Everything You Need To Know When You Are First Learning To Cook
Learning how to cook can change your life.
We know that sounds very dramatic, but we mean it. Knowing how to cook allows you to save money, eat more healthily, become more self-sufficient, and the act of learning a new skill can improve your brain health.
If that sounds like something you want to do then just keep reading, we are going to talk you through all the basic skills you need to develop to be able to cook at home.
By the time you finish this article, you will feel ready to tackle your first meal in the kitchen.
Table of contents
Learning The Basics
When you start learning something new, the process can be overwhelming. How do you know where to start or who you should be learning from?
The good news is that you have this article to help you through the process. In this section, we are going to cover the first meals you should learn to make and two fundamental cooking skills to build the rest of your knowledge on.
Learn To Cook The Following First:
If you only learn how to cook 7 meals, then learn these 7. Each one will teach you a skill that every other meal you cook will benefit from.
When it comes to cooking, there is no better place to start than scrambled eggs.
This is a simple dish that only takes a few minutes to make – but the effort to achieve a deliciousness rating is one of the best.
The good news is that it’s nearly impossible to overcook scrambled eggs, making it the perfect place to start.
Once you have mastered scrambled eggs, then let’s move straight onto omelettes. If you know how to chop up food (which we will cover later), then you will be able to make a tasty meal in less than 5 minutes.
Omelettes teach us the importance of prepping before you start cooking.
Pancakes are another simple breakfast food that you can whip up in just a few minutes, garnish and have a full meal.
We recommend learning two types of pancakes – traditional pancakes and Japanese Cloud pancakes.
Salads are perfect for the summer months.
Most people think of salads as something boring, bland, and full of lettuce. But if you learn how to make them you will discover how wrong they are.
We recommend learning 2-3 salad recipes at first. You will find they come in very handy.
If you are a meat-eater, then you should learn how to make hamburgers.
Once you have made a hamburger at home, from scratch then you will never go back to store-bought ones.
When you start cooking meat, make sure that you buy a meat thermometer, so that you can check your meat is cooked properly before you eat it.
Steaks have a reputation for being tricky to make. But that is not the case.
We recommend that you start by learning how to make steak the way you like it and then branch out into the other forms of rarity.
This will allow you to make steaks for your friends, family, and any other guests that you have.
In many countries, jacket potatoes are referred to as the student meal. Why? Because they are cheap, easy to make, and incredibly filling.
If you are looking to learn how to cook so that you can save money then this is a recipe that you can go back to time and time again.
The most difficult part of making jacket potatoes is choosing the filling you are going to have on that day – the possibilities are endless.
Understand Your Flavours
The next thing you are going to want to do in your cooking journey is to take a look at some cooking theories.
Eventually, you will get to the point where you know cooking well enough to tweak recipes to suit your taste more. This is the first step in that direction.
You will want to start to wrap your head around flavor pairings and how they work. Here are a few exercises that can help you with that.
Try Making A Sauce From Scratch
If you have made pasta – why not try making your pasta sauce from scratch.
Find a recipe and look at the ingredients they use. Try the sauce and see if you like it. Next time, try making a different sauce with a different set of ingredients.
Seasonings – What Goes Best With What…
Another thing you should pay attention to is the seasonings that each recipe recommends.
Over time you will notice common pairings and you will also learn which of these you like and which you don’t.
Try A Cooking Class
One of the best things you can do to kickstart your cooking adventure is to take a cooking class.
You can do this in person or online. You can take a free class or a paid one. No matter what kind of class you take, you will benefit from it.
Cooking is an art and there is also a science behind it. Many people have spent years working this out – learn from them and save yourself a lot of time.
We recommend taking some of the courses offered on Mastercalss.com or check out some free classes on Youtube.
Speak To Someone Who Knows How To Cook
You should also take advantage of all the people in your life who know how to cook.
Ask them to show you how to make their favorite recipe or something they have made you before that you really love.
The knowledge they share will be invaluable to you.
Cooking is a unique skill because for many of us it is so linked to our culture, our family, and to our memories of people who are no longer with us. Cooking with someone else is a great chance to get to know more about them and yourself.
