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Old 11-27-2006, 10:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Learning how to Cook?

Seriously, what's the best way to learn how to cook? I see shows on TV all the time where the dishes come out so amazingly and just look delicious, and I'd like to be able to cook at least on par with these folks. Right now pretty much the only thing I can make consistently is scrambled eggs.

So my question is, what's the best way to truly learn how to cook? Not anything fancy, but enough to make a good dinner for myself and possibly other people.
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Old 11-27-2006, 10:14 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Practice makes perfect......just start cooking, and tasting.....
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Old 11-27-2006, 10:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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well yes, that's a good rule of thumb, but what to cook? I've always been cooked for.

Should I just get a cookbook and have at it? lol
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Old 11-27-2006, 10:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I figured it out by watchign way too much foodtv. I'd honestly reccomend it. Alton Brown is a fantastic teacher (host of Good Eats). And also practice, like Lizra said.
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Old 11-27-2006, 10:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Watch Good Eats. Get yourself 2 cookbooks: Better Homes and Gardens and the Joy of Cooking (though some will argue as to which edition of the JoC is best, the most recent is supposed to be pretty good and address a lot of basics).

Start simply, with meals that don't require 4 pots or lots of slicing and dicing. Look through the cookbooks and see what appeals to you. Look on Food Network's website--it's a good resource too.

Really, only you can decide what you like and what you feel comfortable cooking.
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Old 11-27-2006, 11:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
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awesome. Great tips everybody.. thanks a bunch, I'll do my best.
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Old 11-28-2006, 04:51 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Another vote for Alton Brown / food network!

And just pick out easy recipes online and practice them. Then practice again.

Also, buy a bunch of dry herbs and spices and use them in your food to see what you like. They will be a simple way of enhancing the taste of meals.

Once you get into it, cooking is fun
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Old 11-28-2006, 05:51 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Go to your local library and check out the cookbooks section - park your butt for a while and just read thru the recipes and see what appeals to you.

Unless your baking, cookbooks are really just guidelines and recipes don't need to be followed exactly - if you don't like an ingredient.. don't put it in...

Knowing what flavors you like is a start, and ketchup's idea of buying a bunch of herbs and spices is excellent that really gives you a handle on what flavors you do like... Chicken is really just chicken its the spices and herbs you add to it that give it the flavor. The spice bottles will usually have on them what foods they are good for - like chicken, fish, beef or vegetables. or if you're lucky enough to have a spice store in your area, visit them and get some advice.
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Old 11-28-2006, 11:23 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Start with simple, easy to prepare items that won't break you if you ruin it. Find a cook book with like 5 ingredients, and just start off slow. Once you get the hang of the heat setting on your stove, that will be an added bonus.
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Old 11-28-2006, 01:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Another quick tip, taste everything you cook every step of the way (other than stuff like raw meat, obviously). If you're constantly checking the flavour, you won't end up with an inedible dish.
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Old 11-28-2006, 03:07 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I second Snowy's recommendation of The Joy of Cooking. It really is a must have for the beginning cook because it teaches the reader about all aspects of cooking and meal preparation. I just ordered the 75th anniversary edition to replace my old "Joy" that I bought in the '70's.
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Old 11-29-2006, 07:24 PM   #12 (permalink)
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You might also want to take a lesson or 2 to learn basic things like knife skills. Cooking stores sometimes offer them.
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Old 11-30-2006, 04:24 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Hmm, I must be weird. I didn't like the Joy of Cooking cookbook. I got it as a wedding gift nad tossed it. Too many crazy recipes for me. My favorite cookbook is the Wedding Edition of Betty Crocker cookbook. I would recommend to people who aren't even married. Especially you because it really breaks down everything from spices, to meats, to sauces, to kitchen utensils. It's great for learning how to plan different types of dinners and also parties.

Mine is falling apart after 6 years and some of the pages are stuck together. A sign of a great cookbook and a messy cook.

Experiment and watch tv. I was lucky enough to start cooking when I was 3. My mom was awesome and I was making meals by the age of 12. Lemon porkchops and crunchy rice with honey buttered peas was my first meal. The crunchy rice was unintentional. It's one of the foods that I can't figure out how to cook.

