At what point were you able to cook without following a recipe?
I need a recipe to cook, but I have many friends who just whip stuff up. How do people learn to do this?
Well that's how I learned to cook. I just tossed things together.
Of course my meals are probably somewhat simpler than others. It's pretty easy to know what you like, from there you just ask questions, "what spice is that I taste on this?"
I dislike online recipes that say to use "this much" of this and "this much" of that. I only wish to know what is in what, and from there I can generally know how much of this or that I would want to use in something.
At six years old I could cook an omlette.
Of course that doesn't have much of a recipe, just eggs, salt, pepper and a little butter to fry and any topping of your choice.
For things like cakes, you need a recipe unless you bake one cake a lot. Baking cakes is more of a chemistry experiment so you need a guide.
Cooking simple things is just a matter of trial and error, add what you like, take out things that you don't.
At 31 yrs, i still need recipes, but only for pastries, cakes, pies, etc. If it's soup, noodles, or anything meaty, no recipe needed - throw in all the things!
My main theory on sans-recipe cooks is they learned how to make something through repetition. At one point, they must've needed guidance, and now it's just all safely stored in their brains.
Then there are people who actually attended some culinary school and now know which ingredients to what and why.
When one does not have talent to cook, follow a kitchen-tested recipe that are usually found in Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazines and some professional books. Using recipes can guide you to: 1) better use of spices that you normally won't choose; 2) introduce you to different products; 3) learn a different type of cuisine.
You should not be embarassed using good-tested recipes. Be proud when everybody loves the result.
I know people who can "whip" meals, so they say, and believe me, I would have preferred that they have consulted the voluminous availability of recipes found from internet, to books to packaging material.
Well, for one thing, I don't think that either method is better or worse than the other. Some people prefer cooking from recipes. Some people don't like to and would rather whip things up. I don't think using a recipe is indicative of a lack of talent, and honestly I find it pretty condescending when people imply as much.
In fact, most people do a mix of both. I know I do. Even experienced home cooks tend to use recipes for baking, where measurements need to be very exact, or even when they're just trying something new and unfamiliar.
And, by the way, professional chefs? They often, though not always, write everything down very exactly and follow their own recipes to a tee, because they can't afford the inconsistency of results that a home cook can. That's really where recipes shine: giving you predictable results time after time.
That being said, while there wasn't a specific moment where I went from needing recipes to being able to whip things up without a recipe, it happened maybe two years after I began cooking regularly. It's just a matter of building up the experience and the knowledge base. You learn techniques, you learn to recognize patterns in what's happening, you build a mental library of flavor combinations which work, and then you go from there.
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