Contributed by Lindsay Shugerman, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru
When you’re learning how to cook, it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start?
But with a few basic cooking skills, you can be on your way to success in the kitchen and praise at the dinner table in no time.
Here are ten must-master basic cooking skills that will take your meals from take-away to terrific.
10. Using knives properly
Learning how to use a professional kitchen knife properly will make all of your food preparation easier and safer. Mastering the rocking motion used by professional chefs will keep food from flying off the board, and your fingers from ending up in the mix.
9. Selecting produce
If you’re going to cook, you need to know how to pick tasty produce to use in your recipes. If you have questions about how to select a juicy orange, some sweet carrots or an eggplant that will last longer than the drive home, ask the produce manager in your local grocery store. If you pick a slow time in the day, they’re usually happy to show you what to look for.
8. Coordinating cooking times
Learning how to time food so nothing burns, and everything is ready to serve at the same time is one of those basic cooking skills that will come with time. But you can speed up the process by paying attention to cooking times in recipes, and starting each part of the meal so it should be done at the same time.
7. Measuring ingredients accurately
Measuring accurately is a critical part of success in the kitchen. Make sure you have the right tools, and then pay attention to the details of the recipe. Does it say one cup of sifted flour, or just one cup of flour? Packed brown sugar, or just brown sugar? Those little details change the amount — getting them wrong can change the whole recipe.
6. Adding seasoning
Learning about seasoning is the basic cooking skill that will make your food something special. It’s more than just learning the difference between fresh and dried herbs. It’s about being able to add a bit more of this, or a dash of that, and changing a dish from ho-hum to wow. Cooking classes are a great way to start to develop these skills.
5. Making a sauce
A good sauce can add the perfect finishing touch to a meal…or drown it in heavy tastelessness. Start by learning how to make basic white and red sauces, and then move on to lemony Hollandaise, rich creamy cheese sauce, and other tasty sauces.
4. Rescuing a mistake
Sometimes, things will go wrong with a recipe. Learning how to salvage a dish that has started to burn, gotten too salty, or just needs a little something extra is among the basic cooking skills you’ll need to master. Why? No matter how careful you are, things will go wrong. Knowing what to do can save your meal…and save you money.
3. Putting together meals
Yes, this is one of those cooking skills that takes time to develop. But you can start to understand how to put together meals where each dish compliments the other by watching cooking shows on TV or paying attention to food combinations in good restaurants. Also, some cookbooks include serving suggestions below the recipes. Check those out for full meal ideas.
2. Mastering cooking techniques and terms
Take the time to learn the “how-to” part of cooking. Knowing that you love kabobs is nice. But it won’t get the food to the table. Knowing how to properly cut meat and vegetables for it, prepare and use a marinade, and set the proper level of heat on the grill — those are the technique steps you need to learn. Take your time, and master a few new skills a week.
1. Following a recipe
Understanding how to follow a recipe, what the cooking terms, and the steps in a recipe mean, and how to modify the recipe if you need to are all basic cooking skills you need to understand and master.