It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional chef, a college student looking to cook something other than instant ramen, or a parent feeding a family; learning new skills to improve your cooking ability is a lifelong endeavor. Use a few of these proven methods and watch your home cooking reach new heights.
As the adage goes: fail early, fail often, but always fail forward. Remember, the best teacher in any kitchen is a mistake. We’ve all been there. You decide to cook a meal for a special someone or a group of friends, and you mistakenly added three tablespoons of salt instead of three pinches of salt.
The main course, which was supposed to wow them, is hardly touched. You panic! Doubt and insecurities seep in. Your inner Chef Gordon Ramsey chimes in and blames you for a horrible dinner. Relax, take a deep breath. Over-salting is common. Even the pros do it. Too much salt killed the dish, but most likely, your lack of focus is the real culprit.
Always read a recipe a few times outside of the kitchen before you make it. This practice will help you break it down and familiarizes you with the order of things. Forget the blame and shame; it’s pointless. Be forensic and find the actual reason why the dish failed so you can learn from it. Your grandmother’s red velvet birthday cake crashed and burned because you worked too fast and improperly mixed the wet and dry ingredients. Next time, slow down and be mindful of how you mix throughout the process. Learn from every mistake.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Good cooking is a craft, and a craft must be practiced. You may have lifelong bragging rights about your beef Bolognese, but your knowledge of Asian cuisine and the ability to make a tasty Pad Thai is laughable. So, go practice. You’ll get better. The knowledge and confidence you gain will improve, and the techniques will carry over into other areas of the craft.
Reach a little bit. Go outside your comfort zone. Many of us stick to what we know. That’s okay in some circles, but the whole point of becoming better at something is to grow and dazzle people and stimulate yourself. We know your quiche has fallen from the heavens, and everyone is talking about your honey glazed ham. But that won’t last forever. Expand! Beef Wellington? Homemade croissants? Authentic paella? We did said reach! It may be scary, but you’ll pull it off and gain more bragging rights and, more importantly, become a better cook.
Mastering a skill requires time, desire, and practice. Cooking can be tricky and has many frustrations along the way. Just remember to have fun and don’t get too caught up in the achievement part of cooking. It’s better if you have fun along the way. Food is special. It represents your childhood, your family connections, your friends, and togetherness. So enjoy the process and don’t get too obsessive about being good.
KNOW THE FUNDAMENTALS
The basics, as they are referred to in culinary school, are an important part of the craft. If you set out to build a house, would you start building on soft ground or unstable land? No, you would pour a foundation and construct a weight-bearing structure to support the rest of the house. It’s the same concept for cooking. Knife skills, sauces, stocks, perfect omelets, browning meats, deglazing a pan, or how to line a cake tin are just a few of the basics that a successful cook should know. Mastering them will make you a better cook. Building on them will make you the best cook.
Elevating your cooking game can be a challenge, but with a little focus and a lot of practice, you’ll be making tasty food in no time at all.