by Divine Domesticity on September 20, 2008
I say "terrible" tongue in cheek, of course, as I don't consider myself a wonderful cook by any means. If you seem to be a clutz in the kitchen, let me offer you a few tips I have learned over the past few years.
- Read through the entire recipe first. Halfway through preparing a recipe is not the time to find out that you need an immersion blender (or other random piece of kitchen equipment). Surprises aren't fun when they lead to a ruined recipe, so read through it once to make sure that you have all equipment necessary, as well as how to do each step of the recipe.
- Double (or triple) check that you have all ingredients. Beginner cooks often come up with some wild substitutions when they find they are missing an ingredient. I distinctly remember that when I was about 18 I figured I could swap vinegar for buttermilk. Now, I'd never tasted buttermilk, but I just assumed it was sort of a sour tasting milk. So off I went, and I made panna cotta with a big ol' glugg of vinegar instead of buttermilk. It was horrible! Laminate a common ingredient substitution list and stick it on your fridge, just in case.
- Check your oven. Every oven is different. Buy an oven thermometer and check to see if 350-f really is 350-f degrees. I have found most ovens to be off a bit, so if you know your oven runs 25 degrees cool, you can adjust accordingly.
- Start with a clean kitchen. Pull out all of the baking dishes, utensils and equipment you will need for your recipe before you start. It is very bad timing to realize you need a whisk when it is at the bottom of a dirty sink, crusted over with gross stuff. Instead, clean up your kitchen, put away all dishes, and wipe down the countertops. Fill one side of your sink with hot sudsy water, so you can clean up as you go. Waiting until you are entirely finished to rinse dirty dishes is tempting, but after a big afternoon in the kitchen, you could very well need a break, so why not clean up as you go, and lighten your load?
- Be positive. Go in there thinking you will succeed. I swear, any time I approach a recipe with the attitude that I could fail, I do! Ever heard of a self-fulfiling prophecy? Bingo! Give yourself more credit than that.