“Cooking is like snow skiing: If you don’t fall at least ten times, then you’re not skiing hard enough.” The words of Guy Fieri are enlightening for anyone wishing to become a great at-home-chef or those aspiring to this career.
Cooking is about evolution, and like with any skill and talent, you need nourishment and discipline. These values will make you more experienced and perfect your craft as you grow. Throughout the process, you’ll make mistakes, and even want to throw away an entire casserole preparation out of frustration (try to avoid this). Hey, it happens to anyone. No worries, we’ll teach you how to avoid this throughout this complete cooking and resource guide.
Cooking is frequently described as an art form. It’s essential to view cooking not as a task, but instead as a wonderful craft which requires (and teaches) the value of practice and patience for the best results. Like any other craft, cooking is a learning process that grows through the experts’ feedback, many times through research and humility.
Throughout this cooking and resource guide, we will help anyone interested in cooking learn how the ropes and find the right resources. From the necessary tools to easy hacks, to the books you’ll want to read. Whether you’re an amateur in the kitchen or an experienced home chef, you’ll surely find some of these tips and resources valuable to put into practice in your own kitchen. Let’s take it all in, shall we?
Some of the Mistakes You’re Making While Cooking Today
Like we mentioned, cooking is a learning experience. Falling down only means you need to get back up and try again. While cooking, we’re either on the run, thinking about errands we need to take care of the next day, whipping up the first thing we can think of, etc. It happens to anyone running a kitchen.
To avoid mistakes, stay as mindful and present throughout the process.
15 mistakes you’re might be making and how to solve them:
- Your egg whites are not whipping. Why is this happening? Because egg whites whip easier at room temperature. You’ll find it’s harder to whip them when just taken out of the fridge. Let them sit for at least 15 minutes and then begin.
- Soggy salads are soggy. Leafy green salads are amongst the most refreshing and healthy meals you can have. It’s essential to have a crispy experience texture-wise. To ensure this, rinse your greens under cold water and dry them out in a salad spinner for the crunchiest of crunches.
- Forgetting to thaw meat in the fridge. If you forgot to take this step, here’s a quick solution: Let your meat rest in a bowl of cold water in a zip lock bag.
- The wrong cooking oil. You might assume that any oil is good for cooking any ingredient. If you’re cooking foods that require low temperature, use olive oil or butter. For medium heat, use olive oil or coconut oil. For foods that require high heat, you can use ghee, avocado oil, or peanut oil.
- You didn’t follow the recipe. Guilty as charged! At some point, we might think we can follow our own rules. Either by taking other steps, adding other ingredients, or maybe combining them in the wrong order. Avoid this, especially if it’s a complex recipe throughout the steps, like traditional dishes.
- Not heating the pan properly. Anxiety kicks in when you’re hungry and/or on the run. When getting ready to whip up a meal, make sure to heat your pan’s surface or grill for at least 5 minutes. The time will also depend on the material of your pan.
- Mushy, over-cooked veggies. Not a pretty sight. To avoid this, give your veggies a shock as soon as you know they’re done. This means putting them in very cold water for a few minutes.
- Burnt bacon. If you’re burning bacon every time, you make it, this can create a very messy, oily disaster in the kitchen. Solve this by baking your bacon instead! Trust us, it won’t take that long, and you’ll be munching on some crispy bacon in no time. Set your oven to 400° F and make them for 20 minutes.
- Brown guacamole. Guacamole oxidizes pretty quickly, and when this happens, the texture and taste are completely different. When serving guacamole, make sure you spritz a little lemon or lime juice to prevent browning from happening. Do this periodically if necessary.
- Not tasting food while cooking. Huge mistake! It’s amazing to be confident while you cook, and while some people think it’s impolite to taste food while you go, we suggest you do it anyway. How would you know if you’re under-seasoning, added too much salt, or need to tweak a few ingredients if you don’t taste? Always taste as you go, just don’t use the same utensil for serving!
- Flipping meat constantly. Fact: It only takes one (yes, only one) flip to achieve a fantastic piece of meat, cooked as you prefer on the inside with a nice sear on the outside.
