In this day and age of fast food, uberFood, and all sorts of other delicious easy options it’s very easy to become dare I say, a shitty home cook. Sorry for the language, but I must address the elephant in the room, there’s a lot of shitty cooking going on and I want to fix that for you.
Most folks don’t cook at home and it’s partly due to four reasons.
The biggest factor for most folks is time.
No matter how you spin it, cooking takes forever sometimes. First you have to figure out what you want to make, then you have to figure out if you’re capable of making said dish. THEN you need to figure out if you have the ingredients, then you have to start all over again if you don’t have the ingredients, and at this point you haven’t even started cooking! And now the baby’s crying and all you want to do is go in a corner and cry yourself to sleep with a tube of cookie dough in your right hand.
Even if you are able to get through all those steps easily, many people simply don’t have the time to spend prepping ingredients for a home cooked meal. But technology has already quickly taken that excuse out of the picture due to services like Marley Spoon, Blue Apron, and Terra’s Kitchen. Even with those options, people still don’t think they have the time to put a meal together, I don’t blame them. Who wants to cook after working an 8,10, or 12 hour work day? Throw in a possible hour or more commute home and the best thing you can do is not face plant into a tub of ice cream.
The best way to circumvent the time thing in my opinion is to figure out a way to spend some time doing meal prep on a day off. I do all of my cooking for the week on Sunday and then I have food for the rest of the week. My suggestion is to prep two proteins that you can make into different meals and then accessorize them with some veggies that are either good raw or can be quickly sauteed in a pan. The secret to quickly and more importantly making easy proteins? The Instant Pot. It’s a LIFE SAVER!!!
So there’s time, that’s the first reason there is a shitty cooking epidemic. Short on time, people just throw a dish together and more often than not, it’s either not very good or it’s a mediocre microwaveable meal.
Next up, is FEAR.
Now I don’t mean that a chicken breast is going to suddenly morph into a blood sucking monster than eats your face. Instead, I’m talking about the fear of fucking everything up. You know someone who’s like this. They strive to do everything right, but when it comes to the kitchen they’re so afraid that they’re going to make something that’s not good that they’re paralyzed by that fear and then they just avoid cooking like the plague. “What if everyone hates this? I can’t deal with that, I’ll just get take out.”
What everyone needs to realize about cooking is that it’s an exercise in failure. Show me a cook/chef who hasn’t failed in the kitchen in some shape or form and I’ll show you a liar. EVERYONE fucks up in the kitchen, that’s part of the learning process. Think outside of the kitchen to a colossal fuck up you’ve had in the workplace, as a student, or as a parent/adult, that failure is burned into your mind and you probably learned the most from that experience than you did from 100 successes. It’s just the way the human mind works, when you screw up you typically learn from your mistakes and grow from them. The same thing applies to cooking, especially when you start cooking, people will screw up and many folks decide that the one time they screwed up was one time too many and that they’ll never attempt to cook again. But I’m here to tell you that if you’re willing to go back into the fire you’re skills will grow exponentially. Disobey the cooking fear folks.
You might disagree with me on this one, but I don’t care.
“What do you mean recipes?! If you don’t have a recipe you can’t figure out how to make the food!” And to that I say, WRONG!!
Recipes are good for the following things:
1- Baking, I will admit, if you fuck up a baking recipe you run the risk of some seriously shitty baked goods.
2-Cooking Ideas- they are great tools to give you ideas on what to make or the general guidelines for how to make something.
People who are bad at cooking, generally overly rely on recipes to guide them. I’m here to say the recipe does you more harm than good, recipes provide you with short-term benefits of a meal that tastes good. BUT, when you’re following a recipe, more often you’re just mindlessly going through the motions just following the steps (not to mention you’re cooking slow). That’s all well and good if you just want one singular meal, but it’s terrible if you want to become a good cook. You’re not learning when you’re doing this, when you free-style cook you have to problem solve and critically think to solve your cooking dilemma. Sure this may yield some yucky meals in the beginning, but you will instantly learn from your mistakes as opposed to being chained to the strict guidelines of a recipe. If you insist on using recipes, only use them once to test drive the dish and then don’t use them again. Think of all the great cooks you’ve met in your life, for me it’s my Mom and Grandma, when I would ask them how to make something, it’s a handful of this or a dash of that. It’s not *nerdy voice* you must use exactly 2 teaspoons of salt here or your entire dish will be ruined!
Recipes make you think that you’ve done something wrong if you didn’t follow them to a T. I’m here to tell you to free yourselves from the shackles of recipe tyranny! Try to make things on your own and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
This last one is maybe the most important rule for all cooks and chefs regardless of skill level:
TASTE YOUR FOOD!!
You see Gordon Ramsay say this all the time on TV and he’s 100% right, taste your food people! Don’t wait to see that your food tastes like shit after your spouse or loved ones nosh on your meal, taste it as you go through the cooking process! That way you’ll know that you’ve put too much or too little of something in your dish, and you’ll learn how to correct it.
Too salty? Add some stock or lemon juice to it.
Too sweet? Try and add some citrus or savory to the dish to balance out the sweetness.
Remember, cooking is all about maintaining a flavor balance in your dish, when that balance goes out of whack your dish will suffer as a result of it.
That’s all it takes people, it’s not some magical recipe or a quick fix but I can guarantee you that if you follow these four rules you will become a good cook…eventually.