12 Tips You Need To Cook Like Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse has won numerous awards, filmed thousands of TV episodes, written best-selling cookbooks, and brought "Bam!" into our kitchens and hearts. His food even went to space. The astronauts needed a little more flavor, and NASA knew just who to call. Since Lagasse excels at flavor, we'll look at some of his strategies for bringing it out. Despite his work with NASA, it's not all rocket science — sometimes it's just salt. And also citrus, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce.

We'll also get Lagasse's tips on barbecuing and the art of non-boring sandwiches. He has books on both subjects, "Emeril at the Grill" and "Emeril's Kicked-Up Sandwiches: Stacked with Flavor," so we know he has a lot to offer on those subjects.

Along the way, we'll learn about Lagasse's philosophies, such as keeping it simple and having fun on the journey. So please join us on this exploration and we'll try our hardest not to pepper every sentence with "Bam!"

1. Have a game plan

Emeril Lagasse champions the idea of a game plan to make cooking more fun. During the pregame preparation, chop, measure, and arrange your ingredients in an orderly lineup of bowls. Pretend you're setting up your own cooking show, minus the camera crew. And make sure you have all the equipment ready — saucepan on the stove and your favorite spoon ready for stirring.

Hosting a party? Lagasse encourages you to plan ahead or you'll miss out on your own event. Many of his recipes are perfect for prepping in advance, especially for the holidays. Take Emeril Lagasse's Graveyard Pudding for example — prep it ahead, chill it, and it's ready hours before putting on your Halloween costume.

Lagasse is also a fan of planning ahead with slow cookers, so much so that he even wrote a book on them. "Emeril's Cooking with Power" celebrates all things slow cooker, multi-cooker, pressure cooker, and deep fryer. Whether it's setting up a slow cooker apple cinnamon oatmeal for a Sunday brunch or slow cooker chicken enchiladas for a weeknight dinner, a little prep goes a long way. Embracing a "set it and forget it" mindset frees up some energy so you can be the life of your own party.

2. Embrace salt

In channeling your inner Emeril Lagasse, don't overlook a basic seasoning — salt. There are many different types of salts and ways to use them. Lagasse is a sage, perfecting the use of a variety of salts in his cooking, including sea salt. Harvested by evaporating seawater, sea salt ranges from fine grains to coarse chunks. Unlike table salt's fine powder, sea salt's larger crystals work well as a finishing salt. It's not just flavorful — it adds a delightful crunch when sprinkled on veggies. Lagasse sprinkles sea salt on artichokes and uses it to season green beans. But mind Emeril's pro tip — use sea salt sparingly. As he tells Self, "A little goes a long way."

Our salt sage also relies on kosher salt, which comes from underground salt deposits. Its large, flaky grains are perfect for prepping meats or adding a final touch of seasoning to a dish. Lagasse uses kosher salt to season meats before browning. He also likes the control he gets from kosher salt's coarser texture. This allows him to season with the precision of an expert chef, which he just so happens to be.

Lagasse also spices things up with celery salt. A mixture of celery seeds and salt, celery salt is the secret weapon in a classic Bloody Mary and adds subtle depth to your favorite cold salads. Whether mixing coleslaw or spicing up deviled eggs, Lagasse dashes celery salt in many dishes.

3. Squeeze some citrus

Here's a zesty tip from Emeril Lagasse — grab a lemon and give it a squeeze. Think of lemon juice as the flavor equivalent of turning up the volume on your favorite song — it makes everything taste more intense. Like salt, lemon juice is a powerful taste enhancer that literally makes our mouths water. The acidity enhances salivation, allowing us to perceive flavors better. It works for both savory and sweet foods, improving everything from broccoli to blueberry jam. Using just a little lemon juice will add brightness without adding a lemony flavor. Start slowly — just one or two teaspoons — and, if needed, add more till you find that bright spot.

Lagasse doesn't stop at lemon. He plays matchmaker with all sorts of citrus in his sweet and savory dishes, from cake to crawfish. Both lemon and orange infuse Lagasse's olive oil cake. Lagasse's crawfish dumplings are only complete with a tangy sauce made with orange and lime juices.

While citrus juices work well to brighten the existing flavors of a dish, if you're looking for intense citrus flavor, turn to citrus zest. Zest your way to perfect lemon bars or turn orange muffins up a notch with orange zest. Lagasse loves using citrus zest in his cooking, but he reminds us not to get overzealous while zesting — stop when you see white. The white part will be bitter, which is definitely not the flavor boost you're looking for.

4. Succeed with seasoning blends

Emeril Lagasse's ultimate secret ingredient is Creole seasoning. He loves the convenient medley of salt, hot pepper, black pepper, herbs, and spices. This versatile seasoning perks up a wide variety of foods — spice up your tuna salad, season your French fries, or make your popcorn pop with more than just butter.

