I'm a young foodie and just want to know the best tips that more experienced cooks have ever given/received.
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Sam is a trusted home cook.
After you've made a recipe 'by the book'. don't be a slave to it and improvise.
Have the confidence to try new things, which will help hone your instincts even/especially in failure. (... And it's easier to have when there's a frozen pizza on standby.)
When chopping herbs.. scrunch them into a really tight ball and chop instead of chopping them all over the cutting board! Small pieces get everywhere otherwise.
PieceofLayerCake is a trusted source on baking.
As a baker, I've had it drilled in my head to not rely on time. Check your food often while it cooks and learn what "done" is. Also, to get used to metric measurements and weigh all ingredients.
Keeping your space clean and organized is INVALUABLE. Mise en place: making sure everything is ready to go, when its supposed to be. That may mean having everything ready at the beginning. Its important to be prepared and in control. Read all recipes beforehand, well in advance and plan accordingly.
Urm...I'm sure I'll have more as I think of them.
Chops is a trusted home cook.
Taste & Season as you go...
Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.
Take notes. If a dish doesn't turn out the way you would like (overdone, underdone, under seasoned, over seasoned etc.) make a note of it. Be patient with yourself. It takes a while to gain the experience with cooking. Have fun with it!
Write down everything you did to change a recipe to your liking (after you've made it by the book). You won't remember later the changes you made that turned the dish from good to great, unless you document it.
Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
Read a lot of cookbooks. Your public library is a wonderful resource. Think about what ethnicities interest you, and begin there. As you start to get a feel for a direction or directions that interest you, make a list of books that you would like to add to your own library, and make it available to family and friends for birthday, Christmas, and graduation gifts. That said, ask your family if one night a week you could be in charge of dinner. Write a grocery list, check it twice, and ask for money to purchase it. Then enlist family members as your sous-chefs. We'd love to know how you proceed with this.
Be curious about why recipes want you to do things in a particular way or order. Why cream the butter with the sugar when you're baking? Why rinse the rice before cooking it? etc. There are answers to all these questions. Read Harold McGee and other great food/cooking experts
Alice Waters is a terrific role model for any aspiring cook. Her tenets are:
1. Eat locally and sustainably
2. Eat seasonally
3. Shop at farmer's markets
4. Plant a garden
5. Conserve, compost, and recycle
6. Cook together
7. Eat together
8. Remember food is precious
Kristen W. is a trusted home cook.
Season every component of a dish. Along those lines, don't be afraid of salt, and as someone else mentioned, taste, taste, taste as you go. The latter will help to keep you from over salting (among other things) as you proceed with not being afraid of salt! Trust your palate, read a lot, cook a lot, read this hotline! I have gone back and read some of my earliest questions posted here, and I cannot BELIEVE how much my growth as a cook has been fostered by reading the hotline religiously. Finishing a dish with fresh herbs and/or acid (citrus, vinegar) can make a dish sing. Be patient, cook what you love, edit your dishes but don't edit your imagination, have fun, good luck!
Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.
All of the above. And learn how to use a knife properly, take good care of your knives and keep them sharp. If it grows together, it goes together. Think about adding texture to your dish--croutons or nuts in a salad, for example. If you're baking, read the recipe thoroughly, and weigh or measure everything ahead of time. (Bake a lot before you start improvising, and learn about the chemistry of baking. It will make you sad to throw away a cake that didn't rise because you messed up the leavening.) If you're cooking for others, it's tempting to make it all about you (see this amazing new recipe that I have the skill to make), but you're cooking for OTHERS, so make it about them (their likes, dislikes preferences), and try to keep your ego out of it. It's nice to get compliments, but despite the popularity of cooking shows, day to day cooking is not theater; it's a way to feed ourselves and others--to provide comfort and nourishment every day. Try to get your personal reward from that--if you seek out accolades, you will be disappointed.
Nancy is a trusted home cook.
in nor particular order:
keep the joy in cooking and feeding people, no matter the passing trends or fads or so-called scientific claim.
as Michael Pollan recommends, learn someone's grandmother cooking...yours if you're lucking enough to have one, someone else's if not. any ethnic cuisine is grounded in the things we've come to recognize & remember as important - seasonality, fresh if possible preserved if not, use all parts of the animal or vegetable, learn that leftovers are only prepared elements for your next adventure.
learn a few basic recipes so well they're in your head (e.g. beef stew, baking powder biscuits, basic vinaigrette dressing, chocolate cake). this way, you will be able to take advantage of food you see in a market or farm stand, and buy what you need. or cook when you're away from recipe books.
Yes to suggestion already make for notes on what you liked or didn't about a recipe.
if you really hate something, no need to make it again. but if you like it, make it 3 or 4 times to really get a handle on it.
Make condiments and sauces normally bought commercially at least once, then you can decide if its worth it to you in cost, time, ingredients to make from scratch. e.g. pumpkin purée, ketchup, cranberry sauce.
be fearless. make mistakes. keep learning.
If cooking without a recipe and you don't know how much of each ingredient to use, just imagine how much you'd want to eat. ie if i'm making a bacon mac and cheese for 8 people, how much bacon should i use? 8 slices? would i really be satisfied with 1 piece of bacon?
also put a wet paper towel under your cutting board if it's slipping around...will help prevent injuries
and for dinner parties, always ask your guests about allergies and even as important, if there's anything they don't like. the last thing you want is to be embarrassed to serve a cilantro-filled dish to someone who can't stand it
Timing a meal can be tricky. Decide on your menu in advance, be sure you have all the ingredients, and come up with a plan for what to do when -- what can be made ahead, at least in part, is helpful. And while your guests' needs and preferences are important, find things to cook that they and you will love. Most people will happily share their recipes. Ask for these recipes, and begin your own collection. Some of these recipes will be "heirlooms," not to be found in cookbooks -- things to be saved and treasured, parts of family history. Hope you have fun....
