Cooking is an important life skill we all need to learn at some point. However, it is not as simple as just throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, or how to reheat a premade chili or bolognese.
Cooking gets so much more fun, and more enjoyable the more you learn to do, and what is better is that through learning to cook you can really wow your friends and family.
Improving your catering skills does open up a whole new world to you, and you can experiment with new foods, advancing your flavor palette, and bringing in new dishes to your life.
Sure, we have our comfort foods, the ones that we always turn to, the easy meals for when we have had a rough day, but sometimes what our stomach needs is something totally new that will wow our senses and take us to a whole new world of flavor and texture.
We can tell you that you need to improve your cooking skills, but it is easier said than done, and knowing how is half the battle.
So, today, instead of giving you a bunch of recipes to try out, we will tell you what you can do to improve your skills in the kitchen.
28 Tips And Tricks To Improve Your Cooking Skills
As we said, we aren’t going to be like a school teacher, and just hand you a bunch of recipes, instead we have put together a list of tips and tricks to help you improve your cooking skills yourself.
Cooking is an art form, and part of it is learning how to do things yourself, how to experiment with flavor, how to do the hard stuff using simple techniques.
It is all about practice, and trying new things. Yes, new things can be scary, but with enough trial and error, you can easily become a pro at something you never thought you could.
So, this is why we will tell you how you can get there, a helping hand rather than someone simply telling you what to do.
No good cooking teacher will give you an exact guide on how to cook a dish, because a great dish is marked by the individual touch of the chef, so it is time for you to find your special flair!
Learn Basic Knife Skills
The first step is learning how to use a knife. This means slicing and dicing, obviously, as almost every recipe you will come across will require you to slice or dice something.
You do not need to be perfect, you just need to be comfortable. The first trick is to learn just how you should be holding a chef’s knife. These are long and heavy.
Wrap your pinkie, ring, and middle fingers around the handle, then pinch the top side of the blade with your forefinger and thumb. Holding a knife this way will enhance your control of the blade, and it gives you all the flexibility you need.
Remember, when you are chopping or slicing, the motion is not in your fingers, but instead in your wrist.
Learn Stovetop Basics
Do not forget to learn the basics of stovetop cooking, you will make many dishes here, from pastas and stir-frys, to steaks and stews. Here is some jargon you should know;
- Searing: This is fast and hot cooking that will quickly brown your meat and seal in the juices.
- Sauté: A method that means ‘to jump’. You will cook the food with some fat at high temperatures, then stir or toss the food to keep it in motion.
- Stir-fry: This is like sautéing, however, you use more. You can use veggies, cuts of meat that will cook quickly, and so on. Also cooked at high temperatures
- Steaming: You will put food in a colander or basket and set it over a pan of boiling water allowing the steam to cook your dish.
- Poaching: Poaching is very underrated. Bring broth or wine, or another liquid to a simmer and then add in your main ingredient. It cooks your food without letting it dry out. It is great for seafood and meat.
There are many more, but these are some great beginner cooking techniques to get you started!
Practice Roasting Meat And Vegetables
Nothing quite beats a good roast, and it can be a super easy way to cook anything. Chuck your ingredients into an oiled pan, add spices and pop it in the oven! Voilà!
Thankfully, some techniques can make this mode of cooking even simpler, you could butterfly or spatchcock a chicken for example.
You can cut your veggies in certain ways to cook them faster, or if you want to get more flavor out of your meals, you could learn to slow roast.
Grilling is not just a backyard game, you can grill up indoors or outdoors, and it is a great way to get acquainted with cooling.
Simply oil the grates, heat up the grill until it’s sizzling away and then put your food on. Heat from your grill will caramelize your food, which is what gives it that recognizable and endearing flavor.
You can test if your food is ready with a thermometer, which makes for great practice in getting to know how hot food should be and how to tell when something is cooked.
Grilling is great, it’s easy, and it’s perfect for beginners.
Bake A Potato
Baking potatoes are a great way to get properly acquainted with the kitchen. It may sound juvenile, but it is true. Most of us are so used to just getting a ready baked potato and chucking it in the microwave.
However, if you grab a raw potato, and learn to bake it yourself, you acquaint yourself with cooking from scratch, even if it is something as simple as a potato. You can get a better understanding of how things cook.
