need it for your specific recipe. Your ingredients, tools, mixing bowls, pots, and pans should all be within easy reach, allowing you to move forward in a logical and calm manner once you begin cooking. If you’ve ever heard the butter sizzling in the pan while you run around your kitchen throwing open each cabinet to look for a particular spice, you probably want to improve your mise en place.

In Cooking Basics, you’ll learn not only how to organize your mise en place, but also the best way to prepare each of your ingredients, including how to:

  • Cut vegetables into the appropriate dimensions required by your recipe—julienne, brunoise, small dice, large dice, or slice;
  • Create the mirepoix for your recipe—the onions, carrots, and celery that form the flavor base for most Western dishes;
  • Assess, clean, skin, and fillet round and flat fish, including bottom-feeders;
  • Appraise, break down, and brine chicken and turkey;
  • Evaluate and clean clams, mussels, and shrimp; and
  • Trim and portion beef.

The Importance of Fats

You will learn (and disprove) many misconceptions surrounding food as you progress through this course, but one of the most prevalent ideas that can hold home cooks back from success is the idea that “fat is bad.” Actually, when it comes to cooking, fats are your friends. They perform a variety of crucial functions in the cooking process, as well as impacting the look and feel of the final product. Depending on your goal, fats can add flavor of their own or serve as a neutral medium in which to circulate the flavors of other ingredients, coating the tongue to improve your ability to experience those tastes. In fact, some food compounds responsible for flavor and nutrition only become soluble and accessible in the presence of fats.

But perhaps most important, fats offer one of the most effective ways to transfer heat during cooking and produce the Maillard reaction. This is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that forms the hundreds of complex molecules we love to smell and taste in our food. Whether or not you’re familiar with its formal name, chances are you’ve always loved the browning that results from the Maillard reaction. In Cooking Basics, you’ll watch the Maillard reaction occur in real time as you learn to fry arancini, baste scallops, sear beef, and much more.

But how to choose which fats to use in which recipes? Chef Kahlenberg explains the benefits of a variety of fats, including:

  • Grapeseed Oil. This oil’s high smoke point makes it a kitchen favorite, allowing foods to cook comfortably at high temperatures without risking the bitterness of burned oil. In addition, grapeseed oil adds very little taste of its own, while nicely carrying other flavors. You’ll learn how to use it in cooking coq au vin, monkfish, asparagus, and many other foods.
  • Butter. While learning to cook cioppino, pasta, lamb, and a variety of vegetables, you’ll come to agree with Chef Kahlenberg when he says, “Too much butter is barely enough.” You’ll explore what can be learned from the sound of butter sizzling—and not sizzling: It’s all about the interplay of fat; water; milk solids; and, of course, heat.
  • Rendered Fat. Learn how to render fat—how to melt and clarify hard animal fat—and use it as the primary cooking medium for paella and a variety of vegetables.

Explore the Wide World in Your Kitchen

No matter how wide and varied your personal cooking repertoire is, Cooking Basics provides a great opportunity to sear, roast, boil, pan fry, grill, and sauté foods in ways you may never have considered before. You’ll learn how and when to cook with a sachet d’epices, how to create a cartouche (and why it works better than a pot lid in some circumstances), how to harvest vanilla caviar, the difference between a roux and a gravy, when to use ras el hanout, and much more.

As you follow Chef Kahlenberg’s step-by-step directions, you’ll learn to prepare many classics with a new twist, including crispy fried chicken, sautéed scallops, grilled salmon, braised short ribs, roast beef, and Thanksgiving turkey along with traditional side dishes of coleslaw, pickles, asparagus, carrots, pilaf, and more. But you’ll also have the opportunity to branch out and create:

  • Argentinian bright green chimichurri sauce
  • French Béarnaise sauce
  • French coq au vin
  • French Provençal ratatouille
  • Italian cheesy polenta,
  • Italian potato gnocchi
  • Italian risi e bisi, traditional northern Italian rice with peas
  • Mexican grilled corn salad
  • San Francisco classic cioppino
  • Sicilian caponata
  • Spanish paella

