Get comfortable cooking and toss those takeout menus
Is your kitchen just the place where you store pizza and Chinese delivery menus? Don’t be scared of using it to actually cook meals! Even the most novice of chefs can feel comfortable preparing healthy dishes if you have basic equipment and are well-prepared before you start cooking.
The most essential tool is a quality chef’s knife. Look for an 8-inch or 10-inch one and make the additional investment of a knife sharpening steel. Dull knives are harder to use and more dangerous than sharp ones.
A complete set of measuring tools will help make sure foods are seasoned accurately and are critical for accurate measuring in baking. Measuring cups come in sets of 1/4 cup to 1 cup, measuring spoon sets range from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon and a 4-cup glass liquid measuring cup is great for both measuring liquids and melting things like butter in the microwave.
The basic pots and pans are 1 1/2- and 3-quart sauce pots, 8- and 12-inch saute pans and a 6-quart stock pot. Look for pans that feel comfortable to lift and have sturdy handles. Non-stick pans are easier to use for beginners, but be sure to use wooden cooking utensils with them.
A digital read thermometer is inexpensive and can be a big help if you are unsure whether meat is fully cooked or not.
Once your tools are in place, you are ready to start. The best approach is to have everything prepared and ready to use before you even turn on the stove or oven.
- Choose a recipe from a reliable source with complete instructions. Three great places are Epicurious, Joy of Cooking and Cook’s Illustrated.
- Read through the entire recipe and make sure you understand what is meant by all of the cooking terms.
- Measure and prepare all ingredients before starting so you don’t skip anything. Use small ramekins or other small bowls to hold measured seasonings until you need them.
- Peel and cut up fruits and vegetables in advance. Line them up along a clean cutting board according to when the recipe calls for them. That way, all you have to do is slide them off with a knife into the pan.
- Use a reliable timer and your thermometer to make sure dishes are fully but not over-cooked. Use this food safety guide to see what temperatures are safe for cooked foods.
Ready to get going? Try this flavorful Pasta Puttanesca to see how satisfying it is to make your own meals without grabbing the take-out menu.
Photo credit: ccharmon