Hi!! & Welcome to this simple guide to cooking with 10 cooking tips for beginners! 🙂
I wrote this guide to help all the overwhelmed aspiring homecooks and homebakers out there!
Wether you just moved out and want to start cooking or you decided to start taking cooking and baking seriously, this guide is here to help you get more confident in the kitchen!
Here are 10 tips that will instantly make you feel more at ease the next time you’ll make a meal from scratch!
LEARN HOW TO READ RECIPES
This may sound obvious but not reading or understanding a recipe is often the culprit behind a failed recipe when you’re a beginner!
When you pick a recipe, read it twice or more if necessary, this way you’ll have a general idea of what to expect.
Make sure you have all the ingredients ready and at the right temperature (if a recipe calls for room temperature eggs, don’t use cold eggs).
Also, if a recipe calls for “1 cup of flour, sifted” the flour should be sifted after being measured but if the recipe calls for “1 cup sifted flour” the flour should be sifted and then measured.
MEASURE THE INGREDIENTS CORRECTLY
Scooping ingredients out of their containers leads to using up to 50% more than necessary – that’s a recipe for disaster!
You want to use the “spoon and level” method instead! Or… a digital kitchen scale which is a lot easier and more accurate (I like this one).
You can check out my “Simple Guide To Measuring Ingredients Correctly” for more information on each ingredient! 🙂
As a rule of thumb, you should use a spoon to scoop the ingredients into a dry measuring cup until heaping, then use the back of the spoon or a knife to level off the top of the measuring cup. Do not pack the ingredients down or shake/tap the measuring cup!
This method works for most dry ingredients like flours, white granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, etc.
Liquid ingredients are divided into two categories. Thick liquids like honey, sour cream, or peanut butter should be measured in dry cups while runny liquids like milk, water, or juice should be measured in liquid cups.
SET THE TIMER FOR A FEW MINUTES LESS
Every oven is different which is annoying but it’s something that we have to deal with.
Set your timer a few minutes less than the recommended time and check what’s going on. If it’s not ready, keep baking or cooking but don’t walk away from the stove or oven. Keep an eye on the food. Even 1 minute can make a huge difference.
Do this until you get familiar with the way your stove or oven works. Take notes so the next time you make that recipe, you’ll know when it’s ready or when to start checking.
My oven is hotter than hell (for real) and if I were to rely on other people’s instructions I would burn nearly all my food, from chicken to cakes.
LEARN HOW TO SALT YOUR FOOD PERFECTLY
Salt is essential. It enhances flavors and aromas, balances out bitterness and sweetness. It does *so* many different things and the only way to know how much salt to use is to salt to taste.
Check out my “complete guide to salt and how to salt food perfectly” if you want to learn more! It’s packed with information and tips on how to successfully use salt and what to do if you accidentally overseason a dish!
As a rule of thumb, you should *never* be able to taste salt in your food. Your food should be seasoned, not salty.
INVEST INTO A THERMOMETER
You might think you don’t need a thermometer but it will make cooking and baking so much easier, removing that annoying “uhh… is it right now?” factor.
It’ll help you learn more about temperature and what works and what doesn’t. And of course, you’ll be able to cook more confidently and serve perfectly baked/cooked/fried food.
If you’re just starting out, a basic thermometer like this one this one will work great! You can use this for meats (even large birds like Thanksgiving turkey) and other foods like pasta bakes, omelets, cakes, brownies… anything!
If you’re into frying or candy making, I recommend getting a clip-on thermometer (I love this one). When frying or working with candy, you have to be able to continuously check the temperature to make sure your ingredients aren’t too hot or too cold. With a clip-on thermometer, you just clip it to your pot and work on your recipe without having to hold it or measure the temperature a bunch of times… it makes *ALL* the difference!
When using a thermometer, make sure to slide it into the center or thickest part of the food but don’t let it go through the other side. Don’t let it touch the pan or hollow spots or your reading won’t be accurate.
USE THE RIGHT PAN
Ideally, you should own at least 1 cast iron skillet, 1 stainless steel pan, and a non-stick one.
