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posted on Mar, 12 2007 @ 10:16 AM
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Hey everyone!

Long time member of ATS, just visited BTS and have a question for you all.

I am about to move out on my own (finally), so I need to learn how to cook. I figure I can survive on hot pockets for about a month before I develop cancer and die.
Any good books for absolute beginners? Tips would also be helpful! THANK YOU!



Cug

posted on Mar, 25 2007 @ 08:35 AM
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The Joy of Cooking any edition will do. (check ebay)

It pretty much covers everything.



posted on Mar, 26 2007 @ 04:34 AM
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Watch the Food Network. Lots of info for beginners or more advanced cooks. I especially recommend "Good Eats" with Alton Brown.



posted on Mar, 26 2007 @ 12:36 PM
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Originally posted by secret_aircraft6
Any good books for absolute beginners? Tips would also be helpful! THANK YOU!


Howdy SA,

Cooking can be a real joy, especially when you have someone to cook for. What was once considered to be the onus of a female is something that can and should be enjoyed by everyone who wants to not only eat healthy, but also save money. That "fast food" actually costs more per meal than something much healthier, tastier, and you get to learn a lot in the process. I can recommend a few good cookbooks, but really the tips are the important part. So here goes:

1.) Always keep a notebook with you when you cook and write your observations in it. For instance, if you find that if you boil rice at a 8 rather than "Hi", for 12 minutes, and it comes out perfect, you should write that down. If you decide to try an experiment, write down what spices and extra food you used. I discovered a fantastic Chili recipe completely by accident through experimentation, and had I not written it down as I did it, I'd never remember it again.

2.) To mellow out too much salt, you can use potatoes. To mellow out too much pepper, you can use garlic powder. Note, if potatoes are inappropriate for what you're trying to cook, you can always remove them once they've soaked up the salt.

3.) Get the absolute basics in spices. You can almost always find spices at the dollar store for cheap. These are great to learn with, but eventually you'll want the good stuff. For that you need someplace like Central Market or Whole Foods, where you can get much higher quality, fresher ingrediants. Just some good spices no kitchen should be without:

  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Bay Leaves
  • Parsley Flakes
  • Garlic Powder (or even better, Garlic Festival's Garli Products)
  • Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning
  • Adam's Season Salt
  • McCormick's Season Salt
  • Hickory Salt
  • Liquid Smoke (Hickory and Mesquite)
  • Various steak rubs
  • Tarragon
  • Celery Seed
  • Dill Weed
  • Cumin
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Paprika
  • "Chicken/Poultry Seasoning"
  • "Italian Seasoning"
  • "Pork Seasoning"
  • "Soul Seasoning"
  • Pepperball with multi-pepper corns
  • Hot Shot (red+black ground pepper)
  • Tobasco sauce
  • Salsa Verde
  • Gumbo Fille (ground sassafrass leaves)
  • Brown Sugar
  • Honey (preferably local honey from the Farmer's market)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    4.) Save yourself a lot of headache and get a spice rack. I use one cabinet for all my spices, and have the spice rack attached to the inside of the door, with the most commonly used ones in the rack, and the less commonly used ones inside the cabinet.

    5.) Tools of the trade you'll definitely want:

  • Measuring cups (1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 1cup, 2cup, etc.)
  • Measuring spoons (1/2 teaspoon (tsp), 1 teaspoon, 1/3 tablespoon (tbsp), 1/2 tbsp, 2/3 tbsp, 1 tbsp)
  • Ladel
  • Pasta-claw spooner
  • 2 long straining spoons (the ones with holes in the bottom)
  • 3 long solid spoons (the ones without holes)
  • 2 frying pans (pref w/lid w/o holes in the lid, like Emeril cookware)
  • 2 sauce pans (one small, one huge)
  • various baking pans, all sizes, but primarily the small squares, and the long rectangles, and the cookie sheet. Make sure you measure the width of your oven before buying the cookie sheet.
  • Aluminum Foil
  • 3 cookpots with lids (pref some with holes in the lids, some without)
  • 2 collandars
  • 1 strainer net-thingy (looks like a bowl-shaped mesh net with a handle)
  • some various sized cheap mixing bowls. Some metal, some plastic

