It’s fair to say that there are some pretty good home cooks out there, and reality shows that put them to the test show us they have some real talent. Perhaps you are one of them, or perhaps you are looking to get even better as a cook.
There are two parts to this skill, much like other ones. One is a strong sense of taste and smell that translate into being able to season a dish just right on the fly. This is a part of cooking talent, and while it can be refined and made better, it cannot be taught per se.
In addition, there are cooking skills. These are things like knife skills, cooking techniques, knowing what cookware to use, how to serve a dish and make presentation a part of your meal and more. These things are what culinary schools teach, and if you have some talent they are things you can learn as well.
Many people like to cook as a hobby though, and never intend to go to cooking school or compete in a television show. If you are one of those people, there are two simple things that can make you a better cook, reading and writing.
Read the Recipes
Does this sound too fundamental? It’s not really. Sometimes it is tempting to look at a photo, peruse the ingredients, and get to cooking. However, hidden further down in the recipe are details that, especially when you are making something new to you, can either make or break your meal.
Sure, you might know to boil the pasta, but for how long? Do you sear the tri-tip before you put it on the grill, or do a reverse sear, and sear it after it is cooked but before it rests? Is a wok the right pan, or a larger, flatter skillet? How much of the salt in the list of ingredients do you use in each step?
A good recipe will tell you all of those things, and you will be able to duplicate the results of even the best of chefs. You may be good at improvising and making things your own way, but the first time you make something follow the recipe as closely as possible, and then you can go your own way the next time around.
Practice Your Art
Reading is great, but practice makes perfect, and some cooking techniques look easier than they actually are. The right consistency for certain batter, how to get pizza dough that is just the right consistency, and other tasks may seem simple, but take some trial and error, and probably quite a bit more of the latter than we would like.
The same is true for using a knife properly, some chopping skills, getting a smoker or a grill to just the right temperature, and others. There is no substitute for actually practicing, even if you just cut onions or peppers and freeze them or cook the same dish over and over to get better at it (and make your family tired of eating it).
The key is the same as with everything. Repetition matters, and you will probably make a lot of bad meals before you will consistently make great ones, and mistakes are all part of the learning process. Practice will make perfect, but the practice itself will be full of errors.
Make it Write
Want to get a lot better at something? One sure way is to teach it. There are a number of ways to do this. Most of them involve one simple skill we all learned in school, but seldom exercise, and that is writing. Fortunately thanks to the internet and modern technology, you don’t have to write a recipe book or make a notebook at home to share with your friends.
The days of contributing to the church cookbook and keeping your fingers crossed are long gone. You can now publish recipes on the internet pretty easily and even start your own cooking blog. This not only enables you to reach and teach others, but it lets them reach you, make new recipe suggestions, and comment on your technique.
This type of blogging is quite visual, so along with choosing a domain name and getting the right hosting, you will want to make sure your blog design and theme offers good support for video and photos. There are a lot of templates out there to choose from, or you can even get someone to design your site for you.
The point is that writing about your cooking and teaching will make you a better cook through feedback, community, and the mental exercise of putting your thoughts and recipes in cohesive written formats.
These steps done once might make you good at a recipe or two, but the key is to repeat them. Read and learn new recipes. Practice them. Write about them and teach others, and then do it over and over again.
Usually by the time you are ready to blog and show off a creation, you will be pretty good at making it, but you can always update with improvements. This mastery allows you to move on to a new dish or new style of cooking though, opening you up to becoming a better and more diverse cook.
Want to be a better cook? Sure, we all do. The steps to do so are simple, and the same ones that many home cooks and even professional chefs have followed to improve. Follow this formula over and over, and you will wow your family, your friends, and others you share your passion in the kitchen with.