When you first start to cook for yourself, or start to get serious about your cooking, there is a lot of information available. Too much information sometimes. Scroll through facebook and all you see are recipe videos (yes, I’ve made some videos too), some showing some very complicated recipes. For every tough recipe, there are also some very simple recipes that are great starting places.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and been cooking for myself and my family for over a decade now. Sometimes I go for those difficult recipes, other nights I take it easy. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in, and how much time I have. Either way, whenever you are making something new, there are a few things you can do to guarantee you’ll fail at cooking (and I’ve done them all at one time or another). So avoid these, and you should be good!
- Don’t have all the ingredients
Look through the entire list of ingredients and make sure you have everything. Too often I think we have something, and start cooking, only to realize we finished that carton of heavy cream the other day, or the last oats were used in breakfast this morning. Try to avoid this, but if it happens, a good search online for “______ substitute” will often find you something that you can use that will imitate the same flavor and texture.
- Don’t have all the equipment
If you want to make a bundt cake, make sure you have a bundt pan. This should sound obvious, but sometimes you don’t realize something you will need because a lot of recipes don’t list the equipment required with the ingredient list, meaning you have to read it in the instructions. Which brings me to my next point….
- Don’t read the recipe through first
When you are making a recipe for the first time, it’s always helpful to read through the entire recipe real quick before getting started. Sometimes you may come across a piece of equipment you don’t have or needs to be washed. Other times, when I don’t read through first, I don’t realize that something needs to be stirred constantly while also stirring in other ingredients. When this happens, it helps to know ahead of time so you can get the rest of the ingredients ready and at hand.
- Don’t measure properly
Did you know there’s a difference between a dry measuring cup and a liquid measuring cup? I still use the wrong ones often. I’ve also been cooking so long I can guess an amount pretty well. That’s find for cooking, but I’ve learned (yes, the hard way) that when you are baking, you have to have the exact ingredients and measurements. Being just slightly off will be the difference between a cake that rises or doesn’t, or a brownie that sets in the middle properly.
- Don’t pay attention
Wait, you means I need a kitchen free from distractions? Never going to happen with two toddlers in the house! Trust me, I hear you. But do your best to pay attention. A pot of boiling water takes just seconds to spill over sometimes, leaving a huge mess to clean up later.
- Don’t set a timer
When a recipe says to simmer for 8 minutes, usually any longer or shorter will change the consistency and/or flavor of the meal. Set a timer so you know you do it properly. Cooking meat too long results in dry meat, or too short means undercooked meat. There’s usually a timer on your oven, on the microwave, and on your cell phone. If all else fails, spend a couple bucks on a small kitchen timer. It’s easy to get distracted, so the timer lets you know when you need to move on to the next step.
- Don’t practice safety
Most important, be safe in the kitchen. Use the proper knife for the job and if you drop it, don’t ever try to catch it. If you have a gas stovetop, make sure you don’t have anything too close to the burners (same for electric stove, but there isn’t an open flame). Wear oven mitts when moving pots/pans and when putting things in or out of the oven. Be careful, pay attention, and always have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Don’t ever put water on a grease fire!
So if you don’t want to completely fail at cooking, follow these guidelines. Of course, I can’t talk about the outcome of the recipe itself, because everyone enjoys different tastes. But with this list, you should at least be able to get through the recipe, then it’s up to you and your family to decide if it’s something you’ll make again!
Now get started cooking for your family! Trust me, it’s amazing what a good home-cooked meal can do to help your family bond. Put away the technology. Sit down together at the table. Have a conversation. Even let the kids help in the kitchen if they are old enough. My four year old loves to help me cook and bake, and he’s more likely to eat something if he helped make it!