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Cooking

Learning to cook is one of the most enjoyable and easy to get into hobbies. A perfect cooking hobbyist is anybody who enjoys eating and likes to experiment with new and creative flavors. Getting started can be very fast and simple, and improving your cooking skills is a terrific investment of your time.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other cooking resources. We have a cooking forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with cooking how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best cooking books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction


Cooking is an interesting hobby for many reasons. Getting to know the basics of cooking can be a great way to eat healthy. Cooking at home is more economical than eating out. Then there is the joy of cooking for your friends and family, trying new recipes and even coming up with your own. When you get a good foundation, and discover a passion for cooking, you could even consider a highly lucrative career as a chef or start your own business as a caterer.




When we talk about cooking as a hobby, we mean learning all about cooking, types of cooking involved, how to shop for the ingredients, the utensils and supplies you need and actually doing everything from scratch. Cooking is a very useful hobby and today, it has evolved to such an extent that there is plenty of scope for creativity.




Getting Started


Getting started with cooking is not difficult as almost everyone of us has a kitchen at home. Do not worry if your kitchen is not equipped with high-tech expensive equipment. You can always add to your kitchen in stages, as you learn more about cooking. Let us look at how you can learn to cook and what resources are available.




How And Where To Learn


Most people learn the rudiments of cooking from their mothers or cooks. Apart from this, there are lots of resources out there for the aspiring chef. You can learn from books, like many people. There are videos of recipes to try. Most cook books include appendices and a glossary that help you trace what you are looking for. Almost all cook books come with basic tips and techniques that you can learn from.




One of the best ways to enjoy cooking as a hobby is through trial and error. It also makes sense to learn basic skills and get used to handling the ingredients and knowing how to prepare your food. As you try more and more recipes, your confidence will grow, along with your skills. You could also opt to enroll for cooking classes in your neighborhood where they teach you the basic techniques and simple recipes. You can enhance this by joining online cooking forums and networks where a lot of interaction takes place, helping you gain valuable information.




Cooking Equipment And Tools


Some of the things you would need to stock up on when you begin to learn to cook are: a large and a small pot, a large fry pan, a sauce pan, a pan to sauté, a wooden spoon, a slotted plastic spoon, a pair of long tongs, a large whisk, a spatula, a set of measuring cups and spoons, a cup to measure liquids, a couple of mixing bowls, a set of knives, a peeler, a colander and a grater. As you get more familiar and find your way around the kitchen, you can add more like a food processor.




Any expert cook will tell you that every kitchen gadget you choose should preferably do more than one job. You really do not need a lot of fancy equipment to be a great cook. Still, some basic tools you will need are:


 



Knives


Get an eight inch chef’s knife since you will need a good quality knife to prepare any meal. When you buy a knife, make sure it is easy to handle and lasts long. Your knife should be useful for dicing, mincing, slicing and carving. You will come across several brands in the market.


 



Pots and Pans


Good quality pans are an essential requirement in your kitchen. If you can, get different sizes for different purposes. For example, a 12-inch fry pan would be convenient for frying cutlets, stir frying, etc., while a 6-quart sauté pan is good for steaming vegetables. A four-quart casserole is ideal for soups. Invest in a good non-stick pan.


 



Cutting Boards


Get a couple of strong and sturdy cutting boards so that you can use one for meat, fish and poultry and the other for vegetables, etc. You may also decide to get one for rolling dough.




Then you will need tongs, some wooden and metal spoons, a spatula and some glass and metal mixing bowls. The tongs are useful for mixing salads, turning foods when you sauté them and also frying foods.




How To Set Up Your Pantry


It is nice to have a well-stocked pantry to make your learning experience a pleasant one. Here are some of the standard items you can think of stocking as you will be using them across plenty of recipes.




• Olive oil (extra virgin)


• Unsalted butter


• Vegetable oil (or any cooking oil you use)


• Fresh garlic


• Shallots


• Onions


• Lemons


• White and red vinegar


• Soy sauce


• Mustard


• Tomatoes


• Salt and pepper


• All purpose flour


• Dried spices and seasonings


• Sugar


• Baking soda, baking powder


• Rice




Shopping For Your Fruits, Vegetables And Fish


If you happen to live near a market that sells fresh produce, consider yourself lucky, since these markets offer better variety and quality than the supermarket. Visiting these markets also gives you an idea of what is in season. You can also talk to the sellers, get friendly and gain more knowledge about the different types available. Talk to your local butcher about the meat he sells; most of these people are happy to answer questions and share what they know. The same goes for your fishmonger.


 



Buying Fruit


If you enjoy shopping for your kitchen, then you will find that getting your weekly supplies is a pleasure. Here are some basic tips that will help you shop better:




While you don’t always need to go in for organic, look for fruits and vegetables that are least exposed to pesticides. That said, organic produce usually tastes better. But if you do not have access to it, then your local market where you get fresh stuff is good enough. In general, avoid buying peaches, cherries and Fava beans in winter.




Your tomatoes should be ripe, but not too soft. Peaches and pears must not be very soft. It is okay to buy them a little soft and ripen them at home. You can sample some of the fruits before you buy them, for example, grapes, cherries, strawberries, apples and plums among others.


 



Buying Vegetables


Look for fresh green colors in vegetables. Brown and yellow are not preferable. For onions and garlic, look for a shiny and tight outer skin. Potatoes should be unblemished as far as possible and hard to the touch. Any leaves you buy must not be wilted.


 



Buying Fish


If you are out to buy fish, remember it must be fresh. Look for good texture, smell and appearance. It should not be smelly or slimy. The texture must be firm and shiny. Talk to your local fishmonger and get his advice on how to buy different kinds of fish.




