An Amateur Approach to Cooking

I don’t really know what I’m doing, but here we are.

No, that’s not the title of my sex tape, but it could definitely be the title of my cooking show. The show would then proceed to be an hour of me saying “hmm, I wonder if that will work” and “needs more butter”.

Recipes are less of rules, and more “guidelines” when I’m cooking. Except for baking or things like pancakes where the mixtures need to be spot on, most of the dishes I’ve learned to make once maybe started out as a recipe. Much to my girlfriend’s displeasure, every time we sit down to eat I tend to try the meal and immediately say something like “needs more salt” or “it’s a bit overcooked”. Luckily for me, she puts up with being my test eater and only rolls her eyes a little when I criticize the food.

This is pretty much my whole approach to cooking. Try new things, see what happens and adjust accordingly. The closest I’ve come to a cooking class is calling my mother in a panic the first time my friend and I tried to cook a turkey for a dinner and couldn’t work out what part of the turkey the stuffing goes in. It turned out okay, and more often than not things do. You can always order a pizza if it doesn’t work out.

Amateur chefs in action. Note, the knife technique shown is not recommended.

The advice and recipes you find here are largely going to be along these lines and I would encourage anyone who wants to start cooking more adventurously to do the same. The advice isn’t going to turn you into a professional cook, and with that in mind if you’re here looking for anything more than amateur advice you’re probably in the wrong spot. Ask me to give advice for making dinner for your friends, I’m your man. Put me in front of Gordon Ramsey, he’ll very quickly have found his next idiot sandwich.

So for all of you looking to start somewhere here are some guidelines to get you started and build some confidence:

  1. Plan it out a little. While recipes are a guideline, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan for it all to be ready at the same time. Thinking about roughly how long everything is going to take, which pans you’re going to use and do you have enough space in the oven can make all the difference.
  2. Take a list to the shop. You will almost certainly forget something.
  3. If you can, buy better ingredients. Local greengrocers, butcher’s and the like will almost always result in better food.
  4. Don’t multi-task and cook while doing other things. It’s really hard to burn something if you’re paying attention to it.
  5. Own at least one good, sharp knife. Using dull and crappy knives is not only going to make chopping harder, but it’s also dangerous.
  6. Prep ahead of time as much as possible. Chopping ingredients and having them all ready before you start cooking makes it a much less stressful affair.
  7. Taste your food along the way. This is a habit I’ve gotten into more and more and it’s definitely yielded better results. Better to know what it needs before you serve it up.
  8. If someone you know makes something really good, ask them how they do it. Personal accounts beat online recipes any day.
  9. Have some fun while you cook. I almost always have music on and have been known to dance around the kitchen a little. If it becomes something you have fun doing, you’ll do it more.

Cooking is something most adults have to do every day and has a huge effect on both mental and physical health. Learning to enjoy cooking is a great way to build confidence and make things feel less like a chore. Even simple meals can be delicious just by improving basic things.

What’s your #1 tip for people looking to give cooking a go?

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