I love to cook. Creating a meal brings me pure joy. My food is also pretty darn delicious too! What if I told you that this wasn’t always the case? I went from not knowing my way around the kitchen to hosting cooking segments for Stop & Shop Grocery stores. This didn’t happen overnight. My skills developed over time, but there are a few steps I took to become a culinary wizard. If your family would rather order out than eat at home, check out these tips to become a better cook.
Watch The Cooking Channel
Watching cooking shows on TV will not instantly make you a better cook, but I guarantee it will help. When cooking started to interest me, I turned to cooking shows to learn my way around the kitchen. The Cooking Channel is not just celebrity chefs, it is more like food education. I watched demonstrations by chefs preparing meals, learned about different ingredients and how they are best used, and I got recipe ideas to try at home.
Become Friends with Salt
Every great cook knows how to salt their food. Salt is a key ingredient to every dish, and when used properly, it brings out the natural flavor of the ingredient. People learning to cook or trying to improve their cooking skills should understand how much salt to use when seasoning their food. I recently watched a fantastic mini-series on Netflix titled Salt Fat Acid Heat, and the episode about salt was extremely informative and educational.
Try Different Herbs and Spices
The difference between good food and great food is the seasoning. Salt does wonders, but herbs and spices are also essential components when cooking. It doesn’t matter if you start out with fresh or dried, adding additional layers of flavor to a dish makes it delicious. Before you cook with a new herb or spice, taste it. Knowing what an ingredient tastes like will help you learn when to add more.
Learn to Not Follow a Recipe
My husband brags that I never follow recipes and yet my food is always delicious. I read them, I just don’t follow them. Confused? If I am making a new dish, I will review a few recipes and cross-reference their ingredients and steps. Then, I decide whether I will add any additional ingredients and whether I will use more or less of the ingredients listed. I use the recipe more as a guide, but I rarely follow it to a T. Not following a recipe is a great way to learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen and develop your own style of cooking.
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Taste Your Food While You Are Cooking
In general, becoming a better cook means learning to adjust the seasoning of the dish as you cook it. This is especially the case with sauces and stews. As they simmer, the ingredients start to change flavor profiles (e.g., onions transition from tart to sweet, tomatoes become more concentrated when cooked, etc.). Testing your dish as you cook will ensure that it tastes perfect when it is time to serve. Tip: Ignore this step when cooking poultry and anything other than meats that are cooked to temperature!
Eat Out More (at Good Restaurants)
This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but dining out can actually help you become a better cook. I learned to cook in college, but I learned how to become a great cook after moving to NYC. It isn’t hard to find great food in New York. The more I dined out, the more I wanted the foods I cook at home to be equally as delicious. Your veal parmigiana might be good, but dining out at excellent restaurants helps you set a benchmark for great-tasting food. It also inspires you to create new recipes that may not have been in your repertoire.
Becoming a great cook takes time. Don’t get frustrated if something doesn’t look as pretty as it tastes. Start with simple dishes and work your up to more challenging menus. Pour yourself a glass a wine and get your Julie & Julia on.