While cooking is often considered an art, good cooks often know the science behind cooking, roasting, frying and baking wizardry.
Careful attention to time and temperature, investing in good cooking tools and equipment, and the freshest food and spices are the basic ingredients behind a successful dish.
For helpful and detailed instructions, here are a few top tips for easily creating cooking magic in the kitchen:
Use fresh ingredients. Sure, it can tempting to use cheaper and more conveniently available ingredients to cut down on time and costs, but the No. 1 rule of all good cooking starts with pure taste, and you can't get better than by starting out with fresh, wholesome ingredients. Begin by avoiding the canned or frozen section of your local supermarket and buy fresh fruits
and vegetables in season. For the best just-picked flavor, make a habit of visiting local farmers markets.
In addition, there's a world of difference between canned or bottled spices and fresh ground (the heavenly aroma makes cooking that much more enjoyable, too) so think about investing in an electric grinder. Look for jars of whole fresh spices and grind them as you need them.
Invest in a good knife. You can't cut, slice, or dice properly without one. Surf the web for reviews of the best knives out there and find brands like Victorinox or Henkels that won't break the bank. Also invest in a professional honing steel to keep
your knife good and sharp.
Buy a cooking thermometer. Although this rule is generally ignored by casual cooks, the trick to baking or roasting recipes is keeping an eye on both cooking time AND temperature. Many recipes will give instructions for both. Just remember that no two ovens are the same, and depending on the age and quality of your stove, timing is really not the most important factor. Temperature is.
Invest in a good probe thermometer with an electronic alarm, especially for roasting meats (i.e., cooking a turkey or pork roast). Once the alarm goes off, you'll be completely taking the guesswork out of'doneness'.
Get a couple of good pots and pans. As any newlywed knows, about half of the 8-12 piece cooking set they got as a wedding gift usually goes unused. The best bet for new cooks? Buy a good quality sauce pan, a frying pan, and a large stock pot (and maybe a good deep fryer - see below) and you've got the basics covered.
For baking, invest in metal pans rather than glass. Besides being more durable, metal baking pans and muffin tins often result in more evenly browned breads, muffins and cakes.
Learn the secrets of brining. Ever wondered how your sister-in-law's turkey comes out so juicy? It isn't rocket science, but the secret to creating juicy turkey, pork or chicken recipes is a good pre-soak in salt water. Learning how to brine (and the foods that normally call for it) helps your meat dishes absorb more liquid as they brine, and remain moister as they cook. The result is often tastier, more succulent flavor.
Overcome your fear of frying.Deep frying is probably the most common phobia among cooks, even the experienced ones. All it takes, however, is 1.) enough oil to fill a good electric deep fat fryer or an extra deep pot; 2.) a frying thermometer; and 3.) careful attention that the oil doesn't become to cool or overly hot. With a little practice and the right equipment, your deep fried foods will come out crunchy and juicy every time.
Experiment. Practice and passion are sure-fire ways to get good at anything, not the least of which is cooking something up from scratch. By starting out with fresh ingredients, learning the right tools and techniques, and with only basic equipment you can increase your reputation as an expert cook tenfold, and quicker and easier than you may think. Have fun.
Cooking Tips for Home Cooks - Find general all-purpose tips for the cooking newbies including advice on cooking equipment, cooking with wine, brining, grilling, turkey how to's and related information.
Grilling Tips - Check out this guide from The Learning Channel with advice on BBQ, grilling and preparing smoked foods, tips on tailgaiting and grilling vegetables, with related safety tips and techniques.