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Old 09-03-2020, 09:51 AM   #1
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Help - Total Newbie

Hello everyone, my name is Jack.

I am totally new to cooking. My one skill is boiling water on the stove to make pasta. I am looking forward to learning how to cook, but it scares me. It seems like a lot of steps. For someone who is just starting to cook what is the best dish to start on, or how did you start cooking? Thank you!

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Old 09-03-2020, 10:07 AM   #2
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Welcome to DC.

Why don’t you start with a simple pasta sauce since you like pasta?
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Old 09-03-2020, 11:29 AM   #3
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Welcome Jack!

Andy has it. You can even find a good sauce here. It doesn't have to be complicated, a can of tomatoes, some herbs...
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Old 09-03-2020, 11:56 AM   #4
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IMHO, aside from baking, the main skill involved in cooking is heat and temperature. To avoid a lot of trial and error, get a couple of good thermometers (a surface read and an internal probe). These will let you verify pan and internal food temps.

Here is a decent chart for proper pan temps..

You can Google things like "beef medium rare temperature" for internal temps for safe and properly cooked proteins.

Selecting the right tool for the right job is also part of this skill set. For precise heat control for things like fish, sauces, and other delicates, you'll want cookware that heats up and cools off fast (stainless or aluminum). But for frying or searing several burgers/steaks/chops you'll want a pan with good heat retention (cast iron).

And one habit to get into to better control your temps is called "Mise en place" which simply means "everything in place"… having your ingredients prepped and measured ahead of time. This allows you to concentrate on the actual cooking when that starts, and you won't be distracted with measuring and prepping the ingredients during the process.

Of course there are other skills and techniques involved, but getting the above right will have you in a place to successfully follow most recipes as written. As for what to start on… what do you like to eat?
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Old 09-03-2020, 01:06 PM   #5
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LOL my goodness ! Scott! KISS KISS

you don't want to scare 'em off! LOL!

Jack, I don't quite agree with Scott. You don't need a bunch of high end things to cook. Any pan, any spatula, a coffee cup is a good measure, eg. 1 cup rice + 2 cups water

Have a cheap pan? just be careful with the heat. Don't have a thermometer? go with what the recipe says for length of time and gauge it from there for your next one.

Having those perfect things would be great but it won't make you a chef. Only practice. Follow the recipe.

As Scott says - what do yo like to eat? Give us a hint to help start you.
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Old 09-03-2020, 01:38 PM   #6
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Hi and welcome to Discuss Cooking

I always recommend "Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto" to new cooks. If you cook your way through this book, you'll be an expert in a few months. You can get a used copy through Amazon for less than $15.

https://www.amazon.com/Ruhlmans-Twen.../dp/0811876438

Screen shots from the Kindle version. I bought that first, but the photos are so beautiful that I wanted the actual book Click image for larger version

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Old 09-03-2020, 01:42 PM   #7
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Looks great GG. Some of those recipes I could do with too. I'll be checking it out for sure.
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Old 09-03-2020, 01:49 PM   #8
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Looks great GG. Some of those recipes I could do with too. I'll be checking it out for sure.
It's a gorgeous, useful book, written in a conversational style. I need to pull it out more.
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Old 09-03-2020, 01:59 PM   #9
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Scott! KISS KISS

you don't want to scare 'em off! LOL!
Ok... maybe that was overkill. But my point was that the new cook has no idea what a recipe means by "over medium high heat", etc. That's why I included the chart. And even with the chart, without a way to measure that heat means you're in for trial and "error". Yes, without a thermometer you will eventually figure this out, but how much food will go into the bin before you do?

Experienced cooks know how long and at what setting to sear, saute, poach, fry, etc., they've done it a hundred times before. Many can check doneness by feel or appearance. Newbies not so much, if at all. So my diatribe above was my best effort to save Jack from failure (and wasted food). Thermometers don't need to be high end; you can score both for under 30 bucks. When compared to the cost of a few botched dishes involving seafood or beef, they seem a good investment.

