Remember three simple rules.
1. Cooking is not rocket science. If you can smell, taste, measure, read and follow instructions then you can cook. Anyone can cook!
2. Before you even touch food you must master a few basics.
3. Life is easier if you follow a recipe, so for starters, Please select a recipe from the list on the main page. We will use your selection throughout the next sessions.
Session Two: The Six Basic Elements of a Recipe.
Remember, you can return to this site as often as you like. Rome wasn’t built in a day and cooking classes are not completed in one sitting. Take your time. Walk away from it, then come back for more later. The more you absorb of this material the better you will be in the kitchen.
Your recipe can be as simple as “Sausage and Peppers” (least number of ingredients) or as complex as “Italian Sausage and Bean Soup” (one of the largest ingredient list).
Keep in mind that if you have one item missing from your ingredient list, the recipe will not be complete..and if you try to “substitute” you are asking for trouble.
Look over your ingredient list carefully, especially the quantities. If your recipe calls for a cup of peanut butter and the jar in your pantry has only a few swirls at the bottom…add it to your shopping list.
If your recipe calls for fresh vegetables, keep in mind a “handful” of spinach does not mean two bags of spinach leaves. A small stalk of celery is……small! Large? Well, I think you get the point.
Chicken can be purchased whole or butchered into pieces. With bones and skin or boneless and skinless. Read carefully. Your ingredient list is the first, most important part of the production.
Check the spices carefully. There’s a huge difference between garlic powder and garlic salt. Be sure you have enough of everything.
TIP: This is the part about “if you can read…you can cook”. Check off all the items that you already have in your kitchen, and the remainder is your shopping list.
2. Measurements: Your recipe will mention measurements like 1 cup of this, or two tablespoons of that, or a pinch of this. Spend some time on measurements. These are the tools found in a kitchen. (Our thanks go out to our friends at RecipeTips.com for the extensive explanation below.)
If there is one place that you can make the most mistakes it is here, in measurements. All too often we think that more is better. In some cases, that may be true. But, unless you are attempting to consciously change a recipe, measure everything as written, or you will surely have a bad result.
Proper measuring of ingredients is important to successful cooking and baking. Some foods can be greatly affected by too much or too little of certain ingredients, such as salt, baking soda, baking powder and hot or spicy ingredients, such as cayenne pepper. The following information will assist in ensuring that your ingredients are measured proper.
There are several different types of measuring utensils used for proper measuring of ingredients. The most common types of measuring equipment are listed below with a brief description for each.
Measuring Spoons: Generally consists of at least 4 spoons, which are made of plastic or metal. Measuring spoons are used to measure small quantities of both dry and liquid ingredients. It is helpful to have two sets so that one can be used for dry ingredients and one can be used for liquid ingredients. This eliminates having to wash and dry the spoons after using for liquid ingredients and before using with the next dry ingredient.
|A set of 4 will include basic measures of ¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. Sets are also available that include 1/8 teaspoon, ¾ teaspoon and ½ tablespoon.|
|There is also an adjustable type measuring spoon produced that does not resemble the typical measuring spoons. It is an elongated slotted container that has a slide bar with a “stopper” to control the specific amount of measure desired.|
Dry Measuring Cups: Plastic or metal individual cups of various sizes used for single measures. There are also adjustable measuring cups available. The cup has a slide bar that can be adjusted so the cup can measure different amounts. Graduated and adjustable measuring cups are used to measure dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, oats, rice and solid ingredients, such as shortening and peanut butter.
|The single measure cups are generally found nested in a graduated set of ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup, and 1 cup measures. You may also find some sets that will include 1/8 cup, 2/3 cup, and/or ¾ cup. They are used to measure dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, oats, rice and solid ingredients, such as shortening and peanut butter.|
|There are also adjustable measuring cups available. One type of adjustable cup has a slide bar that can be adjusted so the cup can measure different amounts. Adjustable measuring cups are used to measure dry and solid ingredients.|
|The cylinder type measuring cup shown here is another adjustable cup that is handy for measuring solids, such as shortening and peanut butter. The tube is adjusted to the appropriate location for the amount desired and then filled with the ingredient. The ingredient is then extracted easily by pushing the tube to force the ingredients out of the cup.|
Liquid Measuring Cups: Glass or clear plastic containers with a pour spout and handle. They are generally available in 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cup and 8 cup sizes, which have graduated measures on the side.
