22 Timeless Tips For Becoming A Better Cook

August 12, 2019

22 Timeless Tips For Becoming A Better Cook

Cooking is a wonderful, fulfilling activity to be able to do. 

Sometimes though we all get a little daunted by cooking because you don’t want to spoil or ruin a meal that you are preparing for your family or friends. 

That is why we wanted to share with you these 22 timeless tips that will help you become a better cook. Whether you are a beginner or experienced there is something we all can learn. 

22 Timeless Tips for becoming a better cook

 

1. Read recipes thoroughly ahead of time. 

Twice.

It is a good idea to read the recipe a couple of times so you get a feel for what you are cooking and what is involved. It gives you a chance to understand the ingredients and what you have to do.


2. Prepare and organize ahead of time.

Before you even heat up the pan, get everything prepared. 

Everything should be washed, chopped, diced, minced, whispered sweet nothings to, and set out on your countertop prior to cooking. 

That way you know where everything is and you don’t have to go looking for it when you are cooking.

Oftentimes in cooking, you need to add certain ingredients at certain times and when you don’t have something ready then it can cause a little panic. 


3. Purchase fresh, quality ingredients.

Your food can only be as good as your ingredients and you get what you pay for.

If you’re a beginner, you probably don’t have a lot of spices. But if you’ve had that paprika for 10 years, splurge on a new one. 

If you are a beginner it is a good idea to start with everything new including your herbs and spices. 

 

4. Don’t leave the kitchen.

This may seem like a no-brainer but we’ve all done it. 

You’ve got your meal simmering away on the stove and you know you’ve got a couple of minutes to put a new load of laundry in. Sure, you can do it. But it’s risky. 

Sometimes nothing bad happens, but other times you come back to a burnt meal.

So don’t leave your cooking.

 

5. Bring meats out of the fridge early and don’t cook wet meat or fish.

Try not to put meat on the grill or pan directly from the fridge. Some cooks say to bring it to room temperature first. 

The theory is that your outside will overcook by the time the internal temperature rises. Some chefs say this is a myth. 

A tip to get a nice sear on the outside of your meat is to blot it with a paper towel first. If the meat has moisture on the surface, it doesn’t brown as well.


6. Don’t put food in a cold pan.

When you put meat into a cold pan, the meat is going to release moisture as it heats up. 

Unless you like gnawing on dry meat, heat your pan up first so your moisture stays in the meat and doesn’t escape too early. 

By preheating the pan first, you’re giving your meat a nice searing which holds in all those wonderful juices.


7. Don’t overcrowd your pan or baking dish.

Foods release moisture as they cook. When pans get crowded, your food will start to steam itself rather than brown and that will change the texture of the food. 

Potatoes in the oven won’t be as crisp on the outside, the meat won’t brown as well, etc. 

Give your food ample room in the pan, especially when browning or baking things that need to be crisp (like french fries in the oven or breaded chicken).

If your pan is too small, cook in batches. 

Unless the recipe calls it, don’t steam your food by cramming too much together.

22 Timeless tips for becoming a betetr cook


8. Use proper measuring tools.

Measuring Spoons vs. Regular Spoons

Use actual measuring spoons, not the regular teaspoons and tablespoons that you eat with.

The spoons we eat with vary in size depending on the design of the spoon. They’re not precise. 

For cooking, you could probably get away with using your regular spoons, since the measurement will be fairly close. But you won’t have those specialty 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 sizes. 

If you think you’re going to be cooking more than one meal in your lifetime, it’s worth it to invest in a set of measuring spoons. Purchase metal rather than plastic. Plastic can have static cling which can make some spices stick to them.

For baking, you have to use actual measuring spoons. No exceptions!


Wet vs. Dry Measuring Cups

A liquid cup and a dry cup are exactly the same sizes. So why do you need both? 

A dry cup is meant for things like flour, sugar, and other fine granules and you’re supposed to fill the dry measuring cup completely to the top so you can scrape off any excess with the back of a knife. 

In a liquid measuring cup, you can’t do this. You fill the liquid to the line. Using dry measuring cups for dry ingredients is a more precise way to measure, which is very important in baking.


9. Get a good chef’s knife.

A good chef’s knife must be sharp and feel good in your hand. If you have small hands, you may feel more comfortable with a smaller 6-7″ size and larger hands would fit better with an 8-10″ knife.


10. Turn your panhandles to the side.

Always turn your panhandles to the side.

When things get a little hectic, and you’re racing across the kitchen to grab an ingredient, you could run into the handles and knock the pan onto the floor. 

Be careful when cooking. Some nasty injuries or accidents can occur with boiling water or hot sauces. Be careful and attentive.


11. Taste what you’re cooking and adjust accordingly. 

Obviously, you can’t taste uncooked meat ahead of time, but for many other foods, you can 

Sauces, potatoes, rice; try and taste anything prior to serving to see if you need to add something like salt, pepper, sugar, onion powder or garlic are common adjustments. 


