If you’ve always wanted to start cooking but never knew where to begin, you’re in the right place! Learning how to cook is one of the most useful and rewarding skills you can develop. With just a few basic techniques and ingredients, you can create delicious meals that will impress your friends and family. In this article, we’ll cover the essential basics you need to master to get started. Let’s get cooking!
Why Should You Start Cooking?
Learning how to cook is a valuable and rewarding skill that offers practical, financial, and social benefits-both at home and away from home. Here are some reasons why you should start cooking:
When you cook at home, you have complete control over what you eat and how it’s prepared. Cooking is one of the best ways to improve your health and develop a healthier relationship with food. Here are some health benefits of cooking:
- You can use fresh, wholesome ingredients and avoid processed foods that are high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
- You can reduce the number of calories and unhealthy additives in your meals.
- You can practice safe food handling techniques to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
- You can customize your meals to suit your dietary needs and preferences, like gluten-free, low carb, or vegan.
Learning to cook can also save you money in the long run by reducing the amount you spend on takeout, delivery, and restaurant meals. Here are some ways that cooking saves you money:
- You can buy ingredients in bulk and save money on overall food costs.
- You can cook in batches and freeze meals for later, cutting down on wasted food and meals eaten out of necessity because you didn’t have time or resources to cook.
- You can learn to make your favorite restaurant meals at home, saving money on expensive restaurant food and drinks.
Cooking can also foster social connections and help build relationships. Cooking for others is a way to show love and care while sharing in the joy of good food. Here are some social benefits of cooking:
- You can share meals with family, friends, and neighbors, creating a sense of community and connection.
- You can host dinner parties and potlucks, providing an opportunity to share recipes, stories, and experiences.
- You can use cooking to give back to your community by volunteering to prepare meals for those in need.
- You can teach others to cook, passing on the joy and satisfaction of cooking to others.
What Equipment Do You Need to Start Cooking?
Starting to cook can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the right equipment can make the process easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Here are some basic tools you’ll need to get started in the kitchen:
A good set of knives is essential for any home cook. Invest in a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. These tools will allow you to chop, slice, and dice your ingredients with ease.
A cutting board is essential to protect your counters and keep your knives sharp. Look for a board made of wood or plastic that’s large enough to comfortably accommodate your ingredients.
Pots and Pans
While you don’t need a huge collection of pots and pans, it’s a good idea to invest in a few basics that will serve you well. Look for a large pot for boiling pasta or making soup, a medium-sized sautÃ© pan for frying, and a small saucepan for heating up milk or melting butter.
Measuring Cups and Spoons
When you’re just starting out, you may be able to get away with eyeballing your ingredients. However, if you want to ensure that your recipes turn out consistently, you’ll need measuring cups and spoons. Look for a set that includes both standard measurements and metric equivalents.
You’ll need a few mixing bowls in different sizes for everything from whisking eggs to tossing salads. Look for bowls made of metal or glass that are sturdy and easy to clean.
What Ingredients Should You Have On Hand?
Having a well-stocked pantry and fridge is key to being able to cook at a moment’s notice. Start by stocking up on staples such as rice, beans, pasta, and canned goods.
When it comes to ingredients, there are a few essentials you should always have on hand. These include:
- Flour (all-purpose and/or whole wheat)
- Sugar (granulated and/or brown)
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Salt (kosher and/or sea salt)
- Butter or cooking oil (such as vegetable, olive, or coconut oil)
- Milk (regular or non-dairy)
- Cheese (cheddar, parmesan, and/or mozzarella)
- Seasonings (such as black pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and/or oregano)
In addition to the essentials, having a variety of fresh produce on hand is also important. Try to always have:
- Leafy greens (such as spinach or kale)
- Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli or cauliflower)
- Root vegetables (such as carrots or sweet potatoes)
- Peppers (such as bell peppers or jalapenos)
Finally, having some pantry staples can make meal prep even easier. Consider keeping:
- Rice (white and/or brown)
- Pasta (such as spaghetti or penne)
- Beans (such as black beans or chickpeas)
- Canned tomatoes and tomato paste
- Chicken or vegetable stock
- Bread crumbs
- Nuts (such as almonds or cashews)
- Dried fruit (such as raisins or cranberries)
How Do You Read a Recipe?
Reading a recipe may seem daunting at first, with its long lists of ingredients and complicated instructions. But like any skill, it becomes easier with practice and familiarity. Here are some tips to help you read a recipe like a pro:
1. Read the Recipe from Start to Finish
Before you begin cooking, it’s important to read the entire recipe carefully. This will give you an understanding of the dish and its components and allow you to plan accordingly. Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and equipment and note any prep work required.
2. Familiarize Yourself with Cooking Terms
Recipes may include technical cooking terms that you may not be familiar with. Take the time to look them up and understand what they mean. This will help you follow the recipe accurately and prevent mistakes. Common cooking terms include sautÃ©, simmer, chop, dice, and mince.