With Chef Kahlensberg’s guidance, you will be able to make meals that are as beautiful as they are delicious, with each component timed perfectly to be served together. Whether you are hosting a party or making a family dinner, every meal will feel like an amazing accomplishment—and, with a little help from an expert chef, it’s much easier than you think.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 1
    Risotto and What to Do with the Leftovers
    Rice is one of the most versatile grains in the world, and this risi e bisi, “rice with peas,” is one of the most delicious ways to use it. Among other techniques, you’ll learn how to keep the chlorophyll from turning black while cooking, how to relax the risotto on the plate for best presentation, and how to make perfect arancini with the leftovers. x
  • 2
    Choosing the Best Method to Cook Vegetables
    Should you peel a vegetable before cooking or not? Cook it in water or oil? Put a lid on the pot or leave it off? Add salt to the water—and if so, why? Chef Kahlenberg answers these questions and more as he begins with kitchen basics. Learn which knives you need in the kitchen and other tools you might need to add. x
  • 3
    An Elegant Corn Soup with Lobster
    In this lesson, you will cook, shave, and milk corn to create a delicious corn soup with julienned vegetables, an accompaniment to freshly cooked lobster. And once the lobster is cooked, you'll learn the correct way to separate it to best access all its sweet meat. x
  • 4
    Sauteed Scallops with Roasted Cauliflower
    As you begin to prepare your scallops, Chef Kahlenberg shares the “secret” way chefs decide whether or not this seafood is truly fresh. You’ll also learn how to season and baste scallops to perfection. Roasted and puréed cauliflower seasoned with a white mirepoix makes just the right side dish. x
  • 5
    How to Poach an Octopus
    In this lesson, you’ll learn a dual-cooking method for preparing octopus—poaching and sautéing—for just the right flavor and consistency, as well as how to cut and plate the octopus. Your meal is completed with fingerling potatoes and a Spanish romesco sauce. x
  • 6
    How to Break Down and Roast a Chicken
    In this lesson, you'll learn how and why to truss a chicken before roasting and the best way to season and oil the bird. Using a chef's thermometer, you'll learn how to manage the Maillard reaction while making sure the interior retains its juices. x
  • 7
    Braising Short Ribs and Making Polenta
    Cooking short ribs takes patience because it takes time to break down the connective tissue in the protein—but the result is well worth it! In this lesson, you will simmer, steam, and braise the meat before plating with cheesy polenta and delicious root vegetables. x
  • 8
    Pork Milanese and the Art of Breading
    Learn how to safely pound pork to create a thin, wide cutlet that will fill almost your entire plate. You’ll also learn how to bread the pork with seasoned flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, and how to pan fry it, not deep fry. In addition, you’ll make a beautiful salad with suprêmed grapefruit. x
  • 9
    Grilled Salmon: Breaking Down a Round Fish
    Starting with a whole salmon, you'll learn how to check for freshness; create the filets; and remove the ribs, pin bones, skin, and as much bloodline as possible. In addition to finishing the salmon on a grill pan, you'll learn how to parch and cook quinoa for a delicious quinoa pilaf. x
  • 10
    One-Dish Cookery: Coq au Vin
    Coq au vin is a French chicken dish, all made in one pot. You’ll learn how to create a 24-hour marinade, braise the chicken while keeping the fond golden-brown, safely add and cook off brandy, and create the perfectly sized cartouche for oven cooking. To accompany the chicken, you’ll make a pomme purée and a garnish of onions and mushrooms. x
  • 11
    Monkfish: From Bycatch to Haute Cuisine
    You might think monkfish is an unusual choice for a gourmet meal: It’s a bottom-feeder formerly called garbage fish and is considered so “ugly” that it’s almost never sold with the head on. But with Chef Kahlenberg’s instruction, you will turn monkfish to a golden-brown delicacy, accompanied by a whole-grain salad. x
  • 12
    How to Make Rack of Lamb Persillade
    What really brings color to this meal is the bright green persillade that will coat the lamb after it has been seared in a pan and before it goes into the oven. You’ll also learn to make a caponata—a warm vegetable salad with eggplant, raisins, capers, and pine nuts—as an accompaniment. A beautiful meal. x
  • 13
    Making Your Own Pasta: Potato Gnocchi
