Cooking (Image Credit: Laura D’Alessandro)
Cooking is not everybody’s idea of fun. It’s also not something everyone is good at, especially if it is a new experience. If you are a first time cook, follow these tips to help get you on your way to making meals.
First, make sure you start with the exact ingredients and proper equipment. If your recipe calls for powdered sugar, don’t use regular granulated. Speaking from personal experience, even though it may taste the same, the texture makes a huge difference to the end result. Similarly, if your recipe says to use a certain kind of pan or type of utensil, follow the directions exactly, unless the recipe specifically says another substitute will work. (Butter and margarine are a common example.) Oftentimes, close enough is not close enough when working with food, and when you are new to the kitchen, it is best to stick to the original recipe until you become more familiar and comfortable with the process.
Second, start with some easy recipes. Something more complex than cereal, but not as difficult as crème Brule. Simple things like macaroni and cheese, box mixes of muffins or cake, or homemade pizza using a packed dough mixture are all good choices. It may not seem like these foods would be good for teaching any cooking skills, but it can be surprising how easy it is to make an error and ruin the food. Boiling the macaroni noodles for too long or not long enough can make or break the dish. Adding too much of one ingredient to a box mix will throw off the whole recipe. Baking a pizza too long or not long enough will leave you with burnt or uncooked dough. Gaining confidence with easier meals is a good stepping stone for beginning your cooking career.
Third, don’t expect to be a natural on your first day. Like learning any other skill or hobby, patience is key. Allow yourself to make some mistakes, and learn from them. Know your limits as to what recipes you attempt, but don’t be afraid to try newer, more difficult ones as you continue to master the simpler ones you try. Starting out with realistic expectations separate from goals you set for the future will keep you motivated, and stop the frustration that comes with doing something unfamiliar.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have friends or relatives with a knack for cooking, ask for some tips. Sometimes, it can be embarrassing to admit you don’t know much about a certain subject. Just remember people like talking about what they know, so your friend or relative will enjoy sharing their knowledge with you rather than using it as an opportunity to make fun of you. If you are too shy to ask, find a time when the person may possibly need help preparing food for an event or family gathering. The person will appreciate the extra hand, and you’ll get extra practice and a free lesson. It’s a win-win.
Finally, be sure to be familiar with kitchen and food safety practices. Certain foods need to reach certain temperatures to ensure they are safe to eat. Invest in a thermometer to ensure you don’t make yourself or anyone else sick. Another common practice to follow is not mixing raw vegetables and meat. Don’t use the same cutting board for these items and be sure to wipe up any liquids or juices that may come out of a certain food while preparing it. When cutting anything, always point the blade away from your fingers and face. Even the best chefs in the world slip and hurt themselves. A quick Google search can provide you with tons of other important tips for keeping you and your food safe.
Cooking is not an easy job. There are many things that could go wrong during the process, but with practice and determination, anyone can learn – Even you!
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