- Cooking various types of meat (fish, chicken, or beef) directly after removed from the fridge. If you want to achieve a glorious and even finish, let your meat sit for about 30 minutes, preferably in the sink. This way, it reaches room temperature. This mistake causes you to get a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare one.
- Trying to save a bad dish by adding more to it. Hey, you’ve been experimenting, and something went awfully wrong, it happens. If you think a dish is just plain bad, leave it at that. If you want to avoid throwing it away, try to re-create it; what other formats could you give it?
- You’re being lazy. Yes, it’s easy to go for the highly processed junk food that comes in “ready-made” funky packaging. Nothing compares to the real thing. Go out and buy natural ingredients to work with. If you can source from local farmers, even better.
- You’re overseasoning. It happens to the best of us. Going overboard with salt or other spices is easier than you think. To avoid this, add your spices progressively and always taste. If the overseasoning already occurred, use water or some acid like vinegar or lemon/lime juice to dilute it.
The Ultimate List of Cookbooks for Beginners
Alright, so we’ve gone through a quick list of common kitchen mistakes most of us have made and luckily, learned from. Now, it’s time we get you the resources you need to move forward: Cookbooks.
There’s a reason why cookbooks remain popular in paper format and not digital or e-reader formats. It’s simply because there’s something so magical about opening up your first cookbook, a cookbook that’s been sitting at home gathering dust, even one that you’ve inherited! It’s a feeling you never get when googling a recipe! Just setting it on your counter and going through the pages is sublime.
So, for old time’s sake, here’s a list of our favorite cookbooks for beginners:
1. For Those Just Learning How to Cook
- Good & Cheap– Leanne Brown. Eating for $4 a day is a reality for many people on food stamp benefits. Brown created this cookbook, especially for people going through tough times; however, it is available for everyone. She teaches you how to plan your meals, shop and cook on a budget – all essential life skills no matter what your economic situation may be.
- How to Cook Everything– Mark Bittman. This book will act as your training wheels when learning how to cook. It says it in the title; it’ll teach you how to create, make, and cook anything from a roasted chicken to steamed asparagus. In Bittman’s words, it’s not about striving for brilliance at home, it’s about preparing tasty, good, and wholesome meals for your loved ones.
- Joy of Cooking– Irma S. Rombauer. A classic you’ll want to have in your kitchen (or may already have). It’s an 85-year-old bestseller with more than eighteen million copies sold since being published in 1931!
2. Vegetable-friendly Cookbooks
- Sprouted Kitchen: Bowl and Spoon. Sarah Forte & Hugo Forte. You’ll love this cookbook if you like your recipes to be comforting and healthy at the same time. You’ll feel engulfed in the glory every time you try a recipe from the Forte’s.
- The Forest Feast– Erin Gleeson. Visually, this book is a feast. Jam-packed with beautiful photography and illustrations that will make you want to create dishes as excellent as the ones you see in the book. Apart from that, every recipe listed is tasty and approachable.
- Martha Stewart Vegetables. If you love vegetables but want to learn more about combinations, components, and health facts, this is the book for you.
3. For the Bakers at Heart
- Art of the Pie– Kate McDermott. Seriously, who doesn’t love pie? McDermott, a well-known pie guru who has been perfecting her recipes and has put it all down in this book. She knows everything about baking pie and will guide you to make your very own delicious moments while baking some… pie!
- Momofuku Milk Bar– Christina Tosi. The Milk Bar’s famous recipes all in one book. If you’ve ever wondered how to make these yourself, you now have all the sweet instructions to do so.
- Flour- Joanne Chang. You’ll want to go back to making your favorite recipes from this book over and over. They are just plain yummy, and you’ll find yourself trying them all!
List of Essential Kitchen Tools
After purchasing some of your favorite cookbooks to start creating some delicious meals and desserts, you might want to stock up on essential kitchen tools.
Because, of course, you’re going to need the right utility to create just like a painter needs their brushes, you need some stuff too.