    Gnocchi, sometimes called Italian dumplings, is a pasta made with flour and potatoes. Learn about a few of the 200+ types of potatoes, their range of starch-to-moisture ratios, and which potatoes are best for making gnocchi. You’ll learn to mill, cut, and shape this pasta with a gnocchi pallet—and make a delicious sauce to accompany this Mediterranean comfort food. x
  • 14
    Making Your Own Pasta: Butternut Agnolotti
    In this lesson, you'll learn how to determine exactly how much flour and eggs you'll need to measure for pasta. Once the dough is made and rested, you'll learn how to use the pasta roller until the dough is exactly the correct consistency and how to use a piping bag to insert the roasted butternut squash mixture. Delicious! x
  • 15
    Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
    To brine or not to brine? While there are pros and cons to both, in this lesson, you'll learn Chef Kahlenberg's method of brining and cooking turkey, as well as creating delicious stuffing and cranberry sauce. With the chef's tips on prep and cook times, it will all come together exactly as you've always hoped. x
  • 16
    Seafood Delight: How to Make Cioppino
    Cioppino is a Portuguese seafood stew that made its way to San Francisco and is now considered a classic of that area. For this dish, you'll learn how to prepare shrimp, mussels, calamari, clams, halibut, and scallops, as well as cleaning, cutting, and cooking leeks. Grill a baguette to finish and you'll have the perfect seafood meal! x
  • 17
    Finding Your Roots: Maple-Roasted Celeriac
    While vegan menus can be a challenge for any chef, as umami can be difficult to include, Chef Kahlenberg shares his own tricks to address the issue. You'll learn how to clean, peel, and prepare celeriac; clean and prepare a variety of carrots; and how to season, cook, and plate this delicious vegan meal. x
  • 18
    How to Make Great Paella
    Paella is an ancient, summertime, one-pot seafood and rice dish originating near Valencia, updated here to include pork and chicken. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to render fat from chorizo to use as a cooking medium, create a sofrito, parch rice, bloom saffron, prepare artichokes—and bring it all together in one special pan for a unique culinary experience. x
  • 19
    Smoking Pork with Mexican Street Corn
    This recipe requires a bit of advanced planning, as the marinated and fully seasoned pork must be smoked for 16 hours. You'll also learn how to prepare corn so it can both steam and grill at the same time for maximum flavor, and to create and dress the perfect Virginia slaw. x
  • 20
    Dover Sole: Breaking Down a Flat Fish
    Dover sole is a flat fish and a bottom-feeder that almost always comes whole with the intestines left in, requiring very different preparation and cooking than a round fish. Chef Kahlenberg demonstrates how to remove the skin by hand, which must be done before cooking. You'll also make perfectly sized fondant potatoes, as well as beautiful asparagus. x
  • 21
    You Too Can Make Ratatouille
    This French vegetable stew is given such a beautiful presentation by Chef Kahlenberg that it almost looks like a work of art! Step by step, you'll learn how to remove the bitterness from eggplant and how to cut all vegetables to the exact same size, including using a ring mold for the red and green peppers. In addition, you'll make a delicious branzino and tapenade. x
  • 22
    Making Roast Beef and Potato Gratin
    Learn how to trim, score, and tie beef before you start cooking to help with flavor and presentation later on. After oven searing, you'll use a chef's thermometer to determine when to remove the meat, resting it with carryover cooking to complete the process. You'll learn to make a delicious potato gratin, as well. x
  • 23
    Patience, Pickles, and Crispy Fried Chicken
    These easy-to-make pickles need to sit in brine for one week before eating, so you'll need to start early on that one! The chicken also requires patience, as you'll prepare your 9-cut, leaving it for 24 hours in brine and then 24 hours in buttermilk. At that point, it will be ready for dredging in spiced flour and fried to a beautiful golden brown. Coleslaw is the perfect way to top off this classic American dish. x
  • 24
    My Big Steak: Executing a Three-Course Meal
    In this lesson, you'll learn how to create a three-course meal and have it all come together with perfect timing. You'll prepare filet mignon from a beef tenderloin, create a spinach salad, a potato salad, and a chocolate tarte with raspberry coulis. Bon appetit! x