16 Helpful Tips For Beginners
Before we take things any further, we want to share with you 16 must-know cooking tips.
If you employ each of these tips while you are learning to cook then you are going to have a much easier time and a better experience. You are also more likely to make some delicious food.
These are tips that we have learned on our own cooking journey, and we want to share them with you so you don’t have to make all the mistakes we did.
Not that these tips will stop you from making mistakes – that is the only way that we learn.
When you first start cooking, it can be tempting to jump straight into something too complicated.
For example, you might be tempted to start by making a Thanksgiving Dinner. But this might be too much for a beginner.
It will be much easier for you to start with something simple, like the 7 dishes we listed above. It is okay to start small. You want to make sure that you get all the basics right before you try to do something too complicated.
So, start small and keep things simple. This is the best way to build your confidence when cooking.
Take It Slow
When you start cooking, you should set aside more time than the recipe suggests. This will allow you to take it slow and make sure you get as much as you can right – without excess time pressure.
If a recipe says it will take 10 minutes to prepare, we suggest that you give yourself 20 minutes to prepare.
If everything goes well and you finish early then there are no issues. But if a problem does arise then you have a time buffer to fix things.
Remember cooking is not a race and there is no harm in taking things a little slower.
Master Your Urge Not To Cook
You have spent your life up to now not cooking – why is that?
Answering the question above can help you develop a cooking habit.
Some people avoid cooking because they are scared of it. Some people have eating issues. Others don’t think they are good enough to learn to cook.
Whatever your reason for staying away from the kitchen, now is the time to rewrite your story. Face your fears, start to change your relationship with food, or give yourself a little more credit.
Once you start tackling your issue you will find cooking a lot less stressful and you might even start to enjoy it.
Cook With Others If You Are Overwhelmed
We mentioned in the section above, that cooking with others is a great way to learn more about cooking. It is also a great way to get past your fear of cooking.
If you are struggling to make it into the kitchen – make an evening of it. Invite a friend or loved one over to help you. You will find yourself learning from them and having fun in the process.
Suddenly, cooking won’t seem so overwhelming or scary. Do make sure that you pick someone to cook with who is going to be helpful, patient, and supportive.
Make Larger Portions For Leftovers
If you have taken up cooking at home to save money then you can maximize your savings by cooking in bulk.
Double the recipe and you will end up with extra portions that you can store in the fridge or freeze and eat at a later date. We recommend doubling because it keeps the math simple.
This will save you both time and money. Plus, if the food is really good then you get to enjoy it more than once. It’s a win-win-win situation if you ask us.
Start With Food You Enjoy The Most
We always recommend that you start learning to cook by learning recipes for meals that you love.
There are two benefits to doing this.
Firstly, you will be more excited to cook and eat the food. And if you are excited you are more likely to go into the kitchen and cook.
Secondly, if you know how the dish is meant to taste, you will notice when you have made a mistake. If you notice a mistake you can learn from it and become a better cook.
So, think about a dish that you love that is relatively easy to make – maybe pasta or a curry?
Enjoy The Process
We mentioned above that if you are excited about cooking something you are more likely to actually get into the kitchen and cook it.
For many people, the hardest part of learning to cook is working up the motivation to actually get into the kitchen.
So, make the process of cooking as inviting as you can. Put on a cute outfit, light a candle, pour a glass of wine and get cooking. All the little things make a huge difference.
If you fall in love with cooking and the process then you are more likely to make cooking a habit.
Share Your Dishes With Others
Another great way to encourage yourself to cook is to offer to cook for others. The social pressure of knowing that other people are waiting for you to serve them food is often enough to beat the procrastination.
There is also a joy that comes with sharing food with the people you love that can’t be matched by much else. Seeing the look on their faces when they bite into something they love. The praise from them. The conversation shared around the dinner table. It will also make your day much better and put a smile on your face.
Talk About Your Cooking With Other People
A way to increase your passion for cooking is to talk to other people who love doing it. When someone shares their passion it can be infectious and will most likely rub off on you a little bit.
Seek out the people in your life who love to cook and share your trials and tribulations with them. They will no doubt have some great advice for you as well as some funny stories.
