Cooking is one invaluable life skill that just about anyone can, and should, learn. It’s an important ability to have, not only for making occasions extra-special with family and friends, but more importantly, for your day-to-day sustenance, especially these days when we’re all spending most of our time at home.
It’s easy to make rookie mistakes in the kitchen, so we know how tricky it can be for new chefs, maybe even scary. But don’t fret, if you’ve never tried cooking before, because many of these newbie blunders can be avoided. We list some of them here with useful tips to kick you off on your culinary learning journey.
Mistake #1. You believe anyone can cook an egg
Boiling an egg is easy. Or is it? You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to overcook or undercook a boiled egg! Or scrambled egg, for that matter…
The seemingly simple technique of boiling requires patience, and the key is to bring it to the right interior temperature (180 degrees Celsius, if you’re curious).
Now, to the actual boiling. MarthaStewart.com suggests putting the eggs in a large saucepan, with an inch of cool water. On medium heat, bring to a boil and then remove from the stove. Cover the saucepan and let it sit.
After about 12 minutes, remove the eggs from the saucepan and run cool water to prevent overcooking. If you boiled the eggs correctly, it should be easy to peel off the shells.
Mistake #2. You don’t measure ingredients properly
Measuring ingredients properly can make all the difference in a dish, so your best ally is a good set of tools. Get yourself good-quality measuring spoons and cups that are approximately the same size as the ingredients you’ll be using on common recipes.
Unfortunately, measuring cups and spoons are also two of the most commonly misplaced kitchen items. Pro tip: In case one of your kitchen tools goes missing, the first place you try to look for it is probably the best place to store it!
Mistake #3. You think any old knife will do the job
The way to flawless chopping? Use a quality knife.
In fact, if you can, you ought to invest in your own set of chef’s knives. Chef’s knives are a must-have in every kitchen, especially for homemakers that love to cook but can be a bit busy. A good, durable knife will make chopping and peeling considerably faster and easier, and give you the best results.
Mistake #4. You cut meat on the same board you use for vegetables
Your cutting board can harbour bacteria, yes, even after a thorough cleaning. So, if you use the same board for all your chopping, slicing, and dicing, you are bound to spread germs from meat to veggies to fruit to cheese – and into your body!
Observing proper kitchen hygiene will help avoid food spoilage later. Here are some cutting board care tips:
- First thing to remember is to wash your cutting board with soap and water right after using it.
- Make sure clean and dirty boards don’t come into contact with each other.
- Right before you start cooking, wipe down the board with a wet cloth.
- Every couple of weeks, give it a more thorough cleaning by soaking it in a mixture of bleach and water.
Mistake #5. You don’t know your oven well enough
Notice how your food sometimes comes out unevenly cooked? Even with the right preparation, a good meal comes down to the oven you use.
If you’re using an oven for the first time, you’ll find that it doesn’t quite “plug and play” as you may expect. Pay close attention to how it heats up. Use a cheap oven thermometer to monitor it over time and slowly calibrate the temperature to perform to your liking. Cooking at the right temperature will make all the difference in your cooking!
Mistake #6. You don’t use a kitchen timer
A basic timer is a handy device to help you organise your kitchen. It’s a cheap buy and beats relying on your internal timer.
Use your timer to schedule your food prep or to prompt you to turn your meat to cook it just right on each side. Set a reminder to start on dessert in time for your guests’ arrival or to put things away at the end of your cooking session. Doing this will help you to accomplish more in less time!
Mistake #7. You add salt at the beginning of cooking
Salt is an essential part of the diet; it’s in practically everything we eat. But why do we even need to add it to food? Not to make a dish salty, of course, but to enhance its natural flavours.
So when is the right time to add salt in the cooking process? Well, it depends on what you’re cooking. If you’re grilling meat, for example, adding some salt or a salty spice rub before you cook helps keep it juicy. If you’re making pasta, adding salt to the boiling water prevents the noodles from becoming too sticky.
Can’t wait to start cooking like a pro? Find a cooking class near you!
BONUS! Cooking Classes FAQs
So you want to learn how to cook. Where do you start? Is it too late to learn? We answer some of your burning questions.
Why should I learn to cook?
There are innumerable benefits to learning how to cook. Most obviously, preparing your own meals will allow you to save money. But also, the process of getting better at a particular skill, being able to serve food to people you love, and to hear them say how good your food can be truly satisfying.
Where should I get started?
Countless resources like how-to cooking videos and articles can be found online. For a more hands-on approach, learning from a professional, whether via in-person or online cooking classes, is a fantastic way to start.
SAFETY TIP: Especially if you’re a beginner, remember to wear proper clothing. Generally, you want to wear long pants, a sleeved shirt, and flat, closed-toe footwear. If you’re taking a cooking class, they may supply you with an apron to use. All this is to protect your body from any accidents that may happen in the kitchen, as well as for sanitary reasons. Safety first, always!
What should I learn first?
Even for a beginner, cooking is not all that hard to learn. Begin with simple techniques like boiling or stir-frying, and from there, try sauteeing, stewing, or roasting.
Start with baby steps and just keep going! The more you do it, the better you get, and soon, you’ll find yourself whipping up some of your or your family’s favourite dishes.
Can I learn how to cook on my own?
Anyone can learn how to cook, whether by themselves or with a tutor. Some prefer to work off a recipe, follow steps on a video, or work alongside a more experienced cook. Do whatever works for you.
Many cooks, even the pros, find that they benefit from taking a cooking class or two, and learn from someone who’s more knowledgeable in the culinary arts. Having that guide will help you head off avoidable mistakes in the kitchen, and get you faster to your learning goal.
Ready, set… get cooking! Book a cooking class near you or learn cooking online!
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