Lecture Titles

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What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 112-page printed course guidebook
  • Recipes
  • Photos
  • Recipe list

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Your professor

Sean Kahlenberg

About Your Professor

Sean Kahlenberg, AOS
The Culinary Institute of America
Sean Kahlenberg is a Chef-Instructor at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Hyde Park, New York, where he also earned his AOS in Culinary Arts. Additionally, he is a Certified Hospitality Educator. Chef Kahlenberg began his cooking career in his hometown of Wollongong, Australia, where he learned the trade of hospitality and restaurant and hotel management. After moving to the United States and graduating from the CIA,...
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Cooking Basics: What Everyone Should Know is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 28.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Communicator This might be one of the best cooking courses you have. The instructor is very clear and concise. Yes some of the techniques are not really basic but he breaks things down it a very good way. I hope he will do more.
Date published: 2020-10-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Cooking Basics At the very least this should have been labeled Cooking Basics - Intermediate. This course is intended for those who are somewhat accomplished but certainly not basic. Being a novice I labored well over two hours cooking Coq au Vin and it was a "C" at best. After completing the instructions I had garlic still sitting on the counter but the recipe never called for using garlic. Ingredients called for 2 cl garlic, brunoise. Should we know what brunoise means? or 4 cl mushrooms? I like the chef but more time needs to be put into gearing the course towards "Basics". Also, the instructions should be given to a beginner to be tested; these were poorly written. Also the written instructions need to be completed and not say "refer to the video lesson".
Date published: 2020-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love Chef Briwa! The instructor/chef makes this course enjoyable and easy to follow. The food is restaurant-quality but accessible. The guidebook is nice for following along.
Date published: 2020-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very professional This was a very well presented series. Being a vegetarian, I will never make octopus or any of the other meat dishes, but watching the chef's skill was inspirational. It took me back to my days at culinary school.
Date published: 2020-05-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Misnamed: See review If this course had been titled Kitchen Basics: What Every Chef Should Know, I would have given it 4 stars. There is no question Chef Sean knows his subject, but as a non-professional cook, I don't expect to need to know how to cook an octopus or break down 4 different kinds of fish. I know what the Maillard reaction is, but the term was used at least twice before it was defined several sessions later. And one recipe requires 2 ovens. It was also imperative to pay close attention to the book, if the recipes were to be reproducible. While there were many basic skills included in the sessions, separating the basic from the advanced were hard to separate. I have enjoyed 5 other courses from the CIA but this one was frustrating on many levels.
Date published: 2020-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great chef explanations but not basic We are watching this together. It is more gourmet basic rather than just cooking basics. Be sure to read the lesson titles.
Date published: 2020-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Made my mouth water! A great variety of recipes and techniques for anyone who loves food. I learned a lot, taking me from can opener to competent cook.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended I have completed about half of the lectures in “Cooking Basics” and overall, I enjoy them. I enjoy listening to Aussie accents. I will say; however, that Bill Briwa is still my gold standard for The Great Courses cooking lectures. Chef Kahlenberg dives a bit into the chemistry of cooking, maybe a bit more than simple cooking “basics” in my opinion, but fine for me. The model for this series appears to be to make a dish and include in it the basics (e.g., the dice of a particular vegetable) as part of that dish. This appears to me to be a different approach from The Great Courses series “The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking”. However, several of the lectures in “Cooking Basics” leave me somewhat confused. Take for instance Lesson 6 “How to Break Down and Roast a Chicken”. In this lesson Chef Kahlenberg explicitly states “The only thing that kills salmonella is 165°F”, both verbally and in a banner headline. If that is the case, then: At 4:05 and at 5:02 into the lecture he holds the (brass?) pepper grinder with his raw chicken contaminated hands. At 6:51 into the lecture he opens the oven with his raw chicken contaminated hands. How will these be sanitized to 165°F? I assume the remaining salt in the bowl is immediately thrown in the trash after seasoning the raw chicken using his raw chicken contaminated fingers? The hottest that the hot water out of my kitchen faucet comes out is about 130°F. I cannot possibly keep my hands in that water for any appreciable amount of time, let alone 20-30 seconds to wash them. How does Chef Kahlenberg get his hands to 165°F to kill the salmonella on them, as “The only thing that kills salmonella is 165°F”? At 6:40 into the lecture he says to heat the oven to 450°F to oven-sear the chicken. However, the oven’s display is dark and all four of the knobs are pointed north-south (apparently nothing turned on). At 7:19 into the lecture he pushes the oven rack back into the oven with his bare fingers. Is something wrong here or is oven cooking in the entire series all fake? At 4:05 into Lesson 10, “One-Dish Cookery: Coq au Vin”, he uses his raw chicken contaminated hands to open the refrigerator. How will the refrigerator handle be sanitized to 165°F? Additionally, in the chef’s biography, it assumes everyone knows what “AOS” stands for? In my opinion, this requires a bit more editorial finesse. Overall, I would recommend these lectures. Yes, there is some confusing things, but I will pick those out and soak in the rest.
Date published: 2020-03-30
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