The current Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many of us have had to self-isolate. A lot of us have turned to home cooking to create new and interesting dishes for ourselves and our loved ones. If you’re new to home cooking or need some pointers, here are some ideas to easily improve your cooking experience so that it becomes something enjoyable to do instead of being a chore.
Before beginning to embark on your cooking journey, do an inventory of your kitchen utensils. Your cooking will be a lot easier with the right equipment, helpful guides for different types of pots and pans can be found at this site. It’s important to purchase the right equipment in the material that will work best with your cooker. Anything you purchase will be an investment because they will more than likely be regularly used, so think about your options carefully.
Set up your Work Area
Before you begin cooking, you need to decide what you want to cook. Once you know this, you can then prepare your working area. Get the utensils you need. This will typically include items like knives, spoons, chopping boards, pots – anything that will help you prepare your meal.
You should also get out the ingredients you need, as well as bowls or containers that they can be put in when you have finished preparing them, pre-cook. Pay particular attention to the type of seasoning you may require, like salt and pepper. The last thing you want is to be scrambling to find them when in the middle of prepping ingredients or are actually cooking.
Once you have your work area ready, you are able to prep your ingredients. This is the stage where you do all the weighing, dicing, slicing, marinating, and general prepping. When cooking, you will not have time to start dicing an onion, so make sure all prepping is completed before you start.
Almost every recipe calls for preheating. As a general rule of thumb preheating the oven should take 5 minutes, whereas for a pan it should take between 2-3 minutes. These times are dependent upon the material and thickness of these items.
If you put your ingredients into a pot or pan that has oil in it and has not been properly preheated, your ingredients will absorb the oil as it begins to cook. This often leads to unevenly cooked and soggy food. Your food may even stick to the pot or pan whilst being used.
By waiting for the pot or pan to properly heat, your ingredients will cook properly and not be saturated in oil.
The Rule of Four: Understanding Acid, Fat, Salt and Heat
Many of us think we know about these four things because we regularly use them. The truth is we actually know little about how they interact. Having a better understanding of them will elevate your cooking instantaneously.
- Acid elevates and balances the flavor of food. Acid also causes chemical reactions that change the color and texture of food.
- Fat adds flavor and texture to food.
- Salt can intensify the flavor and add texture. Low amounts of salt can make something taste less bitter or sourer / sweeter. In turn, using more salt can suppress sweetness.
- Heat can caramelize food and change the textures of ingredients it cooks. Time and temperature are important factors when using heat.
When cooking anything in a pot or pan, if you put too much in them you run a risk of initially reducing the cooking temperature. This will then take time to return to, meaning your cooking time will increase.
Overcrowding your pot or pan will also lead to food being unevenly cooked. Furthermore, water loss from the food will encourage it to boil, possibly giving you the wrong flavors and textures.
Salad can make an ideal companion to a meal. It can always vary in content, therefore will never get boring and is a great way to ensure you’re eating your vegetables.
A good dressing is vital to elevate the components used. A good dressing needs only to consist of oil and acid (remember the Rule of Four, above?) on a ratio of 3:1, respectively.
Any oil can be used, as can any type of acid. You place both in a small bottle, adding a little salt, then shake to allow them to blend together. That’s it. You can add other things to this mixture to complement the overall taste of the salad.