Remember the first time you tried to ride a bike? Or sat behind the steering wheel of a car? It was probably unnerving — or maybe terrifying! But pretty soon, you were calm, cool and collected, and could not remember why you were so afraid.
Well, if you are new to the kitchen, then you may be feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety — but more of the latter than the former. Obviously, you want to do your best and impress your family, but you are also concerned that you might end up disappointing everyone; including yourself.
The good news is that, just like riding a bike or driving a car, it will not be long before you are confident and comfortable the kitchen and will eagerly look forward to trying out new recipes. To help you reach that point — and trust me, it will not take as long as you imagine — here are 5 DO’s and 5 DON’Ts.
Let’s start with some DO’s:
1. Do start with very easy recipes.
Your goal at this point is to be comfortable and get a “feel” for being in the kitchen and creating something from scratch. So, I suggest that you start with very easy recipes that have five ingredients or less. Here are some simple, yet delicious recipes that you can try:
2. Do look for recipe books that have lots of pictures.
When you are more experienced, you can envision a dish based on the ingredients. But for now, it is wise to familiarize yourself with how ingredients and dishes look (and do not worry if you final creation differs from the picture — practice makes perfect!).
One of the recipe books that I heartily recommend is Martina McBride’s “Martina’s Kitchen Mix: My Recipe Playlist for Real Life”. We recently gave away a copy of this fantastic book to a lucky community member. You can purchase a copy by clicking here.
3. Do read each recipe twice.
Yes, that is right: twice! You will be surprised at how easy it is to overlook a crucial detail. You should also have all your ingredients out, and measure everything before you start cooking. For easy reference on measuring, please check out my article: 10 Best Practices for Following a Recipe.
4. Do invest wisely in a few quality cooking items.
I recommend starting with three pans: enamel cast iron, cast iron and stainless steel. Le Creuset has been my favorite since day one of my cooking life. Copper is next. Knives should fit well in your hand, and you do not need to buy 15 of them right now. Just start with a chef’s knife, utility knife, paring knife and a serrated knife, and then work your way up. Also, a good blender and food processor are important when you just start cooking. I also suggest buying a few (6 at most) glass storage containers for leftovers. Too many containers are a waste of space and unnecessary.
5. Do Try and re-use fresh herbs.
When you are shopping for fresh herbs for a recipe, always try to re-use them in the same week. This will save you time and money.
Now, let’s look at some DON’Ts:
1. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
We all make mistakes when we learn how to cook. Trust me, I once used salt instead of sugar! That sounds funny now, but I can promise you it was not all that hilarious to the unfortunate person who took the first bite. Treat all of your mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
2. Don’t cook “on-demand”.
You are not a short staff cook. Let everyone in your family know what you intend to cook, but do not ask them what they want for dinner or you are in for a huge headache! At least at the early stages of your cooking adventure.
3. Don’t start cooking large multi-course meals.
It is perfectly fine to start with small dinners at first. Work within your comfort zone and take your time. If things get a little out of hand (or maybe a lot of hand), then take some deep breaths, smile, and simplify your cooking experience.
4. Don’t cook occasionally.
If you are serious about developing your cooking skills, then I recommend that you cook at least 5 nights a week. If that sounds daunting, then it is fine to make a simple bowl of pasta or salads. The more you work in your kitchen, the easier it gets, and the more skilled you become.
5. Don’t surround yourself with distractions.
I know it is difficult, but you really want to try and keep your phone, tablet, and all other gadgets away from the kitchen — otherwise you will be hounded by distractions. I also recommend that you print out your recipes instead of view them on your tablet or phone. This is a great way for you to take notes as well. Also, you do not want too many chefs in the kitchen directing traffic. I know how you feel when you just start, and everyone wants to tell you what you are doing wrong and should be doing. Well, those people need to stay out of the way. It is your kitchen and you are in charge.
I hope that you find these DO’s and DON’Ts valuable, and that they help you develop your comfort and confidence in the kitchen!
With love and gratitude