Ordering takeout or eating hummus and pita chips are starting to wear on your appetite. Sure, it’s super convenient, especially on those nights when you’re mentally exhausted from work and there’s no better place you rather be than on the couch watching Netflix. So then, what’s the cure to satisfying your taste buds (insert thinking emoji)? Go through the drive-thru instead of getting delivery? Ah, not quite.
There’s this spot in every home where your wildest and most enchanted foodie dreams can come to life. It’s called a kitchen. That place with a sink and refrigerator? Yep, you got it. You can store, prepare, bake, sauté, stir, mix and whatever else your heart desires to make home-cooked meals. Crazy concept, don’t you think? Unfortunately, popping chicken taquitos in the microwave on high for three minutes does not fall under the cooking category. Could you imagine Gordon Ramsey teaching a class on microwave etiquette? Oh wait, he has.
I don’t like going to the grocery store.
I don’t have time to wash dishes.
Where am I going to find recipes?
I’m just a terrible cook, period.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
Cooking ranks right up there with skydiving as something people perpetually fear and avoid. In fact, a survey conducted not too long ago found 90% of Americans do not like to cook. This brings a tear to our face. Cooking is a wonderful skill to learn! It’s a healthier and cheaper alternative to ordering out and heck, basic survival skills in the event you ever find yourself stranded on a deserted island.
We all start somewhere from scratch. Even Joe Rzonsa, Executive Chef of Blue Wolf Tavern, discovered his passion for cooking while helping his grandfather measure spices for sausages and kielbasas. The hardest part to doing anything, whether that’s getting up at the crack of dawn to hit the cardio machine or in this case, cooking, is all about getting out of the gate. You can do this! No, really, cooking is a trait you can easily acquire through practice and hey, you’ll feel good, especially when your family and friends are talking up your champion cooking skills during Thanksgiving dinner.
Basic Cooking Skills People Somehow Overlook
So, without further ado, here are basic skills and techniques that every new cook should learn.
Read the recipe. After you’re done, read it again.
Common sense, right? This may come as a shock, but you wouldn’t believe how many recipes end up with the yucky face taste test because the instructions were not followed. How does this happen?
The scenario usually plays out with finding a recipe that really catches your eye. We’re good so far. Here’s when the trouble starts. You’re ready to jump in, and so you skim the ingredients and directions. A quick glance and before you know it, you’re missing a tomato and skipped four steps to something that definitely does not look like the photo in the recipe. The moral of the story is to read, read and reread the recipe.
Spring clean your spice cabinet
For someone who’s a novice in the kitchen, you sure do have a lot of spices up in the cabinet. Chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika – where did this all come from (insert laughing hysterically emoji)?
Before you spice up a dish, check the expiration date on the label. Yes, spices do expire and over time, lose their flavorful kick and potential health benefits. You deserve fresh, quality ingredients and spices made in this decade.
Teaspoons and tablespoons: Know the difference
Your recipe calls for a tbsp. of milk. Rule #1: Do not use the spoon you eat your cereal with. There’s a difference between your silverware and actual measuring cups. Rule #2: It’s uttermost important to know tbsp. is the abbreviation for tablespoon and tsp. stands for teaspoon. Using the wrong measuring cup could mean a soggy dish.
There’s no crying in cooking!
Chopping onions can involve blood, sweat and tears, literally. The trick to cutting onions without balling your eyes out or a trip to the emergency room begins with your fridge. Get ready for a science lesson. There’s a volatile sulfur compound present that once you begin cutting an onion, floats into your eyes to make them watery.
Simply place the onion(s) in the freezer for about 15 minutes prior to cutting. This slows down the action of the onion’s trigger enzyme and saps some energy from the vegetable’s volatile molecules. Also, use a sharp knife. This will result in less juice and less chemicals being released, meaning a tear-free onion session.
Things may get messy
Practice makes perfect.
Fail fast, fail often.
Fail, fail again, fail better.
Okay, we went a little overboard with the cliché one-liners, but it’s true in the game of cooking. It may get messy in the kitchen and there’s going to be some trial and error. But do not let that stop you from creating your own home-cooked dish. Proud, accomplished and a sigh of relief – these are the emotions you’ll feel as you serve and take the first bite. And just remember, you’re a step closer to becoming a better cook.