Note that none of this is necessary for pasta sauce, soup, casseroles, or a lot of other stuff. But for proteins, or frying anything, it is important.
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Old 09-03-2020, 06:08 PM   #10
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The art/science of cooking is so very vast. My commendation is to first decide what kinds of food you enjoy the most, and that sound doable. The first thing I learned to cook was pancakes, from a mix. Then came fried and boiled eggs, and scrambled eggs. After that was bacon ans sausage. I had the advantage of watching my parents cook. I just paid attention to what they were doing, and tried to duplicate it.

After those first items, it was pure experimentation. I dredged canned sardines in flour one time, and fried them in butter. No one else was home. They tasted great to me. My Mon stated that I stunk up the house, and not to do that again. I was hungry for a pork chop one day, and heated up a frying pan with a little butter in the pan. I sprinkled the meat on both sides with salt and pepper, and cooked until lightly browned on each side. I then added 2 tbs. Sherry wine to the pan, covered it with a lid, and cooked for three more minutes. The pork chop came out perfect. But I really was just making an educated guess as to what I was doing. All of these things were done by the age of twelve.

For me, the secret to cooking is understanding the transformation of ingredients when heat is applied. There are so many different methods that it can seem very daunting. A great dish start with might just be a stew, as it involves a couple of cooking methods, none of them difficult.

Here is a pretty good stew recipe, with instructions for every part.

Beef Stew
Ingredients:
1 large russet potato
2 carrots
1 yellow onion
1 lb, chuck steak
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbs. tomato paste (optional)
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
3 tbs. real butter
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
2 tbs. cooking oil

You will need a dutch oven, or soup pot, with a tight fitting lid, tongs, and a slotted spoon, a large bowl, a sharp, wide knife (chef's knife), and a vegetable peeler. Additionally, have a heat resistant cup, with a handle available, or a soup ladle, for dipping into boiling broth. You will aa;s need to layout all of your ingredients, including pre-measuring your seasonings into a small, clean bowl. This is called Mise En Place

1. Half fill the bowl with 2 cups of cold water.

2. Wash, them peel the potato. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Place into the water-filled bowl and set aside.

3, Wash and peel the carrots. Cut the very ends off and discard. Cut the carrots into 1/4 inch thick coins ans add to the potato pieces.

4. Make a very shallow slice from the top to the bottom of the onion. Cut off the bud (stem) end, and peal off the first two layers.Place the onion, flat side down on your cutting board. Slice downward with your chef's knife to alice the onion into three pieces.

5. Separate the pieces, laying then on their side, and again cut into three pieces. Set aside in a clean bowl.

6. Cut the steak off of the bone, and into 1/2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with the slat and pepper.

7. Place your dutch oven, or soup pot onto the stove burner over medium high heat. Add cooking oil and spread it to cover the pan bottom, and a little up the sides.

8. Now, we will perform the first cooking technique, called Saute. A similar style of cooking is called str-fry, but is slightly different. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat to the pot. Stir it around with the tongs ervey three minutes or so until browned on all sides.

9. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and garlic and stir for one minute.

10. Drainf the vegetables, and add to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover.

11. Now we are going to simmer the stew. Simmering is a moist heat method of cooking that immerses food in a broth, or water, is brought to a very low boil, just barely bubbling, in a covered pot, and let cook for usually one to several hours, depending on what is being cooked. Turn the heat to medium, and cover. Let cook for 1 hour, stirring every twenty minutes or so.

12. At the end of the hour, remove the pot lid.

13, Now comes a part that es really easy, but that many feel is difficult, making the gravy. There are multiple ways of making gravy. We are going to make a flour-based gravy using a roux. A roux is a combination of equal parts flour and butter, cooked in a skillet over medium heat until the flour cooks enough to lose its raw flavor. roux can be just barely browning, called blonde, to an almost black color, as is often used in Louisiana. We will be making a brown roux. P;ace your skillet, frying pan on the burner over medium-high heat. Add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, with a 1/2 tsp. of slat. Stir continually until the roux turns a rich, brown color.