Understanding time, and cooking of the potato inside and out will also better acquaint you with your oven too!
Boil An Egg
Boiling eggs is also something that may sound simple, but eggs can be one of the trickier common foods to cook with. As they are dairy we often have a lot of worry about if they have gone off or not.
Before you boil your egg, check to see if it will float in a bowl of water, this will help you tell if it is good to eat or not. Boiling an egg yourself you need to try and get it just right.
Which is easier said than done. Eggs can be so tricky, one moment they are soft and runny and the next they are halfway to hard-boiled.
Practice with boiling eggs to get to know your cooking times well.
Melt Chocolate (A Lot!)
Chocolate is a favorite for many people, and if you enjoy baked goods a good place to start in the kitchen is a place you are enthusiastic about.
Cooking with chocolate is totally doable, but it can easily go awry. When you melt chocolate the best thing to do is steam it. Sounds weird? Well, if you were to just directly melt chocolate in a pan, chances are you will burn it.
A better way to melt chocolate is to steam it. Put your bar of chocolate in a bowl or pan and place it over a pot of boiling water. The chocolate will melt but it will not burn. Giving you perfectly melted chocolate.
Stuff A Chicken Or Turkey
Want to get to know your food on a more personal level? Stuff a chicken or turkey. It will get REAL personal. Joking aside, stuffing your bird with seasonings, and herbs, spices and even veggies can give it an oomph of flavor you didn’t see coming.
Sure, a roast chicken or turkey is tasty enough, but what if it could be MORE tasty? That is where stuffing comes in, and you get something extra on your plate at the end.
However, it is not as easy as just shoving whatever you want inside the chicken/ turkey. You need to understand how to do it just right to seal in that flavor and stop the stuffing from burning, going gooey, or worse.
Technique is everything, master this, and you’re good to go for any roast!
Poach An Egg
While you can buy special pans to aid in your poaching endeavors, you do not actually need to. There is no real need to go out and spend a whopping amount on an egg poacher. You can do it yourself, but it is all about the technique, and it will take some perfecting.
That being said, if you become a master poacher, without the special pan, you will be able to boast to your friends, and you will soon be the talk of the breakfast table with questions on how it is done.
All you need is a pan of boiling water, some white wine vinegar and a slotted spoon, and you are good to go!
Make Your Own Gravy
Ready-made gravies are okay. But that is it, they’re just okay. If they are all you know then yeah they’re amazing, but once you have tasted the glory that is homemade gravy there is no going back.
It tastes so much better, and it goes so much better on your plate, it is thicker, or it can be thin, you make it how you like it. The best way to make this is with dark meat and add in some vegetables.
Use the juices from your oven baked meat and vegetables to add undeniably beautiful flavor to your gravy. It sounds impossible, but it is not actually that hard to do.
Some of us get put off pasta by how stodgy it used to be in the school dinner halls, or how packet pasta tasted, the truth is, it is not actually meant to be like that.
In Italy pasta is actually served ‘al-dente’ which translates as to the teeth, it is basically boiled until it is soft but firm enough to require a good bite.
To make pasta as the Italians intend it, you need to fill a pan with enough water to cover the pasta twice, then add salt and boil it. Drop the pasta into your boiling water and leave it for 10 minutes or so. Stir for the first two minutes to stop it sticking.
Practice Making Stock
A good hearty stock can lift your stews and soups from mediocre to heavenly.
What is even better about a good stock is that it means you can use up leftover bones and bits from a previous roast. Nothing should go to waste, and you can make epic dishes with what was once just plain leftovers.
There are many ways to make a stock, and so many recipes out there. Try out a few first and then experiment with your own. The more flavors the better, as a stock will become the body of your soup or stew and give it that magic tinge you want on your tongue.
Cook Your Own Rice
Rice. A seemingly every day food. However, so often it is served incorrectly. Rice is a primary food in Asian countries, it is often served with every meal, and it should be cooked the right way. Especially if you are cooking an Asian dish.
You do not need to buy a rice cooker to get fluffy rice, you just need to know how to cook it right.
All you need is a lidded pan and water, but you should always be aware of timing, texture, and absorption. And for extra flavor to your rice dishes… pick up some MSG.
A good omelet goes a long way, and for many who need that protein punch for their work-outs an omelet is a staple food.
