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Easy Cooking Tools & Techniques for Beginners

It's about time you got your hands dirty in the kitchen

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
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5 min read
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Takeout is always a fun dinner default, but if you’re like the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic, perhaps it’s time to give Grubhub a break and, instead, embrace your cooking space. According to Upserve.com, 60% of US diners order delivery or takeout once per week, while 34% of consumers spend at least $50 per order when ordering food online. Consequently, have you thought about how much money you could be saving if you cut back on carryout? If you’re a novice finally considering breaking in your kitchen, peruse our guide to easy cooking tools and techniques for beginners.

Basic Cooking Tools

Chicago-based Julie Gordon first got her start in the cooking niche with a 14-year marketing career in the housewares industry working with high-end cookware. On her journey, Gordon worked with a slew of high-profile restaurants and chefs, including Emeril Lagasse. All the while, she began to acquire her own arsenal of cooking tips and tricks, which inspired her to launch her food blog, Inspiring Kitchen, as an interactive teaching tool. “I kept getting asked for advice and what the trends and tips were that I was learning, and, could I please write them down? So, I did!” Gordon explains.

Gordon, whose own kitchen is at capacity with “every gadget known to man,” says that there are plenty of fun tools to utilize. To start, Gordon says, “You want to look at what your own habits are when it comes to eating and cooking.” For example, the daily juice and coffee drinker has both juicers and coffee makers handy on the regular, since these tools are necessary for her everyday routine.

However, when it comes to the bare basics, Gordon suggests starting with good cookware (pots and pans) and knives. “If you have no control over how your food is cooking, it won’t turn out well, and will discourage you from cooking in the future,” she says. “Good cookware helps you to be a successful cook – even if you are making basic stir-fries.” 

Additionally, Gordon says to skip nonstick material, which is not the healthiest option. Instead, try ceramic or a cast-iron skillet, which is a versatile staple to always have on hand. “Cast iron is a great substitute for nonstick, but is heavy and a bit more work to maintain,” offers Gordon. On the other hand, when shopping for knives, Gordon advises against cheap sets, since they need to be sharpened often. “Sharp knives make cutting effortless, and more fun as a cook, because you have more control,” she adds.

A More Advanced Supply List

Once you’ve acquired your cookware and knives, there are many other tools with which you can outfit your kitchen. For instance, Gordon’s checklist includes:

• Basics: Measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, wooden cutting boards, silicone spatulas, wooden spoons, and strainers.

• Fun additions: Blenders, electric and standing mixers, pressure cookers, crockpots, and small food processors.

• Accessories: Vegetable peelers, rasp (micro-plane) blades, can openers, ice cream scoops, and handheld juicers.

• Baking: Sheet pans, muffin tins, and Silpat baking mats.

Let’s Get Cookin’!

Now that you’ve blown your last paycheck at Bed, Bath & Beyond (don’t worry, it happens to the best of us), it’s time to work on cooking up some of the good stuff. First, you’ve got to get into the right headspace. “Think of the kitchen as a Zen space,” says South Florida-based Chef Hugh A. Sinclair, aka Chef Irie. Then, relax, and “think about having some fun, even if it gets messy.” Next, familiarize yourself with the operation of your stove. Finally, it’s time to begin experimenting. Some of the most basic techniques Chef Irie recommends learning include sautéing vegetables and roasting a chicken. “Sautéing, because this will get you used to the heat settings on each burner, and roasting in the oven for the same reason.”

After you’re nicely acquainted with the stove, you can graduate to one-pot dishes. “The best thing about one-pot dishes: there’s usually only one pot to clean up,” Chef Irie jokes. However, when throwing everything together in one fell swoop, you’ve got to make sure to maximize flavors. Chef Irie recommends dishes like mussels marinara, soups and stews, seafood and rice and stir-fries. And, when it comes to spicing things up, stock up on kosher and sea salt, black pepper, onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground ginger, coriander and fennel, fresh nutmeg, and chili flakes, to start. “I always encourage building your own spice blends,” shares Chef Irie. Then, you’ll be ready to advance to gumbo and paella, two dishes Chef Irie believes aren’t quite as intimidating as they seem.

And, for those who aren’t interested in cooking every night, meal prep is a great practice to employ. “Meal prep, I think, works for most folks committed to doing it,” says Chef Irie. “It sounds novel when you think about it, but it can get involved, depending on how many meals you need to cook.” Great meal prep dishes that do well with reheating include chicken (especially dark meat), fish and beef in gravies or stews, and baked sweet potatoes. In addition, while sautéed vegetables like kale and spinach reheat well, Chef Irie suggests only partially cooking squash and broccoli, so they don’t overcook upon reheating.

Pro Tip: For more meal prep ideas, consult popular and trusted recipe apps like Pinterest, Yummly, and Allrecipes’ Dinner Spinner.

Squashing the Intimidation Factor

So, you’re feeling a bit unsettled because you’ve decided to try out a new recipe for the first time. “Have no fear,” Chef Irie encourages. “It’s the same as learning how to ride a bike. You fall off. You get right back on. Make that dish again. Look to see if you followed the recipe correctly. Did you try taking shortcuts through substitutions because you didn’t have a certain ingredient? Were you patient?” Instead of getting down on yourself, try to remain positive. Moreover, if you’re a big social media buff, Chef Irie recommends scrolling through your Instagram feed and checking out YouTube videos to visualize how the magic is made. “Seeing the thought process of others can oftentimes be inspiring,” he says. “Even though I’m not in the kitchen every day, I am constantly thinking about ways to cook dishes, and how I’ll remake dishes I’ve made in the past.”


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  • Really interesting! Thanks for sharing

Easy Cooking Tools & Techniques for Beginners

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