|The full measure on the liquid measuring cup is marked down from the rim of the cup to help prevent spilling the cup’s content when it is at its full measure. The spout on the cup assists in pouring the content when adding to other ingredients.|
|Angled measuring cups are also available, which are designed to provide easily viewable levels so that measured amounts can be readily viewed looking either down into the cup or by viewing the measured levels at the side of the cup.|
Scales: Balance or spring scales are used to measure the weight of ingredients. Balance scales will be more accurate than spring scales.
|Using a scale will result in a more accurate measurement of the ingredients than by measuring it by volume. Scales are available in manual and digital models.|
Portioning Scoops: Scoops, available in mechanical and non-mechanical types, that are used for measuring, portioning, and forming. The measuring scoops are a popular utensil used by professional chefs. They are available in several sizes, which are numbered according to their volume. The higher the number, the smaller the volume.
|Portioning Scoop Sizes Available|
|Scoop Size||Tbsp.||Fluid oz.|
|#24||2 3/4||1 1/2|
The scoops are handy for measuring even portions when making foods such as meatballs. A #16 may be used for making meatballs and a #6 for portioning meat for a patty. Using a scoop for measuring is not necessary, but if you have a size that works for a food that you make frequently, it can be a handy time saver.
Mixing Bowls: Plastic, glass, or metal containers of varying shapes into which ingredients can be placed, measured, and mixed.
|There are glass and plastic measuring cups also available that are large enough to be used as mixing bowls. They range from an 8 to 12 cup capacity and are similar to liquid measuring cups in that they have a spout, handle, and measure markings down the side. They work well for large jobs and can be used for mixing and pouring batters, such as pancake or waffle batter.|
Use individual graduated dry measuring cups to measure large quantities of dry and solid ingredients and measuring spoons to measure small quantities.
Weight versus volume: If the recipe provides a volume and weight measurement, use a kitchen scale and measure the ingredient by weight for the most accurate quantity. There can be a variance in how much of a dry ingredient, such as flour, is actually in a measuring device. This is affected by the manner in which it is added to the measuring cup and by how much the ingredient is compacted. Humidity is also a factor in the weight of the dry ingredient. Using a scale to weigh the ingredient will eliminate the variance and provide a more accurate measurement. Because flour is generally a major ingredient in many recipes and different types of flour weigh do not weigh the same, it is important to be as accurate as possible with its measurement.
Weight of Flour – Per 1 Cup
All Purpose Flour
Whole Wheat Flour
|4 3/8 oz or 125 g4 1/4 oz or 120 g4 1/2 oz or 127 g3 5/8 oz or 102 g|
Methods for measuring dry and solid ingredients: Ingredients are measured to the rim of the graduated measuring cup or spoon. Shown below are the methods that should be used for some of the common ingredients measured using graduated measuring cups and spoons.
Flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa
Add enough dry ingredients so that it is heaping over the top of the measuring cup by lightly spooning the ingredients into the cup. It may be beneficial to stir dry ingredients, such as flour, powdered sugar, baking soda and baking powder to aerate the ingredient and remove any lumps that have developed. Do not shake, tap, or pack the ingredient into the cup. If measuring with spoons, pour or scoop the ingredients into the spoon.
|Using the back edge of a knife or another straight edged object, level the ingredient by running the straight edge along the rim of the cup or spoon to push the excess ingredient off.|
Oats, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, and cereal
Add these types of dried ingredients to a measuring cup by pouring it into the cup until it is over filled and then level the ingredients using a straight edge, such as the back edge of a knife.
Shredded cheese, rice, coconut, chopped nuts, baking chips and other bulky dry ingredients
|Bulky dry ingredients, such as shredded cheese, chopped nuts, and coconut, should be spooned into the measuring cup.|
|When the cup is full enough, pat the ingredients lightly and use your fingers to level the contents. Do not pack the ingredients down.|
Brown sugar and shortening
Brown sugar and shortening (and other solid fats) should be spooned into the measuring device and packed firmly to eliminate any air pockets. After it is firmly packed it can be leveled with a straight edge, such as the back edge of a knife.
|When removed from the measuring cup, the brown sugar will be molded into the shape of the cup if packed properly.|
Butter or margarine in stick form
Butter and margarine in stick form have measurements marked on their wrappers, making it very convenient to measure the required amount. You simply cut off the amount needed according to the markings on the stick. They are generally marked in tablespoons. One stick equals 8 tablespoons or ½ cup. One half of a stick equals 4 tablespoons or ¼ cup and 1 tablespoon (1/8 of a stick) equals 3 teaspoons.
