I didn’t always love to cook. When I did “cook” it was usually a disaster. I still have the scar on my arm from taking a frozen Trader Joe’s pizza out of the oven to prove it.
“Learning how to cook, you’re learning how to live well.” – Jody Williams
I’m not an amazing cook by any stretch, but I’m a capable and enthusiastic one. The process of learning how to cook slowly gave me confidence and fueled passions I had no idea I had. It’s a useful hobby that will benefit me my entire life and may even make me some friends. I think that’s pretty neat.
Five easy steps to be more confident in the kitchen (from my own experience):
- Enlist a buddy.
This was probably the biggest motivator for me and the most fun. My friend Kim and I were 22, living in New York City and working 9-5 jobs we didn’t particularly love when we started a little institution called Thursday Night Dinner (or TND, if you’re down).
We would pick out a recipe for that night during the afternoon slump, meet up after work and head to the grocery store. After a final stop to pick up some Yellow Tail (pure class), we’d head back to Kim’s apartment and get to work.
It wasn’t even consciously about “learning to cook”, it was about saving some money, drinking wine and having an excuse to get together every week to celebrate getting through nearly another week of work. Sometimes there would be five or six of us and sometimes just two, it didn’t matter – we just wanted to make something delicious and hang out.
- Pay attention.
When you go to restaurants or order Seamless, think about what kinds of dishes and foods you love to eat. Then try to find a recipe for a similar dish or using similar ingredients. After all, love of eating should be what fuels a cook — and if you’re cooking something you’re excited to eat, you might enjoy it more.
- Read the recipe.
All the way through. Ugh, annoying I know, but this will help you go into cooking with a bit of knowledge and confidence. And you won’t give up if there’s an unexpected twist in timing or ingredients.
- Brush up on the basics.
Learn how to make a simple soup, get your omelette game on point, or whip up a bangin’ guac. Make your favorites over and over again. The Kitchn is a great website for recipes and learning the best way to do something in easy-to-understand language. I also love Food52’s Genius Recipes column (they have a cookbook coming out too!).
- Make it fun.
This sort of goes back to Step 1, but you can make cooking fun on your own too — you just have to set yourself up for enjoyment. If you’re cooking after work, take a beat to kick off your shoes, change into sweats and turn on a good playlist or podcast. This is prime time for kitchen dance parties, sing-alongs, and some alone time with Ira Glass.