You also might want to get involved with some groups online that celebrate the joys of cooking.
Find Recipe Writers And Chefs That You Admire
Following chefs and cooking presenters online is a great way to learn more about cooking and to fall more in love with the process.
This is also a great way to discover new recipes that you would have never thought of trying before.
When you find chefs that you admire, you will find yourself pushing yourself to be more like them in the kitchen and to try new things. Both of which are very good if you want to get better at cooking.
Just beware, one you start buying cookbooks it can be hard to stop!
Read The Whole Recipe First
One of the best tips we were ever given when we started cooking was to read the entire recipe before you start cooking. If you can, read it multiple times.
We can’t tell you the amount of times that we have jumped into a recipe without reading it and something has gone wrong.
When you are used to cooking, you may be able to solve the problems as you go. But this can be too much for many beginners.
You can prevent a lot of these issues by sitting down and going through the whole recipe first.
Plan Your Meals
To make the concept of cooking every day of the week, shopping for all that food, and having to spend that much time in the kitchen easier – you can plan your meals ahead of time.
Lots of people find making a weekly plan and doing one big shop on their day off works well for them. It decreases the amount of time they have to spend in the grocery store and it takes the pressure off having to decide what to have for dinner every night.
If you’re not confident enough to do that yet, you can find pre-made meal plans online.
Do All Your Prep Before You Start Cooking
Another thing you can do as a beginner to make cooking easier, if you do all of your prep before you start cooking.
By that we mean that you should lay out all of the ingredients and equipment you need before you do anything else.
We also suggest that you make the stock you need beforehand. As well as, chopping up, grating, or peeling your ingredients before you turn the head on.
That way you know everything will be ready when you need it. You won’t have to worry about taking your attention away from the cooking.
Listen To Something You Enjoy Whilst Cooking
If you are someone who is nervous about cooking or it is not something that really appeals to you – then you should reward yourself while you cook.
Put on an album you love or turn on that audiobook you have been meaning to listen to for ages.
You want to make cooking as easy and carefree as possible. One of the ways you can do this is by pairing cooking with a good book, a funky tune, or maybe even a glass of wine.
This tip also works really well for chores you don’t want to do.
Understand Your Kitchen
You should try to learn what everything in your kitchen does and how to use it.
For example, if you have a rice cooker that has been collecting dust for the last couple of years, break it out and learn how to use it.
The more you know about your kitchen, the less stressful you will find the experience. So, learn what everything does and make sure you are aware of where you keep all your utensils.
When you start cooking, you may find yourself re-organizing your kitchen to make it more practical. This is a good sign – you are starting to work with your kitchen and understand how it works.
What Utensils Do You Have And Need?
Following on from the tip above – when you first start cooking, you should make sure that you have everything that you need.
You don’t need to stock your kitchen with the latest gadgets and state of the art tools. But you should make sure that you have the basics – like a good set of knives, a meat thermometer, a set of pans, and some chopping boards.
Having the right equipment will make the process much easier for you. Once you have acquired the right equipment make sure you store it in a sensible place.
Beginners Techniques To Try
Next, we are going to look at two sets of skills that you should master after you have learnt a few of the basic recipes mentioned above.
Being able to use a knife properly is not essential when cooking, but it will improve the quality, the mouthfeel, and the look of your food.
Slicing is useful when you want to cut things into even, flat slices – like carrots, bread, or bananas.
Dicing is simply cutting the food into square pieces. Depending on the food, you might want to dice into large (1 inch x 1 inch) squares or tiny (¼ inch x ¼ inch) squares. You will probably spend more of your time dicing onions.
This is very similar to dicing but on a much smaller scale. With this method, you will be mincing the food into pieces so small you wouldn’t be able to find the pieces in a sauce.
You will mostly be mincing garlic, chilis, and herbs.
Chopping typically has you cutting your food into large pieces – probably ⅛ s , 1/4 s, or even into two pieces.
The things that we chop up most often are zucchinis and potatoes.
When you Julienne something, you will just cut it into long, thin pieces. It is sometimes called matchstick-ing. This is one of the hardest cuts to master. But it is well worth the effort.