12. Improvise in cooking, but not in baking, until you’re a more experienced cook. 

it’s easier to not mess up a dish that’s being cooked on the stove, as opposed to something being baked in the oven. 

When it comes to baking bread, cakes, cookies and other desserts- follow the recipe or find a new one. Baked goods contain certain measurements of ingredients that contribute to leavening {rising}, consistency, moisture, etc. 

If you change out baking soda for baking powder, it will not go well. Butter and shortening are not completely interchangeable. Until you get some experience under your belt, follow the recipe exactly with baked goods.

22 Timeless tips for becoming a better cook


13. Pay attention to consistencies in all foods that you cook. 

If a chicken dish just looks too dry, trust your judgement and add in some chicken broth. 

If your wrist starts to ache from scooping out biscuit dough, you might want to add a bit of milk. 

Conversely, if the biscuits lose all shape once they’re on the biscuit sheet, you might end up with one giant biscuit after baking, so add a bit of flour. 

Whisking a sauce will get rid of clumps and many chilled desserts need time in the fridge to set up. Your dish could have the best flavour in the world, but if it runs all over the plate instead of staying where it should, it’s not going to be as enjoyable.

Try to remember that bread with yeast needs to be stirred and kneaded for the consistency to be light, airy and delicious. 


14. Beware of Over Cooking. 

If the first cause of a messed up recipe is consistency, the second cause is overcooking. 

If the recipe says the cake will bake for 45 minutes, set the timer to 40 minutes.

Then watch the final 5 minutes or so, to make sure it doesn’t get too dark. 


15. Rest meat after cooking!

When the meat is cooked, moisture moves outward towards the edges of the meat. If you cut into it right away, all the juices spill out.

By letting it rest, the juices move back towards the centre of the meat so the juices go in your belly, and not on your plate.

How long should meat rest? It depends on the size of the meat. Steaks: 3-5 minutes. Roasts: 10-20 minutes. Large turkeys can rest 30-45 minutes and they’re still steaming hot when you carve into them!


16. Salt your pasta water, never add oil and don’t rinse.

Salt the water.

Mario Batali says you should salt your pasta water until it “tastes like the sea”. 

You don’t have to worry about consuming too much salt because most of it goes down the drain with the water. Salting your pasta water gives flavour to it before you put any sauce on it.

Don’t add oil.

NEVER add oil to your pasta water. Because when you add oil to your pasta you make it slick and the sauce won’t stick well to the pasta.

Don’t rinse.

The starchy water that the pasta boils in has all the goodness in it and helps the sauce adhere to the pasta. Rinsing also makes your pasta get cold quickly. 

 

17. Trust Your Instincts! 

If something doesn’t sound good to you, chances are the end result isn’t going to taste good either, even if it’s in a recipe. 

There are millions of recipes out there, but each and every person has their own idea of what tastes good. 

Trust yourself!

 

18. Feel free to substitute expensive or obscure items. 

Know that you can’t swap out everything- swapping out main ingredients is risky! 

Once you get more confident with your cooking try some little changes to see what impact it has on the taste of your favourite dish.

But don’t improvise too much.

If you’re a beginner cook, follow the recipe. You can always make notes and alter the recipe the second time around.

At the same time, if you know you hate mushrooms, leave them out!

Once you know your way around the kitchen you can be as adventurous as you want.


NOTE: Don’t improvise with baking. Baking is an exact science and everything needs to be measured precisely. This rule can be broken if it’s something simple like leaving nuts out of a biscuit recipe or adding a little more cinnamon to a pumpkin pie.

22 timeless tips for becoming a better cook

19 When you are beginning find recipes that include ingredients you like, but also don’t be afraid to try new things! 

 

20. Never try a new recipe when you have dinner guests. 

Save yourself some stress and just don’t do it. 

If you’re serving a meal to people other than your immediate family, serve something you know how to prepare and have made it a few times. 

Meal prep goes smoother and you know that the dish will turn out well.


21. Make notes alongside recipes and in the margins of cookbooks. 

If the recipe went well and you plan on making it again, do yourself a favour and record any thoughts or recommendations for next time. It could be anything from “needs salt” to “whisk quickly- sauce thickens fast.” 

It will be hard to improve upon a recipe if you don’t make suggestions the first time! 

Another tip is to write down size variances for recipes. If you feel like you’ll double a muffin recipe often, write down all the converted amounts to save yourself a step next time. 

When cooking it is good not having to think about what 2/3rds cup is double, saves any mistakes


22 Finally, be flexible.

If you fail at a meal, congratulations! That means you’re one step closer to becoming a better cook.

Don't use butter or olive oil for high-temp cooking ― instead, use an oil with a high smoke point (like peanut or vegetable oil).

Remember that acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) brightens flavours and brings bland food to life.

Just enjoy your cooking. It should be fun to prepare a meal that you enjoy. 

These 22 timeless tips will help you with all your cooking.

Why not share your tips with us. 




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