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Tips for Novice Cooks

a very novice cook!

Public Domain photo via pixabay.com

Everyone wants to be able to create wonderful meals, and, truly, it’s not rocket science. However, there are a few basic things that every novice cook should know in order to start creating culinary delights. So I thought I’d use the next few posts to cover some of them. Here are the first six.

1. Keep your cooking area clean.
A cluttered kitchen can lead to adding the wrong ingredients. Worse, if the kitchen is not clean, it could lead to disease. You should disinfect the counters and any other surfaces you’ll be using, such as cutting boards, before and after preparing a meal. This is especially true if you are cooking poultry or any type of raw meat.

2. Read the recipe.
If you have not used the recipe before, I recommend reading it once through before starting. Even better, read it before shopping for ingredients. You do this for two reasons: One, to familiarize yourself with the ingredients and to be sure you have them all in the right quantities before starting. and two, because sometimes the instructions can be confusing. You may need to read them a few times before you know what to do.

3. Gather what you need.
Before you begin, make sure all the equipment — pots, pans, utensils, etc. — and ingredients you’ll need are in a convenient location. There’s nothing worse than needing to add something while stirring only to find it is across the room.

4. A variety of cutting boards.
When you are preparing food, something that you should never be without are cutting boards. It is very important that you have several cutting boards both wooden and plastic. A butcher’s block is a wonderful cutting board for chopping vegetables, however plastic or glass cutting boards are recommended for preparing meat because they avoid cross contamination. Bacteria from the meat can easily find nooks and crannies to grow in a wooden board, but not the plastic and glass.

5. Working with raw meat.
One item that is really very handy for preparing meat is disposable cutting boards. They are very cheap and can usually be found in dollar stores around the country. It is important to remember that these types of cutting boards are meant for one time use only. You should also wash your hands with soap and water before handling any other food to prevent cross contamination.

6. Baking basics.
When baking, it is important that you measure very carefully. Baking uses near precise chemistry to create the results. If you add too much or not enough of an ingredient, you may find that your dish is ruined. For example, when I was younger, decided to bake my father a chocolate torte for his birthday. All we had in the refrigerator were small eggs. I didn’t know it then, but recipes assume large eggs. Therefore, I didn’t add enough eggs and the torte did not rise. It tasted O.K., but was not light and fluffy as it should have been.

Next week, I’ll talk about some basic cooking terminology.

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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.

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