How to learn how to cook | Feature Photo - 10 great tips | Today in the Kitchen

How to learn how to cook

Want to know how to learn how to cook? That is a worthy goal. Seemingly though, fewer and fewer people are choosing this path. Instead, they opt for more convenient options of delivering a great meal.

Thirty years ago, every kitchen came with a Betty Crocker™ cookbook, a pound of butter, and a bag of flour. Today, they come with a microwave, InstaPot™, and the phone number of the pizza shop.

All About Convenience

Face it, we live in a world of convenience. Whether it is a quick stop at the fast food place, throwing a boxed meal in the microwave, or ordering a pizza on your favorite app, we choose to skip preparing our dinners. Even when we opt for homemade, we use the InstaPot, the Hot Air fryer or Sous Vide. We avoid learning to cook because we have all these great options. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that convenience is “bad“. Rather, I am focusing on the lost skill of cooking food.

Learn to Cook Well and Live Well

Learning how to cook is an important step towards healthy living. In fact, I started my cooking journey because of health reasons. Heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, depression and cancer often dictate a change in diet choices. Unfortunately, many people are unprepared for these dietary changes. Simply put, they don’t know how to cook. Once long ago, I stood at the entrance to my kitchen, armed with a dented sauce pan, a scratched fry pan, and a bent $3 knife. So if a Single White Old Dude with zero kitchen skills can learn how to cook, I am confident you can too.

How to learn how to cook | Photo of beginning cook - Boy | Today in the Kitchen

Tip #1 – You are not a great cook…YET.

When asked about their star player, coaches often say, “We coached him up a bit.” That is to say, they encourage players to focus and refine their skills. You have kitchen skills. Yes, you have kitchen skills. You have the raw talent. Now you need to focus those skills into becoming a great cook.

How to learn how to cook | Photo of beginning cook - Girl | Today in the Kitchen

Tip #2 – You are not a great cook…YET.

Yes, I am purposely repeating this tip. Remember, you possess good kitchen skills. You just don’t know it. Each day take a small step toward your goal. Even a failure is a step forward. Always remember, developing kitchen skills and a passion for cooking is a journey worth taking.

Tip #3 – Always Consider your health.

For a moment ignore all this talk of cooking skills and consider your health. The formula is simple: Eat healthy food and live a better life. But you and I know, things are never that simple. Trust me, I wish they were. That is to say, healthy delicious food requires shopping, preparation, and cooking skills. When I stood in my kitchen entrance so long ago, I was at zero. All I had was a desire to be healthy. Do not use price as your primary motivation. Instead, use healthy first, price second.

Tip #4 – Buy a Learn How to Cook book.

We live in the digital age. Instant information is a reality. Often, a google search is all we need. So why a book? It has something to do with real, tangible knowledge in our hands. Learning how to cook is as much to do with developing kitchen skills as it does with breaking the habit of convenience. A hard copy book is a commitment to the journey. Work slowly through the book. In the beginning, you are learning how to cook, not how to make a recipe.

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Tip #5 – Buy decent kitchen utensils

Image this. You stand at the entrance. You have motivation, knowledge, fresh ingredients and the perfect recipe. But all you have is a $3 knife, a bunch of scratched pans and a plastic mixing bowl from the dollar store. Buying cheap kitchen tools only adds to frustration of what will be a long process and, in the beginning, you need positive reinforcement. We call them victories. Better tools will yield better results. This tip is particularly relevant to knives. Buy at least one good chef’s knife. See our article What Kitchen Knife Should I Buy?

Tip #6 – Learn how to shop

How to learn how to cook. That is the goal. One of the first steps is learning how to shop for food. It is easy to buy junk food. The food manufacturers make it easy. Ever wonder why potato chip makers spend millions on commercials? Cookies, crackers, snack treats and carbonated drinks make it easy. Fast food, pizza, and sub shops make it easy. Yet, from a nutritional standpoint, their food is generally unhealthy. In short, junk food. Here are the three steps to buying better ingredients:

  1. Stop buying food from fast food places
  2. Buy fresh produce from the grocery store
  3. Learn to read the nutritional label
How to learn how to cook | Photo of healthy shopping habits | Today in the Kitchen

Tip #7 – Throw away cooking mistakes

With every journey there will be missteps. Learning how to cook is no exception, especially in the beginning. Do not try “fixing” your mistakes, unless the mistake is under-cooking the food. However, burnt food, over seasoned food, or flavor clashes should be discarded. The saying is “learn from your mistakes”, but in the kitchen the saying should be “throw away your mistakes”. That is to say, your cooking journey is more about your triumphs.

My Mistake TrickWhen I make a mistake, I pretend a particularly obnoxious Chef orders me out of the kitchen. Minutes later, I return and order that chef out of MY KITCHEN. Very therapeutic. 🙂

How to learn how to cook | Photo of burnt food | Today in the Kitchen

Tip #8 – Cooking technique versus recipe

They are millions of recipes available with the swipe of a finger and logically, if you follow the recipe, you will achieve good results. Hogwash!! If you want to learn how to cook, then you need to study cooking technique rather than follow a recipe. I encourage you to watch cooking shows and youtube recipe videos. However, instead of watching the step-by-step instructions, focus on technical details. Notice the type of pan, mixing bowl or kitchen utensil they use. You will see cooking patterns develop like frying onions before adding them to recipes or adding lemon juice towards the end of the recipe. These are details developed over many years and many generations of cooking. Most importantly, these simple cooking techniques create better tasting food.

Tip #9 – Don’t limit yourself to one cooking method

Far too often, I hear someone boast, “I am a great grill master.” Yet, the very same person cannot poach an egg or make a decent plate of spaghetti. Ironically, the same techniques that make them great grill masters, would make them great cooks. They simply refuse to accept that and thus, limit themselves. As someone who wants to know how to learn how to cook, do not fall into this culinary trap. Always strive to expand your kitchen skills.

Tip #10 – Treat yourself

As you begin your cooking journey, treat yourself once in a while. That is to say, go out and eat. However, skip fast food places and pizza shops. Instead focus on Chinese or Thai cuisine. Surprisingly, they cost about same as fast food or pizza. Alternatively, try a sit-down Mexican or Italian restaurant. As you eat, think about how they prepared the food. Ultimately, how would you make the same meal in your kitchen?

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