I have a confession: I am most certainly not the world’s greatest cook. That’s putting it mildly. Like me, some people seem to struggle in the kitchen, no matter what they do.
I salivate with envy over the social media feeds of my friends who post perfect pictures of the most divine dishes that they seem to produce effortlessly.
Over the years, with great effort, I have managed to develop passable skills that keep my family happy. Along the way, I’ve learned a few rules that people like me, can implement to improve our skills. With a few simple steps, you can be on your way to competency.
- The Right Tools
Don’t think that just because you’re not on Master Chef that you don’t deserve good quality tools of the trade. High quality cookware, along with sturdy appliances and utensils are your best friends in the kitchen. They can make your life so much easier and contribute significantly to the quality of the food that you produce, so be sure not to skimp on these crucial items.
- Heat Control
When I first started cooking, the temperature dial on my stovetop knew only one setting: high. As you can probably imagine, I burned an obscene amount of food.
The skill of controlling heat is one of the most important that you can teach yourself. Cooking is all about chemistry and just like those experiments in high school chem class, the conditions need to be just right to get the optimal results.
Sure, there are times when you need to fire that baby up. Nevertheless, in most cases low or medium heat will be better for retaining the food’s natural flavors and textures. If your stovetop is electric, this is even more critical as it takes time to heat up and cool down, so play it safe, or risk disaster.
- Patience, Young Padawan
One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was not taking enough time with my dishes. Every notice now things like soup, curries and stews always taste better the next day? That’s because with time, the flavors blend, settle and deepen. Rather than cooking that veggie soup on high for forty-five minutes, start a bit earlier and simmer the soup on lower heat for a couple of hours. You will be amazed at how much more vibrant the flavors will be.
- The Spice of Life
Spices and herbs are the key to developing your repertoire of flavors and aromas. While it can be tempting to jump in and start throwing the kitchen sink at every dish, you are much better off experimenting with one or two at a time. You will eventually get a feel of which pair well with what ingredients. This skill will allow you to add an extra dimension to your dishes. Once you’re confident, start trying different combinations to ascertain which go well together. You might have a few missteps along the way, but that’s all part of the process.
- Chop Chop
Chopping is the most fundamental cooking skill. I spent hours watching videos on how to chop on YouTube until I finally started to get it right. Make sure you have a quality knife set and practice as much as possible until you can get your onions, garlic, vegetables and herbs an even size and consistency. This will help your dishes look good, as well as taste better.
There are plenty more skills that you can use to hone your skills. However, get these basics right and you’ll be on your way to better cooking in no time.