Learn to Cook: Cooking 101
As a part of the “Learn to Cook” series, and before venturing into the kitchen by yourself, I thought it would be best to go over some basic and most useful tips.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, cooking should be taken on not as a chore, but as a relaxing activity and a time to expand your creativity. However, sometimes even creativity is somewhat restrained by a few underlying concepts: in this case you are working with two other variables - food and utensils. Despite the million possible ways to combine both, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Ingredients: no matter what kind of dish you’re preparing, be it a sandwich or the most exquisite recipe in the book, the outstanding quality and freshness of the ingredients you use is crucial. This doesn’t mean you should be getting all your goods from Gourmet shops, but do some research about your food, you’ll be surprised by what you learn. Furthermore, you’ll know what to look for when you’re out shopping… This applies to all ingredients, but is especially true when it comes to vegetables - try to get your groceries from local markets or farmers and stay away from canned food.
Picture from Europe Travel Destinations.
Utensils: As all things in life, you need the right tools for the job. Kitchen wise you may easily become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of available utensils, all aimed at different and specific tasks. Without wanting to go much further into it, these are the main items you need to get things going:
- non-stick frying pans - a great set of knives - kitchen apron
- Steel cooking pots - wood cutting board - wooden spoons
Pictures from Ikea’s website.
Temperature: It plays a most important role in the outcome of your dishes. Food reacts to heat in different ways and each ingredient has a specific cooking time (which can be tweaked to your liking - raw, medium, well done). Keeping control of the heat in your oven or cooktop is a very important part of cooking: sometimes you’ll need to use full heat whereas others, you’ll want your ingredients to simmer for a few hours. Along with heat, carefully selecting the order in which you throw your ingredients in, will make all the difference.
Picture from Miele’s website.
Seasoning: taste varies from person to person: some are more sensitive to spices than others. Even if you fall in the latter category and have an urge to over season your dishes, refrain from doing so. Each ingredient has its own taste, which becomes masked once subject to loads of spices - you’ll end up hiding all the amazing flavours. This is another very important step in any recipe and one should always keep in mind that a mere hint of a certain spice goes a long way, without depriving food of its true taste.
Picture from Flickr.
Tasting: last but not least, you should always taste your own cookings - this is the only way to evaluate if everything is spot on or if amendments are needed.
Picture from Istockphoto.