Food & Drinks, Life

How to become a kitchen genius

Despite what you may think, cooking is not hard.

Despite what you may think, cooking is not hard.

No, don’t roll your eyes! Just hear me out.

A lot of people get intimidated in the kitchen, and if you come from a family of amazing cooks, it can be scary to try something on your own.

A lot of times you’ll try to recreate a dish your mother cranks out with apparent ease, only to have it to somehow come out half-burned and half raw. I feel your pain. I’ve been there.

But I’m here to tell you that with a little persistence and a can-do attitude, you can conquer the kitchen, plant your flag and claim your masterpieces with pride.

You might not be Julia Child, but there’s no reason you can’t satisfy hungry bellies and appease demanding tastebuds. Let me show you how.

[bctt tweet=”With a little persistence and a can-do attitude, you can conquer the kitchen.”]

The first thing you want to do is eliminate whatever it is that intimidates you about the cooking process. This is especially for the recipe purists out there: you do not need to have every single thing on the list. If your kitchen doesn’t already contain ground ginger or fresh mozzarella (I have neither of these things), skip them. Pretend you’re allergic if it helps ease your conscience. Whatever you’re making will be just as edible as it would have been otherwise.

If skipping ingredients means that you’re really only left with two of the things needed to make your meal, you can always swap mystery foods for things you already have or can easily obtain. This requires a little more brain work, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. For example, peppers, generally speaking, are pretty interchangeable. So if you have a recipe that calls for crushed red pepper but all you have is chili pepper, use that. No, it’s not exactly the same thing, but it will give you a similar effect.

A rule of thumb is to use something that smells similar or is used in similar foods. Thyme and sage, for example, both have a lemony scent and are popular on chicken, so if you don’t have one, you can always use the other. Scallions and chives are both basically a type of green onion, so they’re easily interchangeable, too.

[bctt tweet=”To all the recipe purists: skip ’em or switch ’em #kitchengenius”]

Don’t let yourself get caught up in the fresh vs. dried controversy. Just because your favorite television chef uses fresh herbs exclusively, doesn’t mean you have to. Frankly, fresh herbs are really inconvenient. Mincing them takes forever, and you only ever use a fraction of what you buy, which means that the rest of it is left in the fridge to wilt. Take my word for it, dried herbs do the job just fine. Honestly, the only herb I can think of where freshness makes a difference is parsley, and even then, I only use fresh parsley on special occasions. For everything else, I take the easy way out.

(Pro tip: grind dry herbs between your palms before adding them to your recipe. This helps release the oils in the herbs. But again, if you don’t do this, your dish will be fine.)

Speaking of mincing, a lack of kitchen tools can be pretty frustrating. Television chefs seem to have everything ever produced by KitchenAid neatly organized on their countertops. Meanwhile, your microwave is on the fritz. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I couldn’t make something because I don’t have a mixer or a blender or a panini press. But when something looks really good, I find a way. It turns out there is nothing you can do with a mixer and a grinder that you can’t do just as well with a set of clean hands, a sharp knife, and a little elbow grease.

If you’re skeptical, consider this: our cave-dwelling ancestors managed to survive just fine with just sharp sticks and their bare hands. You’ve at least got a spatula and a stovetop. If they can do it, you can do it. Is it messier and more time-consuming? Absolutely. But the delicious meal you make will erase all memories of the trauma you sustained making it.

My last piece of advice is this: do not leave the kitchen while something is on the stove. Seriously. This a surefire way to set the house on fire or, at a minimum, burn your food. If you must leave, at least set a timer. You will not believe how many times I’ve thought, ‘Oh, I’ll totally remember to turn off the rice in 10 minutes,’ only to run screaming into the kitchen an hour later to try to salvage what’s left. Needless to say, burnt rice does not make for a pleasant dinner, and it is incredibly hard to scrape off burnt rice from the bottom of a pot.

[bctt tweet=”If our ancestors could cook with sharp sticks and their bare hands, you can figure something out.”]

We’ve all got to eat. Cooking is one of those basic skills that everyone needs to master to one extent or another, and a good meal is good for the soul. So go in there and own that kitchen! You’ll be a master chef before you know it.