Cooking is an art, enjoyed by both men and women. When you’re just beginning to learn to cook, the kitchen may be a mystery of sorts. We’ve all heard the joke, “I can barely boil water! How am I supposed to make a real meal?” Even experienced cooks have problems with such tasks as making sauces from scratch. Here we have some cooking tips for making the most of your time in the kitchen, with delicious results. These cooking tips will also help you save money on your food budget.
1. Outfitting your kitchen: choosing the right cookware and the most useful gadgets and utensils is a good starting point. What you use to cook your foods makes a world of difference in the results of the dish. Cheap cookware produces poor results, so, no matter what your budget, buy the best you can afford and build up your inventory as your budget allows. Keep in mind that poor quality pots and pans will need to be replaced far more frequently. With just one lidded frying pan and two saucepans, one a two-quart, the other a four-quart, you can cook a large variety of dishes. Basic utensils include a spatula, a large slotted spoon, a soup ladle, a paring knife, chef’s knife an a large meat fork.
2. Look for do-ahead recipes, such as chili, meatloaf and spaghetti sauces, that you can make in large batches and freeze for later use. This allows you to take advantage of meat sales and spend just one afternoon making six or more future meals.
3. Going hand in hand with cooking in large batches, add efficiency in cleanup time to these cooking tips: making several meals at once, you have only one cleanup session, saving on hot water and dish washing time.
4. Cooking tips for the holidays: perhaps you’ve watched Mom or Grandma pop that turkey in the oven, covered in foil, then opening the oven to baste the turkey every hour or so. Here’s how to prepare a turkey that’s truly self-basting. Melt one stick of butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave and season with the herbs of your choice. Lay the cleaned turkey on a platter or clean counter top. Working from the breast back, separate the skin from the meat, being careful not to split the skin, going as far down the legs as you can. Set the turkey on end and pour the butter between the skin and meat, gently distributing the butter all over the turkey meat. Place the turkey on a rack in the roasting pan, cover loosely with foil and let it cook, according to the weight chart on the package. No further monitoring is necessary and your turkey is done to perfection in the time given. You’ll save time and energy, because you won’t be losing heat from those hourly bastings.
5. When mushrooms are on sale, stock up. Clean and slice a pound or two at once. Spread the slices on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. Bag them in a large freezer bag. Just grab a handful or whatever you might need for spaghetti sauce, omelets or a side dish. Mushrooms freeze well.
6. Each of these cooking tips are designed to save you money and time in preparing home cooked meals. Buying produce in bulk, when on sale is one terrific way to serve meals in a hurry, made with quality ingredients. For example, let’s say you love asparagus. The season for this veggie is so short, so when those young spears are available, buy 3-4 pounds and blanch them in boiling, salted water in small batches for just a few minutes (consult a cookbook for precise times for different veggies). Freeze them in bags, ready to use at a moment’s notice. Blanching preserves the color, texture and flavor.
7. Peeling fruits is easy when you blanch them. Use a slotted spoon to gently drop the fruit into a boiling pot of water. Remove after 2-3 minutes. When cool enough to handle, simply rub the skins gently. They’ll slip right off, with no waste.
8. Cooking tips for hard boiled eggs? Seems simple, until you’re peeling them, with big chunks of the white breaking off with the shell. Use eggs which are close to the expiration date. The fresher the eggs, the more difficult to peel! Allow the eggs to come to room temperature before placing in the saucepan of tepid water. Add a teaspoon or two of white vinegar and bring the water slowly to a simmer, cooking for 20-25 minutes. Run cold water over the eggs and then refrigerate before peeling. The eggs will peel easily.
9. The last, but perhaps the best of our cooking tips: making sauces. Begin with 3-4 tablespoons of butter, melted in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. Pour the butter into a small saucepan over low heat. Add an equal amount of flour, a tablespoon at a time, mixing with a whisk all the while. When this roux forms a paste, continue whisking, adding more butter for a thinner consistency, as you prefer. Cook, over low heat for at least ten minutes, which gets rid of the ‘floury’ taste. Add hot chicken or beef broth, just a half cup or so at a time, stirring constantly. When the sauce is of the consistency you like, salt to taste and serve.
These nine easy cooking tips can get you started on the path to gourmet meals! Pass them on to your friends!