In order to become a good cook, you have to build on a solid foundation of the most basic cooking techniques. Even the most talented chefs had to start by forming a knowledge base of essential information for getting around a kitchen. It doesn't matter if you just learned to boil water yesterday; starting with the basics is the smartest way to quickly advance your skills. Even if your end goal is as simple as cooking a good dinner for your family on Sundays, anyone who cooks should have the following cooking techniques at their command:
The knife is possibly the most important tool in any cook's arsenal. It can be used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat, so you need to learn proper knife techniques to be efficient and precise in the kitchen. Brush up on your chopping, slicing and dicing by learning essential knife skills. Once you understand the basics, skillfully preparing ingredients for any recipe will be a breeze.
A solid understanding of cooking terminology is essential if you want to be able to cook from a recipe. While it's true that anyone who can read can follow a recipe, you also need to be well-versed in culinary vocabulary to successfully prepare food from given instructions. Rather than constantly consulting Google while cooking a new dish, gain a solid understanding of cooking terminology. Once you understand the difference between mise en place and mirepoix, taking on more challenging recipes won't be as big of a step.
Even if you learn all about cooking and understand culinary terminology, the only way to really test your cooking skills is to get in the kitchen. Reading about or watching a demonstration of caramelizing onions is great, but nothing compares to trying it yourself. Good cooks rely on multiple senses and their experiences to know the perfect time to flip a cut of meat or finish kneading bread dough. Master your sauces, frying skills and baking through trial and error and lots of practice.
Fresh ingredients and spices behave differently due to the season or manufacturer. What would you do if the strawberries for your dessert were not sweet enough or if a certain brand of coconut milk was too watery? Understanding how to offset varying properties of ingredients is important to prepare a dish in any situation. For instance, cooks know to add an acidic ingredient to a salty dish and how to make a perfect spice blend for Italian or Indian food.
Cooking isn't always an exact science. Over the course of your lifetime in the kitchen, you'll be exposed to many recipes and situations. Proficient cooks have the basic cooking techniques down pat, but the ability to improvise when something goes wrong in the kitchen or whip up a dish on the spot is what makes cooking fun.
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