This is typically used for cutting herbs or other leafy vegetables.
You want to stack your leaves and then roll them into a cigar-like cylinder. Then, you want to thinly slice this pack of leaves. This should leave you with slim ribbons of herbs.
The rolling of the herbs helps to bring out the flavor.
When you first start cooking, you will probably be doing the majority of it on the stove top. For this reason, we recommend trying to master these 5 techniques as soon as you can.
Searing is a great way to cook fish and meat. It is a quick method when you let your pan reach a high heat. You then drop what you are cooking into the pan, the outside of the meat or fish will cook quickly and turn brown. This will prevent most of the juices from draining out of the meat.
When you saute something, you will want to melt a small amount of fat in your pan and then place your food in the pan. You want to constantly keep the food moving so it doesn’t stick or burn.
This is very similar to Sauteing, except you cook the food at a much higher temperature and you will typically use more fat than you do when you are Sauteing.
You can use this to cook most vegetables and some meats.
To steam something, you will need to boil water. You will then place a steaming basket over the top of this. The steam coming off the boiling water will then cook the food in the basket.
Steaming is used a lot in Asian cooking, but not so much in European cuisines.
To poach something, you want to cook it in a boiling liquid. This liquid can be anything flavorful – from water, stock, beer, or even wine.
If you want flavor-filled meat that stays moist and tender then you should consider poaching it.
Benefits Of Cooking At Home
Before we leave you, we want to share with you a few different ways that learning to cook can improve your life.
From reading this article, you have probably already guessed that we love cooking and we think it is a skill that everyone should learn.
We’re not alone in this, in fact, there are many proven benefits to learning how to cook from home. Here are just a few.
We have mentioned it a few times, but learning how to cook from home can save you a huge amount of money – even if you are just cooking for yourself.
The average household spends $2,375 per year on takeouts and restaurant meals – however, if you aren’t cooking then you are likely spending a lot more.
A study done by Forbes Magazine showed that on average people who cook from home spend 5 times less than people who regularly get takeaway or eat out. They looked at 86 meals and found that the average takeaway meal costs $20.37 but cooking the same meal at home would cost $4.31.
If you currently don’t cook at all, you could be saving that much money everyday.
You can save even more money by buying and cooking in bulk – also known as meal prepping. This involves cooking large batches of food, freezing them and eating them over a period of time.
This method saves time, money, and will even help you to save on your energy bills.
If you are trying to lose weight then it can be really difficult if you are not cooking your own food. Partly because more takeaways and ready meals are high in fats and preservatives. And also because you have no control over what is being put in those meals.
When you cook for yourself, you can swap out troublesome ingredients for healthier options.
For example, you could swap beet meatballs for turkey meatballs or for a vegetarian option.
You will notice that when you are in control of what you eat, you will start automatically making healthier choices.
Helps Improve Immune System And Reduces Risk Of Illnesses
Cooking from home will also allow you to add those ingredients into your food that are essential for your gut and brain health too.
By choosing to make more food with turmeric, amino acids, and leafy greens you can increase the amount of essential nutrients and vitamins you are consuming.
When you start to meet your body’s needs like this you will start to notice your immune system getting stronger and that you are getting ill less frequently.
You might find that you are less tired if you eat more high-iron ingredients and you feel less sluggish if you gut out the processed foods.
Helps Improve Your Confidence
Taking up and mastering a new skill is a great way to boost your confidence.
Physiologist James Clear comments that who we are is made up of the actions we do most frequently.
We develop confidence when we try something new and keep going even when things get difficult. Every successful meal we make tells our brain that we can achieve the things we want to. Every new dish we try tells our brain we are adventurous.
Your confidence will grow in the kitchen and will spill out into the rest of your life too.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn how to cook.
You can save money, improve your health, and even become a more confident person when you learn this new skill.
One of the amazing things about cooking is that you only need to learn how to do the parts that interest you. You can focus in on these areas and perfect them in no time.
There is no better feeling than being able to cook a delicious meal for the people that you love. So, what are you waiting for?! It’s time to go to the kitchen!