Use transparent plastic or glass measuring cups, with pour spouts, to measure large quantities of liquid and ingredients that are sticky and measuring spoons to measure small quantities of these ingredients.
Pour the liquid ingredient into the measuring cup until it is at the desired measure.
|When checking to see if the ingredient is at the desired level, have the measuring cup sitting on a flat, level surface and bend down to view the measurement at eye level. Do not hold the cup up to eye level because the cup may not be level when viewing and it may result in an inaccurate reading.|
|When using measuring spoons, hold the spoon flat and pour the ingredient into the spoon until it reaches the top rim of the spoon.|
When measuring sticky ingredients, such as jelly, honey, molasses, and syrup, lightly coat the inside of the measuring cup with vegetable oil or spray with cooking oil. The oil will allow sticky ingredients to slide out easily. If the recipe calls for oil, you can measure the oil before the sticky ingredients and then use the same cup, without washing it, to measure the sticky ingredient.
Removal of sticky ingredients can also be assisted by using metal measuring cups or spoons and filling them with boiling water for a few minutes and then pouring the ingredients in them. The heated metal will allow the sticky ingredients to pour out easily.
At times a recipe will call for a quantity that is not a standard measurement, such as pinch, dash, jigger, scant or heaping. Measurements of this type can be confusing as to the exact quantity to use. The descriptions below may help when these measurements are called for in a recipe.
Pinch – A measurement used on dry ingredients that is the amount you can pinch between your forefinger and thumb. It is less than a dash and equivalent to approximately 1/16 teaspoon.
Dash – A small amount of an ingredient equivalent to over 1/16 teaspoon but less than 1/8 teaspoon when measuring dry ingredients. A dash used to measure liquid ingredients equals approximately 3 drops.
Jigger – A measurement equivalent to 3 tablespoons or 1 ½ fluid ounces.
Scant – A scant measurement indicates that you should use slightly less than the actual measure.
Heaping – A term, used when measuring dry ingredients, indicating that enough ingredient should be added in the measure so that it heaps over the rim of the measuring cup or spoon.
- When measuring ingredients, never measure over the mixing bowl containing the other ingredients. You may accidentally tip the measuring device or over pour the ingredients and excess ingredients would fall into the mixture. This could ruin the whole batch, depending on the ingredient and how much was spilled. Measure over the sink, another bowl, or a sheet of wax paper to catch any excess spillage. Spillage caught on wax paper can be returned to that ingredient’s container.
- If you do not have two sets of measuring cups or spoons that can be used separately for the dry and liquid ingredients, measure the dry ingredients first and then use the measuring cups and spoons for the liquid ingredients.
- Store loose dry ingredients, such as salt, in a lidded container. The ingredient can then be spooned out and leveled, rather than trying to pour it into a measuring spoon and having it spill over the edges.
- To help you keep track of which ingredients you have measured and added in the mixing bowl, place all the ingredients on one side of the mixing bowl and once you have measure and add an ingredient, move its container to the opposite side of the bowl.
- When cooking, learn to estimate the small measurements of ingredient to save time. Pour the measured amount of an ingredient into the palm of your hand. Observe the look and feel of the quantity and then try to pour that same amount into your palm without measuring first. Measure the amount you poured out to see how close you are to the actual measure. Practice doing this and soon you will be able to measure the ingredients by look and feel. This will greatly reduce your prep time when cooking. Do not use this technique when measuring ingredients for baking. When baking, it is more critical to that all ingredients are measured accurately.
- Do not mistake fluid ounces for ounces. Ounces measure weight and fluid ounces measures volume.
3. Utensils: Your recipe will mention utensils like pots, bowls, plates, pans, covers, etc. we will learn what each utensil is and what it is used for.
The kitchen can be a dangerous place. Not only are you working with hot surfaces, and boiling liquid, but you’re handling sharp knives and utensils that can injure you in a second. So let’s learn how to stay safe in the kitchen.
1. Keep Kids and Pets Out!
Children and pets do not belong in the kitchen. Unless the kids are helping you or learning how to cook, keep them out of the area. Not only can kids and pets be a distraction, but they can easily hurt themselves by getting into raw food, pulling hot pots down, and tripping you while you’re carrying something heavy.When you are ready to teach your kids about cooking be sure to start with simple recipes that don’t involve a lot of cutting, heat, or appliances. Don’t hold a baby or child while you are cooking. And remember to teach children to respect the kitchen. It’s not a place for horseplay or fighting.