Non-stick pans should be replaced every few years even when they’re not chipped, especially if they were inexpensive as they might begin to release toxic materials when heated.
When a recipe calls for a specific type of pan or pot use it: the recipe developer selected that one specific pan for a reason!
DON’T CROWD THE PAN!
Unless the recipe specifically calls for a crowded pan, that is.
For example, when roasting veggies in the oven, overcrowding leads to soft, steamed veggies instead of crisp veggies with crunchy caramelized tops. When frying, overcrowding the pan leads to a drastic drop in temperature which means soggy fried goods!
These are just two examples but they kind of give you a good idea of why you shouldn’t do it, right!?
INVEST INTO A GOOD KNIFE
A high-quality chef knife is a must, it’s the tool you’ll use *all* the time. Mincing, slicing veggies, chopping, disjointing large cuts of meat.
You’ll use it for every dish so it’s worth your money and is absolutely something that you should buy or put on your birthday wishlist (I like this one)!
CLEAN AS YOU GO
Get in the habit of cleaning as you cook to avoid ending up with a massive pile of dishes.
If the chicken is roasting, clean the tools you just used to make it and wipe the counters if you have some extra time on your hands!
USE HIGH-QUALITY INGREDIENTS IF POSSIBLE
I’m looking at you pre-shredded cheese, cheap bitter olive oil and chocolate chips!
While some options are cheaper or more convenient in general, they’re usually not worth it.
Avoid pre-shredded cheese and chocolate chips (unless the recipe specifically calls for them) like the plague. They contain additives to keep them from clumping up and while they’re not harmful, they might prevent your cheese and chocolate from melting/incorporating.
If you have a special occasion or simply want to elevate your dishes, start using high-quality ingredients.
For veggies, visit your local farmer market and check out their selection of fruit and vegetables. For chocolate, invest in some high quality chocolate bars (you can find those in the baking aisle). For cheese, get a block of cheese and shred it yourself.
PLACE A DAMP PAPER TOWEL UNDER YOUR CUTTING BOARD
You can also use a damp kitchen towel for this. It’ll make cutting, mincing, and slicing much easier and quicker and less frustrating as your cutting board won’t slip or move!
LEARN ABOUT FOOD SAFETY
Food needs to be safe before being delicious or Instagram worthy. There’s *so* much to say on this topic but here are some of the most important rules.
Cross-contamination is a b*tch. It happens when you contaminate food ready to be served with raw meat, fish or eggs. Do not let raw meat or eggs come in contact with food that is ready to be consumed. Don’t use the same board, plate, or knife to cut raw meat and vegetables, and don’t serve food on plates with raw meat/fish/eggs on it. Wash your hands after handling fish, eggs and meat.
Thaw foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
Don’t keep fresh eggs, milk, cream, cheese, meat, fish, or moist desserts like brownies out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if it’s hot. This goes for cheese boards and parties too, people aren’t immune just because it’s a party so watch where you place the food and know when to serve it.
Hot foods should be above 140F and cold foods below 40F at all times! Between 140F and 40F is when bacteria begins to grow. If your food has been sitting at a temperature between 140F and 40F for more than 2 hours, throw it away. It’s not worth it. You won’t always be able to tell if it’s safe to eat just from looking at it or smelling it.
Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible (within 2 hours). Use clean air-tight containers to keep the food safe. Be especially cautious when storing rice (even takeout fried rice) as rice naturally contains bacteria that will grow and multiply overtime, don’t store it for more than a day or two, and always reheat it until steaming hot to kill any bacteria.
Don’t attempt canning without going over all the rules of canning first and even then, be cautious as improperly canned foods may contain botulinum, a deadly toxin. This toxin cannot be seen and even tasting improperly canned food can be dangerous. If you want to make jam, jelly or sauce, and you’re not sure about canning, make a smaller serving and use it all up, it’s your best option.
Older generations didn’t care much about these rules (aside from the canning one), in fact, I was raised eating both raw meat and eggs (hi grandma, I love you) but it’s not safe. You never know, it’s a gamble.
That’s everything I think you should know before getting into cooking & baking! 🙂
If you have questions, feel free to leave them down below & I’ll be happy to help! 💘