How do you make one of these bad boys? Well, you beat your eggs until there is no sign they were ever separate. Ensure they are combined and pour them into the pan atop your fillings.
An omelet will cook quickly, so make sure that you have fully prepared all your ingredients before you start cooking away.
If you want a super fluffy omelet, then drag the egg into the middle of the pan as it starts setting.
Half of being able to make a good omelet is in the timing, preparation and how well you beat your eggs. You do not need to have a whisk to beat your eggs. Some good wrist action and a fork will do the trick.
Remember, with cooking you do not need all that fancy equipment, you just need the right technique.
We really do make things harder for ourselves. You know that garlic crusher you bought because you thought it would make your life easier? Well, it’s actually making it harder. Who knew?
The actual easiest way to peel garlic is to crush the clove with the flat of your knife. If knives scare you can get a silicone tube, then just pop some pressure on there.
To make properly crushed garlic, crushing it with your knife first works wonders, then you just chop away, and you have perfectly crushed garlic, without all that squeezing and cleaning of your garlic crusher.
Brown Your Meat
No matter what you are doing with your meat chances are you want it to be juicy and succulent when it is cooked.
To do this you need to seal it first and lock those juices inside. To get this effect you need to first brown the meat. All you have to do to achieve this is to briefly pan-fry your meat until the outside of the meat is seared.
This searing also grants the meat a rich flavor, and it keeps your meat tender before you cook it any further.
This works well for ark meats such as lamb and beef, locking in the flavor of the meat and giving it an extra flavor. Give this a try next time you make a stew to add to that gorgeous flavor.
Learn How To Separate An Egg
For many recipes you will need to separate an egg. It may sound daunting, but it actually is not that difficult. You might be worried that you will break the yolk in the process thus messing up all your plans. However, the easiest way to do this is to crack open the egg.
Then you pass the egg between the two halves of its shell, let the white of the egg drip down into a bowl or cup beneath it, then you should be left with just the yolk left in the eggshell.
Ta-da! You separated an egg! It is so much easier than it may seem, and all it takes is some patience, and a bowl!
Incorporating chilies into your catering repertoire is something that will give your dishes an extra kick and something special that other foods just cannot provide. While you can get dried chilies, chili powder, or seasonings, nothing beats the fresh thing.
You can also add different variations of heat to your cooking as you choose to use different types of chilies. You can take out the seeds and go for something a little more mild, you could use just the seeds and go all out, or throw the whole thing in there.
Whatever you do, when you are using and preparing chilies for cooking, always wash your hands after touching them, chili juice stings when it gets into places it shouldn’t be.
Make Your Own Salad Dressing
So many people find salads rather dull, and if you just chuck a lot of veggies in a bowl it can be a bit dreary. Vegetables do have flavor, but modern food has got us accustomed to oodles of flavor, and salad just doesn’t have that.
This is why salad dressings are a genius invention. Vinaigrette is one of the best, it is a super simple french dressing that is made using oil and balsamic vinegar in a 3 part to 1 part ratio. (3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar).
It is super easy to make, and it will give your salad that flavor you desire.
Learn How To Rub Flour And Butter
Some of us prefer baking to cooking, that is okay, everyone has a preference. Baking can be super rewarding too, especially when everything turns out as you hoped. Rubbing flour and butter can be one of the most satisfying parts of baking, but not everyone agrees.
It can be very time-consuming, it is great for having some solo time, and getting out your stresses, but for some it can be a source of stress.
If you are making a shortcrust pastry, you will need to ‘rub it in’. What does this mean? Well, you need to take the flour and the fat (butter) and rub it in between your fingers to form what looks like breadcrumbs.
It can take some time, but can be really satisfying to do.
Make Your Own Batter
Learning to make your own batter is a great skill to have. You can make your own pancake, puddings, crêpes, and more.
For the most part it is easy, but usually the consistency is where most people struggle. Traditionally the main ingredients in a batter include flour, eggs, milk, and butter, but it can vary depending on what you are making.
The biggest challenge we face with batter is clumps and lumps, and getting that consistency dead on. With a crêpe you want a liquid-like consistency, whereas with American pancakes you want something thicker.
It all depends on what you are making, trial and error is the best way to get it right.