Good luck and happy cooking!
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Old 11-30-2006, 05:51 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shesus
Hmm, I must be weird. I didn't like the Joy of Cooking cookbook. I got it as a wedding gift nad tossed it.
The different editions of the Joy of Cooking vary pretty widely. It's not my favorite cookbook (because of the lack of color photos) but is definitely a good reference to have around. It's the only cookbook I know of that has a whole page on how to serve tea appropriately.
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Old 11-30-2006, 08:27 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I agree, Snowy. I like to see a picture of what I am cooking which you won't find in "Joy." It is still the best teaching cookbook I have.
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Old 12-01-2006, 11:34 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I gotta tell you, Wunderbar, that the first time I ever truly had a desire to learn how to cook was when I was on an extended fast (yes, there's such an obvious answer here) But I learned during that time of cooking for my room mate and friends how to combine baked or roasted meats with boiled or steamed veggies with a salad and that it would make a really good meal.

I would suggest that you become familiar with the temperature of your oven - make sure that it bakes biscuits fully according to the instructions on the package for the time stated. If not, you'll need to adjust.

Second, get a steamer fan or basket - steamed veggies are wonderful, and they are so much better than boiled veggies. Fresh broccoli at five mintues with a nice cheese sauce (cut up cheese, put it in a glass measuring cup, add a little milk, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir it up and there you go) is very nice as a side to roast chicken and mashed potatoes.

(For mashed potatoes, take one medium sized potato per person, peel them, cut them into cubes, and boil them for about 30 minutes, or until they're soft when pierced with a fork. Drain them, then add a tablespoon of butter, a splash of milk, salt and pepper, and then use a mixer on them until they're soft - that's a southern recipe, by the way)

Third, learn the joy of cooking with garlic and onions. You can do a lot with veggies sliced and stir fried in a skillet with onions and garlic, especially if you mix it with pasta.

Fourth, check out Jamie Oliver - he's a british guy who cooks things that normal people can cook.
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Old 12-02-2006, 01:12 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intense1
(For mashed potatoes, take one medium sized potato per person, peel them, cut them into cubes, and boil them for about 30 minutes, or until they're soft when pierced with a fork. Drain them, then add a tablespoon of butter, a splash of milk, salt and pepper, and then use a mixer on them until they're soft - that's a southern recipe, by the way)
Mashed potatoes really won't take an exact time. You should be watching them fairly closely, because if you cook them any longer than where they can be pierced with a fork, they will start taking on water. And you don't want that. The biggest tip I can give is to cut the pieces of the potato about the same so that they will all cook evenly.

And sour cream is better than milk in mashed potatoes--gives it a better texture. But lots of butter is a must, and so is the mixer.
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Old 12-02-2006, 11:15 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Yes, Alton Brown = God.

I have found that any recipe is only as good as how well the directions are written. I can make pretty much anything as long as the directions are written well. Just be sure to read through the ENTIRE set of directions before starting. Another thing I have learned, most people turn up the burners TOO DAMN HOT. When the directions say lower the temperature, DO IT! Low = low, not #5 on a burner that goes to 10.

As for books, Smoke & Spice is a great one for BBQ, I know this isn't really the best time of year for that stuff, but if there's a nice weekend, I'm BBQ'ing!
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Old 12-04-2006, 09:43 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jerseyboy
You might also want to take a lesson or 2 to learn basic things like knife skills. Cooking stores sometimes offer them.
Do you have a local community college or similar that offers lessons? I have done a few courses with local colleges. They don't cost much and quite often supply ingredients as part of the fee.

This is the course list for my local college (only a couple of cooking ones in there - there are usually more)
http://www.northsydneycentre.com.au/...s-view-all.php
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Old 12-28-2006, 06:41 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Learning to cook is a joy.

One thing starting out is to have realistic expectations. Well the shows on the food network are grate the food there is prepared by people who have been cooking professionally for years.

The equipment they have on those shows is often restaurant grade. So some of the things they create are not really able to be done in the home. Other recipes require well outfitted kitchen that you might not want to invest in right away. Also there “prep work” is often done for them in advance so it may take longer then you expect to make some of the things you see there.

Now all of that said it is not that hard to start cooking yummy food right away with what you have. The cookbooks recommended are good I would add “The New Basics” to the list. I could not for the life of me get my hollandaise sauce to work until I read there recipe they had a simple hint that made all the difference. They also have a nice list for a beginner pantry in the back.

My final hint would be that all food is as good as the foods put in to it. The taster and fresher your ingredients the taster your food.

Enjoy cooking
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