Home cooking can be an extremely daunting task, especially for those who have little to no experience. But rest assured, it isn’t nearly as hard as it looks so long as you can remain calm in the kitchen.
Karen V. Davison, a professional chef and culinary blogger from Plano, Texas, has a wealth of experience working in kitchens and restaurants all over America. She has worked as a saucier, a sous chef, an associate chef, and a head chef in various restaurants. Though she specializes in fine dining, she has an extensive background in homestyle cooking and creating healthy and delicious meals suited to any palate. She shares her top cooking tips for taking the stress out of home cooking.
Prep in Advance
Karen V. Davison’s top piece of advice for taking the stress out of cooking is to prep in advance. Prepping beforehand is key, whether you’re throwing a big dinner party or even just cooking for two. Chefs, especially new home cooks, often underestimate how much time preparation will take, which can make you much more stressed on the night of. No one wants to feel rushed while they’re cooking, which is why you should prep as far in advance as possible. For example, before you leave for work, consider chopping up all the veggies you’ll need that night and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, if you’re able to prep full meals in advance, that is ideal. Take the weekend to prepare different dinner or breakfast dishes that you can put in the fridge or freezer and save for later
Learn to Go with the Flow
Karen V. Davison admits that this skill takes time to acquire as it comes from having confidence in the kitchen, but learning to go with the flow and modify recipes on the fly is key to remaining calm while cooking. New cooks are often stressed out by the idea of deviating from a recipe in any way whatsoever. However, the reality is that almost all recipes will still taste delicious, even with a few substitutions. For example, out of garlic powder? Throw in garlic cloves instead. Only have olive oil but it calls for coconut oil? Don’t sweat it. There are plenty of substitutions you can make that won’t alter the flavor of the dish at all. Learning how and what to substitute will make your life as a home cook so much easier.
Cook with What You Have
Building off of the last point, Karen V. Davison urges all home cooks to come up with a few simple recipes that almost any ingredient can be used in. Being able to look in your pantry or fridge and create a meal out of what you have left is a true skill and one that will serve you well in home cooking. For example, an omelet is something that can easily be modified to include whatever you have on hand. Peppers, onions, chicken, bacon, ham — nearly any vegetable, meat, and cheese can go into an omelet. Stir fries are a similar idea, you can make them out of everything. Try not to stress about having all the “right” ingredients, and instead learn to work with that you have.
Home cooking doesn’t necessarily mean everything has to be made entirely from scratch. Whether you just don’t enjoy cooking or have an extremely busy schedule, there are certain ways to adapt home cooking to make it more convenient. For example, embracing semi-prepared foods can significantly cut down on the amount of prep time required. We’re talking about pre-cut frozen vegetables, jars of marinara sauce, and containers or chicken or vegetable stock. There is absolutely no shame in going the store-bought route to make your life a little bit easier, shares Karen V. Davison.
Create Dinner Themes
If scouring the internet for recipes stresses you out due to the sheer volume of them, consider creating a theme for each night of the week. Having a set theme will help you narrow down the recipes for that night, which will hopefully make things a lot less stressful. Also, if you stick to the same themes each week, you’ll eventually start to remember which night is which and it will make grocery shopping much easier as well. Such themes could include Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Fish Friday, Pasta Thursday, and Surprise Sunday (just to leave you a chance to do something a little more creative or perhaps not cook at all if that’s what you’re in the mood for!). Choosing dinner themes is also a great way to ensure you’re eating all the different healthy foods you want to be eating.
Every time Karen V. Davison cooks a recipe and ends up loving it, she saves it. Whether you have a physical recipe collection in your home or prefer to bookmark and save them on your computer, having a list of go-to recipes is a must when it comes to destressing in the kitchen. If you have saved recipes that you can access at any moment, it will make it much easier to decide what to have for dinner if you’re struggling to think of something. Plus, you can be confident knowing that you’ve already made each of these recipes and they turned out well. There is no element of surprise here.
Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself
Karen V. Davison’s last piece of advice for taking the stress out of cooking? Go easy on yourself. Home cooking is meant to be fun and ultimately, the stakes are low. With so many food and meal kit delivery services available nowadays, even if something goes horribly wrong in the kitchen, you have plenty of ways to find a new meal at your fingertips. Further, always remember that cooking is a process and it takes time to become better at it. Let yourself make mistakes and learn from them. Eventually, you’ll end up with some incredible home cooked meals that you are proud to make for your friends and family.