Not one to keep a good thing to himself, Lagasse launched his own line of seasoning, Emeril's Essence. With similarities to Creole seasoning, Emeril's Essence is made with salt, paprika, dried garlic, dried onion, black pepper, and other spices. It's an all-purpose seasoning that's great on meats, veggies, and seafood.

To help turn everyday meals into "Bam!" worthy creations, Lagasse recommends crafting your own seasoning blend to have on hand. Once you've created your own concoction, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. This should keep it good for a couple of years so you can easily rescue any meal from the brink of boredom.

5. Keep Worcestershire sauce handy

Worcestershire Sauce isn't just a tongue twister — it's a deeply-flavored condiment with the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Emeril Lagasse celebrates this sauce, which he says is great on steaks and mac and cheese. He uses it in glazes, sauces, and a variety of dishes like meatloaf, barbecue shrimp, and onion soup. Given Worcestershire sauce's abundant flavor and wide-ranging applications, it's no wonder Lagasse considers it a staple in his many successful restaurants.

If you're looking for ways to welcome Worcestershire sauce into your kitchen, you won't have to look far. It's a tasty marinade that can step in as an alternative to soy sauce or fish sauce. Like Lagasse, you can add a dash to stews and soups — just a little goes a long way to add flavor. 

Worcestershire sauce's strong flavor also mixes well with other condiments, dressings, and dips. It elevates an easy honey mustard, it's the ingredient that will take your homemade ranch to the next level, and it's the secret ingredient you should be using in your guacamole. By inviting Worcestershire sauce into your dishes, you'll add layers of savory richness — you just have to decide whether you'll be willing to reveal your secret ingredient.

6. It's all about having the right tools

In cooking, even a foolproof recipe can quickly dissolve into chaos if you don't have the right tools. Lagasse believes cooking is a lot more fun with a well-equipped kitchen. For cookware, Lagasse doesn't worry about matchy-matchy sets. A variety of brands and materials might better suit your eclectic cooking needs. And he recommends buying the best quality you can afford. Consider it a long-term investment — if you take proper care of your cookware, it could outlast your grandmother's fruitcake.

Lagasse points out that no kitchen is complete without a trusty blade — or four. You might not need the flashy 20-piece set, but there are a few you shouldn't skimp on: a paring knife, serrated paring knife, chef's knife, and serrated bread knife. As with cookware, Lagasse suggests investing in the best you can afford. He also recommends buying a knife in person so you can hold it — it should feel like an extension of your hand, not a workout for your wrist. 

And while you're shopping for tools, pick up a knife sharpener if you don't already have one — sharp knives are safer than dull ones. As Lagasse explains, you have to use more force with a dull blade, which can cause the knife to slip. Instead, arm yourself with a sharp knife to help create a safe and fun kitchen.

7. Thrive with appliances

Emeril Lagasse enjoys using and experimenting with kitchen appliances and is happy for you to do the same. From onion rings to old-fashioned cake doughnuts, he's created many recipes for the air fryer and electric deep fryer. With less mess and stress, a deep fryer creates restaurant-quality results — and that's according to Lagasse, who knows a thing or two about award-winning restaurants.

Lagasse also celebrates slow cookers and pressure cookers. He loves that you can "set it and forget it" with a slow cooker — just toss in some ingredients, go to work, and come home to a hot and tender pot roast. He's also a big fan of the slow cooker's convenience when entertaining on game days. Or, if the game has you amped up, maybe you're ready to speed things up a notch. Though terrifying to some, modern pressure cookers are safe and Lagasse encourages their use. They are perfect for preparing beans, braised meats, and even vegetables in a fraction of the usual cooking time.

Emeril is also a fan of the multi-cooker. Imagine having a rice cooker, steamer, and slow cooker all in one neat package. Depending on the model, you might even be able to sauté and roast, too. It's one machine to do it all, from simple veggie side dishes to more complex main courses. With so many appliances in one, a multi-cooker is especially a game-changer if your kitchen space is more "cozy apartment" than "professional chef's dream."

8. Keep it simple

"Keep it simple" might not be the mantra you'd expect from a chef whose restaurant classics include Double Cut Pork Chops with Tamarind Glaze, Green Mole Sauce and Caramelized Sweet Potatoes and Miss Hay's Stuffed Chicken Wings. Deboning chicken wings, stuffing them neatly, and then double-cooking them by baking and frying does not sound particularly simple. But if we put the stuffed chicken wings aside, we'll see many ways simplicity infuses Emeril Lagasse's philosophy.

For Lagasse, simplicity starts with sourcing the best ingredients — fresh and seasonal food doesn't need much help to taste great. You'll see this in action at his seafood restaurant, Emeril's Coastal, where close relationships with nearby suppliers ensure the freshest catch of the day. And the "keep it simple" philosophy follows him home. When ABC News asked him about his favorite go-to family meal, he said, "When it comes to the family, it's simple, it's simple food. There's nothing wrong with just a perfect roast chicken with roasted vegetables."