- Knives – Seems pretty logical to have knives in the kitchen, right? When really getting into cooking art, you’ll need some high-quality knives for different cutting purposes. Paring knives are perfect for mincing or slicing small items. A Chef’s knife will be doing all the bulk cutting. Serrated knives are used for cutting bread. Once you have these three types, you’ll be good to go.
- Cutting Boards – You can get these in a variety of sizes. Choose your preferred size depending on your workspace and what you need to cut. Some people like to have wood cutting boards for veggies and plastic boards for proteins.
- Metal Spatula – Having a high-quality metal or plastic spatula is essential for almost any kind of food. You’ll need to flip, serve, and prepare all types of veggies, meats, pancakes, and so on.
- Whisk – Don’t forget the whisk! These come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re stocking up, get a medium-sized whisk that feels comfortable to you. You’ll use it to mix dry ingredients, wet ingredients, and stirring other mixtures well.
- Mixing Bowls – You can’t whisk anything if you don’t have bowls! We prefer glass bowls available in all sizes. They’re easy to clean and don’t react to ingredients.
- Measuring Spoons & Cups – For those of you measuring wet ingredients with a regular spoon- those days are over. Get yourself some nice, metal (or plastic) measuring cups and spoons to get the proportions just right!
- Kitchen Shears- Apart from knives, you’ll want to have some good and sharp shears to open packages, trim fat, stems, and much more. They’ll be much more useful than any regular scissors you may be using presently.
- Tongs – Super useful and not at all expensive. Buy yourself a good pair of metal tongs, they’ll last forever. They’re good for a wide array of activities, from grabbing, turning, and serving.
- Vegetable Peeler – Buy a good vegetable peeler that doesn’t slip while in use!
- Wide variety of wooden spoons – There are many types of wooden spoons perfect for sauces, salsas, and mixing ingredients. Grab yourself a set of these.
Home Chef Cooking Hacks
Finally, let’s take a look at some cool cooking hacks to put your tools, your newly acquired knowledge, and cooking inspiration into practice and creating some stunning and delicious dishes.
- When using vanilla beans. Remember what we said about working with natural ingredients? Well, vanilla strains or beans are widely used to add flavor to baked goods and savory dishes. A great trick is to burn the outside of the beans using a flame before taking them out. Once you remove the seeds from the pod, you’ll notice they grew in size. The next thing is getting the seeds out, dehydrating them under the sun, and making some vanilla powder! You can then use it as you would use cinnamon for baking or savory spicing.
- Parchment paper madness. Have you ever tried to perfectly place parchment paper on your round cake pan only to fail miserably? Well, we’ve all been there. The trick? Fold the parchment paper in half, again, and once more. Take the inner corner and place it above the center of the pan. After this, cut it around the edge of the circular pan. The result is a cone-shaped parchment paper. Unfold it, and see how it perfectly fits your pan.
- Out of buttermilk? It happens when you’ve just started baking and notice you have none left. You can quickly solve this by combining one cup of milk and one tablespoon of lemon juice. No lemon juice? Try vinegar instead.
- Moist cake goodness. If you’re looking to achieve an extra moist cake, replace half the butter in the recipe with oil.
- Hack for washing leafy greens. Most of us will add water on top of the greens. This can bruise them and make them lose a bit of texture. Instead, fill a large bowl with cold water and add your greens then. Run through the leaves with your fingers to clean away the dirt. For best results, wash your greens just before using them.
- How to blanch vegetables. Most of us have blanched our veggies by tossing them into boiling salted water until cooked and submerging them in cold water to stop cooking afterward. A better way is to drain your veggies right after blanching and spreading them on a baking sheet. This will prevent them from getting sodden.
You’re Ready to Cook up a Storm of Goodness
If you’ve made it this far in this ultimate cooking & resource guide, you now count on the knowledge and, most importantly, the resources, to start cooking some delicious food. Remember, cooking is an art form that requires diligence, discipline, and creativity. Sure, mistakes will be made, but there’s always a fix. Don’t let frustration ruin your cooking moment; let the mistakes happen and learn from them. Happy cooking!