Deciding to teach yourself to cook can be one of the most intimidating, yet rewarding, choices you’ll ever make. The great part about teaching yourself to cook is that you don’t have to have anyone train you to learn how, or go to a special class or school to learn to cook. In order to teach yourself to cook, all you need is a little willpower, motivation and these tips to get you started. The benefits from cooking for yourself are almost too many to name. Cooking for yourself usually means you eat smarter, save money, and it can even aid depression by being therapeutic. It can boost your self esteem, happiness and even your health. If I’m having a rough day, I enjoy coming home and preparing something with my own two hands in my kitchen to take my mind off things. With these 7 tips you'll be comfortable in the kitchen in no time!
1. Read Recipe Books
Reading recipes is possibly the easiest way to teach yourself to cook that I've ever found. How so? For starters, it familiarizes you with food, techniques, and cooking lingo. You don’t even have to try cooking first if you’re hesitant at first. Just pick up a couple recipe books that catch your eye at the store, ones you have at home, or on the internet. Just sifting through recipes and reading them is a great way to become familiar with cooking styles, techniques and will make you more knowledgeable about foods and things in the kitchen. When I was 18 I started picking up some of my mom’s Southern Living magazines and cookbooks. I started making some of the desserts for my friends, and even my boyfriend when I got a little braver. This led to me learning to love to cook, and now, though I cook mostly healthy stuff, the passion is there that I first found from those first recipe books I read in my earlier years.
2. Watch Others
One of the best ways to learn to cook is to watch other people cook, whether on television or in person. Maybe you have a friend or family member who is a great cook. I used to watch my mother and picked up a few tricks. When I first started cooking, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just read some recipes, used what knowledge I had from watching my mom, and went for it. I burned things, made messes and created some freaky stuff in the meantime, but I also learned a lot and became really good at it over time. Watch other people cook and see what you pick up from them. Then, just take the plunge!
3. Embrace Your Favorite Flavors
Cooking is about making things you love, and sometimes, for people that you love. Cooking can be one of the greatest things you ever do for yourself. It is one of my favorite ways to nurture myself, and I do so by embracing flavors that continue to be my favorites, day after day, year after year. For example, I have always loved certain flavors from herbs and spices, such as black pepper, sage, mustard, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, and from foods like chocolate, coconut, coffee, lemons, and vanilla. When I started to cook, I used all these favorite flavors in some form or fashion. One of the first recipes I taught myself to cook was a humble piece of grilled chicken flavored with mustard, lemon juice and black pepper served with green beans. I just thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, but because I loved the flavors of these foods, it made the dish even better. Pick up what flavors you like the most and start there. When you have a flavor you love, the inspiration will come.
4. Practice on Your Friends and Family
If you really want to learn to cook and get some honest feedback, then you need to practice for people that you love, like your friends and family. Pick a simple dish from a recipe book, and just go for it. They won’t care if you mess up, but you can’t learn without practice! I used to cook for my boyfriend when I taught myself to cook, and bless his heart, he never said anything was bad, but who knows!? The bottom line is, I practiced and practiced until I finally became good at it and so can you!
5. Watch a YouTube Video
We live in a technical world, so why not embrace it when teaching yourself to cook? Watch some YouTube videos! I love watching You Tube videos when learning to make new recipes. I’ve found all kinds of great new people who I now enjoy following on YouTube on a regular basis too. Even if they are making a recipe I’ve made before, I’ve learned new techniques and information from them that I didn’t know beforehand, which has helped me immensely. Just type in a recipe you’d like to make in the YouTube search bar, or just type in “recipe” and pick a few videos to watch. You’ll be cooking in no time!
6. Minimize the Equipment
Don’t feel like you have to use every pot and pan and special tool in your kitchen when first learning to cook. Yes, the mandolin is a neat appliance, as is a food processor, but start with the basics like a simple chef’s knife before you move on to the fancier stuff. A wooden spoon also does wonders all on its own. Just start small and move up as you get better. Simplicity is sometimes best. There are still appliances in our kitchen I’ve never used because I don’t need them. I use my blender quite a bit, and use two main pots for everything. Embrace what's easy and you’ll thank me later!
7. Be Sure to Measure Ingredients
The first cake I ever made, I eyeballed the amount of salt I put in. A ½ a teaspoon, I believe it called for. Well, I suppose my eyesight was off that day, because I added in way too much and I remember my brother asking why the chocolate cake was so salty. Whoops! Be sure to measure your ingredients. You can get better at eyeballing later. For now, use those measuring spoons! They were made for a reason, hun!
Cooking is so much fun, and one of the best skills you’ll ever teach yourself. I hardly ever eat dinner out, because I genuinely enjoy preparing food. Ironically, when I started cooking for myself, I also got healthier. Lard doesn’t look as appealing when using it in your kitchen as it does eating a fast food dish or as it does disguised as a piece of junk food at the store. Cooking can be nurturing, healthy, and so much fun. You’ll also be able to give your friends and family the gift of a homemade meal that you created all by yourself! Do you all have any tips for teaching yourself to cook, or have you ever taught yourself to cook?