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9 common mistakes beginner cooks make
If you start with outdated, low quality, or flat out wrong tools, you’ll either end up with poor results or you won’t be able to perform optimally. The most important tools you’ll need as a chef are your knives. If you’re going to spend money on anything, it’s your knives, and you have to take care of them.
Things you should look for when picking a set of knives is even weight balance, high-quality materials, and a good grip on the handle. As far as materials go, stainless steel is the most common. While they will do in a pinch, they’re not the highest quality and you’ll need to sharpen them often. If you have the money, then go for ceramic or carbon steel, which is the top choice among most chefs.
Too many novice cooks try to start with elaborate dishes first before they even learn the basics. That is a sure recipe for disaster. If you try mastering elaborate French techniques right away, you might discourage yourself. Just like anything in life, you have to take baby steps first. Start by learning how to make a classic omelette, then move to more complicated dishes. Soups are also a good starting point. Most will incorporate a variety of techniques and are hard to mess up if you follow the steps correctly.
A good cook should taste their recipes at every stage of the cooking process. This is especially important for sauces. You’ll be able to see what went wrong or if it's missing something. Then you’ll be able to make the adjustments needed. However, wait until the very end to add salt to sauces. As the sauce reduces, the saltiness will become concentrated, so you might be fooled by an early taste test.
This is one of the most important things that you’ll have to know when you do any type of cooking. A lot of us make dangerous mistakes when cooking that many aren’t even aware of. First of all, one of the worst things you could do is handle any kind of meat in your kitchen sink. You will create a haven for harmful bacteria that will be very difficult to disinfect after. Use different cutting boards for raw meat and veggies. Use different materials as well. I like to use a glass board for meats, as it is harder and easier to disinfect and an oakwood or chestnut board for veggies. Never touch cooked meat after touching raw meat. And never put cooked meat in the same container raw meat was in.
While there are some great cooks out there that are self-taught, the wide majority of them were classically trained. We’re not saying you should become a certified chef to cook at home but having a classical foundation wouldn’t hurt. Thankfully, there are cooking tutoring programs that will help you get a grasp of the basics.
There are many services that will connect you with chefs who will come to your home and give you private cooking lessons. Not only will you be able to learn the proper techniques and know what you’re doing wrong, but you’ll be able to do it in a comfortable and familiar setting. If that interests you and don’t know where to look, you can find a cooking tutor on this website. Many of the Superprof teachers have years of experience in reputable establishments, and some are even Michelin starred chefs, so you’ll learn from the best.
When cooking, you should give your dish your full undivided attention. Don’t watch tv or speak on the phone. Not only is it dangerous, but you might ruin your recipe by missing a crucial step. Another thing new cooks overlook is preparation or “mise en place”. The mise en place is when you prepare every ingredient before you start cooking. This is something every chef does, and this ensures that the whole process goes smoothly and that you don’t miss anything out along the way.
You should cut all the veggies you need according to the recipe and put them all in separate bowls or next to each other on your cutting board. Your meats should be prepared and pared. All the seasonings should be measured and put in separate bowls or ramequins. Mastering this alone will automatically make you a much better cook.
If you get your recipes online, it’s very important that you read the full instructions before you start. Most of these websites don’t proofread recipes, and you might miss a very important detail. For instance, pastry sometimes asks for room temperature butter, but if you mix cold butter, you might end up with poor results. So, make sure that you look at the recipe in detail before you start anything.
A cook can only be as good as their ingredients, and while in some cases extremely skilled chefs can turn bad ingredients into masterpieces, you should spend extra on good ingredients. And don’t try to substitute for cheaper cuts of meat or ingredients than a recipe requires. If the recipe asks for Dutch processed cocoa, then you should use Dutch processed cocoa. The same goes for cheeses. Different cheeses have different flavour profiles and moisture levels, and trying to substitute there without a thorough knowledge of cheeses could completely ruin a recipe.
Some beginner cooks just can’t help themselves and have to constantly touch the food or mess with the oven or pot as dishes are cooking. Uncover a pot of rice before it's fully cooked, and the whole batch will be ruined. Open the oven too soon when baking a cake, and it won’t leaven properly. Do not poke at your cake constantly to see if it’s done. Follow the instructions. Only test when the cake has reached its full cooking time. And only do it once or twice. Patience is one of the most important things in cuisine, so make sure that you learn it.
Becoming a great cook doesn’t happen overnight, but with the proper knowledge and a lot of practice, you will slowly but surely start honing your skills. Make sure that you refrain from committing any of these mistakes if you want to get the best results and ensure proper food safety.