Most of us cook at home, at least occasionally, relying on our own culinary abilities to fill our stomachs and satisfy our taste buds. But if you’ve never gone to culinary school or cooked in a real kitchen, the meals may end up underwhelming.
What steps can the average person take to improve their culinary game?
One of the best strategies for getting better at anything is setting and achieving specific goals, including both long-term goals and short-term goals. Goals serve several functions simultaneously, motivating you and giving you a way to measure your progress. But for goals to work, they need to be specific, so having a vague general goal of “being better at cooking” isn’t going to be good enough.
Instead, you’ll need to find specific achievements for which you strive. For example, are you trying to cook the perfect risotto? Do you want to cook a pizza that your family likes better than your favorite pizza shop?
Invest in Your Kitchen
Amateur chefs are often motivated by better kitchens and better supplies. If you’re cooking in an environment you love, with all the appliances and utensils you need, you’re going to be much more likely to practice frequently – and you’ll be able to do more in your own kitchen.
As a simple example, you could invest in an outdoor kitchen. Cooking outside is refreshing and fun, and cleanup is much easier, so it better supports ongoing practice and development. If you don’t have the budget for a full outdoor kitchen, consider upgrading your appliances, replacing your countertops, or even just investing in some new appliances and utensils.
Search Out Fresher Ingredients
You might be surprised how much the quality of your cooking improves when you start using fresher, higher-quality ingredients. Head to a local farmer’s market to pick up some supplies, or consider growing your own foods in your backyard. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the products you buy in the store, but the fresher your ingredients are, the better.
Try One New Ingredient a Week
There are always new ingredients to try (and learn from), so incorporate more novel ingredients into your cooking. Each new ingredient presents new tastes and new textures that you need to understand if you’re going to utilize them appropriately. This forces you to think creatively and expands your culinary vocabulary; when you’re familiar with a much wider range of ingredients, tastes, and textures, you’ll be able to concoct better dishes and experiment more creatively.
Watch and Learn From the Pros
You’re probably already doing this, but watch and learn from professional chefs. Watching an assortment of favorite cooking shows, reading cookbooks written by different people, and learning about how chefs run different restaurants can all help you. The most important thing here is to add variety to the media you’re consuming; it’s important to get exposure to different cooking styles and preferences.
Your goal is to become a better chef in your own home, so it may seem counterproductive to go out to eat; after all, each meal you eat in a restaurant is a potentially wasted opportunity for cooking practice. But by going out and visiting different restaurants in person, you have an opportunity to sample more menu items, see how different chefs approach cooking and get inspiration for more meals. You might even be able to broaden your palate by introducing yourself to new flavors.
Some restaurants are better than others, at least according to critics. As you might imagine, increasing the quality of your eating experience can stimulate your taste buds in better ways and facilitate faster development. However, it’s also important to eat at a wide range of establishments, so you’re not exclusively focused on luxury restaurants.
Practice makes perfect, but you’re not going to develop as a chef if you simply cook the same dishes over and over. Instead, it’s important to experiment as much as possible, trying out new cooking methods, using new devices, and pushing the limits of your abilities with recipes that require more precision or attention.
Consider Getting Real Experience
If you love getting better as a chef and you want to push yourself even higher, consider getting some real experience. If you’ve never worked in a kitchen before, now is a great time to start (assuming you have the extra time). And if you have the money, you might consider taking culinary arts classes. If neither of these is an option for you, don’t worry; there’s still plenty of room to grow in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Everyone has the potential to become a fantastic chef. Like with any skill, your culinary arts require practice and patience to develop. If you follow all the advice in this guide, you’ll be in a much better position to cook the amazing food you’ve always wanted to eat.