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Four Useful Tips for New Cooks

Cooking is an essential part of our daily lives, and one which is seeing a resurgence in popularity – thanks, in part, to the coronavirus pandemic reuniting people with their kitchens. According to a recent poll, around 51% of UK consumers are experimenting with new cooking ingredients and techniques, rising to three in five for 16–34-year-olds. Cooking is an act of creativity, even an art – and a worthwhile hobby to pick up. But what should you do as a new chef, starting out from scratch?

Invest in Your Equipment

If you’re looking to get serious about cooking, there is no point muddling through with sub-par equipment. The most obvious examples for the importance of tool quality are your kitchen knives; every time, one high-quality chef’s knife from a culinary equipment seller or specialist will win over a ‘well-priced’ kitchen knife set from any retail environment. Investing in a good, well-balanced knife that can hold its edge makes prep much easier and safer, allowing you to sharpen your knife skills with ease.

The same can be said for cookware, from Dutch ovens to frying pans. If you’re trying to perfect your steak sear on an old supermarket non-stick pan, you may find yourself trying for much longer than necessary. In short, the better your equipment the better you can focus on developing your skills, instead of fighting against inadequate tools.

Try, Try, Try

Learning to cook is not a singular event; it is an ongoing process, a skill you cultivate by exposing yourself to new flavours, foods and techniques. Even as you actively try to improve your cooking, it can be easy to fall back on familiar flavours and old habits. It can also be easy to avoid attempting difficult-seeming recipes or techniques, out of fear of not being good enough or ‘ready’.

This, of course, is nonsense. You should continually push yourself to try new things, to take yourself out of your culinary comfort zone and give yourself more experience with new ideas. No one’s first beef wellington is perfect, so why should yours be?

Follow the Recipe Books – Until You Don’t

If you really do feel at sea when starting to cook your own dishes, a good recipe book can become your best friend. Following recipes to the letter, from start to finish, can help you internalise the flow of cooking while guaranteeing you a delicious meal at the other end of your efforts. The more you get to grips with cooking techniques, flavour profiles and seasoning, the more you can deviate from recipes – until you don’t need a book anymore.

Use Fresh Ingredients

If you’re feeling more at ease with cooking techniques, and you’re looking to elevate your dishes that extra little bit, the next things you should address are your ingredients. While it isn’t strictly true that a dish is only as good as its ingredients, it is the case that better ingredients can have a profound effect on flavour. For example, the difference between supermarket cherry tomatoes and in-season, market-sourced cherry tomatoes is like night and day. Source better ingredients; make more vibrant food!