Everybody needs to eat, but if you have a favorite meal (and here’s a secret–everybody does), you know that food is much more than a simple necessity. Good food is a matter of artistry, beauty, and human connection–which means that cooking is the process of bringing all those things into existence.
That said, it is easier said than done to advance your culinary powers. But don’t fear, food-loving readers! In this article, we will explore eight tips to improve your cooking.
Select the Right Recipes
Some people think food is about natural talent, that you can walk into a kitchen and whip up a masterpiece from nothing. That idea could not be further from the truth. All great chefs start from great recipes, and if you want to cook better, you need to find the right ones.
This might sound like an obvious observation, but it is less common than you think. Many beginner cooks get discouraged when a meal does not turn out the way they want, assuming that they were the problem–but in reality, many recipes are sub-par.
To start your journey into cooking, shop around different cooking websites and personalities in the food world. Crack open some cookbooks by figures like Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, or Edna Lewis, but also try venturing beyond the big names–your local library is a resource for trying out a wide array of cookbooks.
Get the Right Equipment
A cook can hardly succeed in the kitchen without proper kitchen implements. Our second suggestion is to do your research to select and purchase the best possible utensils, tools, and instruments.
Selecting top-notch kitchen utensils is a matter of safety. If you are using cooking knives that are not sharp, whether because they are low quality or because you lack a sharpener, you are in danger of injuring yourself. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones!
More than that, though, getting good equipment is about quality. You won’t be able to cook well if your knife cannot make good cuts, if your stand mixer kneads bread effectively, if your spoon cannot scoop broth, and if you don’t have a colander to drain noodles.
Pick the Right Ingredients
The next tip on our list will complete the holy trinity of materials: proper ingredients.
Even if you have a perfect recipe and all the right equipment, your cooking won’t reach its full potential unless you can use the best ingredients. For one thing, this is a matter of health, as many processed foods pose a health risk.
More than that, though, good ingredients are a matter of good taste. Cooking legend Edna Lewis consistently freshest ingredients make your food immeasurably better and more real.
Finally, good ingredients make for unique food. Fresh, homegrown basil or strawberries will taste, unlike any other basil or strawberries in the world. They will be, in a word, entirely yours.
Organize Your Kitchen
If you find yourself stumbling in the kitchen, one reason might be that the physical space of the kitchen isn’t up for your needs.
A chaotic kitchen is a breeding ground for bad cooking. Just picture it: you’re making a roux and need to pour in flour at just the right time but can’t find the flour. You need to remove a hot pan from the oven but can’t find the mitts. You’re making a gazpacho, but you mix up the salt with the sugar and get the wrong flavor.
All this is to say that when you organize your kitchen space, ensure that your ingredients and equipment are in clearly designated locations that are accessible to you.
Consider Who You’re Cooking for
Now that we’ve gone behind all the rudimentary supplies for good meals, it is essential to consider the social dimension of your cooking.
This might sound puzzling–isn’t cooking about tomatoes, oil, and salt? But the fact is that you are always cooking for someone, and you won’t create a satisfying meal if you’re not thinking about them.
As much as you want to engage in elaborate projects like duck confit, homemade personal pizza, or from-scratch flan, those might not be your loved ones’ preferred foods. As a result, they might not show you the appreciation you might be craving.
This is not a failing on their part or yours. Cooking is not a solitary activity. It is a way of connecting with other human beings. Leaning into that social dimension, rather than an imaginary ideal, will help you achieve far better results.
Learn the Shortcuts
It is tempting to believe that the best cooking is the most complex. After all, we might think, every home cook should aim for five-star Michelin cooking!
Using elaborate techniques is fine, but if you can make delicious food while also saving time and energy, you have not lost anything. Plus, as we mentioned in our previous tip, cooking is what we do for other people–so if you can spend more time with your loved ones, you have scored a win.
For that reason, don’t be afraid to learn shortcuts in your cooking. Go ahead, make that easy duck confit–we give you our blessing!
Don’t be Afraid of Substitutions
As an extension of our previous themes, feel free to find alternative ingredients should the situation arise. Don’t let the purists lead you astray–cooking does not need to be perfect, and sometimes, you can change things up in a pinch.
Cooking is very much about chemistry–flavors are artistic, but they also emerge from special combinations of acids and fats, salts, and sugars. That means that ingredients are not magic bullets but collections of certain chemical effects. If you can replicate all the chemical functions of a given ingredient, it doesn’t matter if you use a substitution.
All that’s to say don’t worry about substituting ingredients. You aren’t violating any cosmic order. You’re just doing artistic chemistry!
Be Kind to Yourself
This might be the most important tip of all: always be kind to yourself. Cooking is both rewarding and challenging, and there is nothing wrong with struggling from time to time. Just keep in mind that you’re cooking for a reason–creating food can bring life and light to the world.
If you want to improve your skills, make sure that you put your intuition and your intellect to good use. Record observations about your meal in a journal, then use the journal to inspire future ideas. Make a note of your mistakes, then go over that record later so you can avoid those missteps.
Cooking is such a storied activity that it might seem impossibly intimidating to get better. But if you follow the tips on this list, you’ll be crafting delicious meals in no time!