Top 5 Techniques for Beginning Home Cooks
Cooking at home is both healthy and economical — so why not do more of it? Let’s look at some basics that will help break the takeout cycle of and help you gain confidence in the kitchen.
1. Find Reliable Recipes
Having a reliable database of recipes to reference is key when trying to plan a weekly menu. Without it, you may invest time and money in dishes that did not turn out the way you intended. A highly recommended site is Simply Recipes, which divides recipes by cuisine, course, main ingredient or season. The author, Elise, shows you step-by-step breakdowns and an explanation for every delicious dish. Another site with thousands of possibilities is Allrecipes, which has a vast array of slow cooker recipes, perfect for busy days when you want to do minimal prep work, but have maximum flavor.
2. Plan Ahead
Having a menu plan in place for the week will reduce the last-minute urge to eat out, and will also reduce expensive trips to the grocery store where you are unorganized and trying to plan an impromptu meal. Use sites like Gatheredtable for a quick way to organize your meals and create an easy-to-use template for shopping trips.
3. Upgrade Your Knife
Using a sharp chef’s knife instead of a smaller steak knife is one step to successful kitchen prep. You may be intimidated looking at the large blade, but it not only helps prevent kitchen accidents from the sharpness — making all cuts clean — but it also allows you to chop a bigger volume of ingredients at once. Unsure about your knife skills? Practice on a bag of cheap onions.
4. Mind Your Mise
Mise en place is a French term for “putting in place,” and professional chefs know that the key to any dish’s success means having your vegetables, herbs and ingredients prepared before you begin cooking. If your mise is done before you begin, you are prepared to add ingredients as needed to ensure proper cooking time. A proper mise en place allows you to physically and mentally organize your kitchen space before cooking, a technique that can also follow you into your everyday life.
5. Use Your Senses
One of the best tools a home cook has is his or her own senses. You can see and smell if something is being overcooked and lower the temperature, and also taste to see if a dish needs more salt or acid. Your senses are your best kitchen tools.
With some planning, prep, new equipment and confidence, you can replace your takeout menus with lifelong cooking skills.