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Old 08-14-2012, 07:45 PM   #21
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Since your mom doesn't cook, maybe she has stuff she'd like to get rid of, including some knives. I add kitchen stuff at yard sales, thrift shops, and auctions. I have a fairly well-equipped kitchen (if you count what I store in the basement).

Have a plan when you go grocery shopping. One of the problems one has when living alone is buying more than one is going to eat, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:54 PM   #22
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You had a couple of specific questions. About knives. Don't go out and spend $100 on a knife. That's crazy at your level. It's crazy at any level, if you can't say just why it's worth $100. There's a lot of buying expensive toys among serious cooks, and it's not necessary, even if most of us do it. You can do very well with very modest brands, like Chef Style and OXO. But do buy a sharpener and learn to hone a blade. You'll discover something of why some knives are expensive, but holding an edge for an extra long time isn't your real big concern right now. You need the practice. An 8-inch chef's knife will do you. Keep it sharp, all the time. Sharpen it before you know it needs it. The wisdom that dull knives are dangerous and frustrating was dead right.

Yes, there's a notion that "serious" cooks like gas. But that's not entirely accurate. Gas has some good points, like fine and instant control of heat. But among home ranges, electrics will usually boil water faster than gas, because of the way residential gas ranges are designed. Commercial ranges are entirely different. A commercial gas range is vastly more powerful than the home version. Your home doesn't even have the gas supply lines to run one.

Just get to know your own range. Test the accuracy of the oven with a reliable thermometer. Discover which low settings on the different burners will "simmer," keep a pot of water in a state of just barely generating tiny bubbles. The labels LOW, MED. and HIGH on the knobs mean little and certainly don't mean what they mean on the range used by the person who wrote the recipe.

You can pick up a whole kitchen full of tools and cookware from yard sales and flea markets, and you'll learn what you like and don't like about each. There are several kinds of cookware. What I can tell you for sure is that it is ALL "non-stick" when it's used properly. If you're sticking food to any pan, something's wrong with your method.

There are many paths to learning to cook well and in many styles. General cookbooks like the classic Joy of Cooking are still good. And yes, watching cooking shows is a great way to learn things the cookbooks won't normally tell you. Like how to deglaze a pan. And there's a ton of stuff on YouTube.

Like most people who learned in some particular way, I can't tell you how to learn. I began cooking when I could reach the top of the range, and I take a pretty scientific approach to new techniques now. All I can say is begin simply. Don't try to go nuts with spices. Good, basic food has plenty of flavor for you to bring out. Chicken parts tossed in olive oil with salt and popped into a 400F oven on a baking pan for a bit over an hour tastes great. And then, after you see how good simply is, you can move to rubbing butter with garlic, rosemary and lemon under the skin first. That sort of thing. Learn how to cook a steak and a pork chop properly, and you're ahead of most people. (Hint: They're very different.)
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Pick your favorite foods and figure out how to make them. Read recipes and techniques, ask tons of questions, watch Youtube, look at photos, laugh, cry, throw things, burn yourself, cut yourself, throw stuff in the garbage or flush it down the toilet. Buy stuff you think you might like, throw some of it out and let the rest of it sit in your fridge and grow mold. Melt utensils on your stovetop. Dirty way too many dishes, fall asleep and do them the next day. Repeat.
Blend these two together and you could(seriously) be on your way to be an Iron Chef...
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:57 PM   #23
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"where do I start" - I say start in the kitchen . This is what I would suggest. Pick ingredients, something you like. Whatever it might be. Plan something simple, very simple. The first thing I ever cooked was chicken soup. I love chicken so I decided to start with that. OK, what came out of is another story. To say the list I ruined it. But I learned what I did wrong and my next soup was much better. do not get discourage if you ruin something. Next time it will be better, I guarantee.
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:22 PM   #24
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"where do I start" - I say start in the kitchen .
I was wondering when s/one would state the obvious. Share with us what you like to eat, and s/one will probably lead you through the steps to make it.
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:48 PM   #25
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Heh. When I was in college, I started out with a couple of old steak knives, the crappiest, most beat up aluminum pans you could imagine, and a beat-up, elderly cooktop. Oh, and a toaster. And it all worked!
lol, exactly! It's pretty amazing looking back, what we could make due with, and would laugh at now, but much the same story here. . .sans college. Been on my own since 15, thankfully working in a restaurant fed me, but the "cookware" at the house we shared, was deplorable. I certainly learned how to get creative with a sandwich machine, a couple warped pans of unknown metal/coating, and knives that would struggle to cut butter. . .and I still have all my fingers!

I often think that a great idea for an Iron Chef competition would be not only a mystery ingredient, but, mystery kit. Let them battle it out with a "Dorm Style" arsenal. After all, true craftsmen aren't supposed to blame their tools. I think it would be great to watch.
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:19 PM   #26
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I often think that a great idea for an Iron Chef competition would be not only a mystery ingredient, but, mystery kit. Let them battle it out with a "Dorm Style" arsenal. After all, true craftsmen aren't supposed to blame their tools. I think it would be great to watch.
I'd watch that! Great idea, Tatt!
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:30 PM   #27
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Hi and welcome. Lots of wonderful advice already. The only thing I would add is to start with something you really like to eat. That way the motivation to do well is there. Share your food with a friend. Try making what they like too. Have fun with it and don't let it ever become a chore.
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:48 PM   #28
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And I should have added - Just to keep it fun, every now and then, set out to cook something elaborate. At your level, tackling Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon recipe would be an example. Or something unlikely sounding, like one of my first excursions, shrimp with apples in mustard sauce. Make it something that takes a while and makes loads of dirty bowls and pans. A lot of these monster recipes are things you'll like, even if you make mistakes. It kind of shows you what you can do, even without vast experience.
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Old 08-14-2012, 11:07 PM   #29
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I've been cooking for so long, I don't really remember learning how to cook. My mother hated to cook. Until I was 17, my parents owned a restaurant. We had "two cooks," Anne and Caroline. My mother brought our meals home from the restaurant. After they sold the restaurant, I cooked our evening meals and had to do that after I got home from ski, swim, or track practice. Before that, my grandmother taught me how to make different things.

I do know that one of my faults is that I will bring veggies home from the farm and bring more than I can eat or process before I have to go back out to the farm and gather more.

You could start with spaghetti, or pork chops, or baked chicken. Endless possibilities. You may want to stick with one region so that you don't have to stock up on a bunch of different spices or herbs.
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Old 08-14-2012, 11:25 PM   #30
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Busy topic...

Get "Joy of Cooking" or the Cooking for Dummies book Steve recommended. No you don't have to read the whole thing. Get them at your public library and peruse them.

Google things on the Internet and get ideas from cooking forums.

You can get a great beginner knife set from Bed, Bath and Beyond for $100 or less. Use one of their 20% off coupons. Register online if you don't have any coupons, they'll send you one via email. (I got what I'd call an expert set from BB&B, about $160--with coupon applied--and another $80 or so to finish it out. I would be hard put to name any knife an expert chef would need that I don't already have. Henckels brand.)

Experiment. Try things. Learning to cook is incremental. Consider yourself lucky if you can eat everything you ever cook. I've been lucky. A few fails but nothing ever that I couldn't eat. Sometimes was a lesson to not do that again.
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