For those who frequently grab a morning latte on their way to work, a salad bowl from a local cafe for lunch and do dinner and drinks with friends in the evening, this period of closed restaurants means a big shift in normal eating routines. Instead of relying on take-out or semi-prepared meals every day, take this time to boost your home cooking skills.
Buy Quality Ingredients
Your food will taste much better with much less work if you start with good quality ingredients. Look for brands you trust, signs of freshness and packaged items with minimal ingredients so the flavors are clean and clear.
Stock Your Spice Rack
If you haven't cooked in a while, chances are your spices are covered with dust. This is a clear indicator that they lack flavor. Grab the basics—salt, pepper, red pepper flakes—and then try some new varieties, like five spice, chipotle, herbs de provence, garam masala, to add easy flavor to simple dishes.
Buy a Good Knife
Having a dull, flimsy knife will make you hate chopping. If you splurge on any piece of kitchen equipment, this should be it.
Read the Recipe
Once you find a recipe that looks interesting, go beyond glancing over the title, photo and ingredients. Thoroughly read all the instructions. This will allow you to set out your ingredients and equipment and be prepared for steps like preheating, resting, chilling, etc. that could otherwise throw you off your game and make the process unpleasant.
The best chef's taste their food from start to finish. Taste each ingredient on its own and throughout the cooking process. Do not wait until the dish is plated to take your first bite. This will help you become familiar with flavor combinations and be able to season or adjust throughout your cooking.
Set a Timer
If you have a smart speaker, say, "Hey ___, set a timer for ___ minutes." Or just go the old school route and use a stopwatch. This is a small step that will keep you on track with each step of the cooking process.
Let It Rest
Take the extra step of resting your food. Meat should sit outside the fridge for roughly 30 minutes at room temperature before cooking and for about 5 minutes once the cooking is finished before you dig in. Most breads and baked goods should sit before being served as well to let the temperatures and textures settle. Being a little patient will go a long way in creating a delicious finished product.
Don't Walk Away
Dedicate time to cooking; do not multitask between boiling water, frying or baking and doing laundry or other household tasks. Stepping away is likely to lead to overcooking, burning and smoke alarm activation.
Make a Record
Jot down notes of your own. This will help you remember how a recipe turned out, what step you might adjust next time, how evenly your oven cooked or any other bits of info that will help you in the future.
Take a Shortcut
Having to cook at home doesn't mean you have to become a pro. There's no shame in getting a little assistance, especially in the beginning. Use pre-cut vegetables, cooked rotisserie chicken, or pre-made sauces if that makes your life easier.
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