People who know me well know that I don’t hold strong opinions. That was a lie. I am very strongly opinionated. And cooking is one area in which I hold a few strong opinions.
Everyone should know how to cook. Everyone. My logic: 1. Everyone needs to eat and 2. Cooking enables the greatest eating flexibility, therefore 3. Everyone should know how to cook. This is not bulletproof logic, but it’s the best my little brain can muster.
Cooking allows you to throws something together without having to leave your house (or really do much thinking at all) and cooking can be inexpensive.
Let’s define “cooking” as putting together a tasty meal without a recipe. We need to get away from this idea that meals need to be constructed of pre-defined recipes that some authority from above gave us. An acquaintance once said “Cookbooks have no place in the kitchen, they are for reading in bed.” Recipes exist for inspiration.
Cooking is easy. It’s nothing more than having a intuition as to how flavors might mix well together and knowing a few techniques for using heat.
There are other definitions, but for practicality let’s assume that there are five types of flavors: 1. Sweet, 2. Sour, 3. Salty, 4. Bitter, and 5. Spicy/Pungent.
Tastiness is created when you use several (or all) of these flavor types. One can begin to gain an intuition how flavors go together by making a flavor grid and randomly mixing some flavors together. Here’s an example flavor grid:
|Mango||Lemon||Sea Salt||Lime||Chile Guajillo|
|Banana||Rice Vinegar||Soy Sauce||Olives||Ginger|
|Table Sugar||Yogurt||Fish Sauce||Mint||Fresh Chile|
||Miso||Chile Pasilla||Horse Radish|
One sharp chef’s knife, one sharp paring knife, one cutting board made out of a material that’s not too hard. Keep the knives sharp by eschewing glass cutting boards and sharpen them regularly.
Keep your knives sharp. Keep your knives sharp. How many times do I have to repeat myself? And that metal rod you have is not a sharpener, it’s a honer. If you can’t find a sharpening service in your city and you don’t want to do it yourself then use one of the many mail-order sharpening services.
Secret to avoiding food sticking to your pan: Always heat the pan before adding the oil. The metal has millions of little cracks and if you add the oil before the metal has time to expand and fill in the gaps then the oil will seep into those cracks and now allow them to expand and smoothen the surface. You can tell the pan is hot enough by flicking a little water from your fingers onto it. If it beads and dances around then it’s hot enough.
Start with the simplest possible meal and enhance it if you have the time and ingredients.