Why Home-Cooked Food Never Tastes Like Restaurant Food

When we set out to cook a meal, be it for our family or a romantic evening for two, we always have a vision in our minds of what we want the finished product to look and taste like. That vision usually closely resembles what you might find at a restaurant, with elegant plating, refined flavors, and precise cooking. Unfortunately, what ends up on the plate in our homes rarely (if ever) comes close to what you’ll find in a restaurant, and there are several reasons why.

Restaurant kitchens run like well-oiled machines. The equipment is heavy-duty, the tools are the perfect ones for the job, and the cooks know every recipe like the back of their hand — or, more precisely, know how to make all the food on their menus without consulting recipes more than once, if that. Home kitchens may look nice, but they’re almost never well-equipped for turning out restaurant-quality meals.

Better presentation
We eat with our eyes before our mouths, and restaurants spend a whole lot of time figuring out how a finished dish should look, from what kind of plate to use to which garnish pairs best. Put a little extra care into plating, and your guests will be very impressed.

They know the tricks
Kitchen teams aren’t made of amateurs, and they know every little tip, trick, and hack to make their dishes look and taste perfect. From adding crushed pretzels into breading for that extra crunch, to infusing lemon verbena into the heavy cream, to brining fish and chicken, there are some things chefs learn along the way that no home cook would even think to do.

Their skills have been perfected
When you leave a meal to the professionals, of course you’re going to get a magnificently turned-out dish. From cutting vegetables evenly (which leads to even cooking) to knowing exactly how much of a specific ingredient to add to the pan at exactly the right moment, years of culinary school and on-the-job training can’t be faked.

Everything is made from scratch
When you open a jar of gravy and use it as a component in your “semi-homemade” meal, you’re adding ingredients like MSG and hydrolyzed soy protein into the mix. High-end restaurants don’t use corner-cutting techniques like that, and the results are obvious from the first bite

There is a team
In a professional restaurant kitchen, there’s generally a full team of cooks, and each one has a specific task. For example, to prepare a simple grilled piece of fish with white wine sauce and roasted vegetables, one cook cuts the vegetables, another cooks them, another grills the fish, another makes the sauce, and they all come together in perfect harmony on the plate because each cook is an expert at preparing that one component. At home, there’s usually only one cook in the kitchen, and it’s you. Don’t feel bad when you don’t measure up.

Aside from the fact that in restaurant kitchens everything is prepped and ready to go ahead of time, at home the knives aren’t as sharp, the recipes might not be memorized, and, well, the person cooking the food isn’t a professional chef. And there’s a big difference between someone following a cookbook recipe step-by-step and a chef turning out a dish he or she has made a thousand times before.

So don’t despair, home cook. While the skin on that piece of trout might never be as crisp coming from your nonstick pan as it would be coming from a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, a home-cooked meal still has advantages over ones from a restaurant kitchen. For one, it’s made by you and meant to be shared with friends and family. And at the end of the day, if it tastes good and is made with love, it doesn’t need to look like it came from a restaurant. In fact, that might even defeat the purpose of it. Read on to learn why home-cooked dishes will never taste like restaurant food.

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