8 Cooking Tips for the Clueless 20-Somethings

By: Gabrielle Muniz

Are you ever hungry, but the idea of cooking freaks you out, so you just get a pizza?  I don’t blame you. Cooking can be a pretty intimidating art, especially if you’ve never done it before. I’ve been cooking since I was 9 and I can tell you that the biggest obstacle is fear. All of the measuring, chopping, and simmering can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips on how to cook with confidence.

1. Do Not Be Afraid

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Technically, cooking is a lot easier than baking. When you cook, you can add spices at any time, such as being able to add more pepper or basil to a bland sauce. It’s even okay that you might not chop food perfectly because you can cut it up while it cooks. However, if you become afraid of food, then it shows in your cooking.  Go in confident with your recipe so that you can make it the best that you can.

2. Prepare Your Ingredients Ahead of Time

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Mise en place is a French term used in the culinary arts that means “everything in its place.” This term means that you should have whatever you need in front of you before you cook, in order to avoid clutter and scavenging your kitchen for ingredients.  You can put spices in bowls, chopped chicken on a plate, or milk in a cup so that everything is already measured. You’ll need to act fast with some recipes, such as adding milk into a pot before the butter burns for a cheese sauce. It’s best to keep stress to a minimum in the kitchen, so do yourself a favor and put mise en place.

3. Practice a Recipe before Letting Others Taste it

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For me, there are few things more stressful than having other people try my food. I always try to cook and bake the way that people like, but you never know if it’s going to be a hit.  If you’re going to have someone else trying your food, especially for a party or large group of people, it’s always best to practice. That way, you can make notes to yourself about what to do or change that can make it better for next time.

4. Watch Cooking Shows and Videos

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I grew up watching the Food Network and I have to say that this helped me to gain many of the cooking skills that I have now. Simple things like how to whisk, chop vegetables, and separate egg yolks form an egg all seem like basic skills.  However, doing any of these improperly can really backfire when you cook. You can pick up many good tricks by watching professional chefs do what they do best. Just be prepared to get hungry while you’re watching.

5. Always Taste Your Food

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While you’re cooking, it’s important to taste your food to see your progress. You can easily avoid having to add salt to bland food after it’s done by testing it with your taste buds.  Some people have a stigma against this, but there is no other way to know how your food will taste unless you try it while it’s being prepared. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself kind of full before you’re done cooking.

6.  Make Sure that You Cook Something that You Like

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Let’s face it: you know what you like. When you go to a restaurant, you order something that you think is good, so why would you cook something any different? If you’re a fan of cheese, try casseroles or pastas that have cheese in them. Like I said, you’ll want to taste test your food, so it’s always good to make sure that you know what something should taste like by your standards.

7.  Always Follow the Instructions

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Cooking and baking are sciences, so it’s important to stick to the rules. When you try a recipe for the first time, read through the instructions a couple of times before you make the recipe. Then, stick to the recipe as closely as possible. You can feel free to make changes after you’ve tasted the finished product, but it’s better to follow the recipe when it’s only your first attempt.

8.  Find Recipes with Good Feedback

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When you run out of family recipes to try, feel free to browse the internet. I usually go to websites like food.com, allrecipes.com, and foodnetwork.com because people can rate the recipes. Go for the recipes that have a near perfect rating, but make sure to look through any comments that people made. Even though people give a high rating, they provide tips for how they made a recipe better. Make sure to do your research before going in and making something new!

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