Want to learn cooking skills beyond the standard boiling water for pasta or ramen in a cup? If food prep seems unappealing and horribly complicated, relax. It’s actually not that difficult and requires only a few skills that are easily learned and mastered. After all, we weren’t born with stoves or pots and pans attached to our bellies so eating shouldn’t be the chore it seems to have become for many.
Decent cooking skills are essential for eating healthy if you’re going to avoid processed food. That means eating fresh foods and knowing how to prepare them. It’s actually pretty easy and with the right outlook, fun as well.
Why spend money to learn skills anyone can develop? Here are 5 great ways to get basic cooking skills for free.
#1 – Learn From Those Around You
This is one of the best ways to learn the lost art of cooking. If you have parents, friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or siblings and other relatives who love to cook, get in the kitchen with them. A few people won’t like someone messing about in their kitchen but most will appreciate an honest effort to help or learn. You may be relegated to stirring or chopping but if you’re a newbie, that’s to be expected. You’ve got to learn the basics after all and that’s where you start. Along the way you’ll learn and absorb a great deal.
That said, sometimes friends and family aren’t the best at explaining what they’re doing. If they are also stress bunnies in the kitchen, maybe you’d better find others to learn from because you don’t want to adopt their attitude and ethic about cooking. Food is fun and enjoyable, not a chore or stressful when done properly. Find foodies who enjoy the process and hang out with them. You’ll catch their food enthusiasm and better yet, have fun with the process which will encourage your skill acquisition.
Want to lure people to your house in order to learn how to cook in your own kitchen? Invite them to dinner and prep the meal together. This is a great way to bond with friends or even a boyfriend or girlfriend.
#2 – YouTube
If you find yourself without anyone to help you or just want to learn on your own time, YouTube is the place. I’m a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen for short, instructive videos but there are tons of channels and individual videos on cooking. Start with short ones and move to those that interest you. Search for “how to cut vegetables” and you’ll get slammed with videos. Want to learn how to perfectly boil an egg? That’s there. Every recipe you can think of and want to see demonstrated is probably available to watch. The problem is not finding yourself six hours in and counting on free cooking videos. They are highly addicting.
#3 – Cooking Shows
If you have cable, then you probably have dozens of cooking channels you can watch. Netflix and Hulu also offer up plenty of video options. These shows are fun and sometime highly instructive. If the recipes seem overly complicated and difficult, then it’s not an everyday recipe or it’s been embellished. Just because something calls for tarragon or sage doesn’t mean you have to add it. Watch these shows to learn and get inspired by the pros.
#4 – Cookbooks From the Library
There are these places called libraries and they usually have cookbooks you can check out for free. If you can get your hands on an instructive manual, even better. These will teach you such things as how to tell when fruit or vegetables are ripe, different cutting techniques, proper temperatures for cooking meat, etc. – all in one handy compendium. If you find one you like, you can later buy it somewhere else.
Or do what I do and take pictures of recipes with your phone. This would be terrible for an entire book but for a handful of recipes it’s an easy way to copy something you like without writing the recipe out by hand.
Again, I’m a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks because they are crash courses in everything you need to know to cook just about anything. If you see these in your library or can get them via interlibrary loan, take them home.
#5 – Websites
So many amazing cooking websites exist on the internet. Places like Allrecipes.com have millions of recipes and tons of videos on how to prepare those meals step by step. So does FoodNetwork.com. These are great places to start. I’ve learned so much from cooking websites that I couldn’t have learned from my friends and family.
Cooking is Fundamental to Good Health
Don’t be intimidated by cooking. Chopping veggies and fruit is easy, while carving up meat takes more skill if you’re an omnivore. Stove top cooking is my favorite since it’s quick and easy and basically consists of throwing ingredients into one pan with some oil but you can get as fancy as you like over time. Definitely don’t think you need to slave away in the kitchen for hours and dirty up a thousand pots and pans.
Whatever your preference, please move away from relying on others to prepare your meals. Boxed kits, fast food, frozen dinners, and heat and serve meals are loaded with excess fat, sugar, salt and additives like preservatives, emulsifiers, conditioners, and other chemical-sounding ingredients that are increasingly linked to health issues. Plus, when food is processed and not fresh, almost all the nutrition – if it had any to begin with – gets all but extinguished.
The best food for our health is fresh, particularly the plant-based foods our bodies need for vitamins and minerals, fiber, water content, and antioxidants. You’re really not going to get these in the volume and quality you need from processed foods. You’ll only get them from prepping and cooking your meals. Use the five easy methods mentioned above to become a self-taught chef that your peers envy.
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