Do you wish you were a better, more confident cook? Do you lack the self-assurance to try new recipes? One of the essential elements of being a proficient cook is to love what you do, so it stands to reason that the more successes you have in the kitchen, the greater will be your enjoyment and self confidence. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to realizing your goal of becoming a better cook.
- Start with a good cookbook and learn the basic techniques. There are thousands of cookbooks on the market, you can find a cookbook on almost every aspect of diet and eating, from those focused around types of cuisine – French, Italian, Indian, etc.; to others that emphasize the nutritional or health aspects of eating and diet. And, there are also cookbooks that feature cooking styles such as slow cooker recipes, casseroles, barbecue. A dedicated cook will collect a wide assortment of cookbooks; however, most will tell you that they have a basic cookbook that is a useful learning resource and not just a bunch of recipes. “The Joy of Cooking” is one such resource. Browse, read reviews and buy a basic cookbook that has clear, easy to follow recipes for the kind of food that appeals to you and your family.
- Use fresh ingredients. This is fundamental to really good cooking. There are an overwhelming number of processed and boxed meal products available; marketed as quick and easy alternatives to cooking from scratch. Nevertheless, they will not result in a finished product anywhere near as good as something that is prepared with fresh ingredients. And, there are lots of meals that can be prepared quickly. Rachael Ray, for example, has cookbooks with recipes featuring meals in less than 30 minutes. You can double the recipes when making casseroles, soups, and stews and freeze half portions for another meal. Consider purchasing a slow cooker and a good slow cooker cookbook.
- Invest in good kitchen equipment. You don’t have to buy everything at once, but it is a good idea to gradually stock your kitchen with good quality cookware, utensils and other labor saving devices. If you have the right equipment, cooking is less frustrating and takes less time. Most basic cookbooks will have a section on kitchen essentials that you can use as a guide.
- Follow recipes carefully, but don’t be afraid to use your own judgment. Although this sounds like a contradictory statement it really isn’t. It is important, particularly when baking, to measure carefully and follow the cooking times and instructions given. However, no matter how precisely a recipe is written, other variables may effect how something will turn out. For example, maybe the temperatures in your oven are not quite accurate and things take a little longer or a little less time to cook. Recipes may be written to work at sea level and require adjustment for higher altitudes. Be flexible and trust your judgment which will become sharper with practice. When you modify a recipe be sure to make a note of what you did differently for future reference.
- Experiment with new tastes and recipes. It is easy to just keep cooking the same things over and over, but it is also very boring. As you become a more proficient cook try new foods and recipes. It’s exciting and rewarding as long as you don’t get too stressed out if something doesn’t turn out well. All good cooks make mistakes and have disasters in the kitchen from time to time. The process of trial and error is part of the learning curve. Consider keeping a food journal, maybe try out one new recipe a week and record how you liked it, what changes you make to ingredients or seasonings; whether you would make it again. Free E-cookbooks and recipe sites on the internet are an excellent way to get recipes at no cost.
- Seek out opportunities to learn more about cooking. Ask advice from more experienced cooks and watch what they do. You could join cooking forums such as: discusscooking.com or cookingforums.net. The food channel is a good resource, or consider a cooking course in your community. Become skilled at the ‘whys’ of cooking not just the ‘how to follow instruction’ approach. This is a lifelong challenge but worth the time and effort in the personal satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and the pleasure you give others. The following quote sums it up.