Cooking Tips · Techniques

Cooking Resolutions

I am not much of a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I personally do not make them. Rather, I just continually strive to improve myself in all sorts of areas. However, I know many people find resolutions motivating. I thought to myself, if I wanted my readers to make any cooking-related resolutions, what would they be? That is the subject of this Cooking Tip – what you could do this next year that would improve your cooking.

  • Read the recipes – Be sure to take the time to read your recipe thoroughly.
    • Carefully look at the list of ingredients so you know what you have and what you need to buy. Also, look out for commas. For example, there is significant difference between “1 cup flour, sifted” and “1 cup sifted flour.” If you do not know the difference, email me and I will help you.
    • Read all the steps in the recipe all the way through. If possible, read it twice before starting your cooking. This will allow you to know how you should progress, what equipment you will need and if there are any surprises waiting for you – such as the step calling for you to “chill mixture for 2 hours”. If you do not know that, it can throw a serious wrench in your plans.
  • Look at the number of servings the recipe makes. If you need to decrease or increase, do the math for each ingredient and write the new amount right on the recipe. This will prevent you from starting out good by adjusting the first couple of ingredients and then forgetting to do the same for the rest – a real recipe ruiner.
  • Take mise en place seriously. Taking the time to gather your ingredients & equipment as well as measuring out those ingredients as well as prepping those that require some prep (such as chopping or slicing) may seem like a waste of time. However, in reality, it makes your cooking go smoother and helps to prevent errors.
  • Be careful about substituting ingredients. Some will work fine but others not so much. For example, if it calls for fresh herbs and you only have dried, you should not make a 1-1 substitution. Use only 1/3 to ½ the amount of dried herbs as fresh. Not every vinegar tastes the same and if you substitute whatever you have in your pantry for what it calls for in the recipe, do not expect it to necessarily work.
  • If you are a baker, seriously consider weighing your ingredients rather than measuring by volume. You will get much better and more consistent results.
  • Invest in a good instant-read thermometer. Not only will this help you to cook your meat to a more edible and safe result but it can also help with baking bread, making custard and it is essential to successful candy making.
  • Use the correct type of measuring cups. Use liquid cups for liquids and dry cups for dry ingredients. You may think that is silly but there is real research demonstrating the inaccuracy of measuring when using the wrong cup.
  • Date your spices. Get rid of outdated ones and replace them with fresh. If they do not smell like the spice they are, they won’t impart much flavor in your dish. Instead of buying large quantities of spices you do not use very regularly, buy smaller ones. This ensures the freshness of your spices and saves you money in the long run as you do not have to throw items away because they have gone stale.
  • Taste as you go. For the best results, taste your dish as you go, adjusting seasonings as needed. At the very least, taste before you serve it. Do you really want to serve a dish to family/friends that you have no idea what it tastes like? I didn’t think so!
  • Try something new whether it is just a new food, a new recipe, a new cuisine or something else. If you do not know where to start, book a class for what you want to learn and let’s have fun with it.
  • Finally, just cook more. It is so much healthier and less costly to cook at home. Learn to plan ahead, make freezer meals, challenge yourself to use whatever is in your refrigerator rather than throw it out. Learn how to Cook without a Recipe to help with this. I can teach you many tips and techniques to assist you.

Do you have any specific cooking resolutions?
Let me know. I would love to hear what you want to work on this next year.