When you imagine improving your cooking abilities, you may feel overwhelmed with the seemingly daunting task. I am nodding as up until about a few years ago I often felt less than adequate in the kitchen. Here are some pointers to help you navigate more easily and efficiently around the kitchen.
You Are Not Alone
A great start to improving your cooking skills is by realizing that you are not alone in your apprehension towards the task. Not everyone is born with a love of cooking or an ease for kitchen-related tasks. Feeling ashamed of your cooking skills only limits your ability to improve them. You will feel less afraid and more open to learning new culinary techniques when you realize that not every adult is a deluxe chef. No one can be perfect at everything, including being a cook.
Create a Cookbook
Add a building block to the seed of self-confidence by grabbing a blank notebook to devote to your time in the kitchen. Write down the dishes that you have previously prepared on your own. These dishes can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner items. Write down the title and, if you wish, include notes underneath explaining how to make each dish. Notes are optional but serve as great references to jog your memory if you want to make the dish again, and you have not prepared it for some time. Simply grab your notebook and start cooking!
Creating a personal cookbook will also likely reveal that you are capable of creating more dishes than you realized! Make your notebook personalized and fun. My notebook, for example, is covered with M&M character patterns as I collect M&M memorabilia. The personal touch of the book makes you more likely to turn to it in the kitchen and continue to be enthused to cook.
Be a Helper
Another great way to improve your skills is to help someone whose cooking abilities you admire. No, I am not referring to Martha Stewart here, but instead to someone you actually know well (unless, of course, you are friends with Martha). Said person could be a parent, sibling, friend, or another acquaintance. Think back to meal invites and whose foods or techniques you enjoyed. Ask that person to make a meal together as a way to strengthen your independence and confidence.
Do not be embarrassed to approach him or her. Remember that person started out where you are now, searching for tried and true cooking techniques. Your contact person will likely be flattered by your request. Offer to buy the ingredients as an extra way to get him or her on board. When I asked my mom to help her make dinners, she said she appreciated the assistance and found dinner was prepared more quickly with the extra set of hands. Your contact person will likely also appreciate your help.
Plan to meet regularly each week, if schedules allow. Write the lessons into your daily planner and treat them as appointments you would not cancel. By writing down the sessions and conversing with your acquaintance, you will be held accountable to following through with improving your cooking skills. You will become more at ease cooking with someone else as well as cooking for more than one person.
The dishes do not need to be complex four-course meals, but instead simple, affordable foods that you would be able to make on your own. By improving your basic cooking skills under close guidance, you will be able to build to more complex meals.
Build up to switching roles, with you taking the reins as lead cook and your partner becoming the helper. Reward yourself after a month of regularly scheduled cooking sessions as an incentive to keep learning new skills. A reward could include a new kitchen utensil or saucepan. The reward solidifies your achievements in the kitchen and encourages you to continue learning new skills.
Improve your skills further by watching cooking videos on websites such as YouTube. Try searching for “how to cook (insert ingredient name)” or “best cooking recipe for (insert dish name)” and you will find lengthy lists to begin your search.
Advantages of video include the ability to pause as you watch, save to view again and see procedures in motion rather than still pictures. Add the video’s recipe title and any useful notes to your personal cookbook so that you will be able to cook the dish without having to watch the entire video again.
With DVR for television (called PVR here in Canada), you can do similar tasks as on YouTube. For instance, save and pause shows while you take notes or try a technique. Multiple cooking shows can be viewed on the Food Network channel and other food-oriented channels.
Although I still do not consider myself the next Rachael Ray, I can make several dishes now and have more confidence standing in front of the stove. Progress has to have a starting point, so let’s start improving your cooking skills today!
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