The point is – spare some time to get good ingredients for your cooking, as it will enhance your experience, making it enjoyable.




Let us now look at a step-by-step guide to cooking.




Step By Step Guide To Cooking


Get Recipes


As a beginner, you’re starting point, after you have everything you need in your kitchen is to find recipes for something you really like. Ask your family or friends, so that in case you get stuck with something while you are preparing it, you can always count on their help.




Get Your Ingredients Together


Now that you have your recipes, it is time to get the ingredients ready. Get everything together, sticking to fresh and good quality. Experiment with substitutes only when you get more experienced, because you hardly want to ruin your initial attempts at cooking. Measure the necessary ingredients and have them ready before you begin cooking.




The Cleaning And Preparing


It is time to clean all your ingredients prior to cooking. This includes washing, peeling, cutting, slicing, dicing, cubing, etc. Food is best cut in uniform pieces so that it cooks well. Some foods cook faster than others do.




So if you plan on cooking more than two types you would need to take into account the cooking time of each individual food. So if you are cooking zucchini and carrot together, cut the zucchini in large pieces, and the carrot in smaller pieces to ensure both are ready at the same time.




Follow the instructions in your recipe, adding ingredients in the required sequence.




Cooking – Preheating Appliances


If you are using an oven, you will need to preheat it. Depending on your appliance, you will need to set it to the right temperature. Your recipe will tell you exactly what temperature and time is required to cook the dish. Make sure you stay in the kitchen while your food is cooking. Doing something else while the food is cooking may result in burning or food getting stuck in your pan.




When You Cook With Water


There are various cooking techniques using water. These are:




• Poaching – this is gentle heating used for poaching eggs, fish, fruit, etc.


• Simmering – this is hotter than poaching, where you see bubbles on the surface, and used for things that need a longer cooking time.


• Boiling – involves really hot water that is ready to evaporate.




When you poach or simmer, do not cover the pot since it will quickly rise to boiling.




For a beginner who is learning to cook, these methods are a good way to get started. You will get a better understanding of when the food is cooked. You can taste your dish as you cook, to give you an idea of whether the flavor is right and also learn how the food tastes at each stage as you cook. You would need more experience before you try other cooking techniques like frying and roasting.




Dry Cooking


Once you master cooking with water, you can graduate to dry cooking which includes grilling, roasting, toasting, broiling and baking. By applying the appropriate heat, you should now be able to control the process of cooking. Too much heat will obviously burn your dish, while too little will mean raw food. As you arrange the food according to the source of heat, make sure you place it in such a way that the food is cooked evenly. If you are using an oven, avoid opening the door too many times as it can waste heat.




Frying


Frying involves balancing your time, heat and flipping. Be careful while frying with oil. Ensure that you have your tongs and wire basket handy if you need to transfer food at the right time out of the oil. You can use your non-stick pan to sauté or stir-fry so that the food does not stick to the pan.




Developing Your Own Recipes


As your experience with cooking grows, you can probably come up with your own recipes. This will happen especially if one of your dishes comes out perfectly and people start asking you how you made it. Always follow the basic rules as you experiment. Food must not only taste good and feel good, but also look good. Experiment with colors by using different vegetables that complement each other.




The best way to build your experience is to cook for family and friends as you can get constructive feedback and improve. It is your chance to develop a menu consisting of an appetizer and a main dish followed by dessert.




Tips And Tricks To Make Cooking As A Beginner More Exciting


Here are some valuable tips you could put to use as you learn to cook:




• Stick to recipes that you enjoy, are simple to make and look great; Do not attempt something that you don’t relish eating.


• Spend some time with the recipe before you begin making it. This will help you list the ingredients and utensils you need and prepare properly.


• Measure your ingredients and keep them ready, just like in the cooking shows on TV. Why get stressed because you forgot to cut the vegetables or mince the garlic?


• Choose recipes that need just four or five ingredients and are easy to make and likely to turn out well.


• It is okay to make mistakes. Rome was not built in a day, as they say. Mistakes are your stepping stones to improvement.


• Use a cooking thermometer to check whether roasts, meats, etc. are heated to the right temperature.


• Use a timer if you cannot stay in the kitchen while your food is cooking.


• Avoid prepared food products since they can pile up the sugar, salt, calories and fat in your dishes. Instead, choose basic ingredients where you have a control over the sugar, salt and fat in the food.


• If you want to enroll in a cooking class in your area, or find someone who is willing to teach you, consider it.


• Enjoy the process of cooking and experiment.


• Be careful about food allergies and poisonous properties of certain ingredients before you cook them. Take care to ensure safety when you heat foods.




Cooking Methods


There are many methods of cooking, most of which have been known since antiquity. These are baking, roasting, sauteing, stewing, frying, grilling, barbecuing, smoking, boiling, steaming and braising. A more recent innovation is microwaving. Different methods use differing levels of heat and moisture and vary in cooking time. The method that you use greatly affects the result.




Conclusion


Cooking is a great hobby especially if you enjoy experimenting. The wonderful thing about cooking is that we have come a long way from the time when our ancestors roasted wild animals over an open fire. While the technique of applying heat to enhance the taste of food remains the same, we now have a variety of ways to make and add flavor to the food.




Whether you experiment at home or learn from cooking classes, remember to follow the right techniques. It can take a little time to master the art of cooking. Browse cookbooks and food journals to learn new cooking techniques and new recipes. Learn more about spices, seasonings and their role in adding flavor to a dish. Also, get to know about different types of utensils in cooking. Mix and match similar ingredients to come up with new recipes. Above all, make sure you enjoy the process and have fun.