So many experienced home cooks seldom measure their ingredients. They use a pinch and a pinch of that, depending on look and feel to know what is right. Key word here is "experienced". For beginner, it is best to always measure ingredients. The essential part of kitchen should be a set of measuring cups and measuring spoons.After measuring you should conform with the recipe in using "heaping" or "level" measurements. A "heaping" spoonful is just what it says, you mound the ingredient on the spoon. However, a "level" spoonful should be leveled by raking a knife or your finger across the top area of the spoon.
Good use of seasoning is one of the secrets to cooking. Good cooks season "to taste". In other words, when possible use a little less seasoning than the recipe calls for and taste the dish when nearly completed cooking. Then add more seasoning to achieve the flavor you prefer.
Temperatures of oven vary. Because the dial says 400 degrees does not necessarily mean your individual oven will be 400 degrees. Trick is always to use a timer when baking and check the dish a few minutes before the prescribed baking time expires. Then adjust the baking time as needed for oven.
Always pre-heat your oven to the required baking temperature. Never start baking in a cold oven.
Tools of the Trade
A good set of pots and pans, while not essential, will certainly make the job easier and much pleasant. With some dishes the wrong cooking utensil may even ruin your dish. You should not use reactive pots and pans when cooking acidic foods. Reactive materials impart a metallic taste and can discolor your food. Two common acidic foods are vinegar or tomato based dishes. Reactive metals include copper, aluminum, and cast iron. Non-reactive materials are stainless steel, enamel and glass.
A very general problem beginners have is in timing their cooking so that everything gets to the table hot. This is not rocket science, just a matter of planning ahead. Here's how. Before putting anything on the stove, take a minute to think about the cooking time required for each food item. For example, you are preparing hamburgers & french fries. French fries will take considerable longer to cook that the hamburgers, therefore, you want to start the fries first. Simple?
Should also be aware of certain foods that are difficult to keep hot or do not lend themselves to re-heating, such as mashed potatoes. They should always be the last dish cooked since they do not stay hot long and are really not very good cold.
These are just a few basics to cooking like an expert.
- Before you begin to cook, lay out all your ingredients. Measure out ingredients and complete all chopping and sizing. If baking, preheat oven.
- The secret to boiled corn on the cob that explodes in your mouth is to bring a pot of water to a boil first, then put the corn in and wait to come back to a boil, then cook for 3 minutes.
- Buy a good timer and use it. They are inexpensive. Also, invest in a meat thermometer.
- Place a damp paper towel under mixing bowls to prevent from sliding around while mixing.
- To make lighter and fluffier mashed potatoes, add a pinch or two of baking powder to the potatoes before whipping.