Does the idea of cooking make you tense and overwhelmed? You’re not alone. I grew up helping my mom with dinner, but when I got married, I quickly realized my arsenal wasn’t quite as extensive as I previously thought, nor were my skill sets! It didn’t matter a ton at the time. We were both working and had disposable income, so eating out and convenience meals filled in the gaps.
Fast forward a couple of years. I stopped working to stay at home with our daughter and my husband began a sales job with a VERY unpredictable income. So, the reins tightened. I soon discovered that making good food was a lot more affordable than buying good food. I started watching cooking shows and trying out things. I watched shows where the hosts made real people meals – not the froufrou stuff that would set me up to fail. And I paid attention to techniques. With all that I’ve learned over the years, I can help you get a jump start.
Here are 6 easy steps to more confident cooking.
1. Stock Your Pantry
To cook, you need ingredients. Think about the foods you enjoy eating the most and stock your pantry with the items you’ll need to make those foods. Don’t be ashamed of shortcuts at first. Buy jarred pasta sauces until you’re ready to tackle your own. A quick Pinterest search for “stock the pantry” will give you a number of suggestions for items to have on hand. Tweak them to your liking.
2. Get Your Tools Ready
You’ll need a few tools to help your cooking succeed. You don’t need all of the top of the line gadgets, but you will need a few. Grab yourself a good knife for chopping and a nice, sharp paring knife. I personally like a Santoku knife. The one I use came with a paring knife that works well, too. You don’t need top of the line, but you also don’t want to get the cheapest you can find. Other must haves are a couple of long handled wooden spoons, a couple of spatulas, a vegetable peeler, a whisk, some measuring cups and spoons and a meat thermometer. And, of course, you’ll need some pots and pans. There are tons of specialty items you’ll want as your skills grow, but this is a great starting point.
3. Get a Cookbook (or 10)
Someone gave me the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book (affiliate link) for a wedding gift. It has been a great tool for my kitchen. It has so many wonderful tips, terms, conversions, substitutions and more – not to mention wonderful recipes. This cookbook contains my “go to” spinach quiche recipe and sugar cookie recipe. It highlights different cuts of meats, loaves of bread, tips for choosing fruits and veggies and tabbed dividers. In the South, church cookbooks are very popular, too. People share the recipes for the yummy delights they’re famous for at the potlucks. So, I have a few of those I’ve collected through the years.
4. Start Simple
My sweet husband decided several years ago that he was going to learn how to cook so I didn’t need to do all the cooking. He chose a recipe for a cheese soufflé…which involves separating eggs and whipping egg whites to stiff peaks…and a completely still kitchen to avoid a soufflé collapsing. Needless to say, he set himself up for failure and hasn’t really cooked since then (other than scrambled eggs – which he does beautifully). Pick something you like to eat that has simple steps and promises success. Build your confidence before trying to conquer the tough stuff. We’ve shared some great kitchen tips and recipes here. We try to share simple recipes that are quick to prepare because we get it…no one has a ton of time to spend in the kitchen.
5. Look Up Substitutions
The internet is your friend when it comes to finding substitutions for ingredients in recipes. For example, we shared a chart with egg substitutions for when you’re out or have dietary reasons for subbing. Have an odd herb in your recipe? Google it. Dairy allergy and the recipe calls for milk? Ask Siri.
6. Just Do It
Like most new things, getting started is the hard part. So, the best advice is to just do it. Don’t overthink it. If you burn something or mess up a recipe, laugh about it and try again. There’s a saying that “if you can read, you can cook.” I believe this to some extent. You also have to be able to concentrate on what you’re doing. I’ve been distracted while cooking before and completely ruined a batch of brownies by not adding the sugar. So, reading is good, but concentration is important, too!
Get in the kitchen and cook up something great! You can do it! I’m no master chef by any means, but I’m not afraid to try new recipes. My family are my guinea pigs! Oh, by the way, beans are really difficult to burn – it says so in the Jeffersons theme song.