“What do I do?” asked a furrowed-browed Wylie Dufresne as the hotplate started beeping at him. “Put in a quarter?”

The crowd at the Saturday afternoon Melbourne Food and Wine Festival masterclass chuckled – half at the influential American chef’s well-timed one-liner, half at relief that yes, even the world’s greatest cooks have off days in the kitchen.

While there was no shortage of ambitious cooking on display yesterday at Deakin Edge, it wasn’t all foie gras twisted into double knots. Here are five kitchen hacks to add your cooking repertoire, as used in some of the world’s best-known restaurants.

Wylie’s winning pickling formula
Three parts water, two parts vinegar and one part sugar: follow this winning formula from Wylie Dufresne and pickling success is yours. Once you’ve got the basics down pat (for the pickled jalapeno component of his shrimp grits dish, the former WD-50 chef boils 150 grams of water, 100 grams of vinegar, 50 grams of sugar and 5 grams of salt, lets it cool and then adds a thinly sliced jalapeno before leaving to pickle overnight) experiment with using different liquids.

Fight fire with water
While stir-frying mince for his salad of spicy pork, mint and crunchy rice, Thai food authority David Thompson (Longchim) uses water rather than oil to season the pan. Why? Water prevents the pork from both scorching and clumping together during the cooking.

Sake: more than a drink
In Nashville, fried chicken is flavoured using cayenne pepper. In Tokyo, it’s all about the sake. As part of making Den’s famous Dentucky Fried Chicken, Zaiyu Hasegawa washes chicken wings in sake to build flavour. Even if you’re not tackling Hasegawa-san’s much-Instgrammed dish, marinating chicken in a mix of sake, ginger, soy sauce and garlic is a simple way to steer dinner in a Japanese, kaarage-esque direction.

Taking stock of the situation
Water isn’t the only liquid pasta can be cooked in. In the kitchen of Carlo Cracco’s Milanese restaurant Ristorante Cracco, fusilloni (a larger version of spiral-shaped fusilli) gets cooked in hazelnut consommé. Next time you’re throwing together a weekday spag bol, try adding some chicken stock to the pot when boiling the spaghetti.

Liquid assets
Speaking of stocks, when making your own stock, always fill your pot to just under the level of the ingredients. It’ll help boost the flavour levels of the finished stock. (Thank you, Mr Dufresne.)