Simple Techniques That Can Help Anyone Become a Better Cook


I like to set levels before I share tips, so I’ll start with a confession and two caveats. First of all: at home, my husband does 95% of the cooking. Do I really like to cook? Yes. Do I have time for this? No. So when the time came to write this piece, which I to do I have my own tips for – I also asked my husband for help to complete it. (It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the son of a cookbook author, so there you go.) TL; DR: If you like what you read, that was it for me with the help. by Fred; otherwise, we’ll totally blame this guy.

For the first caveat, I wanted to say right off the bat that some of the advice is from pre-pandemic times (you’ll know it, it involves other people). We always wanted to share them because we like to think they will be relevant again someday. But we’re not suggesting you go out and have a dinner party tomorrow just so you can practice your hand rolled sushi technique or something like that. Finally, when I say “simple” techniques, I mean that they are Easy. Some people might even call them pretty darn obvious. But they weren’t always apparent to me, so that’s where I start.

Okay, so here it is:

Take your time if you can …

… And consider pouring yourself a drink. (Alcohol-free that’s A-OK! Loved Topo with peach and thyme syrup during the summer. Something nearby that you love to sip.) Here’s why: If your life is like mine, dinner is one of the busiest times of the day. The kids come home from extracurricular activities, ask for help with anything and everything, and try to get snacks out of the pantry, while one or both adults try to finish their work. But if you can swing it, the food should have its time. Dinner should be separated from the treadmill of the day. And having a drink on hand helps set the tone. It helps me, at least, to settle in and turn off all the activities that are currently going around the house.

Read the entire recipe before making it anything other …

… Then read it again. Is not it? Probably a huge duh. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve only gone through the ingredient list and the first step before diving in. too I can’t tell you how many times I had to go back to the store for an ingredient hidden in the recipe text that I didn’t know we would need. And don’t get me started in my great tradition of delaying dinner because the steps take longer than expected (things that need to be brought to room temperature make me all time.) And bonus: you will ultimately save time as you will be able to anticipate where you can start multitasking, like starting to boil water while you chop, remembering to preheat the oven, etc.

Prepare and organize your space for success …

… And that includes your ingredients. This technique is called establishment, and that basically means have your shit together before you start. Honestly, it’s a process I can’t cook without and it looks like this: make sure your countertop is clean. Take the pots, pans, and utensils you will need and have them handy. Prepare your ingredients – clean, chop, measure – so that when you add this or whisk you will only have to reach for the appropriate bowl because it is already ready. (Measuring frantically when you’re trying to make that window between burnt and burnt is something no one needs in 2021.) To help accomplish that, we have invested in a few sets of bowls in different sizes and materials, like metal bowls to hold larger ingredients and smaller glass prep bowls to hold others.

Enter the science of it …

… Which is easier than it looks, I promise. Some examples of things I have researched: How does using cold butter affect the texture of your chocolate chip cookies? Why does garlic have a stronger flavor when you crush it before chopping it? Knowing the reason for certain steps in a recipe helps me understand the big picture – and I think when it comes to cooking, like with most things, it is. after you learn the rules that it can really become an art. Oh, is this dish too bitter? Let’s counter it with something salty instead of sweet. Is Thanksgiving Sauce Too Thick? It’s time to increase the viscosity with cornstarch or flour. Because sometimes mistakes happen in the kitchen and if you figure out how to correct or counteract them, it will all go much easier. (We like Eat serious for recipes with science is here.)

Go out to your local kitchen store …

… Whenever you feel comfortable in a crowd again. They usually have product and cooking demonstrations on weekends, which is an easy first step in learning if a hands-on class is too intimidating. I will never forget seeing a man demonstrate how to sharpen Wüsthof knives in a Williams Sonoma soon after I got married. I was intrigued because we had received one of these knives that I didn’t have to use and wanted to know more. He shared one thing I think about whenever I cook food: Always turn your knife over when using it to scrape ingredients off your cutting board. Using the sharp edge dulls it. Just turn it over. So simple, right? Maybe everyone already knew that and I’m really talking about myself here, but it was a wake-up call for me. Who knows what you will learn?

Let go of the reins and try a meal box …

… Because it eliminates some of the hardest parts of the cooking process. If I’m being honest, there are nights when even gathering kitchen supplies seem too much no matter cooking. With a meal kit, everything is pre-measured and in a handy bag or box to grab according to your needs. A few more reasons I love them: The recipes I’ve tried always have nice pictures (so you won’t have any “Stir in the cheese” moment) and they’re super simple. If you play well, they can also force you to cook and eat things that you haven’t really done before in a very controlled and economical environment. (No purchase of $ 12 spice that you will only use once.)

Get the right tools for the job …

… To prepare you for success. This includes a good scale, mixing bowls, and meat and candy thermometers. And while we’re on the subject, consider investing in the precise ingredients for your dish, bread or pizza flour, for example. If you’re already nervous or inexperienced, don’t reduce your chances of making great food by cooking without the right tools. There are many great direct-to-consumer businesses out there now that are making cooking with the right tools more accessible to more people. You can find a lot of them here.

Do you already get into the kitchen …

… And do it a lot. As a lot. Big things. Little things. The more you do it, the more fun you have. Practice makes perfect, really. Host people, too. Cooking for a group gives you the opportunity to improve your game and show off what you’ve learned. My goal was to cook often enough that I could develop a signature dish that I could always bring to meetings. It’s not sexy, but I think I’ve mastered my mother-in-law’s coleslaw recipe, so we make a lot of it and I’m always asked for the recipe. And I know it’s ironic, I’m telling you to do this when I don’t do it often enough myself, but maybe it’s a reminder for me too.

A few other random things …

Don’t forget to prepare your meals! I got over my fear of using our porcelain wedding set during the pandemic and now we regularly serve our “good stuff” dinners. Life is short and you’ve spent a lot of time preparing this meal, so treat it that way! And I personally think the food tastes better on a nice dish.

If you have children, invite them to join you. Give them a fun task (my daughter has loved making the salad spinner since she was little) and let them grow into new tasks. Now the two children are helping to measure, mix and chop the vegetables. And when they don’t want to help, they set the table. Each family should do what works best for them, but for us, I want everyone to participate in the dinner so that you can really take advantage of my first tip (take your time with a drink). And there we have come full circle. Enjoy your lunch!





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