Learning how to cook is a lifelong love affair that never entirely ends; the pleasure and reward being in the constant evolution of techniques, recipes and ingredients. If you haven’t put a lot of effort into studying the art of cooking gourmet meals just yet, there is always still time. It all starts with a change in your mindset regarding the difficulty of making meals from scratch. It really isn’t that hard. Banish your gravitation toward the microwave. Check your ready meal addiction into permanent rehab. Say sayonara to snacking.
Sure, you’ll be in the kitchen longer and you might even get a little messy, but cooking good food is fun and the results – a delicious, nutritious meal – speak for themself. So, here are 5 IDEAL home cook’s hacks to elevate your meals to masterchef level.
USE FRESH HERBS
Sometimes, a labour-of-love meal can simply end up over-worked, over salty, bland and uninspired. The prime reason for this is usually an inexperienced home cook’s fear of using herbs and spices. There’s fresh basil and thyme, cayenne pepper and oregano, mint and cumin, coriander, and a host of other herbs that will make each dish you cook taste more developed, thoughtful and just more, well, cheffy.
You’ll start to recognise that your cooking skills have moved up a level when you only need a pinch of salt and a shake of pepper to round off a dish, owing to all the flavour your use of fresh herbs and spices has already imparted. When you go to the supermarket, buy some different herbs that you’re less familiar with, enabling you to learn their particular flavour profile and affinity with different ingredients. That way, you’ll be comfortable and confident with adding them to dishes already in your armoury.
BUY BETTER QUALITY COOKING TOOLS
It’s kind of hard to get a precise cut on your onion or mince up garlic when you’re using dull knives. Try getting the right measurements for your recipes when you can’t even read the words on your measuring cup. And a dulled peeler is more danger to your hand than the exterior of a potato. Don’t be stingy when it comes to buying cooking supplies that will aid you in becoming a better home cook. Get non-stick skillets, high-quality cookie sheets, and a set of cutting knives that would make Julia Child proud. Your kitchen should be stocked with quality cooking supplies that are organized and kept within reach so that you can multi task without getting stressed.
ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO MEASUREMENTS
If you have to guess or estimate how much of a particular ingredient is needed in a recipe, the results are in the hands of luck and luck alone. Only after you have made the same meal over and over again – for, as we all know, with practice makes perfect – can you start putting down the measuring spoons and eyeball how much salt, pepper, or flour is needed. When reading recipes, look at the measurements very carefully so that you don’t add too much, too little, or even add the wrong ingredient altogether. As long as you read the recipes over more than once, you shouldn’t miss the most important parts.
Cooking is all about getting out of your comfort zone, pushing your limits in time with your taste buds. If you consider yourself to be good at cooking pastries and pies, leave them on the back burner for now (don’t let them burn) and try out, for example, a delicious Caribbean stew or Japanese curry. The world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless; one of the great pleasures of the food world.
Going for recipes that you are sure to cook well is fine and good, but better cooks emerge when they stretch their capacities to the very limit. Every meal you cook after you start challenging yourself in the kitchen will taste better and better. For more inspiration, the company SafeStore teamed up with foodie Ren Behan and compiled some simple ‘Dinner Renovations” that you can check out here.
DO YOUR PREP IN ADVANCE
Mis en place is a phrase every chef should be familiar with. Whenever you have plans to prepare a big or complex meal, try to get the bulk of the prep work out of the way early. In fact, some recipes are going to require you to marinade meats in advance or make your dough well in advance so that it can rise before baking. Do all of your mincing, chopping, and slicing prior to cooking, so you can give the actual cooking part your full attention when it needs it.
Treat cooking like you would your job. Plan ahead, get the supplies you need to succeed and know when you should be challenging yourself more. If you make a mistake, don’t admit defeat – try the same recipe out again but pay better attention to the precise directions. Keep these cooking tips in mind and you’ll stop depending on the microwave and start swaggering in the kitchen. Through trial, error and imagination, you’ll slow become a more skilled and accomplished home cook.