Even Lagasse's favorite junk food is simple — Zapp's potato chips. While Zapp's makes many creative flavors, like Spicy Cajun Crawtators and Voodoo Heat, Lagasse reaches out for the plain original chips. When you have potato chips that are made with good ingredients and seasoned with the proper amount of salt, you don't need much more.

9. Enhance your sandwiches

Sandwiches don't have to be something you just quickly slap together to take on the go. When you bring Emeril Lagasse's creativity to the art of sandwich making, exciting things happen. Lagasse believes that great sandwiches often come from experimentation. He encourages you to take inspiration from what you have on hand — leftovers are a great place to start, just like the turkey sandwiches you eat after Thanksgiving. Lagasse wants that to be your muse year-round. Didn't finish last night's broccoli? Adding veggies is one of the easy ways to upgrade grilled cheese. Wondering what to do with that bit of leftover slaw? Your sandwich is asking for it.

Lagasse says condiments play a huge role in making or breaking a sandwich. Let those condiments bring in fun and flavor. Try out homemade condiment recipes to customize your sandwich. For a semi-homemade approach, give mayo a makeover — add Sriracha for spicy mayo or go Mediterranean and mix mayo with chopped olives and anchovies.

And of course, the foundation of any sandwich is the bread. Lagasse encourages you to mix it up. Try different types to discover how they change the game with their unique textures. And who says you have to stick to traditional sliced bread? Why not English muffins, focaccia, or croissants? Pancakes, tortillas, or lettuce wraps? Lagasse recognizes that the purists might argue these aren't real sandwiches. But if it tastes amazing, who cares what it's called?

10. Grill like a pro

Emeril Lagasse is wise in the ways of the flame. He offers many great tips, starting with the basics — always clean your grill when it's still hot, using a wire brush meant for the task. This makes scraping the grates much easier and you'll thank yourself when you're ready to grill the next time. When that time comes, don't start grilling until your tools are handy — instant-read thermometer, long-handled spatulas, and tongs. If you're planning on fish, a fish spatula does wonders to keep your catch in one piece.

If you're grilling meat, restraint is key. Though tempting, resist the urge to press down on those burgers. It squeezes juicy goodness out of the meat. Also, hold off on the barbecue sauce — at least at first. Most barbecue sauces contain a high amount of sugar which can easily burn if applied too early. If you wait until the final five minutes, the sauce can still flavor the meat without a scorching side effect.

When grilling fish, Lagasse tends to keep it simple. To start, let your fish rest at room temp for about 20 minutes. For fish like snapper or grouper, gentle seasoning is all you'll need. Just a little oil on both sides, a squeeze of lemon, and a touch of herbs will let the grill bring out the fish's natural flavor.

11. Love learning like Lagasse

As a kid, Emeril Lagasse lied about his age on a community college application so he could attend a cake decorating class. He was technically too young but was eager to learn the ins and outs of a pastry bag. He continued learning about food when he attended a vocational high school that offered culinary classes. And then he was off to the culinary program at Johnson & Wales.

Lagasse encourages chefs of all levels to learn in any and all ways possible. He's a big proponent of dabbling in a diverse mix of culinary experiences. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a disaster-prone home cook (no judgment here), Emeril wants you to stay curious and keep asking questions. He gives the farmer's market as an example. Lagasse points out that most vendors know lots of tips and tricks about the food they sell. You just have to ask.

Lagasse expresses immense gratitude for the teachers and mentors in his life. Looking back, he sees the suggestion to get a mentor as some of the best advice he ever received. Lagasse learned from greats like chef Paul Prudhomme and restaurateur Ella Brennan, the 2009 winner of the James Beard Award for Lifetime Achievement. From his teachers and mentors, Lagasse learned not just about food, but about the importance of keeping current. He continues to champion lifelong learning — read about cooking, watch shows and tutorials, take classes, try new experiences, and taste lots of food.

12. Enjoy the cooking journey

With so many culinary awards and best-selling cookbooks, we don't doubt that Emeril Lagasse can plate a delicious meal. But for Lagasse, it's about so much more than the appetizing end product. Lagasse brings passion to the entire journey, starting with reading and rereading the recipe. Enjoying the journey means making a thorough plan. It includes noticing the smells and sounds as food cooks. And, of course, the journey is also about tasting ᅳ lots of tasting.

When Lagasse burst onto the TV scene with "The Essence of Emeril," he wanted every episode to make cooking fun. "Emeril Live" added even more flavor with a live band and an energized audience. Whether it's through his shows, cookbooks, or charitable work to support kids' access to culinary arts, Lagasse's passion is infectious. If you match Lagasse's joy for cooking, you'll have lots of fun experimenting with food and flavors in the kitchen.