2. Wear Shoes and Safe Clothing
3. Don’t Rush
Rushing around the kitchen will almost guarantee accidents. Unless you’re a pro, cut food slowly, do not run from station to station, and take your time when moving hot pots and pans. Saving a few minutes here and there will be negated if you need to make a trip to the doctor’s office.Also never attempt to cook if you are under the influence of alcohol or medications, or are very sleepy.
4. Always Use Hot Pads
5. Stir Away From Your Body
A few years ago, I got a severe burn on my arm when I was stirring some pasta boiling away on the stove. Some of the water bubbled up and hit my hand, which jerked, sending a spoonful of boiling water onto my arm. This caused a second-degree burn.Now, when I stir pasta, I use a slotted spoon, and I position the spoon so the bowl is facing away from me. This way, if my hand does jerk again, I won’t scoop boiling water toward myself. So, even though it seems counter intuitive, hold the bowl of the spoon away from yourself when stirring something hot and boiling.
6. Learn how to Use Knives
7. Know Your Equipment and Handle it Properly
Read instructions that come with appliances and understand how to use them. Never use an appliance that has a frayed cord, and keep small appliances dry and away from water. And never use your fingers to release something caught in food processor blades or mixers.Be careful with the blades on food processors and blenders; they can be very sharp and can cut you if you just brush against them.
Let appliances cool down before cleaning them. And don’t use an appliance for a purpose for which it wasn’t created.
8. Clean Up Spills Promptly
Cleaning up spills as you go not only helps save time when cleaning the kitchen, but will help prevent accidents. Water, food, and grease on the floor will almost guarantee a fall.Watch out for cooking sprays too. If they are sprayed on the floor, the surface will become very slippery. I always hold the pan I’m spraying over the sink so any over spray will not land on the floor.
9. Know Your Limits when Lifting
Lifting a hot pot of boiling pasta is one of the most dangerous of kitchen techniques. Think about getting a pasta cooker that consists of a strainer inserted into a larger pot. You just lift the pasta out of the water to drain it, instead of moving a heavy pot of boiling water from the stove to sink.Lift using your knees and back, and know your limits. Ask for help if you need to move or transfer something heavy.
10. Watch Out for Steam
11. Learn how to Extinguish Fires
Always have a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen, and be sure that you know how to use it before you need it. Know a little bit about different fires. Never try to extinguish grease and electric fires with water; baking soda or a pan cover work best. Smothering a fire by removing air is the best way to put most out. Use a pot cover, baking soda, or salt, not water.
Read the safety precautions that came with your microwave. In most cases (but not all) fire in the microwave can be put out just by turning the appliance off and keeping the door closed. A fire in the oven should be extinguished with baking soda or a fire extinguisher.
If you can’t douse the fire in a few seconds, call the fire department. Fires can spread so quickly and can get out of control in minutes.
12. Be Careful Around Stove Burners
Always keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove; it’s too easy to accidentally brush against them and spill hot food on yourself. Never reach over a hot burner to another pan. Push back your sleeves when cooking food on the stove top. And keep pot covers handy to smother flames.
13. Don’t Leave Food Unattended
Never leave the house when food is cooking or baking, except for a slow cooker. I put my slow cooker on my cool stove top just so it’s on a heatproof surface. Food can quickly go from browning to burning to bursting into flame. If there are children or pets in your household, make sure an adult is in the kitchen at all times. Accidents happen in seconds.
14. Stop, Drop and Roll
Learn personal safety and fire safety. Teach your children about ‘stop, drop, and roll’ if their clothing catches on fire. In fact, teach your kids to respect the kitchen, fire, and heat. Nothing in the kitchen is a toy.
15. Keep a First Aid Kit in the Kitchen
Sautéing is a method of cooking food, similar to stir frying, that uses a small amount of fat in a shallow pan over relatively high heat. Ingredients are usually cut into pieces or thinly sliced to facilitate fast cooking. Food that is sautéed is browned while preserving its texture, moisture and flavor. If meat, chicken, or fish is sautéed, the sauté is often finished by deglazing the pan’s residue to make a sauce.
Sautéing is often confused with pan-frying, in which larger pieces of food (for example, chops or steaks) are cooked quickly, and flipped onto both sides. Some cooks make a distinction between the two based on the depth of the oil used, while others use the terms interchangeably. Sautéing differs from searing in that searing only browns the surface of the bath. Olive oil or clarified butter are commonly used for sautéing, but most fats will do. Regular butter will produce more flavor but will burn at a lower temperature and more quickly than other fats due to the presence of milk solids, so clarified butter is more fit for this use. I have found that the very best oil to cook in is Coconut Oil. It does not burn away. It is as light as can be and it leaves your food with a non-greasy flavor.
