How to be more confident cooking
Are you a scaredy-cook?
If you are not a confident cook, try asking yourself, why is that? Maybe you've had bad experiences in the kitchen. That doesn't mean you can't improve. Today is a new day. Stop telling people - and yourself- " I'm hopeless at cooking." Aim for, " My cooking is improving."
It could be you've never really given it a go, because someone else in the household runs the kitchen. If so, how about finding time to have the place to yourself, so you don't feel self-conscious learning new skills. Pay attention to the job in hand.
Which method of learning suits you best? Are you happy to read instructions, or do you prefer having someone show you, or talk you through? You could think about signing up for a class. If you have a friend or relative who's willing to help out, that's great, but the fact that they are a good cook doesn't automatically mean they can teach well.
Change your mindset
My mum was a really good cook. On the odd occasion she went out for the day, she would leave a pan of stew for dad to re-heat. Dad invariably burnt the stew. Hey, it can be tricky re-heating some things on the stove, but dad got it into his head that he couldn't cook, so never tried. When mum sadly died, he was on his own, aged 67. If he wanted a hot meal, most days it was down to him to put it on the table. You know what? He did it. He changed his mindset, found his feet in the kitchen and began to produce simple, tasty meals.
Dad would ring me up and say," I've just bought a chicken - what do I do with it?" Once he'd learned five or six things he could comfortably cook, he stuck with those, never feeling the need to expand his menu. I was proud of him.
A good book can be a great way to learn
How do you like to learn?
Good if you..
Join a class
Can follow written instructions
Watching a video
Prefer to see how it's done
Have a friend show you
Like one to one support
Trial and error
Have a relaxed attitude
Where do your skills lay?
Think about your natural talents - how can you transfer those skills and apply them in the kitchen?
If you have a scientific mind, why not treat cooking as a lab experiment. Maybe you're a mechanic. So you can follow instructions and take one step at a time. That's how many cooks work. If you're more into the arts, try meals which are creative and appealing to the eye.For those who enjoy acting, you're in a great position to act the part of a good cook - a little bluffing goes a long way! Sports minded? Then you know how practice pays off. Hopefully, you get the idea, and can bring your skills into play.
As with learning anything else, it's best to start simple and not worry too much about mistakes. Cooking meat and two veg with gravy may sound basic, but you'll be watching maybe four pans, and juggling the timing. Save that for further down the line.
A one pot meal, say a nice casserole, could be a good starting point. Preparation is done well ahead of mealtime, then the food can be left to cook, so you have a chance to cool off and relax before serving. Pick a recipe for something you will enjoy. After the first try,don't worry too much about sticking rigidly to every single item. I use recipes as a guide, not as the letter of the law. Baking is precise, but good old casseroles can take variations. If you find serving and portion size tricky, put the dish on the table for people to serve themselves.
Looks good enough to eat!
Have a Plan B
While you gain confidence cooking, it can help to have a plan B for if things go a little haywire. Keep a frozen pizza handy - you can pop it in the oven if need be. This should take the pressure off if you're worried you won't eat that night.
Try not to get uptight. I once wrote a recipe for my husband to use. I put on the end, " Do not swear as this spoils the flavour." If that was true, the meal would have been ruined - I should have written it at the start! He used to get a little flustered. He's much calmer in the kitchen these days.
Don't feel you have to do everything from scratch, especially while you're learning. Those ready-made sauces and packet mixes are there to help folk, though it can be cheaper and healthier to make your own in the longer term.
Pasta meals are usually easy to prepare, and are ready in a short space of time. Keep the pasta pan bubbling away, don't turn the heat down, or it can end up a bit slimy. Stir-fry recipes are often simple. Have everything chopped and ready to go, then remember to keep stirring while you fry. (The clue's in the name.)
If food tends to catch and burn, it could be that you need a better quality pan. Good utensils are really worth the money. I must have bought half a dozen cheap frying pans before cottoning on to the more expensive sort, which last years, and get meals to the table properly cooked. Read the care instructions when you buy a pan, so you can look after it correctly, and not scratch any coating.
You might feel one method suits you better than another, so play to your strengths, especially while you gain confidence cooking. Soon, the kitchen will seem a more friendly place. So try to change your mindset. There's no great mystery involved.
Not everyone enjoys cooking, but it's a useful skill. And as with any other skill, practice makes perfect.