Photo Credit: waferboard
This post is meant to help those who want to start cooking delicious food but are unsure where to start, or even for those who do a lot of cooking but would like to learn some new techniques and recipes. But first, let’s take a look at why you should learn to cook:
- You will save money. Cooking delicious meals does not have to cost you a lot. The biggest cost will be the initial cost for equipment. In the long run, you will save money by buying your food at a grocery store instead of spending it on dinner, drinks, and a tip.
- It’s healthy. You will not have to guess where the food you are eating comes from. You will know exactly what goes into your meals and where those ingredients come from.
- It’s fun. Few things are more satisfying than working tirelessly to perfect a meal, and have it turn out as deliciously as you imagined.
- It’s an impressive skill. Everybody loves a good meal, and they love the person who cooks it even more.
- It can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. There are thousands of simple-to-make yet delicious recipes out there. And on the other side, if you are looking for a new challenge, there is always a new technique that will take weeks/months/years to master.
Now let’s take a look at where to find resources to teach you the art of cooking, what books and gear you will need, and some lessons I have learned that might help you out:
Videos are your best friend.
If you want to learn a dish, the quickest and easiest way to do so is to go youtube.com and watch a video on how to cook that dish. Youtube has a lot of crap on there, so we will will start you off with a few of our favorite channels and videos:
- Good Eats - Easily my favorite cooking show. Alton Brown not only knows how to cook, but he knows how to explain cooking in a simple to understand, straightforward manner. You can find most of Good Eats on Youtube. Amazon Prime also has a few seasons available for subscribers.
- Gordon Ramsay’s Cookery Course - The man might have a temper, but he certainly knows how to cook. In this course, Chef Gordon starts with the basics
- Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube - Jamie Oliver is another celebrity chef who knows what he is talking about. Let Jamie and his very talented friends teach you recipes.
- Stella Culinary’s Videos - Learn knife skills, sauces, kitchen prep, food science, and more.
- Choosing the Right Kitchen Knife - Let Alton Brown help you choose the right knife for the job.
- Knife Tutorial - Knife skills are possibly the most important thing you need to learn to become a good chef. Start here.
Visit the right websites.
Just looking at the mouth-watering food on most cooking websites is probably better motivation to get you cooking than anything I could possibly say.
- epicurious.com – Articles, guides, recipes, menus, videos.
- cookingforengineers.com – Food explained in a logical way for the non-chef mind.
- supercook.com – Don’t want to go to the store? No problem. Find recipes based on the ingredients you currently have at hand.
- 101cookbooks.com – Obviously, you will find a lot of recipes here.
- smittenkitchen.com – Learn to cook comfort food from a mother with a small kitchen in New York City.
- foodwishes.com – Video recipes with Chef John.
- seriouseats.com - Seriouseats.com is a family of websites with food reviews, restaurant reviews, recipes, and techniques.
- thepioneerwoman.com – If you like butter, you will like this website. Learn country cooking from a country woman.
- budgetbytes.com – Not all of us can eat caviar every night. Learn to cook delicious meals on the cheap from budgetbytes.com. Each recipe comes with a monetary breakdown.
- allrecipes.com – Multiple recipes for every dish you can possibly think of.
- americastestkitchenfeed.com - Get daily updates, recipes, and stories from the test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists of Cook’s Illustrated.
- saveur.com – Culture and food go hand in hand. This website looks at how heritage and tradition have influenced food.
Read the best cookbooks.
Videos are awesome. Websites are awesome. Both make cookbooks less of a requirement, but they can be helpful and informative.
- Joy of Cooking - This cookbook has over 4,000 recipes and teaches the fundamentals of cooking.
- How to Cook Everything - Full of straightforward instructions for making simple dishes using fresh ingredients, simple techniques, and basic equipment.
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking - In this cookbook by Julia Child you will learn every step in the cooking process, from buying ingredients to choosing the right wine to pair with your dish.
- Laurel’s Kitchen – A food guide that makes good nutrition easy. Cut back on fat without losing flavor.
- On Food & Cooking – Understand where your food comes from, what it is made of, and how it transforms into something new and special.
- Cook’s Illustrated - Made by the same people who make the magazine, Cook’s Illustrated attempts to craft recipes that work the first time and every time.
Get the gear.
These are just a few cooking instruments that will make your life easier. Not all of these tools are absolutely necessary, and more gear will be required to cook most meals.
- Chef’s Knife – A sharp chef’s knife is a must have for any person who sets foot in a kitchen. Knife skills, knife skills, knife skills!
- Cast Iron Pan – A versatile tool that can go on the stove or in the oven. Great for cooking that perfect steak.
- Stainless Steel Cookset – Most of your cooking will be done on a stove top.
- Crockpot – A slow cooker is a lazy, frugal person’s go-to tool. Throw some ingredients in the slow cooker, leave it for a few hours, and let the crockpot do the rest.
- Bakeware – Baking is an exact science. It’s chemistry. You have to be precise, and you have to have the right tools to be so.
- Lemons, onions, garlic, vinegar, oil, and butter – Essential ingredients for everyone’s kitchen.
Avoid common mistakes.
Some things go without saying. These things do not. Here are a few cooking tips you might not realize if you are a beginner chef:
- Be prepared beforehand. Read through the entire recipe. Get all the ingredients you need. Prepare the ingredients. This means getting your meat to room temperature, cutting your vegetables, measuring you ingredients, marinating your chicken, etc. Be prepared so you are not scrambling to get things done.
- Clean as you cook. Washing dishes can be a pain in the ass. Minimize the damage by cleaning as you go, so you won’t have to worry so much after you have eaten your delicious meal.
- Add salt. If your dish is lacking something, but you just cannot figure it out, it probably needs more salt. Add a little bit of salt at a time. You can always put salt in, but you cannot take it out.
- Let the meat rest before slicing. Meat needs to rest for a few minutes after it has been cooked. If you slice your meat immediately after cooking it, you will lose all the delicious juices you worked so hard at attaining. Cover your meat in foil and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.
- Use the right temperature. Know what temperature you should be cooking on. Do not crank the burner to high heat every time you touch it.
- Taste as you go. Tasting as you go gives you an idea if you need more spice or flavor. Do not serve a meal to someone if you do not know how it is going to taste.
- Don’t overcrowd your pans. Putting too much stuff in the pan decreases the heat in the pan, meaning everything will not cook the way it should.
- Food will cook after it’s pulled from heat. Pull your food off the burner just before if it is finished cooking. If you wait until it is completely cooked, it will be overcooked by the time it hits the table.
- Use fresh ingredients. This probably goes without saying. Get fresh herbs whenever you can.
There you go. I hope these resources and tips help get you get started in your cooking endeavors. Cooking is a great skill to have, and an exciting hobby. It might be difficult at first, but do not get discouraged. You will not regret it.