3. Pay Attention to Measurements
Accurate measurement is crucial in cooking, as even small changes can affect the final dish’s taste and texture. Be sure to measure ingredients precisely using measuring cups and spoons or a kitchen scale. Pay attention to the unit of measurement used, as some recipes may call for ounces, while others may call for grams or milliliters.
4. Understand Recipe Structure
Most recipe structures follow similar patterns, making them easy to follow once you understand them. Here is a typical recipe structure:
- Title: The recipe’s name
- Introduction: A brief introduction to the recipe, including serving size and cook time
- Ingredients: A list of all the ingredients required for the recipe, usually in order of use
- Instructions: Step-by-step instructions for how to make the dish, including the necessary cooking methods and times
- Optional: Some recipes may include additional sections, such as tips, variations, or suggested side dishes.
By understanding a recipe’s structure, you can quickly locate the information you need, making the cooking process much more efficient.
Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to cooking. The more recipes you try, the more familiar you’ll become with reading them, and the more confident you’ll feel in the kitchen.
What Cooking Techniques Should You Know?
Whether you’re a newbie cook or an experienced one, there are basic cooking techniques that you should master. These will help you create a wide range of dishes, from simple to gourmet.
SautÃ©ing refers to cooking food quickly in a small amount of oil over high heat. To sautÃ©, heat oil in a skillet and add food, like vegetables or meat, and using a spatula, quickly stir the ingredients around to cook them evenly. Itâ€™s often used to cook vegetables or to brown meat.
Roasting utilizes dry heat to cook food uncovered in the oven. Itâ€™s great for cooking meats, like chicken or beef, as well as vegetables like potatoes or carrots. Simply preheat the oven, season meat or vegetables with salt, pepper, and your preferred spices, and place the food in a roasting pan.
When you need to cook food quickly, boiling is the way to go. You can boil pasta, rice and vegetables quickly in a pot of salted water. Just make sure to follow your recipeâ€™s suggested cooking time to avoid overcooking.
Braising is a technique where you cook meat with liquid until it becomes tender. It usually involves browning the meat first and then cooking it slowly with ingredients like wine, broth or tomatoes.
Grilling refers to cooking food over direct heat on a grill or barbecue. Itâ€™s often used for meats like steaks, chicken, and burgers. The key to successful grilling is to preheat the grill, brush your food with oil, and cook it to the desired level of doneness.
How Do You Make Meal Planning and Prep Easier?
Meal planning and prepping can seem overwhelming, but it can actually save you time, money and stress during the week. Instead of scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner each night, you can approach the week with a plan and everything you need already on hand. Here are some tips to make meal planning and prepping easier:
Create a Meal Planning System
Take some time to create a meal planning system that works for you. It might be a printable planner or a whiteboard in your kitchen. Whatever it is, make sure it’s easy to use and plan out your meals for the week.
- Start by choosing recipes that you’d like to try. Be sure to choose recipes that use similar ingredients to save time and money.
- Make sure to include meals that you love and are easy to make for busy weeknights.
- Plan for leftovers. Not only does this save time by giving you ready-made lunches or dinners, but it’s also a great way to save money.
Batch Cook Ingredients
Batch cooking is a great way to save time during the week. By preparing ingredients in advance, you won’t have to chop vegetables or cook grains every night.
- Choose one or two days a week to batch cook ingredients. This might be Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening.
- Cook a big batch of grains like rice or quinoa to use throughout the week.
- Wash and chop vegetables to use in salads or as sides throughout the week.
- Cook a big batch of protein like chicken or tofu to use in meals throughout the week.
Use Your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot
Slow cookers and Instant Pots are great tools for busy weeknights. You can prep meals in the morning and have dinner ready when you get home.
- Look for slow cooker or Instant Pot recipes that use similar ingredients to save time and money.
- Make sure to prep your ingredients the night before so all you have to do in the morning is dump them in the pot.
- Try batch cooking soups or stews that can be frozen and reheated throughout the week.
Get the Whole Family Involved
Meal planning and prepping doesn’t have to be a one-person job. Get the whole family involved to make it easier and more fun.
- Have each member of the family choose a recipe for the week.
- Assign tasks like chopping vegetables or setting the table to each member.
- Take turns cooking or prepping meals throughout the week.
Try Meal Delivery Services
If you’re really struggling to find the time to meal plan and prep, consider trying a meal delivery service. Many services offer healthy and affordable pre-made meals that can be delivered right to your doorstep.
Overall, meal planning and prepping can seem daunting, but it’s worth it to save time, money and stress during the week. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can approach the week with ease and enjoy delicious, homemade meals every night.
Thank you for taking the time to read this guide on how to start cooking. As you can see, it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first. Remember to start with the basics, be patient with yourself, and have fun in the kitchen. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to reach out. See you again soon!
Master the Basics: How to Start Cooking
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- Before you start cooking, you’ll need to preheat your oven.
- Season the chicken breasts with 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper.
- Place a large pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil.
- Add 1 chopped onion and 4 minced garlic cloves to the pan and sauté for 4-5 minutes.
- Place the chicken breasts in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side.
- Pour 1 can of chopped tomatoes over the chicken breasts.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.