There’s something satisfying about preparing a beautiful, balanced meal that also pleases taste buds and meets nutritional needs. If you’ve never been much of a cook, you may find getting started a bit daunting. Thankfully though, learning the basics is quite easy, and many delicious meals can be prepared from start to finish in fewer than 30 minutes. If you’re looking to make better use of all that space in your apartment’s kitchen, follow these simple steps to becoming a better at-home chef.
1. Get organized
An organized work space saves you time and energy while cooking. Organize cooking utensils, equipment, and foodstuffs in a logical fashion so finding tools, spices, and ingredients is always easy. In a similar vein, organize your food prep space before you start cooking. Get out everything you need. Keep knives close to cutting boards. Position a trash receptacle or compost bin so produce peels and ends can easily be chucked.
2. Use cookbooks and online recipes
If you’re new to the cooking game, closely follow recipes for a while before you start experimenting. Read a recipe through before starting work on a dish, and pay close attention to words describing how ingredients should be prepared (diced, chopped, shredded, etc.). If you’re a vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, specialized cookbooks are available for just about every diet.
3. Purchase (and use) herbs and spices
Herbs and spices work with ingredients’ natural flavors to make a meal truly delicious. Acquire a comprehensive set so you don’t have to shop for new spices every time you try something new. Use them, but use them wisely! Too much of a good thing can potentially ruin a dish, especially with spices like turmeric, cardamom, or cayenne pepper.
4. Keep knives sharp
Good, sharp knives not only save time and make chopping and dicing easier, they’re also safer to use than dull knives because they’re less likely to slip. Get your hands on a set of high-quality knives and be sure to only use them on plastic and wood cutting boards, but preferably wood. Wash them by hand and not in the dishwasher. And sharpen your knives regularly, using a sharpening stone or steel, to keep them from dulling.
5. Sample while you work
Part of the fun of cooking is sampling a taste here and there as you go along. Professional chefs frequently taste dishes while cooking to check whether they have too much or little of a spice or herb. Every few minutes, stir the dish you have in progress and taste it. Add or balance ingredients as necessary.
6. Be mindful
Like patience everywhere, mindfulness can be a virtue in the kitchen. Do your best to stay in the moment and not get distracted. Even if you’re in a time crunch, try not to hurry. Rushing is more likely to result in mistakes that will hamper your efforts and reduce your satisfaction with your cooking. Speed will come with practice!
7. Prepare the same dishes more than once
Experimenting is a major part of cooking. Developing a repertoire of simple main and side dishes you can count on turning out well, however, can build your cooking confidence. It also gives you go-to dishes to choose from when preparing food for first-time dinner guests.
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