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When you think about stepping up your cooking experience, what comes to mind? Often times we gravitate towards tools or perhaps larger instruments to make newer dishes. While that’s great, sometimes it’s not always practical. We may have trouble affording those items or perhaps we don’t use it enough to make a good return. Instead of going out and buying those things or splurging on more refined ingredients, consider these techniques as they are free and can improve your cooking skills too.
The first technique to improve your skills is to read through the entire recipe before you even start. You don’t need to memorize it by heart, but reading it through the first time is going to help you with cooking the meal as directed. So many of us mess up on certain steps. I’m sure some of us have thrown in two ingredients at the same time when we were supposed to throw in one and wait for another. Reading is simple, basic, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked.
The second skill is remembering to use your hands. Believe it or not but your hands are the best kitchen tool out there. You can use them to knead dough, prod a piece of meat, and even check for doneness. You can even rub out lumps from sauces before you begin cooking. Our hands are practical for everything. Just remember to wash your hands frequently when you use them.
The third skill is mastering your cutting skills. You may think you can make fancy cutting techniques or cut things at rapid speed, but you want to master the basics first. Like with working out, you want to get the form down first before even thinking about speed or other techniques. With cutting you want to work on your skills to ensure that what you are cutting it about the same size as each other slice. You may think it’s easy but try cutting even slices or bread or even chicken into bite-sized pieces for a stew. It’s a bit harder than it looks.
The fourth skill you can develop is your own smelling skills. Generally speaking, we have pretty good smelling skills. Some of us are familiar with what smells good and what smells burnt. While those are two extremes of the spectrum, there are certainly other smells that are in between. We can train ourselves to learn to smell certain things. From when potatoes are brown enough in the oven to when a stock is rich enough. By training our senses to know when everything is just right, we can improve our cooking skills.
The final skill we want to cover is taking responsibility for how your own food tastes. You made it, you need to own everything. Whether it’s turned out great or outright awful. In the end, the recipe you are reading through is only a guide. The person who wrote it doesn’t know how your oven works or how the stove top works. So it’s up to you to own your dishes. What this means is to sample your dishes while they are being cooked. Taste things as they go and make adjustments as necessary. This can be things like adding salt or pepper or other seasonings or just lowering the heat.
These techniques are basic, but there is always refinement being made in the basics. You’d be surprised how your cooking can improve when you do these tiny things.