Eating is essential for life, but over thousands of years, humans have found countless ways to make it more than just something that must be done. Food is prepared in unique and delicious ways, and the time we spend eating it is often celebratory, social, or even professional.
The proliferation of television shows about food has made everyone feel like their typical meals at home just aren’t good enough, and because those shows are typically hosted by successful chefs with impressive credentials, many of us feel like we can never measure up to what they are doing.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Every institution of culinary learning has its roots in the trial and error in its founders’ kitchens. There’s no reason you can’t develop your own repertoire of amazing dishes in the same way. You just need to follow a simple strategy.
Start With Quality Ingredients
If you don’t learn anything else from those cooking shows, you should notice that the chefs don’t start out with bargain-basement foods. Whether you’re a degreed professional or a self-taught master of the kitchen, your output will only be as good as your input. In the final examination—which is when your family and friends enjoy the food and drinks you’ve prepared—there will be no substitute for quality ingredients.
Coffee is incredibly popular now. It has progressed so far beyond cream and sugar that there is an endless spectrum of flavors available. Getting your ingredients from a gourmet syrup provider like Monin as opposed to the discount store is all the difference in that first sip.
This isn’t meant to stifle your creativity. The recipes can be your own. What is important is consistency. If you aced a great chicken dish last week, prepare it the exact same way the next time. The most common things to go wrong in dishes are things like flavor imbalances, where the sweet and savory elements don’t match up in the proper proportions.
Of course, cooking temperatures and types are essential as well. Make sure that you set the oven or cooktop for the correct temperature, and don’t put food into or onto the heat until the appropriate temperature has been reached. If you start baking before the magical 350 degrees is reached, the process will never complete quite right.
Be Your Own Quality Control
Great cooking involves a lot of guessing and estimating. You can’t always assume that certain things will or won’t go well together, either within a particular dish or across the various courses of a meal.
Try things out. As you mix and stir and simmer, dip a spoon in and see how it’s coming along. If it’s a little too much of those or not enough of that, take action. Make those adjustments and make the meal great.
And document it! It may sound like the fun of cooking can be ruined by taking copious notes, but if you’re going to achieve that elusive consistency, it is vital that you keep track of the adjustments you make so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel next time. Each dash and pinch should be noted so that you remember all your tweaking next time.
Cooking is a great hobby. It is far more than simply a way to meet the nutritional requirements of our bodies. Putting together a great home menu of delicious dishes doesn’t require any formal education at all. It just takes some patience, some time, and an adventurous spirit. When you roll all those things together and remember this simple guide to building your own kitchen credentials, mealtime will always be a success.