As summer winds down and teens head off to college for the first time, parents may wonder what kitchen skills their kids should have before they pack their bags and head off to a more grown-up experience.
When a college-aged teen moves into their dorm room, should they know more than how to microwave a frozen dinner or heat up a budget packet of ramen? George Miliotes, a master sommelier and owner of Wine Bar George in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., says yes.
Miliotes, whose children range in age from 17 to 25, has held many roles in the restaurant industry over the course of his career. While his 17-year-old daughter is still in high school, he and his wife, Leanne, have successfully taught two college grads to cook simple meals with flair.
To get kids ready to cook confidently during their college years, Miliotes says it's worth investing "time and effort" in their culinary education. Miliotes shares with Yahoo Life the eight things teenagers should know how to do in the kitchen before college begins.
How to cut an avocado
Miliotes says avocados are perfect to keep around, since it's simple to make avocado toast or throw together guacamole for a snack. "Knowing how to core and take an avocado out of its shell quickly and efficiently is like — for a kid — the coolest and most easy thing ever to do," he tells Yahoo Life.
But what's the simplest way to take an avocado apart?
"Put the avocado in one hand and a kitchen knife in the other," says Miliotes. "If you cut the avocado in half longitudinally, it comes apart easily. Then, if you stick the knife in the nut, you can twist the knife and the nut comes right out. After that, you can run the spoon underneath each half of the avocado. in 15 seconds I can have the avocado completely out of the shell and my hands are not a mess."
Once a kid has the delicious avocado removed from its skin, Miliotes says the possibilities are endless. With some lemon juice, salt, pepper and hot sauce, they can whip up a simple guacamole. Sliced avocado can be added to a salad, and avocado that's been sliced or mashed can go on toast.
"My kids also know if you're going to make an avocado dish that's going to have to sit for a bit, you have to acidulate it with a little lemon juice so it doesn't turn brown," he adds.
Proper knife skills
"We taught our kids knife skills: how to chop and how to hold a knife and how to properly use the claw when you're chopping so you don't cut yourself," shares Miliotes. "At a young age, they learned both respect for the knife and how to use the knife, and while that may not seem like it's all that important, just about any recipe involves some type of chopping."
Miliotes also says it's important to show kids the proper way to cut with a knife, using a pushing motion as you chop to get the most leverage.
How to grill a steak
To teach teens how to grill steaks, Miliotes says it's a good idea to choose a few specific cuts of meat your family likes and stick with those. "We do filet, strips, rib eye or skirt," he says, explaining that this makes it easy for kids to choose their own meat at the grocery store. "First you've gotta get your grill really, really hot and, for a younger person, I think the idea of heat is always a scary thing and you have to be respectful."
For gas grills, Miliotes encourages working on a grill with two different heat zones. For charcoal, he prefers to stack and light charcoal on one side of the grill, to create a temperature difference between the two sides of the grates.
"When you put a steak on a really hot grill, whether it's gas or charcoal, you can get that very eye-appealing thatch mark on it if you're patient," he says. "When the grill marks get to the point that they're done, you should be able to lift the steak off the grill without it sticking. If it's still sticking, that means you need to leave it on the grill longer."
Miliotes says the key to a good steak is to keep things simple: There's no need to add oil to the meat prior to grilling, and salt and pepper should only be added after it comes off the grill. Once it's removed from the grill, the steak needs to rest for five to 10 minutes in a warm oven or the microwave.
"A mistake most first-time steak cooks do is they'll cook the steak and they'll say, 'Hey they're hot off the grill, let's eat them,'" says Miliotes. "But if you don't let them rest for five to 10 minutes, you cut into it and all the blood goes out and you have a very dry steak."
How to cook simple pasta dishes
"Pasta is boiling something," says Miliotes. "It's not all that difficult. If you take five minutes with your kids, anybody can make pasta."
The go-to pasta dishes he's taught his kids to make? Carbonara, fettuccine alfredo and penne alla vodka.
"Spaghetti carbonara is a really quick and easy thing to do because all it really is is getting good bacon, prosciutto or any type of ham and chopping it up and sauteeing it until it's almost done," he says. "Then you set that aside and make a mixture of egg yolks and cheese. Boil your pasta and then when it's done, you put it in a bowl and dump the egg and cheese mixture and bacon into it and toss it."
"We'll do [the dish] with peas also — frozen peas we've sauteed or left at room temperature to defrost," he adds. "It's so simple, and because it's 'spaghetti carbonara' it sounds like you're doing something uniquely Italian."
Miliotes also recommends teaching kids to make a simple alfredo sauce, which can be changed to a sauce for penne alla vodka by adding tomato paste and a splash of vodka.
How to buy seafood
Choosing a cut of fish at the grocery store can be overwhelming for any adult, but Miliotes says with a few simple tips, teens can select the perfect filet.
"We taught our kids how to inspect fish," he says. "When buying fish, there are three things our kids know. First, the eyes have to be clear. Then, the gills have to be nice and red. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with asking someone to take it out of the case on a piece of deli paper and allow you to smell it because your nose will tell you if it smells good or not."
"Trust your nose," he adds. "If you don't think it smells OK, buy something else."
How to make a smoothie
In a world where small appliances that expertly blend smoothies abound, Miliotes says the drink-that's-a-meal is perfect for college kids on the go.
"My youngest is the queen of smoothies," he says. "She makes them for breakfast, lunch or after any type of athletic endeavor. We always keep protein powder around because if she has done cheer or track — after any workout — she'll come home and make a smoothie with a little bit of frozen fruit and whole or coconut milk.
"She always adds protein powder," he adds, "which gives her body that protein that helps her build and rebuild muscle after working out."
How to cook eggs
"Teach your kids the very simple idea of putting butter in a pan and how to whisk up eggs and add a little bit of dairy — whether it's half-and-half or whole milk," says Miliotes. "We whisk them really well and the pan has to be really hot: Put butter in the pan, and when the butter foams, you know the pan is hot enough."
Once a teen understands the basics, they can be shown how to make both scrambled eggs and omelets. And, Miliotes says to consider showing kids how to make deviled eggs.
"They're very easy for kids to make," he says. "If you go over it once or twice with them, their friends will think, 'Wow.' Deviled eggs as an appetizer and then steak and a salad? That's a pretty cool meal."
How to order an impressive (but inexpensive) bottle of wine
As a master sommelier, Miliotes says his children have grown up around wine. Still, he emphasizes that the skill of wine-choosing should be reserved for those who are 21 and older.
For Miliotes, it's all about giving young adults the right buzzwords to choose a great bottle of vino.
"My daughter knows to ask about Beaujolais because right now, Beaujolais is having more of a moment," he says. "You go in and ask what Beaujolais they have or what Nebbiolo. Don't say Barbaresco or Barolo because you're going to pay $200 a bottle, but if you say Nebbiolo, they may have something just as good in your price range."
He adds, "My son will ask what Tempranillo or Garnacha they have from Spain that's less than $20 a bottle. He knows to look for a Paso Robles Cabernet at the grocery store because he knows he can get a good wine at a good value."
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