When I hear people say they are not good cooks, that show will often come to my mind. I believe that there are people out there that are really not good at cooking, but I feel like everybody has a chance at becoming good if they try. Maybe you won’t be a chef for a five star restaurant anytime soon, but you can make a decent meal for your family. Being a bad cook does not have to be a badge you wear forever.
Here are the reasons why I think people end up being bad cooks. . .
1. You are distracted
When you start cooking and get interrupted by your children, husband, facebook notification etc., that makes you lose track of how long something has been baking, boiling, sauteing etc. It’s easy to let something get overcooked or even burned to a crisp.
And to let you know it can happen to anybody…I’ve made quinoa so many times I can’t count. One morning, I started making it and walked away, distracted by who knows what. I didn’t realize till I smelled something burning that I had put something on the stove. Mmmm burnt quinoa!
It happens. Sometimes it’s not our fault and we have to stop what we are doing to pull the sister off the brother before someone gets hurt or you have to stop the toddler from eating toilet paper out of the toilet. I understand. However, the best way to get the correct results out of your meal is to stay at the stove and be able to focus on what you are doing. If it helps, set a timer to check back in a couple minutes so you don’t completely forget about it.
2. You don’t slow down
It’s easy to mess things up if you are in a rush. The best way to make a good meal is to have enough time to accomplish the task. If you are constantly starting dinner at 5pm after everyone is already in upset hungry mode (the term my family uses when we are so hungry we start getting angry with each other too easily), it’s easy to rush and pour something in before it was supposed to be poured in, start cooking on a pan that’s too cool, or pull something out of the oven before it’s fully cooked. Give yourself enough time to complete every step in the right amount of time. You are not on Chopped. Nobody is making you make dinner in 30 minutes or less. Even if you only have 30 minutes to cook, prep some of it earlier when you do have time. Slow down long enough to plan ahead and keep your mind clear enough to think straight.
3. You start the recipe before reading it all the way through
Mom and I made waffles a couple weeks ago on their new waffle maker. We decided to try the recipe that came with it. Unfortunately, we didn’t read through it all the way and once we got to the last step, realized that it was supposed to sit for an hour before cooking the batter. If we had read it all the way through first, we would have used a different recipe. It didn’t turn out so great.
Have you ever started a recipe and halfway through realized you were missing or were short on an ingredient? It’s even worse if it is something you can’t or shouldn’t stop part way through.
If you read the recipe ahead of time, you will know what ingredients you need, how long it is going to take, and what step will be coming up next. You can prepare or measure some of the ingredients ahead of time so they are ready if they need to be added quickly. You will be prepared for each step as it comes.
4. You don’t watch
I haven’t always cooked like I do now. When I was younger, I lived on boxed macaroni and cheese. In college and when I first got married, I had plenty of ramen, Hamburger Helper, and frozen meals. Our first year or two of marriage, the hubby and I watched a lot of Food Network shows. We learned a lot from Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. It got us thinking about food differently and empowered us to try new things. We tried new techniques when cutting food and tried new ingredients that we hadn’t used before. You can watch some Food Network shows on YouTube.
To get your food ideas cooking (wink wink), you can also listen to a new podcast by Alton Brown.
You don’t have to watch Food Network shows to watch people cook. When you are at someone’s house for dinner who you know is a good cook, watch carefully what they do. Maybe even ask how they do something and get information that way. As you eat your food, ask what spices or techniques they used if you like it.
5. You don’t practice
If most of what you eat is packaged foods or go out to eat more often than not, then you aren’t allowing yourself enough practice cooking. You have to remember that you will make mistakes. Your family will probably have to eat a few meals that are, well, not so great, but keep trying. Keep practicing and you will get better. All it takes is a little determination and lots of practice. Every time you make a recipe, you will gain confidence and learn better techniques to get tasty results.
Being a bad cook is not permanent! Just keep working at it and take care of some of these issues. You’ll be making great meals before you know it!
A few weeks ago, there was a great post on Becoming Minimalist about enjoying cooking. I had already been thinking about writing this post, but after I read this one, I thought it would go right along with it.