I‘ve loved watching my friends and colleagues pick up a new hobby these past ten months. My Instagram feed changed overnight from shots of buzzing restaurant interiors to a wealth of daily home cooking successes. But despite all of this new (albeit forced) inspiration, not everyone can simply turn on the stove and feel confident enough to whip up whatever recipe is trending that week.
8 Techniques to Increase Your Cooking Confidence
The good news is practice makes perfect. And you don’t even need to get all the way to perfection when it comes to cooking (baking is another story, but we’ll discuss that again). Instead, simple cooking tips and techniques will help make cooking faster, easier, and more fun. Master these, and you’ll be able to cook just about anything.
That’s right—don’t just flip through their pages for tonight’s recipe. Instead, keep them by your bed and read the forwards, the recipes that look appealing to you, and any descriptions of techniques. I also recommend seeking out unfussy chefs when looking for cookbooks. Reading is more fun when the author doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables and The Food Lab are great places to start.
Watch Cooking Shows on Netflix and YouTube.
Tough homework, right? The Great British Baking Show can be more than a guilty pleasure. You can learn a lot from people who cook and bake more than you do—from their mistakes to successes. Not to mention, Paul and Mary usually have some excellent tips and tricks to share.
I recommend watching YouTube and Instagram videos created by cooks from different cultures. So many of us were raised in the U.S. by parents who spent the 80s and 90s making very similar beige dishes with the same techniques. You’ll experience new foods and ways to cook when you learn from other cultures.
Recreate Your Favorite Restaurant Meals
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t sat in a restaurant. And I miss it… a lot. Look no further than your favorite restaurant’s menu if you’re looking for inspiration for a good salad or weeknight meal. Look at the ingredients they use and make a guess as to measurements. It may not turn out precisely the same, but it’s good practice and can help build your intuition. Just don’t forget to support the restaurants with some takeout as well. We want them around when this thing is over.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
One of my best friends is an incredible cook. I mean, unbelievable. I will never, ever be as good as her. I also hate baking. I watch people make beautiful cakes on Instagram and think, I should try that! Then I do, and it does absolutely nothing for me.
Food should bring joy, and you should make things that you and your loved ones enjoy eating. If you do that, you can consider your dish a considerable success.
Despite being competitive, I’ve learned to let that go in the kitchen. I like cooking to be a release at the end of a long day, not one more thing that adds pressure. Food should bring joy, and you should make something you and your loved ones enjoy eating. If you do that, you can consider your dish a considerable success.
Buy One or Two Good Knives and Sharpen Them Regularly
Chopping fruits and vegetables with a dull knife can make any cook want to flee the kitchen. However, you don’t need a whole set of knives to be a great cook. A good chef’s and paring knife will get you through most recipes. Others are extra (and honestly don’t need to be expensive).
Stock Your Kitchen
Cooking is easier when you don’t need to run to the grocery store daily. However, we like to have the following on hand at any given time, so we can get cooking when inspiration strikes. We want to buy most of this in bulk at Costco.
Pantry: Lots of olive oil and canola oil, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, canned tomatoes, pasta, a variety of canned/dry beans, garlic, onions, bread and tortillas, canned anchovies, potatoes or sweet potatoes, honey, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, lots of dried spices, everything bagel seasoning
Refrigerator/freezer: Butter (refrigerated and room temp), celery and carrots for soups, kalamata olives, a variety of shredded/sliced cheeses, feta, lettuce, tomatoes, lemons
Learn How to Correctly Season Your Food.
Salt and pepper are your best friend when it comes to cooking. You can make or break a dish with these two simple ingredients. Underseasoned food is bland, while overseasoned items can taste way too salty. Remember these two tips: Taste your food while cooking it—not just after. And you can always add more salt. It’s a lot more challenging to remove it from the dish.
Don’t worry if you f*ck up.
The only way to become more confident in your cooking is to make mistakes and learn from them.
In a very fitting end to a disastrous year, the last thing I made in 2020 was a tiramisu. It took five hours, and it sucked. But I now know what went wrong and won’t let it happen again. The only way to become more confident in your cooking is to make mistakes and learn from them. That wealth of knowledge will build over time, and before you know it, you’ll be wowing your friends and family on the regular.