Cooking can be daunting, so many ingredients, so many instructions! Even to a seasoned home cook it can seem overwhelming when you open a book or read a recipe online that contains words, processes or techniques that you don’t understand. Especially if you are making something for the first time, you are unsure what the dish is supposed to look like at various stages or even the finished product. You might not have much to go on, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Here are some tips to get you through the initial shock that you might experience when trying something new. Even if you are an experienced home cook, these tips can certainly help up your game as well!
1. READ THE RECIPE!
Seriously, read it from start to finish, maybe a couple times, maybe ten. It doesn’t matter, as long as you fully understand what you are trying to accomplish. Take note of how the ingredients are listed, it actually matters! For example, if a recipe lists, 1 cup parsley, chopped, that means you measure the parsley BEFORE you chop it. If it says, 1 cup chopped parsley, that means you chop enough to get a full cup. See the difference?
2. LOOK UP WORDS YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND.
If you don’t know what julienne means, or roast, or braise, look them up. You can’t do something if you don’t know what it is.
3. TAKE THE SUGGESTED PREP TIME and MULTIPLE IT BY TWO.
Unless you have sushi chef style knife skills, things are going to take longer; gathering your ingredients, re-reading the recipe, gathering more ingredients. The more proficient you become, the faster you can get things ready and you can cut out this tip!
4. MISE EN PLACE!
Sounds fancy, right? The theory behind mise en place or “putting in place”, is that all the components of your recipe are ready to go prior to you firing up a burner. Everything is chopped and blanched, cans are open, everything laid out in front of you, ready to go. That way when you start cooking, your onions don’t burn while you feverishly try to chop the remaining vegetables. It also gives you some time to review the recipe and make sure you do everything in order, it’s a lot easier when your ingredients are neat and organized.
5. BE FLEXIBLE.
If things don’t go right, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, even turn off your burners, and refocus. If you are missing a recipe ingredient, try to figure out what the purpose of that ingredient is, and substitute accordingly. Did you all of a sudden run out of salt for your salad dressing? Throw in an anchovy!
6. HAVE CONFIDENCE.
It might not look exactly like the picture, and you might be worried it won’t taste good, but don’t make excuses. Serve yourself and your family with pride. It was YOU who spent the time and energy in your kitchen to put together a meal. Believe me, nobody will think any less of you, or complain that your casserole is a little brown around the edges.
7. MAKE NOTES.
Did you like the recipe? Would you have preferred it had more salt, or less? Don’t be afraid to write in your cookbook, or notebook or whatever, so the next time you flip to that page you will remember what changes you wanted to make. The more often you cook, the more you can make recipes your own, and you’ll want to have a record of what you did.