How does one become a better cook? Well, cook more, for one, but there’s more to it than that:
1. Observe Closely
When was the last time you REALLY observed what was going on when you were last cooking or baking? I’ve noticed some people seem to just blast through a recipe, hastily reading through the directions, and come to be disappointed at the end. A recipe will only get you so far because there are way too many variables that are unique to each kitchen. For instance, cooking on a gas stove goes much quicker than cooking on an electric stove. Learn your kitchen’s quirks and how it behaves so you can make the judgement call over the recipe.
2. Taste Everything
A big part of observing is tasting. I taste everything from start to finish, always. I’ll eat a raw veggie before cooking it, taste a small spoonful of raw cake batter, and so on. It’s the best way to learn how heat, time and different preparations manipulate the food. When I was making french onion soup last week, I tasted the soup before simmering, and it wasn’t flavorful at all. I tasted it every 15 minutes for the next hour of simmering and was amazed by how full flavored it became over time. Tasting taught me how important simmering a soup is.
3. Don’t Walk Away
Commit to spending time in the kitchen when you’re cooking. When it takes 10 minutes to make a caramel, I’ll stay and watch as it starts out as a collection of sugar granules, then starts to melt, then turns to a white clear syrup, then turns into a rich brown caramel. You learn more by watching and you’re less likely to burn the food.
4. Use Good Ingredients
I know this seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Each ingredient you use should be delicious on its own. For instance, cheese is one area where you need to get the good stuff. I’ve tried the cheap cheese route, and it just doesn’t work. You can’t cut corners with a lot of good ingredients, and eventually you will accept that they cost a little more for a reason, and they are totally worth it.
Put your own twists into your food. If you’re at the grocery store shopping for recipe ingredients, keep your eyes open for possible additions that inspire you. You might see something that you think, “that could be good with the stew.” Go home and try it to see if you’re right. There isn’t a quicker way to learn how different ingredients change the outcome of a dish. You will learn at a much quicker pace when you start to play around more.
If you have any other tips you’d like to add, share with all of us in the comment section. See you tomorrow for a tasty recipe!