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Old 10-24-2010, 07:11 PM   #1
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I need help learning the bare basics of cooking...

Hello everyone,

I've joined this forum hoping I can get some guidance on how I can become a self sufficient cook. I'm tired of buying precooked meals and eating out all the time... I'm 24 years old living on my own and I have NO idea what I'm doing in the kitchen. I have no idea how to stock my fridge and have to go to the supermarket almost every time I want to make something and when I do buy fresh veggies and other ingredients they just end up going bad... When I do try to cook things I almost always overcook/burn them and over season the heck out of it to the point where it isn't even edible. My goal is to have a better understanding of food and cooking in general and learn how to stock my fridge properly. What I mean by that is I don't want to just know how to cook via a cook book. I want to be able to know what raw ingredients I can take and make something on my own without the guidance of a cook book. I want to know basic things like the proper heat settings to cook steak or chicken because I always use high). I'd also like to learn different techniques in regards to cutting and prepping food. I completely butcher tomatoes when I try to cut them and they never turn out good. Long story short... I need a lot of help and I'm going to start from the bare basics... Anyone know where I can get started?

to give you an idea of how clueless I am here's a shot of my fridge.

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Old 10-24-2010, 07:28 PM   #2
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The first thing I would do is visit your favorite book store, and then ask a sales clerk to assist you in the cooking section. And after you've selected a good beginner's book, go to the magazine section and pick up a copy of Cooking Illustrated, and Food Network Magazine. Select a recipe from each, and prepare it. If you're not satisfied with it, do it again. If you are, try another. Practice, and using a proven recipe will give you confidence to move on to other dishes... simple ones at first, than something more complicated yet fun later on. But you have to learn to crawl before you can run.

Also, watching "Good Eats" on the Food Network Channel will teach you a great deal.

Have fun, don't get discouraged, but also don't get over confident and ruin it for yourself. Consider cooking to be a life long hobby, with no ultimate goal at the far end. Just satisfaction.
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:47 PM   #3
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Employ the 3 P's ... Patience, Practice, Perseverance.

Start slow to build your confidence, learn the basics. I agree with Selkie, Good Eat's episodes! They are available online (start with the early ones, they have a lot of good basic knowlege. There is even one on how to fry and egg.) I have learned a lot from that show.

Try slow-cooker (Crock Pot) recipes. Casseroles are also a good way to start. Both of these are good confidence builder type dishes. Get a digital probe thermometer for cheking meat / poultry tempuratures.

Don't try to cook things too fast, high-heat is not always your friend.

Start seasoning simply with salt and pepper and taste as you go. Easier to add more later if it is needed.

There is nothing wrong with shopping every day, many people do that. Buy the smallest amount you can that you think you need and freeze what you don't need.

Get a good sharp knife. It doesn't have to be expensive, sharp is what is important, especially when cutting tomatoes and veg.

Time and practice will teach you what raw ingerdients will work together.

Again I agree with what Selkie said, make it a hobby, something you enjoy and remember there will always be something new to learn and try.
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:18 PM   #4
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Alton Brown's I'm Only Here for the Food is an excellent Cooking 101 book. As is the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Both teach techniques as well as have recipes and methods. Also, cookware is discussed in each.
If you have a local cooking/cookware store near you, many times they have in-house classes at reasonable rates ($50 for instance).
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Old 10-24-2010, 08:35 PM   #5
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That's a well ordered, tidy fridge you have there. Gotten some nice ingredients, too.

I can't add much to what everyone has already said so well, but if you have a thrift store in town, many recipe books can be bought so cheaply. Dorling Kindersley publishers do a nice range of easy cookbooks and you might get lucky and find one there.

A good buy is also Beginner's Cookbook by Fiona Watt. I have it and the book's just great! Cheap, too. In Amazon it's on offer at 7.41 down from 13. Still a bargain at 13.00 though.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:24 PM   #6
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Hello, jujin, and welcome to DC! Just like any endeavor, I know it's a bit frustrating to start, but you'll get better and the rewards more frequent.

To shop and stock the frig for single meals takes a lot of planning. It's no big deal to buy a head of lettuce for a family because sometime in the coming days, the entire thing will be eaten in just one table sitting. But, a whole head of lettuce, for a single individual, you have to figure out how you're gonna eat it all before it expires. So plan the meals you will be attempting to cook, for a week or two at a time, and then go grocery shopping.

Re tomatoes, a good sharp knife, or better yet, a serrated knife.

There are cookbooks that teach the bare basics of cooking well. Look for one that appears to connect with you, and buy it!

Lastly, I know it sounds corny and cliche right now, but I hope you'll take it to heart because it's true: cook with love. For yourself. And maybe for a future date who agrees to come over for candlelight dinner. Trust me on this.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:32 PM   #7
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DaveSoMD said it best about high heat. In my experience (40+ years), high heat is rarely your friend.

Take your time. Use a kitchen timer. When I reheat something on the stove, I set the heat on medium low and set my timer for 5-10 minutes. That way I can sit down instead of standing over it, and the temperature is low enough that things don't get burned.

A crock pot is a great way to get dishes that come out great every time (well, almost). It will help build your confidence.

Remember, some of the simplest recipes are the best tasting.

Cooking is a learning process, your won't get there overnight, just enjoy the ride learning as you go. If we didn't burn things, we wouldn't learn how not to burn them. Disasters will happen, even after years of experience.

And remember too, we are here for you anytime, just ask.
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:32 PM   #8
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Find a beginner cookbook of the type of food you like the most. Most techniques are the same...it's the combination of foods that is different. Spork is right, cook with love and will soon love to cook.

Make a menu, then a grocery list and then stick to it! As you learn, you will find yourself more able to decide if such and such food would be good in something you can already cook.
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:14 AM   #9
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Great advice above. I can appreciate that you don't want to have to rely on a cookbook to make what you want but using them is a great way to learn your basics. If I'm making a dish for the first time, I get on the internet and find 3 or 4 recipes for it, compare the methods/ingredients and then have a go at it. It ensures that I have enough background info but yet I can sort of mix & match the recipes to suit me and my kitchen.

About high heat and burning things, much to my dismay, we have an electric oven/stove and I have found that unless I'm trying to boil something, I don't ever go above medium heat. I usually cook at med-low for almost everything (eggs, grilled cheese, pancakes, etc.).

Cutting tomatoes is hard without the right knife, don't fret about that. I just got the hang of dicing onions not too long ago.

I watch Food Network on the weekends and absorb knowledge that way too. Be patient and cut yourself some slack. I get really hard on myself sometimes (yes, I've cried LOL) when something doesn't turn out and it's just silly. Try to enjoy it, and yes, cook with love!

I think it's great you're making an effort to learn to cook. It's not on the radar for many people your age. You will be thankful you took the extra time to do it, it's very rewarding.
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Old 10-25-2010, 11:46 AM   #10
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I could never learn from a cook book either there's too many terms and other things you have to know. imo it's best if you can hook up with someone that knows what there doing.

Once you know a half dozen recipes solid it's real liberating.

edit TV shows are helpful too.
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