5 Tips to Become a Better Cook
Is Cooking a Dead Art?
I have so many young friends, both single and married, dying to learn how to become better cooks, that I thought I'd organize my thoughts into a neat and tidy Hub. Quite frankly I find it a little frightening that said friends think I am a "good cook" and praise my food. I'm no Iron Chef, no Rachel Ray, no Mario Vitali! I just cook wholesome meals with fresh ingredients, and only use boxed food when I am dead beat (which happens once or twice a week). For my friends who eat frozen corn and microwaved bacon for dinner, I am here to help you become a better cook! Trust me, it's not hard, and it's not scary. It may however make men (or women) fall in love with you, babies coo, and pigs fly. Good luck.
Tip 1-Accept That Good Food Takes Time
This is for all my microwave warriors out there. In learning to become a good cook, you must shed your love of nuking. Yes, it is WRONG to microwave salmon. NO, your shrimp pasta will not taste the same if you just nuke the shrimp instead. Stop pushing buttons and get out some nice pans.
This is not to say, however, that all good food takes hours to prepare. I can throw together a lovely shrimp pasta with creamy tomato and white wine sauce in about 40 minutes, with a side of creamed spinach. But you do have to devote some time to cooking, a ten minute meal rarely tastes good.
Tip 2-Stock up on Good Cookware
An artist may use paint to create a masterpiece, but first he needs a canvas. Good cookware and tools are your canvas, and are essential to creating tasty dishes. A cheap pan may seem like a good idea at checkout, but when you eat your burned food the thrill of the cheap will sour a little. Quality non-stick pans should last you a couple of years, and with the correct treatment a stainless steel or cast-iron pan will last a lifetime. Also, invest in good knives, nothing is worse than chopping your finger off with a dull blade after trying to saw through a carrot or potato.
Tip 3-Give Fresh Veggies Some Love
Fresh vegetables are your friend, processed foods are the enemy. In learning to become a good cook you must learn to use the force...of your will power! Down put the Hamburger Helper you will! Those carrots may seem daunting and boring in the produce aisle, but take them home and add brown sugar and whiskey, and you shall be transported into a blissful world of taste. Try doing that with frozen or canned veggies.
Tip 4-Stock up on Basics
You don't want to have to run to the store every time you need the smallest ingredient, and some nights you need to improvise. Just last night, for example, I ran out of bottled teriyaki sauce for my beef teriyaki. Egads! Disaster! Nope, I just made some teriyaki sauce from scratch using ingredients I had at home, and it was even better than the bottled stuff. Good ingredients to stock up on include:
- Dry pasta
- Baked Breads (if stale then fry for croutons or bake in bread pudding)
- Tomato sauce and paste
- White and Brown Sugar
- Worchestire sauce
- Ground Beef
- Chicken Breasts
- Marinades and Dressings
- Spices (all sorts)
- Cheese (block and shredded)
Of course, the list goes on and changes depending on your favorite arsenal of recipes, which I shall cover next.
Tip 5- Find Some Good Recipes and Build On Them
In order to become a better cook, you must first learn from those who know their stuff, and I don't necessarily mean the big names in cooking like Rachel Ray. Of course, cookbooks from celebrities can also be full of great recipes and tips, but some of my favorite dishes come from recipes devised and tested by internet food bloggers. Visit my Hub "5 Best Food Blogs Ever" to see the sources of my inspiration (aka my larger pant size). Food blogs are great because real people devise and eat this food, so you know its been taste tested. Many blogs also have step-by-step instructions for every dish as well. Great for new cooks!
Another frequent recipe stop for me is Recipesource. It's a giant amalgam of recipes from all sorts of places. This is a bit more hit and miss, and sometimes I really fiddle with the recipes to get just what I want, but this site has every kind of dish you could imagine.
Becoming a better cook isn't about taking expensive classes or watching the Food Network all the time, it's about taking time to play with food (just like your mother said not to) and practicing with flavors. Like anything else, practice makes perfect with cooking, and the more you do the better you will get. To all my friends...I look forward to eating at your place for a change.