Learning to cook is a process, and it's not always a joyous one for many. Some people cringe at the thought of having to prepare a meal for their loved ones, let alone family and friends.
Remember all of us, even the most seasoned chef, started off in the same place, as a complete novice. Have no fear, with a positive attitude and a bit of practice you can become a master of your own kitchen. Remember, most mistakes might not be restaurant quality, but the results are still often edible. So, take it easy on yourself, and have fun honing your skills.
There is no real substitute for good old-fashioned experience. If you want to become a better cook, you need to get your hands dirty.
Remember practice makes perfect, so now it is time to get cooking and practice your meal planning and cooking skills by reviewing some CHEFBear tested and approved tips.
Tip #1--Make your greens last longer
When a two-for-one sale on spinach comes up, you have to take advantage of it, right? The problem is getting through all of it before it spoils in the crisper drawer. To make your greens last longer, line a plastic container with paper towels and layer in the greens. The towels will absorb extra moisture, while the container will prevent delicate leaves from getting crushed.
Tip #2--Read your entire recipe
Many cooks jump into new recipes with excitement, failing to prep and plan before starting the process. Before you start, gather the ingredients as well as the utensils, pots and pans that you need to ensure that you have everything you need to successfully complete the dish. It isn't exactly convenient to have to make a grocery run in the middle of cooking to find a missing ingredient; do yourself a favor and gather materials ahead of time, making sure you understand what is required of you before beginning to cook.
Tip #3--Get familiar with mise en place
A favorite French term that many professional chefs use, mise en place means to 'put in place'. Gathering all of your ingredients, chopping, measuring, and preparing ahead of time will ensure that when you start assembling the final product, all will be at your fingertips in order to do so. You'll be the envy of all your friends who are not so organized in the kitchen.
Tip #4--Know how to boil water faster
Waiting for water to boil is an excruciating event; a watched pot literally never boils! To shorten the process a bit, turn up the heat and put a tight-fitting lid on the pot. You'll be ready to cook pasta, veggies or eggs in a fraction of the time.
Tip #5--Use sharp knives
You may be intimidated by the thought of using sharp knives for cutting, but the reality is that dull knives are much more dangerous, as they can slip and injure one of both of your hands. Most knife sets now come with a sharpening tool, but if you don't have one handy, tip a ceramic cup over and rub the edge of your knife along the bottom rim. Voila! You've got a makeshift sharpener that will do the job.
Tip #6--Taste and season
Professional chefs go through tons of tasting spoons as they cook their masterpieces; and they are not afraid to adjust their seasoning. One of the things that will set you apart as an expert is being able to season well, and often. Salt, pepper, garlic, and other pantry essentials will become your best friends as you take your dishes from blah to BAM!
Tip #7--Keep those eggs fresh
While it may take a while, eggs do go bad; keep them fresh off the farm by rubbing the shells with vegetable oil before popping them in the fridge. They'll perform better in baked goods, and they will be absolutely delicious in almost any form at the breakfast table.
Tip #8--Use the right pots, pans, and tools for the job
Chances are, if someone has formulated a recipe, they have gone through the time and trouble of finding out what works to make it successful. Take some time and invest some money in the right cooking equipment for the type of cooking you'd like to do.
Tip #9--Make friends with parchment paper
Ahhhh...parchment paper, the secret weapon of the champions. It can be used for anything from a nonstick pan liner to a makeshift rolling pin and pastry board, and absolutely NOTHING sticks to it. Bake with it, roll with it, use it for storage, it's a wonder that it hasn't been patented for more uses.
Tip #10--Clean as you go
Nothing is quite as frustrating as creating a delicious meal, only to discover that you've ransacked your kitchen. Clean up can be time-consuming and a bit exhausting, depending on what you've just eaten. Do yourself a favor and clean as you go. Wash a few dishes here and there, keep counters clean, and put perishables away as you whip up kitchen creations that could earn you a place on the next Food Network television series.
These simple tips will elevate your kitchen reputation and have friends and family alike clamoring for a place at your table. Choose some recipes, invest some time in a little prep using these kitchen tips & tricks, and get ready to cook some great meals that might even impress your mom!