Do you know your Santoku from your paring knife and your poaching pan from your frypan? If you are a novice in the kitchen, even the language used in recipes can be overwhelming. Simple terms like chopping, diced, and minced all have different meanings and deglazing a pan does not mean you have to scrape all the coating off the inside. Here are five tips to use as a beginners guide to brushing up your skills in the kitchen:
Invest in Quality Equipment
Just like a carpenter or auto mechanic, it is vital to have the right tools for the job. Cooking with a battered old $5 frypan with peeling non-stick coating and a fork will not produce fine cuisine. You don’t need to spend the earth. Try watching out for sales on high-quality cookware at your local kitchenware store or scouring the second-hand shops in the area.
Anyone who has seen the movie Julie & Julia may have daydreamed about mastering the art of cooking by working their way through French chef Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But trust me on this one: the complexity will overwhelm you, and you will never step foot in the kitchen. Instead, start by learning to cook simple basics like rice, eggs, a vegetable stir-fry, and roast beef. Once you have mastered these more straightforward dishes, you will not only be able to feed yourself but can start to build on your skillset bit by bit by introducing new recipe variations and techniques.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
You will never achieve the same flavor with frozen vegetables and dried herbs as you can with fresh seasonal produce. Find the freshest ingredients that you can by tracking down local food at farmers markets in your area, growing herbs in your garden, and eating fruit and vegetables that are in season. It may take a slight adjustment to your weekly recipe list, but you will be rewarded with flavorsome food, and it will encourage you to branch out and try some new dishes that may become old favorites.
Follow the Recipe
If you have watched Jamie Oliver on TV, you will have seen him adding a dash of this and a smidgen of that. Some people seem to have chefs intuition about which flavors go well together and how much soy sauce to splash into the frypan. But if you are a novice in the kitchen, following a recipe is a fantastic way to find your feet and learn about the approximate quantity that will work for your dish. Otherwise, you may end up with a sloppy, oversalted mess.
Don’t Rush It
I couldn’t count the number of times that I burnt the vegetables because I was rushing and turned my stove up to the maximum heat setting. It may be tempting to try to cut down on cooking time, but I can tell you from personal experience that it often results in black edges. Likewise, don’t step into the kitchen and expect to be chopping up vegetables with the speed and finesse of the experts on your favorite cooking show. Slow and steady wins the race and avoids a trip to the hospital when you have accidentally chopped your finger showing off to your friends.
Mastering the art of cooking will save you money, help you maintain a healthier lifestyle, and allow you to entertain friends with ease for the rest of your life!