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Whether you've literally never cooked before or you want to brush up on some skills that you might have forgotten, this page has everything you need. These resources cover everything from how to chop an onion to how to organize your kitchen. There is a lot of information here, so I recommend reading and clicking through one section per day. There are 8 sections, so after about a week you will have the right tools and knowledge to cook the vast majority of the recipes that you come across online or in cookbooks.
Essential Kitchen Tools
You do not need to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars buying every single kitchen item you will ever own on day 1. Instead, use this guide to learn about which kitchen tools are essential and which you can acquire over time as you continue your cooking journey.
There are certain items on this list that are worth splurging on and others that aren't worth spending more than a few dollars. Here are my recommendations:
Worth spending extra $ for:
Chef's Knife. You will use your chef's knife more than any other tool in your kitchen. When it comes to knives, you basically get what you pay for. Less money = less sharp and you will have to replace it more often. More money = sharper and you won't have to replace it often (or ever). Check out this guide of the 5 Best Chef's Knives for Home Cooks and see which knife fits in your budget.
Non-Stick Frying Pan. You will use this pan for almost everything: cooking eggs, searing meat, making sauces, and sautéing vegetables. If you have ever used a cheap frying pan before, you know how much of a hassle cleaning the pan after cooking can be. With a quality non-stick pan, you can say goodbye to soaking and scrubbing and hello to delicious food and easy clean up. Check out Wirecutter's Best Non-Stick Pan Review. Pro Tip: While having a non-stick pan is very convenient, the non-stick surface has a shorter lifespan than uncoated pots and pans. I don't recommend buying an entire set of non-stick cookware. You don’t want to have to replace the whole set every few years.
Feel free to buy on the cheap:
Almost everything else. Seriously. It is easy to over-spend on kitchen items like liquid measuring cups, cutting boards, and prep bowls, but the price point of these items will have no effect on the quality of the meals you prepare. Here are a few places I recommend looking for the majority of your kitchen essentials that you can buy on the cheap: Walmart, TJ Maxx, Homegoods, Wayfair
Essential pantry items
When home chefs find a recipe they want to cook, they don't have to go out and buy all 10-20 ingredients listed on the recipe. They might go buy meat or produce, but they already have most of the other ingredients in their pantry. They also learn over time how to create delicious meals out of items that will always be in their pantry and fridge so they can still make delicious and healthy meals without having to run to the store.
The first time I stocked my pantry I was a little shocked at how much I had to spend, but once I had ALL OF THAT GOOD FOOD in my pantry, cooking at home became so much easier. The good news is that these pantry items tend to last a long time, so you won't need to replace them for awhile after you buy them the first time.
How to make cooking less stressful
When I first started cooking, I was often so stressed out by the cooking process that I was hardly hungry enough to enjoy the meal I had just spent all of that time preparing. A few simple tips helped me keep my kitchen organized and taught me how to stay in control of the kitchen while cooking.
I used to think cooking was difficult. Then I stopped watching Chopped and tried it out for myself. It turns out you don't have to be able to chop an onion at light-speed or know how to fillet a fish to cook delicious food at home. If you can learn these basic skills, you will be able to cook 95% of the recipes you come across on the internet.
If your recipe asks you to do something you don't understand, like caramelizing onions, blanching vegetables, or making a roux, check out these slightly more advanced guides.
From purchasing, to prepping, to preparing, there is a lot to understand about perfecting produce. Fortunately, it's all right here for you. And by the way, produce = fruits and veggies.
Cooking oils & Fats
Most recipes call for some kind of neutral oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil) when sautéing or roasting vegetables. Although you won't necessarily know the temperature of the pan while cooking, it's good to have a general understanding of how much heat an oil can handle before it begins to smoke. Note the differences in temperature between extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, and regular olive oil.
The critical aspect of cooking proteins, specifically meat, is temperature. You will need an instant-read food thermometer to take the guesswork out of checking the temperature of your cooked meat.
There are 2 important steps to cooking meat that isn't dry and tough. Preparing the meat (by seasoning it and tenderizing it) and then correctly searing or roasting it. You'll be shocked how well you can prepare meat at home if you're used to only eating tasty steak, chicken, or pork at restaurants.
I used to hate tofu. Then I realized I was preparing it in about the worst way possible (not draining it, not marinating it, and not cooking it long enough to develop a nice crispy texture). Now I can make tofu that even your grandpa would like.
You could master every one of the skills and techniques above and still not cook food that tastes good. And at the end of the day, isn't that why you're here? Here is what you need to know to develop complex and delicious flavors with the ingredients you have in your pantry.
vegan and vegetarian swaps
My partner is a vegetarian and I used to think she was a better cook than me because her vegetarian food always tasted better than my recipes that had meat in them. As I started cooking more and more vegetarian food, I began to notice that quite often my vegetarian recipes tasted better than my recipes with meat in them. Now I understand that my partner is a better cook than me and vegetarian recipes are delicious. She will often take a recipe that I love, like carnitas tacos or pulled pork sandwiches and make a vegetarian or vegan version by swapping out a few key ingredients. Using the following lists of vegan and vegetarians swaps, you can make meatless versions of many of the dishes on the recipes page.
Those are the basics! I know that was a lot, but rest assured that if you learn these skills and techniques once you'll remember them forever. The basics come naturally with practice too. If you're ready to put your knowledge and skills to the test, I have put together a huge list of my favorite meals on the recipes page. I guarantee you will eat healthier, save money, and enjoy your meals much more after cooking these delicious recipes yourself.
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