Cooking for Beginners

Hi everybody!
I am not sure about you, but for me, eating take-outs too frequently bore me. There are numerous times I would walk around, not knowing what to eat outside, because not only are many stuff oily and overladen with sodium, some of them might not be fresh. Of course, there will always be the occasional craving for something sinful like fried chicken, french fries, or that rich chocolate cake, but there certainly are times when I would prefer to eat at home, even it it is a very simple meal.

My kitchen is my favourite spot at home. Whenever I look at home decor magazines, the first thing I look for, is how the kitchen is designed. I am not born to cook, but I do enjoy meddling and playing around in the kitchen, trying out new baking or cooking recipes. My mum was not a very good cook when I was young, but she got better as the years go by. As a kid, I would watch and volunteer to help, even if it means only getting to wash the vegetables or adding a pinch of salt to a pot of soup.

All right, so you want to try cooking, but how do you get started?

The most fundamental basic is to have your kitchen properly equipped with with the necessary tools and ingredients.

A stove, refrigerator, oven, dish washers (if you just cannot stand washing up) are perhaps the basics. They do not have to be the most expensive, but they have to serve their purpose well. Make sure they are placed near to each other, so that things will be easily within reach. You would not want to be running from your stove to your refrigerator in the midst of cooking. Many people use the "work triangle" as a guideline. It is not a strict formula, it is meant to facilitate efficiency in the kitchen. Of course, do what works for you, and what you are comfortable with.

Cutlery & Crockery

Be sure you have enough crockery and cutlery. Plates and bowls of different shapes and sizes will be handy, and believe me, you would want to have a few nice ones, so that when your cooking has not reached very high standards in the beginning, they at least will look appetizing in a nice bowl or plate. I always keep a look out for sales in a department store. Not all my crockery belong to the same set of printed designs, most of mine are plain white which are classic and easy to match.
A good set of knives is essential. A good knife is designed for a safe and firm to grip and can remain sharp for a long time. I usually use a chef's knife which I use for cutting almost everything, and a paring knife for small vegetables and fruits, but I know of people who use Santoku knives or chinese cleaver for everything. Try mastering different knife techniques like slicing and chopping, they will come in very useful.
You will also need a frying pan, a saucepan, a casserole or stockpot to start with. Again, you do not need to buy top notch quality ones, but do make sure they are reasonably good and durable and meet your requirements. You will also need to consider the number of people you are cooking for and the type of stove you are using i.e. induction, gas, ceramic etc. Some cookware might not be used in a dishwasher, microwave or oven, so do check properly before buying.

Buy the freshest ingredients you can find, and buy in small quantities if you do not cook often. It is better to buy as and when you need, than to buy in large quantities and then throw them away without using. However, do stock up on basics like spices, which are always handy for giving that extra flavour and can usually be kept for a longer period of time.

Now that you have got your 'tools' ready, let's get cooking!

Cooking Techniques
There are many ways of cooking - stir fry, deep fry, broil, steam, grill etc. Start with simple dishes with few ingredients and short preparation time, so that you can practise on the different cooking techniques first. If you fail the first few attempts, do not despair, try again and you will get more confident. No one is born to cook like a Michelin star chef. If possible, have some friends or family to sample your cooking so that they can give feedback.

What to Cook
There are numerous, numerous online recipes available. Look for reliable ones which have been tried and tested, because some recipes just do not turn out well simply because the proportions of the ingredients are wrong, and not that you are not good at cooking. Alternatively, watch online cooking videos, buy a recipe book or register for cooking classes to pick up some extra tips from people who have been cooking all their lives.
When trying out a recipe, read through the whole recipe at least once, so that you can have an idea of the steps involved and will not get disorganized when you start cooking.

Some Tips
When you are a beginner, do not rush out to buy things like food processor or blender. You can always buy them when you have mastered the basics and move on to more complicated recipes.
Try to keep your workspace neat and clean while cooking.
Always clean up as you go along, especially when there are spills and splatters. Use only cutlery or crockery you absolutely need. If you use half a dozen bowls and plates just to cook scrambled eggs and your workspace shows that you will have tons of cleaning up to do later on, chances are, you will never want to cook again.

Now, the fact that you are reading till this point shows that you have made the first move into the kitchen. Give yourself opportunities to cook. Make your own lunch to bring to your workplace or prepare some easy finger food and have a potluck with a few friends. Surprise your significant other by cooking for them. Cooking is a lot of joy. The satisfaction is immense when you get your first compliments on your cooking. Have fun!

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