6 Ways You Can Become a Better Chef Today!

Cooking is quintessential to the human experience. We started out as cavemen discovering fire, then we started hunting and foraging and now buying food at our local super markets. From there, we’ve learned the fundamentals of cooking and making food taste good. Maybe you’re just starting your cooking journey or need a little boost in your cooking skills. Then this is for you! After reading this you’ll be on your way to becoming a great home cook. Let’s dive into 6 ways you can improve your cooking skills!  

  1. Use Fresh Herbs

Implementing fresh herbs in place of dried ones is a great stepping stone to improving your cooking. Utilizing fresh herbs really brings out the flavor of whatever you’re trying to cook! Herbs that are delicate like parsley, fennel, tarragon, cilantro, and chives are always better fresh. A general rule is soft herbs are great for when a dish isn’t being cooked over heat. When cooking over heat, use harder herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and sage. When you dry herbs, the flavor becomes concentrated and can overpower certain dishes. A good rule of thumb is to use fresh herbs when you can. 

Over time, fresh herbs can get expensive if you buy them in the small plastic pouches. Instead, start planting some herbs on your window sill! If you’re looking to get serious on herb growing there are products like the Aerogarden. This one here is a smaller version that only grows three herbs at a time but it is self watering and has a grow light above! If you decide instead of herbs you want to grow a salad kit, Aerogarden has the tools to help you do it. It’s such a cool product and right now it’s 30% off! Who says you can’t start an herb garden in the fall?

  1. Toast Your Spices

I recently started doing this and it’s been a game changer in my cooking. One of my favorite foods to make (and eat) is any type of curry. The warm sweet and spiciness is so comforting in the cool months, so right about now is when I go curry crazy. I saw someone on a cooking show toast their spices for their curry recipe and thought I’d give it a shot. It lifted the flavors and added a nice toasted taste to the curry. By toasting the spices, it took away some of the bite, making the spices more full and smooth to taste!

Before you start, a word of advice. Do not toast ground spices. They will burn instantly and make your whole house smell like a spice bomb went off. At least that’s what happened to me. However, toast your whole spices. Spices like coriander, cumin cardamom and star anise are delicious when toasted. 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Mess Up

When we mess up, it’s hard to keep going. But messing up and learning from our mistakes is what helps us grow. I’ve burned and messed up more food than I care to admit but the more I cooked, the easier things got and the less mess ups I made. If you’re scared you’ll mess up and that’s holding you back from cooking, try using a recipe. Follow it closely. Once you make the recipe right 2-3 times, start adding a little twist onto it.

Messing up is what made us who we are, so it’s OK to mess up, learn and try again!

  1. Use A Sharp Knife

I know you’re rolling your eyes back as you’ve been told this a thousand times before but it really makes a huge difference. A sharp knife actually causes less accidents than a dull one. When you use a dull knife, you need to apply more pressure to whatever you’re cutting, leading to potential knife slips. Do you need a super expensive knife set that promises to “always stay sharp no matter what”? No. I always recommend a chef’s knife for all your slicing and dicing needs. One of the best ones for beginners (if you don’t have a chef’s knife is this Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife. It’s a great sharp knife for those just starting and even for those that have been cooking for years. If you maintain the knife, it’ll be a workhorse for years to come. 

Already have a chef’s knife? When’s the last time you sharpened it? If you said either “idk” or “never” it’s time to sharpen your knife. There’s a few different techniques you can use but my favorite is letting the professionals handle it. If you have a kitchen store near you that has a knife display, they can sharpen your knives for you! The kitchen store I bring my knives costs $5 a knife to sharpen and takes about a day to get back to me. However, if you don’t have that option, there are a few different methods. 

One of the most popular methods is using an electric sharpener. Though these are a more expensive option, they are easy to use and reliable. Another method which I prefer is using a whetstone. A whetstone is like sandpaper for your knife and helps sharpen and smooth your knife’s edges.  You can find one on amazon between $30-$50 usually but the one I recommend is this one. Before using your whetstone, make sure you watch a video on how to use a whetstone properly to get the best results! 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid of Frozen Vegetables

As fun and aesthetic as it is going to the store and buying super fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables work just as good and are just as nutritious. Frozen vegetables are affordable and don’t spoil as fast as fresh ones in your fridge. Some of my favorite frozen veggies include broccoli, green beans, corn, and more! They are easy to incorporate into any recipe and are good in a pinch. There are a few vegetables that should always be bought fresh including lettuce, cabbage, radishes, and more. I love the taste of fresh veggies but frozen vegetables are great and long lasting! 

  1. Read Cookbooks to Learn & Grow

I love cookbooks. Every time I go home I always rummage through my mom’s library of cookbooks and see what new recipes I can try. Now that I’m older I’ve got a bigger collection and it’s helped me grow so much in my cooking!  When I say read the cookbook I don’t mean quick skim through the pages I mean sit down and read the cookbook! Every modern cookbook has a section talking about ingredients, tools, cooking techniques and more so it’s a great place to start! Over time, you’ll see what recipes you like and how you can make them better! A little tip I’ve learned from my mom was to write the recipe and page number of a recipe you liked on the inside cover of the cookbook. Saves you time from flipping through and frantically searching the pages!

Before we wrap up, we need to show some appreciation to church cookbooks. Old church cookbooks will give you some of the best recipes you’ve ever eaten and most of them are very inexpensive. Next time you’re at a thrift store or garage sale, look for those church cookbooks! 

That’s it! It’s all about starting and working your way through each skill. By utilizing all of these tips, you’ll notice your cooking improves over time and you’ll want to learn even more! Looking for more food and cooking tips, as well as some wellness and personal growth tricks, check out my TikTok @sunshineandseasoning. There’s currently no videos as I just opened the account but expect to see some this week! 

Thank you so much for reading and we’ll see you next Thursday! 🙂

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