Ten Things All New Cooks Should Know
Whether you’re just moving out to live by yourself for the first time or you’re simply tired of eating too much fast food and take-out, once you make the decision to start cooking and prepare more food on your own, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find cooking really isn’t as hard as it seems! While you may not want to leap to tackle a difficult culinary challenge, like macarons, mastering the basics isn’t too tough, and you’ll be amazed to see how delicious something as simple as a bowl of pasta or a plate of roasted veggies can take as long as it’s prepared properly!
Ready to get started in the kitchen? As a new cook, it’s important to do your research and equip yourself with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed. To start, here are ten things all new cooks should know:
Recipes Are Your Friend
It’s fine to experiment in the kitchen once in a while, especially when you know what you’re doing. But if you’re just learning how to cook, you probably shouldn’t stray too far from tried-and-true recipes. Instead, find a few food blogs or search some recipe websites for inspiration and follow along to recreate the dishes that look the tastiest! You can also always ask for recipes in the PhyrraNyx Facebook Group or the Beauty Balm Lounge!
One big important note on recipes: read the entire recipe before you start cooking. One more time for the people in the back. All new cooks should know to read the entire recipe before your start making it. Pay attention to the details. You don’t want to find yourself two hours ahead of dinner faced with a meal that calls for an overnight marinade. This is the most important one out of all the things all new cooks should know!
With baking, I almost always experiment and tweak recipes, rather than make them exactly as instructed, but I’ve been baking since I was about 14. With cooking, I follow recipes pretty closely because I’m not as skilled at it.
Keep Staple Ingredients On Hand
It’s a good idea to limit the number of fresh ingredients you keep around to avoid letting food spoil, but keeping a well-stocked pantry is key to creating great meals without a special trip to the store. Canned goods, and other basic ingredients should always have a place in your home. Since we’re doing the keto lifestyle, I keep fresh salad fixings, vegetables, cheeses, and hormone free meats on hand.
Don’t be afraid to use salt… One of the mistakes many new cooks make is that they fail to properly salt their food, but it’s definitely an important thing that all new cooks should know. When following a recipe, don’t cut down on the amount of salt called for by the creator – unless, of course, you’re watching your sodium intake. It may sound like a lot, but it takes more than you’d think to truly season your dish. And if you’re eyeballing it? Don’t be afraid to add a bit more than you think is necessary, especially when salting water for pasta or rice.
Also, I’ve found that using sea salt adds more flavor for me than some other salts. I use either sea salt or pink himalayan salt to season my foods.
Experiment with a variety of spices. It’s one of the best things all new cooks should know. Embracing an array of spices is one of the easiest ways to enhance your cooking and incorporate flavor and excitement into your home-cooked meals. Explore spices from different areas of the world to give your food an ethnic flair, or come up with new combinations of your own to delight the diners in your home.
If you have a Savory Spice Shop near you, you can find some great spices! We have a Savory shop in St. Pete and I’ve picked up all kinds of cool spice mixes from them! While I normally advocate for shopping online, it’s one of the few stores I like to go into so that I can smell the different spice blends to determine if I will like them.
Mise En Place
Practice mise en place. Mise en place is a French phrase that essentially means “to set in place,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like – the process of preparing your ingredients and finding everything you need before you begin to actually cook your dish. There’s nothing worse than scrambling to chop ingredients and add them in before it’s too late. Ditch the unnecessary stress and put some effort into the setup process. This really ties into reading the entire recipe before you start, as the recipe (if it’s well written) will have everything broken into different steps so you’ll be able to prep properly.
Watch Youtube Videos
You can learn just about anything on anything on Youtube. From how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg to the most useful knife techniques to use in the kitchen, you’ll find tutorials on how to do just about anything cooking-related online. A quick search on Youtube – or in your favorite search engine, for that matter – will likely reveal multiple instructional videos.
Let It Breathe
Let it breathe! This is one of those lessons that all new cooks need to learn. When frying or roasting foods, you probably want your end result to be crispy, right? If so, don’t overcrowd your pans! Cooking pieces of food too closely together will cause you to actually steam your meal, which is essentially the opposite of roasting or frying it. For crispy snacks and sides, leave a little room around each piece to breathe. This applies to everything from small stuff, like french fries, to larger items like chicken drumsticks. It took me a long time to learn this lesson!
Let It Rest
Let it rest! After grilling or roasting meat, don’t slice into it right away. As eager as you may be to dig into your dinner and see how it tastes, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes (or longer, if necessary). The resting process allows the meat to absorb its juices, leaving you with the most flavorful piece possible.
Don’t Over Mix
When baking, don’t over-mix. Pay attention to your recipe. Most will ask you to stir or mix until the ingredients are just incorporated. Stir too much, and you’ll whip up a dessert that’s chewy and dense. Be careful when preparing cakes, batters, biscuits and pie crusts!
Invest in Quality Equipment
Invest in quality equipment. You don’t have to splurge and stock your kitchen with top-of-the-line tools, but you shouldn’t be afraid to spend a few dollars on some important items you’ll use again and again. A good knife set, one cast iron skillet, and a solid stock pot are all small investments that a new cook should make that will make a big difference as you whip up your favorite meals.
As you begin to explore the world of cooking, keeping these tips in mind will help you set yourself up for success in the kitchen. There are lots of tips and tricks to keep in mind and skills to master, but with a little practice, you’ll be comfortable in the kitchen in no time!
What do you think all new cooks should know? Which of these tips sounds the most helpful? Share your tips below!
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