It’s just like any other skill – some people take to cooking like a duck to water while others have to learn the hard way through practice and experience. My mom belongs to the first category while I got shoved to the second. Unfortunately, her expertise in cooking was not something she passed to me through her genes. I was (and still am) a reluctant cook; but since I love to eat, I had to learn the tricks of the trade or settle for mediocre and/or inedible food. There is no dearth of recipes, so it’s not how to cook that you need to worry about when you start your journey as a cook; rather, it’s the extraneous aspects of cooking that make your dishes look, smell and taste great.
- Pay attention to the recipe: Unless you’re an experienced cook or know your way around a kitchen, it’s best to follow instructions exactly as specified by the recipe. When you’re a newbie, don’t take liberties and try experimenting with ingredients and amounts; there’s time for this a few months down the road, when you’re surer of your skills and know what’s what in the cooking department. If you’re not sure about any aspect of the recipe, ask someone who is at home in a kitchen for help.
- Keep all ingredients at hand: Before you begin, ensure that you have all the ingredients needed at home. It’s also best to measure out the exact amounts of each ingredient and keep them on your countertop so you don’t have to scramble for them at the last minute. Read the recipe thoroughly before you start – this prevents mistakes that could ruin your dish. For example, if the recipe calls for butter at room temperature to be added to the flour mix and you haven’t set out the butter to thaw, then your cake or pastry is going to fall flat (pardon the pun). Planning ahead and being prepared is an integral part of cooking great dishes.
- Don’t be distracted: There are people who multitask efficiently even as they cook up a storm, but if you’re a newbie or you’re like me, you must concentrate on the dish you’re making to avoid burning, undercooking, boiling over, overcooking and other blunders that could happen when you’re distracted. If the recipe calls for you to keep stirring the liquid or broth, do so without question. If you’re supposed to stay near the stove tending to what’s in the pan, do it without hesitation. Distraction in the kitchen leads not just to errors in your food, but also to safety risks that could endanger your life.
- Use the right equipment: Don’t just make do with what’s available; when you plan to be a good cook, you must arm yourself with the right equipment. Use the right pots, pans, ladles, stirrers, stoves, and ovens. Without the tools, you’re only half the cook you could possibly be.
- Do it whole-heartedly: A recent study has found that hard work improves the taste of food. Now whether this is true or not, cooking whole-heartedly and without any reluctance does make a difference in the outcome. When you put your heart and soul into your meals, you use the best ingredients and you take the most care in ensuring that you’ve followed all the instructions to the letter. This attention to detail makes the end result both delicious and wholesome.