Many of us have memories of our parents and grandparents cooking when we were young. Back then, cooking was more of a chore or necessity for the family. Traditional household values typically had one parent earning an income and another managing the kitchen and preparing meals.
Cooking is completely different in 2018. Chefs like Gordon Ramsey and David Chang enjoy celebrity status with their own TV shows and documentaries. Young people are dining out more than ever and continually seeking new, exciting restaurants. And the rise of the Food Network and other culinary programming makes cooking a sexy art form, rather than a necessary chore.
Cooking is now more accessible than ever, but can still be intimidating to a complete novice. If you want to get started crafting your own meals in the kitchen, here are five tips to improve your experience.
Get the Basics
No matter the meal, preparing good food starts with the essential tools. You don’t need to outfit your kitchen like a three-star Michelin restaurant. All it takes are a few staples to get started:
- Chefs Knife. A painter has a brush, a sculptor has a chisel and a cook has a chefs knife. Those giant blocks of 15 knives you see at the department store? Forget them. A good chefs knife will take care of 95 percent of all your cutting needs. Brands like Wusthof carry a range of great knives to fit your budget.
- Cutting Board. Any board will do. Just look for materials like wood or soft plastic and avoid glass or other hard surfaces as they’ll dull your new chef’s knife.
- Sauté Pan. Consider the sauté pan the “chefs knife” of pans in your kitchen as it cooks most meats, veggies and sauces. Stainless steel is the best, but non-stick is okay for beginners.
- Non-Stick Skillet. If you go stainless steel for your sauté pan, then you will need a non-stick skillet pan for eggs and other delicate foods that will bond with a steel surface.
- Saucepan. A medium saucepan is perfect for simmering and boiling small amounts of pasta (use a large pot for a full pasta dish).
- Mixing Bowls. A varied set of steel mixing bowls is perfect for anything from marinating meat to tossing a fresh salad. A good set can last you decades.
Learn to Love YouTube
Cookbooks cost money but the Internet is (usually) free. YouTube alone is packed with millions of hours of valuable and entertaining cooking and food wisdom. Channels like Binging with Babish, First We Feast, Bon Appetite and Munchies has weekly cooking series that walk you step-by-step through amazing meals. Sign in, subscribe and start learning.
Master One Meal
Even good cooks have weaknesses. A great pasta chef might be lost with barbecue and a great Mexican cook might be clueless about French cuisine. New cooks can and should master one meal to bolster confidence, familiarize with the basic tools and gain an understanding of cooking before branching out to other categories. Which meal should you master? Start with your favorite dish or tackle the classic breakfast which is where most people start. No matter what you choose, master it before moving on.
Delivery Services Are Your Friend
People think that using delivery services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh aren’t real cooking, but that’s malarkey. If you chop produce, sear in a pan or bake in an oven, you’re cooking. These services are great ways to get introduced to and comfortable with cooking as they figure out the recipes, ingredients and portion sizes. If nothing else, think of them as training wheels before you venture out to the market or grocery store to shop for your own meal ideas.
All it takes is time and practice. Use the tips above, work through some repetition and have fun! You’ll be slicing like Gordon sooner than you think.