14, Unless you know what to expect, this nest part will seem a little scary. Using your cup, or ladle, transfer a half cup of the liquid from the dutch oven/soup pot to the pan with the roux, stirring carefully so as not to splash, but vigorously. The roux will become very thick, and pasty. You will think you ruined it. You have not. After all of the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle-full of broth to the pan. Again, stir until all liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the roux begins to resemble a gravy.. Transfer all of the roux contents to the dutch oven, and gently stir to mix. If the gravy in your stew is not thick enough, make more roux and repeat the process.

15. Add the tomato paste, and frozen peas to your stew to add more flavor depth. Taste it after stirring. If you like it a little saltier, add a little ore slat. If you want more pepper, add it. Just remember, that you can always add more flavor with seasonings. But once added, they can't be taken out. So add seasonings a little at a time, let them cook in for five to ten minute, then taste again.

I, and many others on DC can teach you techniques, about seasonings, and give recipes for virtually anything you can think of. So don't be a stranger. If you have something you want to learn to make, just ask. :Some of us even have cooking blogs, with recipes, and techniques.

Good luck on your journey into the culinary world. With practice, and a willingness to learn, and listen, and experiment, you will learn much faster than you could believe.

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Old 09-03-2020, 10:19 PM   #11
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Welcome to the forum!

Don't let Scott or Chief scare you off! Even if you tell us you like Asian or Mexican foods, I'd tell you to try some basics first - you don't want to start with those recipes calling for 20 ingredients, and a large number of steps! Start off slow, and gradually build up your repertoire, of pots and knives - you don't want to buy sets, as there are always things you don't use! Most used will depend on what you like to eat. A good 8" chef's knife and a few paring knives are good to start with - time will tell you what other kinds you'll want. And a sauté pan is something more useful in the beginning than a skillet, since you can cook things in oil, as in a skillet, but it holds more, and you can make a one dish meal in - same with Dutch ovens, for larger dishes, depending on what you are into. Everyone's best early books are different - some good suggestions here, and some of the best early books I got at book sales (things that don't happen any more! lol) were some of James Beard's books, like Theory and Practice. And you will have to see if digital cookbooks are for you. Not everyone is into them, plus some of the older hardback books are now dirt cheap. It's too bad for Covid 19 - yard sales used to be a great place to find cookware, and cookbooks!
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Old 09-04-2020, 06:31 AM   #12
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OK, if the stew is too complicated, here's an easy, and Delicious recie.

Fried Fish:
Pick u salmon, steelhead, or rainbow trout fillets from the grocers. Make sure the fish is firm and doesn't have a strong odor. This means the fish is fresh. Place 1/2 cup of flour, and 1/3 teaspoon of salt in a shallow bowl. Stir it a bit to mix the salt and flour. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. place it into the bowl and completely cover with the flour.

Heat an inch of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. lift the fish from the bowl and shake off the excess flour. Gently place the fish into the oil, starting at the side closest to you, and laying away from you. That way, if you accidentally drop the fish into the oil, it will splash the hot oil away from you.

Fry until the edges are golden brown. Flip the fish over and fry for 1 more minute. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to absorb oil. Serve with a storr bough salad, or cole slaw.

Only two things I know are easier; a bowl of cereal with milk, or open a can of porl & beans and pour into a sauce pan. Add a hot dog. Heat until bubbling. Turn off the stove and eat your beans and wieners.

Deeeeeya' Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 09-04-2020, 07:04 AM   #13
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The most important tool in your kitchen will be your chef's knife. There are many youtube videos that can show you how to use it properly. Here is one -

There are many brands of knives out there, each claiming to be the best. There are many different threads on DC debating which is best. So I'll leave that research for you.

Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
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Old 09-04-2020, 10:54 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by ScottinPollock View Post
IMHO, aside from baking, the main skill involved in cooking is heat and temperature.
I disagree. The most important skill in learning to cook is the ability to read and follow directions!

As far as knife skills go, unless you are planning on working at Benihana, just go slow and be methodical. Your goal is to have the same number of fingers when you finish as when you started.

Get yourself a good beginner cook book. I always recommend the 1896 Boston Cooking School cook book by Fanny Farmer. It has tons of "beginner" recipes with precise instructions.

Most of all, HAVE FUN!!! If you look at preparing food as work, you will not enjoy it. There is nothing more satisfying as to finish preparing a dish, tasting it and saying "Sometimes I even amaze myself!" After over 50 years of cooking, I still say that quite often.
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Old 09-04-2020, 12:06 PM   #15
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Hi Jack
Welcome to DC, Sorry if they scared you, they
mean well.
I have been cooking for 50 years and I still learn
new things .Just remember no one can see you if you
mess up ,I remember being scared when I first started.
Now I walk in the kitchen and it just happens.

Josie
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Old 09-05-2020, 10:00 AM   #16
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KISS

Scramble 2 eggs in a bowl. Use a fork/whisk, whatever.
Add about a tablespoon of cream, milk, anything

Melt a pat of butter (margarine) in a small pan (even a pot!) Over medium/low heat.

Add your eggs,
Start your toast,
Stir your eggs (use a spoon/wooden or not, spatula silicone/metal, even the fork you scrambled them with)
Butter your toast,
Dump eggs on when they reach the level of dryness that you like,
Eat.

Was it great? good? OK? disgusting? mmehh?

Let us know why it was good or bad. We'll go from there.
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Old 09-05-2020, 12:17 PM   #17
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Jack20, check your private messages.

Seeeeeya; Chief Longwind opf the North
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Old 09-05-2020, 01:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dragnlaw View Post
Scramble 2 eggs in a bowl. Use a fork/whisk, whatever.
Add about a tablespoon of cream, milk, anything

Melt a pat of butter (margarine) in a small pan (even a pot!) Over medium/low heat.

Add your eggs,
Start your toast,
Stir your eggs (use a spoon/wooden or not, spatula silicone/metal, even the fork you scrambled them with)
Butter your toast,
Dump eggs on when they reach the level of dryness that you like,
Eat.

Was it great? good? OK? disgusting? mmehh?

Let us know why it was good or bad. We'll go from there.
And a little S&P on the eggs
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Old 10-10-2020, 08:39 AM   #19
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Welcome to cooking and to this forum, Jack. If you've mastered cooking pasta there's a vast variety of sauces you can add, tinned, packeted or even home made. There are even packets of pasta sauce with added ingredients already in them. If you can learn how to make a basic sauce you can build on that and make a good variety of sauces, both sweet and savoury. That's what I learned early on in my culinary journey. Also ask other friends for ideas. When my son was at university he and a friend often exchanged recipes and ideas.

May I ask what has motivated you to start cooking? Is it from necessity or just an interest in learning? Also, I see these posts are from a month ago, so I was wondering if you've progressed from boiling water for pasta?

Have fun learning! Oh, and don't worry about making mistakes.

Gillian

I'm curious to knw

I see
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Old 10-11-2020, 06:00 AM   #20
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Welcome to DC, Jack!

In helping one of my young family members to learn to cook, I pointed them to "Sheet Pan Dinners" and told them to only look at ones that use 1 sheet pan.

It can be rewarding because your food can turn out looking really amazing and will taste amazing too. Also, you can experiment with seasonings, proteins, and learn a lot about different temperatures and cooking times. Here is a website that has some easy recipes for sheet pan meals: https://thegirlonbloor.com/25-super-...t-pan-dinners/

I would advise getting a quality sheet pan and some parchment paper for easy clean up. If you make something awesome, let us know!!!

Good luck!
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