Cooking is sometimes seen as a mysterious skill that people only know if they’ve been to culinary school or were forced to spend time in the kitchen by their parents. Neither is true, and cooking is something that you can easily learn in your own time and with a bit of common sense. But to help you settle into the idea of cooking, here are four big tips that will transform the way you think about food in the kitchen.
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1. Make sure you follow recipes and watch videos
Following the recipe is perhaps the most basic and straightforward advice that you could get to improve your cooking. However, many people kind of neglect to actually follow the recipe and tend to deviate either because they don’t have an ingredient or because they just don’t follow the instructions. Make sure you look at videos and read recipes for what you want to make. Whether that involves pizza making, baking a cake, or putting a salad together, it’s vital that you follow recipes and watch videos to get a better understanding of how to recreate something.
2. But understand how to break and tweak them as well
In addition to following recipes, you should also learn to tweak them to your preferences. For instance, if a recipe calls for a lot of sugar and you’ve realized that it’s too sweet, then why not just reduce the amount of sugar? Not all recipes are perfect and they’re made in the eyes of whoever wrote it or made the video. You should also get a feel for how ingredients change something. How is that soup thickened? What causes this food to get crispy? Understanding how to make, break, and tweak a recipe will greatly improve your cooking knowledge and help you create your own recipes.
But some people can be afraid of experimentation, especially if their previous tries have gone wrong. The key here is to do a bit of studying so that you can learn what each ingredient does for the food that you’re making. Let’s use fried rice as an example. Most people recommend that you use overnight rice when you fry it to prevent it from getting mushy. The reason is that freshly-made rice has a lot of moisture. If you throw this into a wok or pan, then it’s going to have a lot of water content that will just make it soft and lumpy. To prevent this, you have to remove the moisture by putting the rice in a rice cooker or fridge and leaving it overnight. This lets the moisture escape, firming up the rice and helping it withstand your frying.
When you realize why a recipe is the way it is, you’ll start to gain a better understanding of cooking as a whole and you apply that knowledge to virtually everything that you cook.
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3. Use the right tools for the job
Make sure you’re also using the right tools for the job. People often say that a good knife is really the only kitchen tool you’ll need, but you can improve your kitchen and get useful appliances such as a spiralizer, a mandolin, or even a mezzaluna if you like to chop and slice things with greater convenience. This greatly speeds up prep time and opens up new recipes for you.
There are also some appliances that will help speed up cooking times. For instance, a microwave can be used to melt butter which helps you save time and cooking space on your stovetop. Air fryers can also be extremely convenient for roasting vegetables, and food processors are incredible at dicing up food and grinding down various spices. These tools may take a bit of time to clean, but they ultimately save a lot of time when it comes to prep.
4. Cook more
Lastly, cooking is a skill that you improve when you actually do it. Sure, reading books and watching videos can help you understand cooking better, but real improvement comes from constantly doing it. Try to cook every day and you’ll get more comfortable with it. Find out what makes cooking difficult or frustrating for you, then work out how to make it more convenient for yourself. For instance, maybe you’re not using the right cooking utensils and your food keeps sticking, or perhaps you should make more use of your washing machine to make cleaning everything easier. Whatever stops you from cooking more often, try to deal with those problems first so that you’re more inclined to spend time in the kitchen.
For some people, cooking more typically means finding a reason to actually get in the kitchen and cook. This can be tricky for some because they’re either too busy to cook more, or they just find it more convenient to order food on a delivery service. Thankfully, there are ways to work around those lifestyle choices. For example, being busy doesn’t mean that you can’t cook more at home. All it means is that you need to be more prepared and faster with how you make food in the kitchen, or you just need to start using meal prep strategies to save time. This usually involves cooking a lot of food when you have time on the weekends, and then simply heating up that food or using it as a base to cook larger meals throughout the week.
For people that find it more convenient to order food, there’s actually a very simple truth that will help change your mind: cooking is faster than waiting for a takeout. There are some delicious and fast meals that you can make in under 15 minutes. This is usually less time than what it takes to order food and wait for it to come. As long as you’re being efficient in the kitchen, you can get delicious meals at home without needing to wait around for too long and you’ll also save money.