Deep frying is classified as a dry cooking method because no water is used. Due to the high temperature involved and the high heat conduction of oil, it cooks food extremely quickly.
If performed properly, deep-frying does not make food excessively greasy, because the moisture in the food repels the oil. The hot oil heats the water within the food, steaming it from the inside out; oil cannot go against the direction of this powerful flow because (due to its high temperature) the water vapor pushes the bubbles toward the surface. As long as the oil is hot enough and the food is not immersed in the oil for too long, oil penetration will be confined to the outer surface. However, if the food is cooked in the oil for too long, much of the water will be lost and the oil will begin to penetrate the food. The correct frying temperature depends on the thickness and type of food, but in most cases it lies between 175 and 190 °C (345–375 °F).
Some fried foods are given a coating of batter or breading prior to frying. The effect of these is that the outside of the food becomes crispy and browned, while the inside becomes tender, moist, and steamed. Some foods – such as potatoes or whole, skin-on poultry – have a natural coating and do not require breading or battering.
Simmering is a food preparation technique in which foods are cooked in hot liquids kept at or just below the boiling point of water (which is 100°C or 212°F at average sea level air pressure), but higher than poaching temperature. To keep a pot simmering, one brings it to a boil and then reduces the heat to a point where the formation of steam bubbles has all but ceased, typically a water temperature of about 94°C (200°F).
Simmering ensures gentler treatment than boiling to prevent food from toughening and/or breaking up. Simmering is usually a rapid and efficient method of cooking. Food that has simmered in milk or cream instead of water is referred to as creamed. The appropriate simmering temperature is a topic of debate among chefs, with some contending that a simmer is as low as 82°C (180°F)
5. Preparation: This is, by far, the most fun part of cooking and should become your favorite part of the recipe too. If you can not learn to enjoy this part, then you are doomed to a life of drudgery meal preparation. This is the part that your dinner guests can take part in. This is the fun!
We will learn how to follow the preparation list and have everything ready to make our meal. This is also the most entertaining part of a meal. If you are cooking for friends, half the fun is watching or participating in the preparation. (at least it is for me!)
Before your stove is turned on; before you actually begin to follow the cooking instructions, every ingredient is cut, chopped or grated exactly as instructed and placed in its own container. Paper cups are handy if you don’t have a collection of ingredient bowls like these. The more the merrier. Just be sure everything is prepared according to the instructions in the recipe. In some cases your recipe will say “toss in the garlic, onion and peppers”. If that’s the case, you can place all three in one bowl. Less to clean up! I personally like to have all the ingredients separated and placed in the order in which it will go into the cooking process. Have fun with this! It’s what keeps me coming back for more.
A WORD ABOUT TIMING: Doesn’t it make sense that if you are preparing a complex meal that requires two or more elements of the meal to be cooked in separate pot or pans, that you check the “Timing” before you start?
Of course it does! Lets say your meal has two parts to the preparation. One part of the meal is going in the oven for 30 minutes and needs to cool for 10 minutes before serving. The second part of your meal will take only 20 minutes on the stove top.
Would you start them both at the same time? Of course not! If you did, your stove top portion will be done 20 minutes ahead of time, while the first part is still cooking.
So how do we manage this so the meal is on the table, all at once and on-time?
It’s so easy, all you need is a pencil and a piece of paper:
Draw a line that represents the “longest” cooking time mentioned in the recipe:
_________________________________________________ 45 mins.
Now divide it by 5 minute intervals:
_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____| 45 mins
Now, working backwards, add the other time elements of the recipe:
_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____|_____| 45 mins
|_____|_____|_____|_____| 20 mins
Follow this guide and all your meals will be ready on time.
PS: You wont need this for meals cooked all in one pot.
Place your selected recipe down on the counter and lets get started!
Go through each of the five previous steps. Be sure you have checked everything at least twice…then have at it. Don’t worry about a thing. Just follow your steps until the meal is in your plate and ready to eat.
You are cooking! Now just pick a recipe from anywhere. The recipe’s on this site are all tasty meals that will please just about anyone. You will start to find recipes everywhere. Just pick one and follow your steps. You will be posting your favorite recipes on this site in no time.
Post a comment on the main page of the site and tell us all about your first complete meal. Include your full postal mailing address and we’ll send you a fully paid subscription to Bon Appetite Magazine.
Have fun! Play with your food!