If you weren’t cooking and baking before the lockdown, you’ve probably started experimenting in the kitchen. But if you’re still a bit unsure of how and where to start becoming a master cook or baker, here are our top 10 tips for all beginner bakers.
1. Read the recipe beforehand — twice!
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced cook, reading the recipe before you start cooking or baking is a very crucial step. It’ll help you be prepared for what’s coming and also make sure you have everything you need for the dish.
2. Basic tools needed
If you haven’t been spending much time in the kitchen before the lockdown, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by all the kitchen tools you see in shops or online nowadays. But don’t worry. If you’re only starting out now, make sure you have the basic cooking essentials, like a good-quality, sharp chef’s knife, a cutting board, a high-quality skillet or pan, a deeper pot and a wooden spoon.
If you’re starting out baking, you’ll need quite a few tools — depending on what you’re baking. Here are some essentials: measuring cups, rubber spatula, whisk, fine-mesh sieve, the correct baking pan (round for cakes, rectangular for traybakes, loaf pan for bread, muffin pan for muffins/cupcakes), wire rack, hand mixer.
3. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Before cooking or baking anything, make sure you have all the ingredients and tools needed. Measure all of it beforehand so that you don’t have to struggle while cooking/baking. If you fail to prepare, you must prepare to fail.
4. Taste everything, several times
This is quite a crucial step as you don’t want to go through all the trouble of cooking a delicious dish and in the end, it’s not so delicious. After adding ingredients, use a teaspoon to taste. This will help you to not over-salt your dish. If you do, however, add too much salt, just add in a sliced potato. It’ll help absorb the excess salt.
5. Don’t over-mix your dough or batter
You might feel like you have to make absolutely sure you mixed everything thoroughly, but over-mixing can lead to tough, gummy or unpleasantly bakes. You want light and fluffy, so keep the mixing to a minimum.
6. Don’t overcrowd your pan
Overcrowding your pan means the food will steam rather than roast or bake. The heat from the skillet or pan gets trapped under the food and creates steam. Although the food will cook, you won’t get that delicious caramelised crust that makes meat succulent and potatoes and vegetables crisp. Always make sure every piece of food has some breathing room in the pan.
7. Fresh, quality ingredients are the key to delicious cooking
Whenever you’re eating, you want the most flavour possible of your food, right? That’s why it’s so important to use quality fresh ingredients. Preserved food loses taste as time goes on, but fresh veggies, fruit, spices, meat all brings your tastebuds to another level once you eat it.
8. Don’t leave the kitchen
This might sound like a very obvious tip, but it’s important to always stay in the kitchen whenever you’re cooking. You might think you can quickly put another load of laundry in the washing machine while the steaks are searing on the pan, but this is only a recipe for disaster. Always keep an eye on your food while cooking it. If you’re baking and the bake is in the oven, of course, you can rest a bit. Just keep an eye on the timer to remind you when it’s done baking.
9. Rest meat after cooking it
You might’ve heard this before, but this is a very important step when serving meat. By resting it after cooking, helps the juices be reabsorbed into the fibres of the meat. By not giving it time to rest means you’ll lose more flavourful juices when the meat is cut.
10. Use proper measuring tools
Don’t guess the amounts — especially if you don’t have much experience in the kitchen. Baking, in particular, is a science. Therefore, it’s important to use the right amount of ingredients. Once you’re familiar with the recipe, you can adapt it a bit to make it as you’d want. But at first, use proper measuring tools to ensure the right amounts of ingredients.