Crafting a gourmet meal isn’t as difficult as it appears, although a solid time investment is required. Here are some tips from the pros on how to make every meal shine as brightly as the ones seen on TV.

Use high-quality butter

Think this doesn’t make a difference? Think again. When it comes to butter, the generic supermarket brands have a higher concentration of water, which will affect whatever recipe it’s used in. Go for the good stuff, and be sure to always use unsalted for greater control over the seasonings.

Keep knives sharpened

A properly sharpened knife can mean the difference between a razor-thin tomato slice — a necessity for the ultimate BLT — and a pile of mush. Similarly, if the Thanksgiving turkey is going to be properly carved, it needs the sharpest blade in the drawer. Designate different knives for each task — one for chopping vegetables, one for slicing bread, and so on. The investment will be worth it.

Visit the local farmer’s market

While it’s important to support the community, that isn’t the reason why chefs should always seek out the finest in fresh produce. Cooking with what’s in season is simply the logical path toward crafting a meal that will hit all five of the senses.

Make your own stock

Again, this is not a difficult process, only a time-consuming one — but the results are versatile, impressive, and provide a depth of flavor that simply can’t be found in a can. After enjoying a roast chicken dinner, toss the carcass in a pot with cold water, a bouquet garni, and a handful of aromatic vegetables. Bring to a boil, simmer and strain, and the result is a lovely pot of golden stock that can be used to highlight a myriad of dishes.

Click here to learn about the difference between stock and broth.

Don’t shy away from flavor

Skimping on salt is one of the most common mistakes made by novices, and often results in a listless dish. Remember that overconsumption of sodium usually comes from processed foods — preparing meals from scratch alleviates that risk. If salt intake is an issue, maximize fresh herb use instead.

For more tips from one of the masters in the field, check out this article.