Making bread is awesome, and it is so satisfying. The taste alone of bread made fresh is unlike any bread you’ve ever had before, and it will leave you wondering why on earth you ever bought bread from a store.
It is easy to make, for the most part. Mixing flour and water, a gentle beating activates the gluten in it. To do this you need to knead the dough, make it stretchy, elastic and ready to be baked.
Prepare a flat surface, sprinkle some flour, so your dough doesn’t stick, and using your hands knock the dough back and fold it over, do this over and over until you form a good-sized ball. Give it a stretch, squash it, and repeat until you have the results you seek.
Always Line Your Cake Tin
If you are into baking, we are sure you have made a cake before. However, you should never forget to line your cake tin. If you do, you will likely end up with your cake stuck to the tin, and getting it out will be a struggle and the frustration will start.
All you need is some softened butter, and some baking parchment. This is all you need, it is super simple, but so easy to forget.
You can easily successfully line the cake tin, and save your cake from disaster. Use this for any cake you make, and it’ll always be perfect.
Cook the Perfect Steak
We have heard of some people who have made steak in the oven. Never do this! It dries the steak out and will make it coarse and chewy. The best way to make a steak is by pan frying it.
How long you cook it for, however, depends on how you like your steak done and how thick it is, as well as the type of steak.
A rib eye steak is usually thick and will take longer than a sirloin cut. So, even if you employ the same cooking methods and want the steak done the same way, it will take different times to cook it.
These are the ways you can have a steak cooked; blue, rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, well done. In rising order of how well they are cooked.
Make Your Own Sauces
A good way to increase your skills in the kitchen is to get used to making your own sauces. There are many sauces you can make, you could start with a white wine sauce, an onion gravy, however, the favorite is probably a tomato sauce.
You do not need to buy a tomato passata when it is actually easy to make from scratch, and it will usually keep for a while when refrigerated too.
However, even if you want to use some ready-made ingredients you can still make a gorgeous tomato sauce incorporating ready-made ingredients with fresh ingredients, which is especially good if you are short on time in the kitchen.
Stock Your Kitchen Well With The Correct Tools
One of the main things we all forget when it comes to cooking is just how important it is to have the correct tools. As we have said already, you do not always need fancy equipment for cooking, but in many cases the right tools can always make a difference.
For stir-fries and Asian cuisine, a wok goes a long way, and keeps all your ingredients from escaping. Proper baking trays and baking sheets for cookies and other baked goods, a cake tin for that cake you want to make.
A good-sized bowl, or a variation of bowls, measuring cups, and a decent chef’s knife and knife sharpener, all can make a stark difference in the kitchen, making your experience more enjoyable.
Prepare An Avocado
Want a challenge? Pick up that avocado. Avocado can make a great addition to salad, it can make guacamole, and more. If you want to use a versatile vegetable that will be able to give you cooking experience and a challenge, see just how much you can do with this vegetable.
It has a large stone in the middle that you need to remove. Its flesh is very soft, and this can be hard to keep intact when you open it to remove the stone.
You can prepare an avocado in many ways, depending on how you want to use it. If the flesh breaks for guacamole, it is not so much of a big deal, but if you want to use it for a salad, it can be more difficult to deal with.
Practice Makes Perfect
Rome was not built in a day, and your catering skills will not improve in a day either, what matters is determination and persistence. Practice makes perfect in cooking, and you will need plenty of it to build up the skills you want to become the chef you want to be.
Things will go wrong, and you will mess up on occasion, but every failure is a chance to learn what does and does not work. It is all part of the process.
Experimentation is also part of this, and learning what works well together, and what tastes foul together is part of it. Cooking is an art form after all, and the only way you will get better is with trial and error, and practicing regularly.
Keep at it, and never put the knife away for good, it does get easier with time and experience. If you feel like you need a new tool to help you, get it. Trust your instincts in the kitchen, your instincts and your taste buds will tell you the most in this place.
Cooking is a skill we should all have, but cooking well and trying new things can be scary, intimidating and frustrating. But, while you may falter, giving up is not an option because there are so many delicious dishes out there waiting to be cooked by you.
Remember, practice will make perfect. Choose your ideal area of cooking whether it be with vegetables, meats, or baking, trying out our tips and tricks will help you get on your way to improving your skills in the kitchen.