If you're making a large batch of soup and you know the flavor of everything is there but it still feels like it's missing something, a capful of apple cider vinegar. It completely brings it together. As a young foodie, making soups is key; you can freeze it and share it with friends, way better going into college with that skill than how to make ramen or boxed mac and cheese.
Fresh ingredients whenever possible, do make notes or post its in cookbooks if you do not agree with the seasoning amounts, figure out ways to repurpose leftovers - corn on the cob can become a corn salad or a corn salsa the next day, trust yourself to be creative. Everyone has failures in the kitchen. And all of the above.
Another couple I thought of:
I'm going to piggyback off of Nancy and say, learn a few basic recipes and then learn how to change them. I can make hundreds of different cakes with just a few cake recipes, buttercreams, sauces and textures...but it starts with the basics.
And, this may seem like a silly one, but when I had my first baking job years back, I learned very quickly how important it was to scrape the bowl WELL when using a mixer. When batters aren't homogenous, things can go awry.
get good equipment for birthday and other holiday presents. resist the temptation to buy "sets" but research what the minimum type of knives or saucepan or pots are by the pros. i've spent a fortune getting the newest gadget and now find that most tools can do double duty. do i have things that i use once or twice a year such as a mandolin or an immersion blender? yes, but over the years i have found that storing such equipment is worth the ease in use, speed they provide in the kitchen and minimal cleanup after use well worth it. i would also add, search out and buy the best ingredients you can afford and find whether at the flea market, farmers market or from the neighbor who has a self serve wheelbarrow of home grown produce in the driveway. i hope you have many years of fun in the kitchen. oh, one last bit of advice....get some good walking shoes for those holidays when you will be on your feet.
Thanks so much for all the wonderful tips! They are incredibly valuable.
- make sure you have all ingredients before you start (not *looks like* have)
- importance of tempering eggs - egg to hot rice pudding = scrambled egg pudding. blah.
- don't turn on high "just to get started" then walk away - boiled over pots, broiled black crisp meringue on top of from scratch lemon pie :(
- cook with a dear grandparent / family / friend - their unwritten recipes for family favorites are like an heirloom item, not something that can be Googled. I wish I could have a piece of my Grandma's bread again.
- be adventuresome, curious, jump into a recipe
- have friends / family who are happy to have anyone cook anything for them - they are excited to eat what is not perfect e.g. cinder meringue lemon pie
- lol note for myself - don't throw a fit [or cookie sheets or knives] if something doesn't turn out - see above comment about appreciative friends :)
Bravo, Brenna R. - happy cooking
I don't know if it's the best tip, but it took me a while to learn about heat. Cook scrambled eggs really really slowly over very low heat while stirring constantly and people will think you are a genius cook. Stir fry at the hottest heat you can manage.
Also, fresh herbs elevate every dish. Keep a little pot of thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, mint, basil....whatever you can grow. I swear if you throw some fresh herbs into a dish, people will ask for the recipe. I almost always supplement a recipe with fresh herbs from my garden. Easy, cheap, and transformative.
Margie is a trusted home cook immersed in German foodways.
Don’t be afraid of leftovers--even if you are cooking just for yourself. Food that is cooked in large quantities--i.e. soups and stews--freezes well and assures a good meal is on hand, even when you don’t have time to cook.
This is a bit more esoteric, but for me, an interest in food doesn’t stop at the table. I’ve planned a lot of trips around food--I have done cooking programs as well as chosen a destination because of food. Enjoy food exploration beyond your home base. And that goes for academics as well. Food touches on almost every field--science, economics, politics, history, etc. So if you really love food, look for ways to make it into more than just something to eat.
Master breakfast foods and you will eat well and feed friends and family well forever. Most everyone will eat breakfast for dinner ,too. Breakfast foods can be as simple as soft boiled eggs and toast . Add a meat ( sausage come in so many varieties,bacon too ) and then move on to heavier fare like grains ( oatmeal,grits,rice puddings,etc ). Breads and coffee cakes are another level you can try. If really feeling adventurous,learn to fry doughnuts and beneigts. You are in good company having the Food 52 hotline at your fingertips...Njoy!
From the infallible Julie Chile... ALWAYS start out with a bigger pot than you think you need.
Don't try to be a pot saver. Use the best pot, bowl, spoon, whatever for the job, even if it means more dishes later. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches and heartaches...
Child, not Chile... :)
watch good cooks ,cook
Yes, yes yes. The chefs who I've learned from could have explained themselves and their technique up and down, but I learned from watching.
And don't be too hard on yourself. I used to get so upset when something didn't work out. Great chefs weren't born, they made themselves...with a lot of failure along the way. There are things that I've done 1000 times that I continue to fail on. Cooking is partially what it is, and partially what we do to it. Learn and try again.
Don't be afraid to "defend" your kitchen or cooking space! I often cook for a big crowd and many times everyone is in the kitchen chatting and adding their comments or unwanted advice to what I'm cooking!!!!
Always remember to heat the pan before adding oil:)
Find out where your food comes from. Did you know that meats and vegetables are not born in grocery stores. Visit farms and farmers markets. Find out how much work goes into the ingredients. If you don't drive yet, start by making some of your own ingredients, like butter, sauerkraut, then maybe move up to cheese. It will give you a whole new appreciation for a meal.
Follow the eggs.