Cooking Techniques, Tools & Tips for Beginners

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When I first started dabbling in the kitchen, I didn’t know many basics about cooking. I could operate a toaster. I knew what a microwave was…. and how to cook spaghetti. And how to open a jar of sauce for said spaghetti. The one thing I’ve always been great at is making a (veggie packed) tuna salad, but I don’t really classify that as cooking. I’ve really come quite a long way from those years, once I decided I was no longer intimidated of my kitchen!

This is definitely not an ‘all you need to know’ list, but it can be a helpful introduction to cooking for beginners!

cooking for beginners

Techniques

These are some definitions and methods for cooking and preparing food.

  • Al dente – Often referred to with pasta. Cook so that it is still tender, but slightly chewy.
  • Broil – An option for the oven, can be used for browning or crisping food. This is how I make my healthy baked fries. A couple things to note:
    • to broil food, place it on one of the racks closest to the top of the oven
    • some ovens need to have the oven door open to operate
    • watch your food closely so it doesn’t burn
  • De-seeding an avocado – Cut the avocado in half long ways. Strike a Chef’s knife (see below) into the pit of the fruit so that it catches. Twist the knife and seed out and discard. Then go make this.
  • Hard boil an egg – There are tons of different methods for this. How I do it:
    • Add cold water to a pan with eggs, just enough to cover the top.
    • Bring to a boil, and let boil for 11 minutes.
    • Dump water and add cold water to eggs. Store in fridge once they come to room temperature.
  • Poaching chicken – Boil thawed or frozen chicken in water until cooked.
    • Thawed chicken breast – 18-20 minutes
    • Frozen chicken breast – 25-30 minutes (depending on size)
    • I’ve never poached any other kind of meat, but you can also poach fish or lean beef.
    • Chicken is moist and easy to pull apart for salads or Black Bean Chili Chicken!
  • Roasting vegetables – Roasting veggies is a great way to switch up your dinner sides.
    • Preheat oven to 425.
    • Toss veggies in a light coating of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and desired seasonings.
    • Roast for 20-30 minutes until cooked, flipping halfway through.
  • Slice, Chop, Dice, Mince – Basically, the size of the food gets smaller in this order!
  • Saute – Cook in a skillet over medium to medium/high heat.
  • Searing meat – Brown each side for a couple minutes on a hot pan before baking. This helps hold in juices from meat.

Tools

Some of my favorite useful kitchen utensils and appliances. You might not have all these, but you might want to look for them in the future!

  • Grater – I love adding grated carrots to salad or to the top of dishes, fresh grated cheese, and grated zucchini for recipes like Tuna Quinoa Cakes
  • Rice Cooker – I was gifted one of these and never thought I’d use it. Turns out, I use it every Sunday when I prep food! It’s much easier than cooking rice on the stove. We’ve also used the rice cooker as a crock pot for making a pork roast.
  • Meat Thermometer – Very helpful for baking or grilling large pieces of meat (ie. roast, meatloaf, etc.)
  • Wine Opener – Need I state the obvious? All cooking is better with wine! 🙂 I have a Houdini wine opener, and I love it!

I asked my friend Bijoy for some advice here, too. He is a much more experienced cook than I, and has some awesome recipes!

  • Basic kitchen items – He has a list of some basic cooking tools every kitchen should have.
  • Knives – Bijoy also gave me a quick guide to knowing which knives you should have
    • Chef’s knife or french knife – all purpose knife, used for chopping, slicing, and mincing. Ideally the blade is between 8-12 inches long.
    • Utility knife – A smaller version of the Chef’s knife, 5-8 inches long.
    • Paring knife – The small knife in your set. Designed for easily cutting fruits and veggies (ie. coring an apple or seeding a tomato)

Tips

These are random tips I’ve searched for online or discovered in the kitchen!

  • Want to save leftovers or bulk foods? Here is a list of foods that do and don’t freeze well
  • Use substitutes for healthier recipes. You would be amazed at the number of things plain Greek yogurt (Chobani is my brand of choice!) can be used as a substitute for to make healthier recipes.
  • On that note, same goes for almond milk! I buy unsweetened Silk Pure Almond. Try it instead of cream in recipes like this
  • Pasta measurements – One cup uncooked pasta is about two cups cooked
  • Best way to bake juicy chicken:
    • Preheat oven at 350.
    • In a pan, add chicken breasts and a chicken broth/water mixture, so that half of the chicken breast is sitting in the mixture. Season to taste
    • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • The best way to make shredded chicken is in a crockpot!
  • Keep corn tortillas from breaking by microwaving between a paper towel for 20-30 seconds. Dabbing a paper towel on the sides will help soak up moisture before you put it on your plate so it doesn’t steam and make the tortilla soggy!

I’ll likely add to this list as I go, but here is a start for now!

Now that you’ve got some of the basics, try cooking with these other healthy substitutions!

healthy cooking substitutions

What tips or tricks do you have for cooking? I’d love to add them to the list!

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