We’ve all been that person—the one who can’t cook. We aren’t born knowing how to scramble an egg or make perfect guacamole or stir fry water chestnuts, we had to learn them. It’s a process. A bit of reading, a lot of watching friends and family and Auntie YouTube. But with a bit of effort and a good amount of practice, you can get there. Here are a few tips for people who are just beginning their food-cooking journey.
You don’t start with boeuf Bourguignon, you start by learning how to brown hamburger. Find recipes with just a few ingredients. Recipes that don’t even involve cooking. Try making hummus, fresh salads or adding a few ingredients to your favorite Luvo meal before you dive into anything more complex.
Learn the basics
The definition of “basics” varies with each culture, country and cuisine, but there are a few universals. Learn how to use knives to cut vegetables and fruit properly. Learn how to scramble the aforementioned egg. Learn how to make simple, delicious salad dressing (hint: combine a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, your favourite vinegar, olive oil and a teaspoon of brown sugar—it’s that easy). Google cooking basics and learn one thing a day. It won’t take as long as you think. They’re called basics for a reason.
Take a class
What better way to learn something and get inspired than by taking a class in your community with a knowledgeable local cook? You’ll learn a ton, probably eat some great food that you cooked yourself, and meet people at the same stage of the learning curve as you.
Find a cookbook or website that’s your speed
There are millions of cookbooks out there, and even more websites. It’s not hard to bookmark several that provide simple tips and easy-enough recipes that taste great. Two of my favourites sources are Minimalist Baker and Mark Bittman.
Get set up before you start cooking
It’s called mise en place—getting all your ingredients cut, arranged and ready to go before you start cooking. Peel your ginger, measure your salt, dice your onion, and put everything in those cute little bowls so you can just tip them into the pot when it’s their time to shine, just like Martha. It is so pleasurable.
Ask a knowledgeable friend for help
We all have that friend who has an effortlessly tasty touch in the kitchen, a knack for flavours and innate, enviable whimsy with ingredients. (I have at least two, in fact: Sheena and Peter). Ask them to show you a few things. Tell them you’ll buy the ingredients and wine if they’ll show you a few things and follow through on a recipe with you. You’ll learn a lot and have a grand time, guaranteed.
Buy the actual ingredients you really need, so you don’t get frustrated and give up, throwing everything on the ground in a major huff
I’ve done this. I’ve tried to improvise because I couldn’t be bothered to get the right ingredients ahead of time. It’s better to print out the recipe and double check that you have every single thing you need. Then you won’t get frantic when you’re halfway through the recipe and end up dumping in a bunch of corn syrup thinking it’s the same thing as corn starch.
Pay attention when you’re eating
Try to identify the ingredients you’re tasting. Develop your palette. Savor your food. Look at what other home cooks and restaurant chefs do. Be a mindful, active eater and you’ll learn a lot just by paying attention.
Stop saying you can’t cook
It’s annoying. You can cook, you just haven’t tried.
What advice would you give to someone who claims they can’t cook—or are you one of them? Drop your hints in the comments below.
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