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Cooking Tips and Shortcuts for Novice Chefs


Addicted to "Top Chef" but still unsure about your own culinary abilities? These four easy cooking tips and shortcuts from The Lazy Gourmet cookbook will give you the confidence you need in the kitchen.

 

The Lazy Gourmet: Magnificent Meals Made Easy

What seems perfectly obvious to the experienced cook can scare a novice right out of the kitchen, so for those of you who are new to cooking, we've put together some tips, suggestions, and simple explanations that we hope will squelch your fears and make it the fun and satisfying adventure it is meant to be. We've also included our favorite Lazy Gourmet tips and shortcuts -- tricks that will make cooking faster and easier. So whether you're a kitchen newbie or a lazy old pro, read this section to discover a tip or two that we hope will help you prepare easy, stress-free, delicious meals.

 

Read the recipe.

Before you begin cooking -- even before you decide on something you think you'd like to make -- read the whole recipe all the way through. Make sure you know up front if something needs to be made the day before and chilled overnight, or if it's best served straight out of the oven, or if it serves two people and you're expecting 10.

 

Don't stress over quantities.

"One teaspoon of ground cumin" is merely a suggestion. In fact, unless you're baking, when precise measurements truly do matter, most recipes are merely suggestions. Since this is a cookbook, as opposed to a conversation, we provide detailed instructions for making our dishes -- but please take those instructions with a grain (or half a teaspoon) of salt. If you adore black pepper, or garlic, or beets, go ahead and use as much as you'd like, wantonly ignoring our recommendations. Just take care not to overdo it; taste as you go.



 

rookie cooks in the kitchen

Salt doesn't just add saltiness.

One of your authors learned this rule late in life. After a couple of frustrating bouts with dull, bland home fries, she had a lightbulb moment when she discovered a key rule of cooking: Salt doesn't just make stuff salty; it's more like a magical ingredient that functions in a multitude of ways. Salt balances out the flavors of whatever you're cooking, making sweet, sour, or bitter flavors more prominent; tenderizes meat; and draws moisture from vegetables, which aids in caramelization. If your soup tastes bland despite the fact that it's packed with innately delicious ingredients, add a pinch of salt and -- abracadabra! -- taste it again. Same with stews, roasted veggies, meats, sandwiches, and even desserts. Don't overdo it -- add a pinch at a time and taste as you go.

 

Avoid sticky situations.

Don't you hate it when you measure something sticky like honey and half of it sticks to the measuring cup? Try oiling your measuring cup with vegetable or olive oil spray before measuring and even the stickiest ingredients will slide right out.

 

These tips were excerpted from The Lazy Gourmet: Magnificent Meals Made Easy, which contains even more valuable advice for rookie cooks, including how to get your butcher to do some prep for you, and all you need to know about nonreactive pans -- plus tons of truly do-able, delicious recipes.

 

Also see: Easy Parsnip and Apple Soup Recipe from 'The Lazy Gourmet' 

Kids in the Kitchen: The Benefits of Cooking with Your Children

 

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