The Beginner Cooks' Guide

The Beginner Cooks' Guide

Can’t cook, you say? Then you’re in the right place. You actually do have the ability to cook. You just need to gain confidence through trial and maybe a bit of error (though through errors, you are learning too!).

Just like you would do with a recipe, read through this list in its entirety to find all of the steps you need to get started.

  • Equipment check. Make sure that you have the basic cooking equipment that you need to be successful. A pot, a skillet, a casserole dish, measuring spoons and cups, a meat thermometer, oven mitts, a spatula, cutting boards, knifes, et cetera are all basic items that you’ll want available. You don’t have to buy everything all at once, though. If you know you won’t be baking, for instance, don’t worry about getting cake pans for now.
  • Enlist help and support from someone. And this person doesn’t have to be a chef. It can be someone who knows basic kitchen information, like how to use the oven and stove, how to chop vegetables, and so on. Together, make some simple recipes that you’d like to learn about. Then move on to straightforward crock pot recipes or casseroles. If you don’t have someone that can help you, try cooking videos. Or if your support person can’t be with you in person, try online video chatting.
  • Start small. You don’t have to jump into a 15 ingredient multi-step recipe. Look for recipes that you feel comfortable trying. Starting small also means beginning with recipes that don’t require too much manipulation. If you are intimidated by poultry and meat, start with lean cuts that you don’t have to cut fat off of. Many breakfast foods (that can be served at any meal of the day) are simple to prepare, healthy, and delicious. Or start with no cook foods so that you get used to measuring and mixing, such as with these chia seed energy bites.
  • Start with familiar foods that you know your family enjoys to set the stage for success. Chicken, ground beef, eggs, pasta, beans, rice, salad ingredients—these are all typically well-liked foods with a huge selection of recipes available.

    If your family loves eggs, there are so many ways to prepare them. Pick the one that seems easiest for you and build from there. You can use the microwave, stove, or oven for egg cookery and recipes range from basic to more complex. Making hard cooked eggs in a pot of water on the stove is simple and versatile. The egg can be eaten on its own, used in a tuna or chicken salad, added to a salad, or sliced and served on toast.

    If your family loves chicken, depending on your level of comfort, you can start with recipes that call for cooked chicken and use a rotisserie chicken from the store, then as you get more comfortable, start cooking the chicken yourself. Cooking chicken can be as simple as poaching it or cooking it in the crock pot. Not sure if the chicken is done? Use your meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, and you’ll never have to guess. After you are comfortable with making the foods your family has enjoyed previously, you can venture into experimenting with new flavors.
  • You don’t have to be perfect. So you overcooked the noodles a bit. No problem. You made soggy rice this time? Forgive yourself. You are learning. Even seasoned cooks make mistakes.
  • Be clean and safe. Keeping your kitchen clean and the food safe is essential. Make sure to always clean your hands thoroughly before cooking and as needed while cooking. Be careful not to contaminate cooked foods with raw meats or their juices. Store foods properly to prevent spoilage. Use your meat thermometer to make sure that your meat has reached the proper temperature before eating it. And keep yourself safe by understanding how to use your knife and other kitchen gadgets properly.
  • Watch and learn. Use the internet if you have access to it. There are several cooking resources available. You can also watch TV cooking shows that are geared towards beginners.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed. Start from what you know and build. Already know how to make a cold ham, spinach, and cheese sandwich? Then maybe you can try a hot sandwich baked in the oven. This is pretty much a no fail endeavor. Bake it at 350 Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. You can leave it open faced so that you can see when the cheese has melted. This will get you familiar with your oven.
  • Make time. A 30-minute meal may take longer for you if you are just learning, so give yourself some wiggle room. If you know that you won’t have much time on weeknights, take the time to plan ahead and get recipes, groceries, et cetera together on the weekend. Decide on what you’ll cook, make a list for shopping, and shop so that you’ll be ready when it’s time to cook. If you know that chopping vegetables takes plenty of time for you, you can buy pre-chopped vegetables, like onions and celery, in the fresh produce or frozen produce areas of the store, or give yourself enough time to do it without rushing. And you don’t have to do everything at one time. You can pre-chop your vegetables one day then cook the next.
  • Stock up on staples that you’ll use. Keep food items that you commonly use on hand to help you get dinner to the table faster. Brown rice, whole grain pasta, canned tomato products, cheese, spices, oil, frozen vegetables, and frozen fruit are just a few examples of foods that are convenient to keep stocked.
  • Read through your recipe before you cook. Reading through the recipe before you cook can prevent heartache later. Make sure you understand all of the steps, and if you don’t, call on someone or look it up. Also, make sure that you have all of your ingredients nearby and that you know how to use them. If your recipe calls for six tablespoons of flour, divided, make sure you know how much to use at different stages of your recipe.
  • Know your terms. As you come across terms that you may not know the meaning of, look them up. Sauté, julienned, minced, and other cooking terms may sound foreign at first, but as you cook more, they will become a part of your cooking knowledge base.

Little by little, as you measure, mix, sauté, and bake, you’ll gain confidence in the kitchen and awesome homemade food on the table.

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