21 Basic Tips to Improve Your Cooking
Cooking is an essential life skill. When an adult tells me they can’t cook, I feel a sense of disappointment for them – surely being able to produce food for yourself is important enough to spend a short time learning a few basic kitchen skills?! Hopefully these tips to improve your cooking will get you on the road to better food.
I regard nutrition as the building blocks of your health. The food you eat can be the cause or cure of ailments. It can help repair wounds quicker. It can improve mood, improve strength, improve endurance, reduce inflammation, improve social situations – the list is endless. The choices you make when it comes to feeding yourself will almost certainly have a direct reflection on how you look, feel and perform.
The ability to prepare food for yourself is the most basic fundamental skill an adult requires. If you can’t provide food for yourself you are at the same developmental stage as a child, so it’s time to act! Time to read a few tips to improve your cooking.
I am not a chef, but I am capable of producing good, healthy food for myself and my family. I don’t really follow recipes, but I stick to a set of nutritional Handy Plan principles and base my cooking around those. I watch cooking shows almost fanatically, so have picked up a few tips to improve your cooking that I use daily.
I list ‘recipes’ the weight loss and nutrition section of my blog, teaching you how to cook a few of the meals we eat at home. All of these meals are Handy Plan friendly and will form a part of a healthy diet – suitable for those who are looking to lose fat or improve muscle mass – the only difference is the quantity of food eaten!
In a quest to provide you with tips to improve your cooking, here is a list of quick lessons I have learnt over the years – these will really help you put out good meals every time…
In a given dish, the meat is usually supposed to be the star. Show it some respect by learning to cook it properly! Here are a few tips to improve your cooking of meat…
- I cook red meat generally in one of three ways – quickly, on a high heat (frying), for over 3 hours on a low heat in either liquid (braising) or a fat (roasting). Anything in the middle (time or temperature wise) will leave you with tough, flavourless meat.
- Season red meat with salt seconds before cooking – if you leave it too long the salt draws moisture out of the meat, drying it out.
- Always cook meat when it is at room temperature – that way you will end up with an even cooking throughout. Cooking meat straight from the fridge can cause temperature difference problems, leaving the outside burnt and the inside raw.
- Leave red meat to rest for around 5 minutes after cooking – this allows the juices to reabsorb into the meat.
- For extra flavour, when possible cook meat on the bone.
- Stop cooking a steak 30 seconds earlier than you think it needs – the residual heat inside the steak will mean it continues to cook even after being removed from the pan.
- When cooking a joint, seal it in the pan by frying the surface before roasting. This improves colour and flavour.
- Always ensure chicken, pork and turkey are cooked all the way through. If you are unsure, buy a meat thermometer to be safe.
Vegetables are so varied, yet so easy to get wrong. Don’t boil the life out of your veg – follow these tips to improve your cooking of it. Roasting, steaming, frying, boiling, braising etc – get them right!
- Chop vegetables into larger chunks when boiling or steaming – they will retain more nutrients.
- When boiling vegetables, bring the water to a full boil, add the vegetables and after 60 seconds reduce to a simmer. This way you will reduce the nutrient loss at higher temperatures.
- For improved flavour, cook vegetables in a stock rather than plain salted water. I use Kallo Organic Stock Cubes – they are gluten and lactose free.
- Pick vegetables that are in season – they are higher in nutrients and taste better.
- Only chop vegetables as you are about to use them – the sugars are retained that way, making them sweeter.
- When roasting vegetables, keep the oven at a constant temperature and the vegetables a consistent size – that way you won’t burn some and undercook others.
- Roasting vegetables caramelises their sugars, so use herbs such as rosemary and thyme with them to compliment the change in taste.
- Check vegetables often as they cook – you don’t want to let them turn into soft, tasteless mush.
A necessary skill for all cooks, no matter what level of ability you have. Also pretty dangerous if you don’t get a few basics right. Read on to learn a few chopping skills…
- Use the heavier, thicker end of the knife closest to the handle when chopping – it makes the process easier than when you try to chop with the tip of the knife.
- Keep your knives sharp – there is nothing more frustrating than trying to chop foods with blunt knives. Also, invest in good knives – they’ll make your life so much easier.
- If you want to cut with a higher degree of accuracy, try using scissors.
- When chopping flavourings such as herbs or garlic for roasting or frying, ensure you don’t chop too small, otherwise they will burn and taste bitter.
- Keep your fingers well clear from the knife blade – there is enough strain on the NHS without careless cooks adding to it!
Here are the kitchen basics I use. They aren’t cheap, but remember – quality lasts.
So here are 21 tips to improve your cooking. Most of them you may already know, a few others may be brand new to you. Either way, share this article with anyone you think may benefit from a bit of quick extra guidance in the kitchen!