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Learning to Cook at Home
You want to invite more people over for dinner, but there's only one thing holding you back:
You can't cook.
I mean, you cook, but you don't feel confident about the meals you make. You burn grilled cheese sandwiches, your chicken always ends up dry, and none of your recipes turn out right.
What's a girl to do? Can you learn to cook? Is that even possible?
Yes! Anyone can improve their cooking skills. Even you.
Cooking is a learned skill, and if you're wondering how to learn to cook, I'm going to share with you 7 ways.
Start by sticking to the recipe.
If you want to learn to be a better cook, you need to start by sticking to a recipe. You may think that you can make changes and substitutes or not measure your ingredients, but until you're confident that you you know what you're doing, don't stray from the recipe.
Follow each step in the order it's written. Measure and put things in at the right time. Cook it for the stated amount of time.
If you make too many changes, the recipe may not turn out. Good cooks and chefs can improvise; beginner cooks should stick to the recipe.
Buy a quality knife.
I can't tell you how important this is. If you're doing all of your cutting with a dull knife, that's not only inefficient, it's dangerous.
It's time to upgrade. But you don't really need one of those chopping blocks full of knives.
All you NEED is one good chef's knife. And by good, I mean a high-quality, sharp chef's knife. A high-quality chef's knife makes all the difference when you're cooking.
Imagine having just ONE really high-quality knife instead of a block of several knives that just work okay. It's like an all-in-one tool -- you can use it for most everything. In fact, most chefs do.
This Wustof Chef's knife is the one I own and recommend. It's definitely an investment, but I've had mine for over 10 years and imagine it will last for several more decades.
If you're looking for something more affordable, try this J.A. Henckels Chef's Knife. It gets great reviews on Amazon.
(Don't buy a Chef's knife that's under $20 and think you're getting a good deal. This is one of those times when you get what you pay for.)
Cooking with a good-quality knife
Take a cooking class.
Cooking classes are one of my favorite ways to learn to cook. And you have two choices when it comes to taking classes: in person or online.
In Person Cooking Classes
The first class I ever took was a knife skills class where I learned to dice, slice, julienne, and mince (with that Wustof knife I mentioned earlier). My husband had bought it for me, and I loved it!
Check your local kitchen store or continuing adult education program for potential classes you can take. They are usually taught by professionals and can range from demonstration classes to hands-on cooking classes. It's so much fun to learn from a pro and to get feedback on what you're doing.
If you want to learn from the convenience of your home, there are lots of GREAT cooking classes online, thanks to today's technology. Bluprint offers cooking classes, and their monthly subscription is very affordable (less than $8 a month!). I've just subscribed myself and am having so much fun sampling all the classes.
Here are 5 of my favorite Bluprint classes for beginners:
- Complete Knife Skills
- 20 Essential Cooking Techniques
- A Better Cook in 10 Dishes
- A Modern Take on the Mother Sauces
- Master the Methods: Roast, Braise, Sauté, and Pan-Fry
The great thing about these classes is that you can work through them on your own time, at your own pace.
Give yourself a cookbook challenge.
Did you ever watch the movie, Julie and Julia (or read the book)? Picking a cookbook and working your way through it, recipe by recipe, is a great way to grow in your cooking skills.
All you have to do is pick a basic cookbook (or a cookbook that demonstrates the type of cooking you want to learn) and start cooking.
You could give yourself 30 days to cook 30 recipes or cook from one chapter a month. You could go about your challenge in any number of ways. You could even find some friends to do it with you and post your progress in a Facebook group or on Instagram.
Here are a few cookbooks that would be excellent to use:
- How to Cook Everything: The Basics by Mark Bittman (I've challenged myself to cook recipes from his first book, How to Cook Everything.)
- The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Marion Becker, and Ethan Becker
- Cooking Basics by Betty Crocker
- New Cookbook by Better Homes and Gardens
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond
If none of these appeal, go on Amazon and browse cookbooks until you find one that gets you excited. Then, start cooking!
Learn from friends.
If you have a friend who is a great cook, ask her to teach you. It would be a great way to spend time together AND learn how to cook.
Get together once a week for a cooking lesson. Each week or month you could concentrate on a certain type of dish: appetizers, chicken, beef, pork, seafood, sides, or desserts. Maybe you want to focus in on a certain area of the world and learn Italian or Thai dishes. Or maybe you want to learn a certain cooking method like Instant Pot cooking or one pot meals.
Look for those friends for whom cooking comes naturally, and just ask. Most likely, they will be honored and thrilled to teach you.
Watch cooking shows.
No matter what you think about foodies or the Food Network, watching cooking shows is a great way to learn how to cook. And there are so many choices.
Here are some of the best cooking shows or channels for beginner cooks out there (a lot of them you can watch online for free!):
- Food Wishes (from Allrecipes on Youtube)
- America's Test Kitchen
- Food Network (especially Good Eats by Alton Brown and Back to Basics with Ina Garden)
- PBS: especially Martha Stewart's Cooking School and Julia Child
- Netflix: The Great British Baking Show & The Mind of a Chef
Start with a good recipe.
A huge part of cooking well is starting with a good recipe. And sometimes finding good, reliable recipes can be challenging. That's why starting with reputable recipe sites is a great idea.
I love recipe sites that allow reviews because then I can only select 5-star (or 4.5-star) recipes to begin with. I also like to read the reviews to see if others have found ways to improve the recipe.
Here are some of my favorite reputable recipe sites:
Food blogs are another great place to find good recipes. But there are literally hundreds out there. How do you know which blogs have consistently good recipes?
Here are a few that I rely on regularly:
Related: 15 Best Cookbooks for Entertaining
You can learn how to cook. And with all of these ideas, you can improve your cooking skills little by little. Don't be overwhelmed. Just pick one or two and start there. You've totally got this.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking? Which one of these tips are you going to try? Tell me in the comments below!