Cooking for yourself or for other family members is a rewarding experience, while there’s nothing better than knowing exactly what’s gone into your food as you cook from scratch. But, to some of us, it can be quite daunting to tackle the kitchen. Whether you are a long-serving home cook or a total newbie to the kitchen, there’s always room for improving your culinary skills.
As there’s always room for improvement, we have come up with some simple kitchen ideas that will help you become a better chef for you and your family. These tips are appropriate for any level of cook and should help boost your confidence and productivity in the kitchen.
Get Better Knives (and Learn Knife Skills)
Let’s cut straight to the point, to prepare food properly you need to be using decent knives. It’s actually more dangerous to be using semi-blunt knives on fruits and veggies as they are more likely to slip and end up heading rapidly towards your fingers. You want a sharp knife that passes right through the food without any wobble or stop-start. This will help you in the preparation of food far more than you may even realize.
You’ll also need to make sure you’re using the knives properly. We spoke to Toby, a chef who works directly with Japanese knife company Vertoku, who told us how often people’s knife skills (or lack thereof) worry him. “The way you hold the knife is super important,” he said, “Too many people hold the knife right down the base of the handle, leaving it prone to wobbling and slipping towards you.” In fact, your thumb and forefinger should be right at the base of the blade, providing the most grip. Then, three remaining fingers provide support around the handle.
Organize Counter Space
Just knowing your way around a blade isn’t quite enough. You also need your kitchen to be organized and set up well to help the flow of your cooking, having everything in the right place. As the French say: mise en place. Ensure everything that you need is within arms reach before you start cooking. If you don’t start out by doing this, you’ll end up burning your sauce whilst looking for your wooden spoon!
Much like your knives, it is well worth investing in a good set of pots and pans, utensils, and cutlery. Now, this is not essential, so if it’s not something you can afford, that’s totally fine! You can always improvise. Some recipes might call for a certain size dish or frying pan, you can likely make it work in a different pot.
For those of you who do want to splash out a little, we recommend a good non-stick frying pan and wok, a couple of different sized pots, a decent kettle, plus a good selection of utensils. A spatula, slotted spoon, wooden spoon, ladle, and sieve are all commonly found in recipe instructions.
A top tip when it comes to actually prepare meals – especially when you’re not the most confident chef – is to batch cook. Making a pasta sauce, for example, double, triple, or even quadruple the ingredients on the recipe and make a huge batch. You can do the same with a huge variety of recipes: pasta, stir-fries, soup, or curry. Then, divide into containers and refrigerate or freeze. This means one evening of batch cooking can make the rest of your week super simple; just microwave or oven-cook your frozen meal!
Start Small and Stay Focused
If you are a novice chef making your first foray into home cooking, you might find some recipes really daunting. Some recipes have tens of different ingredients and many, many steps to create the final dish. This can be super off-putting and even cause severe panic!
Instead of diving in at the deep end, search for simple recipes online and start with them. There are plenty of pasta dishes, one-pot roasted dishes, and even curries that have just a few ingredients. Start with these and build your confidence in the kitchen before trying to take on something more challenging. Meanwhile, try to avoid distractions. It can be super tempting – and enjoyable – to cook with music or a movie on, but if you’re a new cook you might want to try without, concentrating on just cooking!
These simple kitchen and cooking tips can help you build confidence in the kitchen and become better at preparing meals for yourself and others. Believe us when we say: cooking can be fun and rewarding! We hope that your panic passes and you start to enjoy cooking.