It may surprise you that over ⅓ of the US population just cannot cook. However, it is not difficult to see why, we have become lazy with TV dinners and ready meals. Now many of us find that we rarely visit the kitchen to do more than use the microwave.
Follow my ten simple tips which will allow you to start cooking and more importantly enjoy the pleasure of creating amazing food. However, firstly we need to start with some of the basics:
1. Boil an egg (so that it just right, every time).
Step one is simple, however a perfect boiled egg is a vital staple of kitchen craft, great for a quick snack or to make the basis of a delicious salad. It is one of the simplest things to cook, if you know how. Cooking an egg to the perfect level of hardness can seem like a mystery, however timing is everything.
Put a pan on the stove with just enough water to cover the eggs. Bring the water to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer (so the water bubbles gently). Add the eggs carefully and then start a timer. You need to leave them for six minutes if you want a runny egg yolk, eight if you want the yolk to be set softly or nine minutes if you want a hard boiled egg.
2. Yes, you can cook a perfect steak.
Just like our boiled egg, cooking the perfect steak is a matter of timing. First, heat a pan to be smoking hot, don’t put any oil in the pan, instead rub your steak with some oil then some salt and pepper. Place your steak in the pan and leave it alone! Resist the temptation to move it about, leave it for a minute or so until it is ready to be turned. Depending on the thickness of the steak you need to cook it for about one and a half minutes per side for rare, two minutes for medium rare and about two and a half for medium.
However, rather than just relying on time, there is an additional test. Pinch your thumb and first finger, if you feel the flesh between your thumb and finger this is what a rare steak should feel like, when you touch your middle finger to your thumb you will get the feel of medium rare and your ring finger will give you the feel of a medium. You can use this as a way of telling if your steak is cooked perfectly every time.
Remember, allow your steak to rest for a few minutes before serving to allow it to reabsorb juices and be totally delicious!
3. Cook rice perfectly every time...
Rice is a staple for many meals, however wet or burnt rice will easily ruin a dish. For perfect rice, first, wash your rice until the water runs clear, take a medium sized pan and put in about half a cup (90g) per person. Cover with water so that it’s about an inch above the rice and bring to the boil. When it’s boiling keep an eye on the rice as you need to look for holes in the surface of the rice. As soon as you see this, put in a tight lid and switch off the heat. Leave the rice for ten minutes. Then, serve immediately.
4. Make a pasta sauce just like your mama used to.
Tomato ragu is a simple pasta sauce which you can use to create a delicious and quick pasta dish or with meatballs, or some grilled chicken. It is a very versatile addition to many dishes.
Finely chop onion, carrot, and celery and place in a pan with a little olive oil, you want to gently heat this so that they soften without browning. Patience is everything here! Add a tin of plum tomatoes, a sprinkle of basil, a bay leaf, salt, and pepper and water (fill the can and add this to the pan). Mix well and simmer for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. Make sure you stir it every so often and then serve with your favorite pasta or meat.
5. Handle Knives Safely
Kitchens can be dangerous places for the unwary, hot pans, sharp knives and more. Knowing how to handle a knife is vital. First select the correct knife for the job—this info-graphic will give you a visual guide.
Your knife must be sharp! A blunt knife is more likely to slip and cut you. Treat your knifes well and keep them razor sharp, wash them by hand as your dishwasher will blunt the blades. Remember that you always need to keep your fingers clear of the blade when cutting, do this by curling your fingers so that the knife is guided by your knuckles and your fingertips are clear. Speed is not essential, practice will allow you to work faster and more accurately, concentrate, and be accurate with your knife.
6. BBQ Like a Pro!
Mastering a barbecue is a great skill and there is more to it than firing up the grill and hoping for the best. Take some time and get the perfect outdoor cooking experience.
Step one, preheat your grill. Placing meat on a cold grill will leave you with undercooked food. Heat the grill for ten minutes or so before you place on your first items, ensuring it is searing hot. Also ensure your meat is at room temperature, take it out of the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before you start cooking. Oil the grill using a brush so that nothing sticks. Use a meat thermometer, it may cost a few dollars but will save you from burnt on the outside, raw in the middle burgers. For ground beef you need to ensure that you have an internal temperature of at least 160℉ to ensure that any bacteria is killed. There is nothing worse than being remembered for poisoning your guests!
Use wood chips to add a smoky BBQ taste and why not wrap some corn on the cob in foil with butter to add to your steak and burgers.
7. Make your life simple with the power of batch cooking.
We have all been there, we get home from work and want something to eat but we can’t be bothered to cook so we reach for a take-out menu. The answer is batch cooking, the art of creating additional portions when you cook meals. It is perfect for dishes such as chili con carne, casseroles, and soups when it is as simple to create more than you need which you can portion off into plastic boxes which can be frozen to create quick dinners. Have a look at this chart which shows you what you can, and can’t freeze!
Remember to package anything carefully and ensure there is no excess air in the packaging as this can cause freezer burn which will quickly ruin your efforts.
8. Bluff your way with wine.
There has never been a better time to enjoy good wine. There is such a great selection available at affordable prices. If you know nothing about wine, the best pace to start is to try a number of different wines. Many specialist shops will have taster sessions to allow you to understand wine. Find wines you enjoy (remembering to jot down the names of bottles you have really enjoyed).
Start with some classic wines such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Rioja and then build your selection as you try more new tastes.
9. Make your own bread.
Making bread is something which you will likely find deeply satisfying and will fill your home with the delicious scent of warm bread. It may not be something you want to do every day, however it is a great thing to do at the weekend.
There are a number of simple recipes, basically yeast, warm water and flour kneaded together. It is a perfect way to relax and unwind.
10. Enjoy Cooking
Probably the best tip for anyone who wants to get into cooking is to enjoy it. Look at your time in the kitchen not as a chore, but an opportunity to chill out after work or as a weekend activity. Put on some great music, grab a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy creating some great dishes!