by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 9th June, 2019
With the rise of fast food restaurants and door-to-door delivery services, less and less people are cooking for themselves.
Nevertheless, cooking is an incredibly valuable life skill that can not only save you a lot of money, but open your eyes to a whole new world of taste and culture you may not have otherwise discovered.
Many people find that when they start trying to cook for themselves however, they are left with bland meals and dissatisfied stomachs, and subsequently give up on cooking for themselves altogether, thus missing out on a whole new world of amazing food.
If this sounds like you, don't give up! Persistence is key, so here are 12 ways to improve your cooking skills.
Many people find that when they start cooking, their food doesn't look anywhere near as appetising or taste anywhere near as good as the food they can buy on the street.
This is often because you're simply not using the best ingredients. Although of course, it's not always necessary to buy the best of everything (especially if you're trying to save money), investing in a few key items such as good salt, nice oils, high-quality organic fruits and veggies and decent spices will make the world of difference in your cooking.
Having the most expensive knife does not automatically make you an excellent chef. However, it can greatly improve and speed up your cooking process, leaving you with better prepared food and a more enjoyable cooking experience.
Trying to make smooth hummus in a cheap, sub-par blender will likely end in tears, as will trying to chop potatoes with a steak knife. Although it's not always fun to spend money on this equipment, it will make your life a lot easier, and your hummus a lot smoother.
One of the most common newbie cooking mistakes you can make is crowding the pan All this means is that when you are frying or sauteing something, for example - onions, you should never fill the pan so much that you can no longer see any of the bottom.
A little space to let the ingredients move around and breathe will help them to cook a lot better, and make it easier for you to spot when they need to be stirred.
Far too many a novice baker has found themselves with a soggy pie because they've trusted the words of a recipe book than their own two eyes. Everyone's oven is different, so you shouldn't expect your pastries to cook in the exact same way or in the same time as the instructions on the back of a packet or in a recipe book.
The best way to tell when a pastry dish is done by the good ol fashioned method of looking and waiting and testing.
Not every recipe is made equal, in fact, there are some truly appalling ones out there. The trick is to try many different authors or blogs and figure out which ones are your favourites.
Just because your best friend loves Nigella Lawson, doesn't mean you will. Once you've found some trusted recipes that you love, you can save them into your "go-to" bank of recipes to keep coming back to when you're stuck for ideas.
Although it may sound simple, it's also worth noting that you should always re-read your recipes several times before you start cooking, and reference them throughout the cooking process. This will save you the nightmare of realising you've broiled instead of braised your meat.
A tidy workspace can make all the difference in the efficiency and comfort of your cooking experience. Taking 5 minutes to load the dishwasher and clear the sides before you start cooking will help to improve your workflow and prevent disaster when it all gets a bit hectic.
Knife skills are an important part of cooking, and most important element of your chopping ability is how consistent your cuts are. Cutting all of your carrots and potatoes into various sized chunks will make them harder to cook and eat. Learning some basic chefs knife skills will help you to improve your chopping ability and efficiency.
Cooking is no different to any other hobby or skill - you get good at it by practicing. No one is born with incredibly cooking talents, they come with time, experience and plenty of mistakes. Although it can be discouraging when you put time and effort into a dish to have it turn out to be disappointing, you'll only get better by practicing - so keep on at it!