Cooks vs. Cons, the new competition show hosted by Geoff Zakarian, premiered in April, and it’s been quite the learning experience.

Viewers don’t know who’s who in this exciting show that mixes true professionals and amateur chefs as they try to out-cook one another. Each episode is a thrilling adventure as contestants are tasked with cooking a traditional dish with surprise ingredients.

The right (and wrong) moves in the kitchen can be a dead giveaway as cooks try their hardest to impress the judges (including Josh Elkin of Sugar Showdown).

Here, we go over some of the right and wrong cooking techniques that separate the pros from the amateurs. Read on to learn how to con others into thinking you’re an expert chef.

Cooking Mac and Cheese with Peppers

Right: As seen in the episode, “Mac ‘n’ Cheese Meltdown,” a true professional would char or roast their peppers before adding them to the comfort food classic. Charred peppers would give this dish that added heat.

Wrong: An amateur would just dice the peppers and add it to the mac and cheese without cooking it first.

Cooking Burgers Using Cereal

Right: When a true professional is tasked with incorporating cereal into a burger, they use the ingredient for texture. Cereal is just the thing to give a burger some crunch. Coating onion rings, the perfect substitute for french fries, in shredded cereal is another pro-move, as seen in the episode “Burger Battle.”

Wrong: Only an amateur would think mixing cereal  with the patty is enough. Chefs must always think outside the box.

Cooking Protein with Jams

Right: Jams or jellies may not be on anyone’s radar when cooking meat, but a professional knows marmalade can become a nice glaze. Spreading it over the crispy skin of a duck, chicken or pig is a total pro move. Marmalade is tart and slightly bitter, which pairs wonderfully with protein.

Wrong: You must be an amateur if you dare to combine strawberry jam with fish. When glazing a fish like cod or salmon, go for something less sweet and more vinegary like a balsamic.

soda

Cooking Tacos Using Soda

Right: In the episode “Taco Takedown,” one contestant added orange soda and cola in their steak marinade for a Miami-style taco. The sugar from the soda balances nicely with the acidity from the sour oranges and key limes. 

Wrong: Using cola or root beer on your taco as a substitute for syrup is basic. As judge Graham Elliot explains, you want to be able to taste the soda and not second guess it.

cookies

Cooking Meat & Potatoes with Cookies

Right: A pro move is combining lamb with mint cookies for a winning combination. One contestant on the episode “Cookie Crumble” made delicious lamb chops with a mint chocolate crust. A real chef knows the earthiness of the chocolate balances the flavour of the meat perfectly.

Wrong: An amateur would only use cookie crumbs as a garnish, instead of using chunks to elevate the flavour of the meat. Go big or go home, as they say.

Watch new episodes of Cooks vs. Cons Mondays at 10 E/P. Catch up on episodes online here