For most people, learning how to cook usually means practicing a recipe over and over again until they’re able to mimic the recipe without needing to refer back to each line for guidance.
But what about those people who seem to be naturally gifted in the kitchen? Those people who claim to have just whipped up a beef wellington or a flambéed crème brûlée without torching the house down?
Believe it not, all of these people have one thing in common and it’s probably not as fancy as a degree in culinary arts. They’ve all got confidence in the kitchen and have got the basics down. We’ve rounded up 5 ways to improve your confidence learn to cook without relying on recipes.
Start With Aromatics
Most recipes usually start with aromatics (garlic, onion, spices etc.) so keep this in mind when cooking. Aromatics need to be cooked to take the edge off and to allow the flavours to infuse. Sauté by cooking your aromatics in a relatively low amount of fat (oil) over a high heat for a short amount of time.
Memorize Simple Cooking Ratios
Rice, pasta, grains and legumes are the foundation of so many recipes so it’s crucial that you know how to cook them. By remembering simple ratios, you create a solid foundation to build your recipe from.
Here are some simple ratios to start learning.
- The ratio for rice is 2:1. 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice.
- The ratio for bread is 5:3. 5 parts flour to 3 parts liquid.
- The ratio for vinaigrette is 3:1. 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.
Season With Salt and Acid
Remember to season with salt and acid to prevent the dish from tasting bland. A touch of lemon juice or vinegar can really add oomph to your dish.
Dried Herbs Vs. Fresh Herbs
A good rule of thumb is to add dried herbs at the start of your cooking and fresh herbs at the end of your cooking. Dried herbs are added at the start to infuse the dish and fresh herbs are added at the end as they can become bitter if they’re overcooked.
Know Your Cuts
When cooking without a recipe, it’s important to know which cuts of meat are going to cook quickly and which cuts are best reserved for dishes that need to be cooked low and slow. As a general rule of thumb, the further away the cut is from the tenderloin, the more difficult it will be to cook and the longer it’ll take.
Have you developed the confidence to cook without a recipe? Share your tips in the comments below!