The idea of coming home, opening the fridge and pantry and whipping up dinner from its contents can feel freeing to some and terrifying to others. The first camp has a few techniques and basics under their belt and the latter tend to follow recipes to a T. We’re here to tell you that either way, there are a few basic kitchen rules that will help you loosen up and get more structure into your cooking habits. The more often you cook at home, the more money you’ll save, the more adventurous you’ll be and the more you will appreciate how much better homemade tastes than takeout.
We polled a few of our chef instructors about their words of advice for cooks who go on about wildly in the kitchen and those who approach cooking by the book.
- Clean as you go…sort of. No one wants to sit down to a beautiful meal knowing there are a pile of dishes to be tackled after everyone’s left the table, but you also want to be efficient with your time. Rather than cleaning every dish and utensil while you are working and breaking momentum, get a bin of warm, soapy water ready before cooking and drop your tools and bowls into it as you cook. Once you have a lull in the process, wash everything, set it to dry and go on enjoying your dinner.
- Season as you go. This one is for you recipe sticklers out there! Taste your food at every stage of cooking and keep seasoning when it tells you it’s bland. Recipes vary as wildly as individual tastes. If it needs more salt (and it almost always does), adjust!
- Use good ingredients, but not necessarily more ingredients. The best recipes are those that allow flavors to shine. If you’re new to cooking, find out what your favorite flavors are and pump them up by featuring them front and center. Love citrus? Cut a few peeled oranges into segments, zest the rind and squeeze the juice- using all three with a kale or hearty-leafed greens and some avocados. Let them sing.
- Back to basics. Learn a few, simple sauces (a couple of vinaigrettes, a pesto and learn a few simple sauces (like a vinaigrette or a pesto) that can be used to dress up simple prepared veggies and proteins. You’ll be surprised at how many sauces double as marinades and how many can be made ahead.
- Don’t stress! Great cooking is about having fun and eating well. Enjoy the process, cut yourself some slack and try new things. Keep it simple and visit our recipe files whenever you’re looking for quick and easy dinners.
- (We know, we promised 5)! Let dinner for your next evening cook while you’re eating. We’re big fans of oven cooking and slow-roasting, but that can be difficult if you’re getting home at 6pm. If I’m making or warming dinner for that evening, I’ll start on a roasted chicken, boiling potatoes for mashing or slow-cooking some beans or brisket while we’re eating. By the time we’re all wrapped up, dinner for the next evening is cooked (and the dishes will have been taken care of).