Cooking Basics: Techniques For Beginners

cooking basicsYou are driving home from a long eight hour workday.  You are looking forward to nothing more than slipping into your most comfortable clothes and sitting down to a nice a nice home cooked meal.  Forget takeout!  Sure, you were unable to resist the urge Monday, but you will not succumb to it twice in one week.  As you near your exit, you envision yourself biting into a juicy delicious home cooked steak topped with garlic, and paired alongside lovely side dishes of roasted Brussels sprouts and homemade macaroni and cheese—both baked to a crispy perfection.  You pull into your driveway, open up your front door, and head straight for the kitchen.

Here’s your chance to really make your skills shine. Even if you’re not the best cook, it doesn’t take too much training to get those essential  basics down.   There is no better time to start than today, so  join us as we go over some cooking basics that are sure to get your mouth, your heart, and your spirit wanting more.  Don’t worry, it will be easier than it looks; we promise!

Cooking Techniques

First, you need to understand some basic cooking techniques that are going to come in handy when you decide how to prepare your dishes.

Boiling:  Boiling your food will involve taking a pot, setting it on the stove, filling it with water, and heating the water until the water reaches a temperature where it begins to bubble and turn to vapor.  You will need to place your food in the boiling water so that it is completely immersed.  A few various types of boiling are: poaching, simmering, and slow boiling.

Sautéing:  Sautéing may sound fancy, but it is actually a quicker cooking method than boiling.  To sauté your food, you will need to place a pan over high heat.  Make sure you add some oil or a small amount of fat to your pan for flavor, especially while cooking meat or larger chunks of vegetables.  When sautéing, remember that your pan and that fat on the pan should be heated to a high temperature before you add your food.  Once your food is in the pan, move your pan around to help the food cook evenly.

Frying:  Like sautéing, when you fry you will be cooking your food in a hot pan with oil.  If you thought frying was simple (there is no method for frying eggs!), think again.  There are actually various types of frying methods to look into, they are: pan frying, shallow frying, deep frying, and stir frying.  If you are working with larger food items, you will want to go with pan frying.  Shallow frying works well for more delicate foods, such as eggplant or seafood.  If you are going the deep-frying route, you should know that you food is going to be completely immersed in batter.  Lastly, stir-frying is the most similar to sautéing; however, the difference is that it is done in a wok.

Microwaving:  We are skeptical whether or not microwaving even constitutes as cooking, but if you must, here are a few things you should remember: do not put metal inside a microwave, pierce foods with fork before cooking, and cover foods with a microwave safe lid before cooking to avoid any spills.

Roasting:  In the mood for some roasted chicken tonight?  For roasting, you will cook your food, uncovered on a roasting pan in an oven.  Generally, roasting involves large cuts or multiple pieces of meat or fillets of fish.  However, roasting vegetables in the oven is popular too!

Grilling or Barbequing:  If you are trying to spice up your hot summer nights, consider taking your food outside to and cooking it on an open flame.  Make sure your food is close to its heat source, and consider marinating your food before cooking.  Marinating will work to tenderize your meat and add some delicious flavor.

Baking:  Are you into carbs?  We sure are!  Who can resist some good apple muffins or oatmeal cookies?  If you are interested in whipping up a batch of delicacies, consider baking, which is very similar to roasting.  However, remember to not over mix batter or dough that you are baking with, and do bake with cold dairy products or eggs.

Cooking Prep and Planning

cooking basicsNow that you are in the know of various ways to cook things, you will need to plan and prepare what you are going to make once you decide on a dish.  Consider these steps:

  • Choose your recipe:  Once you decide on a dish, you are going to realize that there is a plethora of different recipes online and in various cookbooks all for the same dish.  Choose the one that best suite your skills, the flavors you enjoy, and the ingredients involved.  If you cannot find a good recipe in print, call up a friend or a family member and get their favorite recipe!
  • Ingredients:  Time to start gathering your materials!  This might require a trip to the grocery store if your kitchen is not fully stocked.  Remember to pick out the freshest looking ingredients that you can find, and stay away from frozen or pre-packed foods.  Also, if you are just starting out with cooking, do not substitute any ingredients until you have mastered the original recipe once or twice.
  • Preparing your ingredients:  Make sure that you wash and clean your food thoroughly before cooking with it.  Cut your food into smaller pieces, and begin cooking the food that will take longer first.  With certain dishes, do not forget to add spices, herbs, or seasoning to your food before you start cooking.
  • Preheat:  While you are preparing your ingredients, it can be helpful to turn on the stove or get your water boiling beforehand.  If you are working with a pan, be sure to let it get hot before you add any water or oil.

Perfecting the Taste

There are plenty of things you can do and try to get your food’s taste and texture to your liking.  Here are some things to try to help you obtain that perfect flavor!

  • Season:  Seasoning your food well with even simple things like salt and pepper will really bring out the flavor and add some kick to your food.  If you are unsure of how much salt or pepper to put in your dish, start small and taste to perfection!
  • Butter:  Some people might shy away from the “b” word, but butter is going to add deliciousness to any dish.  Paula Deen was right, ya’ll!
  • Sauce:  A good sauce can really transform an otherwise plain or dry dish.  Sauces are not just for meats, they can be used in your vegetables or for side dipping as well.
  • Contrast:  To mix things up a little bit, consider contrasting different textures with your dishes.  For example, if you are doing macaroni and cheese dish, sprinkle some bread crumbs or nuts on top to add crunchiness.
  • Herbs:  Just like seasonings, herbs and spices can work to bring out some amazing flavors.  Consider adding some cilantro, basil, mint, cumin, or ginger to your next dish!

Strap on your Apron!

With all these wonderful cooking basics to begin your culinary journey, you will be whipping up a feast in no time.  Plenty of students have found tasty success with’s online courses, and you can too!