Craftsy Class Review: 20 Essential Cooking Techniques with Brendan McDermott

As I'd mentioned in a blog post awhile back, I had submitted a request to Craftsy some time ago to do some basic cooking technique classes aimed at new cooks--thinking especially of my kids and nieces and nephews who all are a lot more interested in food and cooking than I was at their age. Some of them have done in-person cooking classes with me but because of random work schedules, college, and little bitty babies in their respective lives, they don't always have time to haul themselves to a cooking school. Video lessons are the perfect answer. I was thrilled to get an email from Craftsy saying that my request had now been answered. Enter Brendan McDermott--one of my fave Craftsy teachers to date--and 20 Essential Cooking Techniques with Brendan McDermott. Since I'd helped make it happen, I figured I had to buy it myself.

And I'm glad I did!

Hardboiled eggs done perfectly--not over or under done. These turned into egg salad.

Hardboiled eggs done perfectly--not over or under done. These turned into egg salad.

Even a woman who's been scrambling eggs for [ahem] years can learn a few new tricks.

My recent dental issues meant I was having to restrict myself for days on end to soft, mushy foods. I had plenty of opportunities to use skills I'd learned from the class on homemade pasta I'd taken a few weeks ago, but I needed to keep protein in my diet so I started eating a lot more eggs than usual. This class has two entire lessons on eggs and walks through hard-boiled, poached, fried, scrambled, and omelettes. 've done most of those things...a lot...for a lot of years. The only two I hadn't done successfully were poached and omelettes--my poached ended up stringy and my omelettes ended up scrambled. But I always liked my scrambled eggs.


Poached eggs--yums.

Poached eggs--yums.

Still, boredom with soft foods made me willing to try new techniques just to do something different. And this old dog learned a few new tricks! Following his methods, my hard-boiled egg was perfectly done, my poached egg was beautiful, my scrambled eggs were extra fluffy, and my omelette stayed omelette-y!  

Brendan McDermott is fun to listen to, although his humor isn't quite as evident in this class as it was in his free knife skills class. (See my review of that one here.) His teaching style is relaxed, and he explains the whys behind the hows. I feel like I understand why certain techniques work better now than I did before, even where they were techniques I was already using.

The lessons are each meant to be stand-alone--in other words, their working assumption in the class is that someone should be able to dip in, watch one lesson, and get all the information they need for that one technique without having missed anything from a previous lesson. This means that if, instead, you watch all or many of the lessons in a row, you will hear certain foundational information over and over. I can pretty much quote Brendan's instructions about heating oil verbatim now. But it's good information, so it's not bad to have it drilled into my head. 

Steak and shredded cheddar omelette, with the steak diced very, very small as I was testing whether I could handle chewables yet.

Steak and shredded cheddar omelette, with the steak diced very, very small as I was testing whether I could handle chewables yet.

I've watched most of the lessons at this point and plan on using his techniques for making clarified butter (something I've never done), and I'll be making fish for dinner tonight based on his lesson on working with fish and shellfish. 

Can you tell that I really enjoy Craftsy's cooking classes--perhaps even more than the quilting ones? I know, that's nearly blasphemy to admit on a quilting blog. But there you go. 

This is not a recipe-oriented class like other technique classes are. He does give some very simple, quick instructions for pan sauces and the like as he's talking through the techniques. The class materials, however, do include 6 recipes, only a few of which I remember him mentioning in the class itself. This truly is a technique class. I didn't miss the recipes at all, though I will be using one of the quick pan sauces he does with my fish tonight--it's a way to make something just a little more special and flavorful without taking any more time or dirtying any other dishes. FTW.

I recommend this class particularly for newbie or less confident cooks, of course. But I also recommend it for anyone who is interested in tweaking their techniques after a lot of years of cooking. There's a lot of good information packed into each lesson. And, again, Brendan McDermott is a really good teacher--easy to listen to, explains everything well, and with a deadpan humor that I enjoy.

The Basics

  • 9 lessons; the first lesson is just an introductory piece about a minute long. The other 8 lessons range from 9 1/2 minutes to nearly 40 minutes.
  • Lesson 2 lays the foundation with "Enhancing Flavors," explaining how to toast various spices and nuts, clarifying butter, and making infused butters. Lessons 3 and 4 are about eggs--hard-boiling, poaching, frying (sunny-side up and over-easy), scrambling, and omelette, plus tips on how to tell if an egg is fresh and so forth. Lesson 5 covers blanching and shocking vegetables, lesson 6 is working with chicken, lesson 7 is making stock, lesson 8 is fish and shellfish, and lesson 9 is pork tenderloin.

So, my final verdict on 20 Essential Cooking Techniques with Brendan McDermott: Two thumbs up!

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