Some people don’t have a single issue working freely in the kitchen and exploring well beyond the boundaries of recipes and formulas.
That number is very small, however, compared to the number of people who feel entirely intimidated in the kitchen, and wouldn’t dare take a step out of order in the process of cooking or baking.
Over the last year I have realized, mostly through my husband, that sometimes it is better for those who are intimidated to simply be well prepared and equipped with tools for success before even entering the kitchen. Although I am firm believer that there is always a way to solve any problem in the kitchen, I still think it’s better to simply not let the disaster happen in the first place.
I came up with five tips that I think can be very helpful for those who are less skilled or experienced in the kitchen. Obviously it is still totally possible for a disaster to happen- I have plenty of my own disasters in the kitchen- but the more quipped you are, the fewer the disasters.
- MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR RECIPE- Before you even begin (and I mean before you even pull a single ingredient out of the pantry) make sure that you fully understand all of the instructions in your chosen recipe. There is nothing worse than successfully making it through five steps of a recipe only to realize at step six that you either have no clue what it means, or that it is far beyond your skill level. If you are looking for a challenge, just be sure you understand the terms, and know what you are getting yourself into. If not, simply choose a simpler recipe. There is never any shame in going simple- and honestly, sometimes the simplest recipes are the ones that turn out to be the most impressive.
- PRACTICE MISE EN PLACE- This is a concept that we were made to focus on A LOT in culinary school. Essentially, it means to have everything you need for your entire recipe set out and measured before you even start with step number one. It sort of takes the place of step one- and bumps all the other steps back. To be honest, because I am so free spirited and like to go with the flow, I really struggled with this one when I first started culinary school. It kind of annoyed me until I realized just how helpful it was. Having everything ready to go from the beginning ensures that you won’t get stuck in a critical stage of your recipe and mess something up. Sometimes it is okay to let something cook a bit longer than suggested while you chop veggies or measure spices, but other times it isn’t and you could likely ruin an entire recipe. Unless you just know for sure that you are super quick, save yourself the trouble and have everything ready to go from the beginning!
- KNOW WHAT IS FLEXIBLE AND WHAT ISN’T- Like I said in point number two, some things can afford to be adjusted a bit, and some things can’t. Know what those things are. For instance, when making eggs Benedict, a minute too long for that poached egg is pretty much unacceptable. You need to be prepared with all of your ingredients and the entire set up. One extra minute for some sautéed green beans is not really going to hurt anything. Meats can be a little tricky, but just know your preferred level of doneness and know what it takes to get there. If you have things that you know can go a little longer on the stove, let those things be the things you step away from if you do find yourself in a situation in which you are managing a crisis with a more critical component of your meal!
- ALLOW THE APPROPRIATE AMOUNT OF TIME- Never try to accomplish a meal in less time than what is actually needed. You will likely skip steps, alter temperatures, or simply have a meal that is unfinished. Either way, you will compromise quality. This may not only make for a poor experience with that one meal, but also might discourage you from engaging in future attempts at more complex meals. Know what your time allows, and choose recipes that fit within that.
- GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE- It takes times to master the kitchen. Don’t give up if you have a bad experience, or even two or three. Just like with anything else, cooking is a skill that grows and improves over time, and certainly with repetition. Start small, and enjoy the little victories. Sometimes something as simple as the perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich is something to be celebrated. The more small victories you have, the more encouraged and motivated you will be to take it up a notch!
Hopefully these things will be helpful to you! These are things that I have found myself telling my husband, and I know that it has certainly encouraged him. Although he has a wife that cooks all the time (literally), he still has a desire to cook for me from time to time, and unfortunately feels all the more intimidated because I do cook so much.
Feel free to comment and let me know any other helpful tools or tips you might have! We all have little tricks, and more times than not, others can benefit from those!