    5.) Hamburger meat (get 80% lean or better. Anything less lean and it'll be swimming in fat and be of really poor quality). I usually buy a 3-5 lb chub and some quart-sized freezer bags. Seperate into 1 lb of meat per freezer bag, as most recipes take the hamburger in pound increments, freeze the meat till used. After thawing it out, before you cook it, spice it a bit. Drop a little steak rub and hickory salt in it for extra zest, or maybe some Tony Cachere's and some Fille if you're looking for zip. A few rounds with the pepperball wouldn't hurt either. If you're cooking something that requires bits o' meat, like stroganoff, tear off little bits of meat about the size of a finger and drop 'em in the pan. Some people just do it lazy, dump the meat in the pan, and seperate it while cooking, but I find this creates uneven browning and requires a lot more attention you could be putting towards the rest of the meal. Timing is everything. If you're cooking patties, like hamburgers or salsbury steak, then drop an egg into the meat-mix before making the patties. This'll help hold it together. If you cook the hamburger meat in a pan, cover it with a lid with no hole (preferably a glass lid) and cook on medium, you have a HUGE margin of error that keeps the meat moist, cooked, and not burning. If you cook it uncovered, your margin of error is only about 30seconds to 2 minutes, but covered you've probably got literally 5-10 minutes margin of error. Since no steam or grease is evaporating, it keeps the meat surface cooled enough to keep from blackening and keeps the juices around the meat to keep it moist. However, if you're going for patties, nothing beats a grill. For almost any meal requiring hamburger meat (like spaghetti) cook the meat seperately, heat up your sauce seperately, then pick up the meat with the strainer spoons to drop it into the sauce, and let it stew within the sauce a bit while your pasta cooks. This will ensure a mutually shared flavor between the two as well as moisten the meat further.

    6.) Chicken - The easiest chicken to prepare is going to be boneless, skinless chicken breasts. After defrosting these, put about half a cup of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of your pan, cook the chicken on medium with a holeless lid, and you've got a great margin of error there as well. The oil will keep the chicken from sticking to the pan as much, as well as moistening it. for optimal results, rub your chicken with whatever spices you'll use BEFORE cooking it. Just massage it right into the bird.

    7.) Steak - Dry Rub vs. Marinade - Marinades are for lazy people who don't know how to mix a proper dry rub. Thaw the meat, and find a big bowl drop in plenty of pepperball grounds, steak rub (the Garlic Festival Mesquite rub is to die for), season salt, meat tenderizer, and other stuff to mix. Don't be afraid to experiment with what you put in. Even brown sugar works great. Moisten the steak with a bit of liquid smoke, then drop it in the bowl, pick it up, drop the other side into the bowl. Then, holding the steak over the bowl, so that the excess rub and juices fall into it, massage the steak like you would a sore muscle. Get it all good and in the folds of the meat. When you're done, it should look like you dropped the steak on a dirty warehouse floor. That's a good thing. Set it on a plate, move on to the next steak. Once you have them all done, cover 'em with saran wrap and pop 'em in the fridge if you won't be grilling them for a while, or leave them at room temp if it's under an hour. The longer they sit, the more the juices will osmosify the spices into he meat. The only time you should ever do a marinade is if it's by request, or some yankee who doesn't know a filet from a sirloin is sitting at your table, an even then it should shame you. But that's a Texan thing.

    7.) Pork is extremely difficult to cook correctly, and even harder to experiment with because of the almost total lack of porosity of the meat. I'd follow recipes to the letter on this till you learn what experiments work on this, but typically brown sugar, hickory salt, and honey will serve you well on this. With pork, think salty and sweet.

    8.) Pasta has some easy tricks. To make water boil faster, add a bit of salt to the water. When boiling water for rice or pasta, you'll notice it tends to foam up pretty bad. This can be a real pain. Pour a little extra virgin olive oil in there to make them bubbles go away real quick. This'll also help keep your pasta and rice from sticking together overly much. To tell if spaghetti is done, take a strand out with your claw-spooner, and fling it at the wall. If it sticks, it's done. If it falls, it's not done. For non-spaghetti type pastas, just spoon up one, run some cold water over it to cool it off, then pop it in your mouth, chew, and test the texture. If you're going to buy whole wheat pasta, shell out the extra bucks for the good stuff, otherwise you'll hate the taste. Central Market and Whole Foods has some great whole wheat pasta. When cooking pasta, time your sauce to be ready and on a low simmer before your noodles finish. Have one of those large mixing bowls handy. After dumping the water and noodles into your collandar to drain them, dump them into a mixing bowl and immediately cover it with a dinner plate as a lid. This will keep your pasta fresher and moister and warmer MUCH longer than open-air. You don't want to re-add it to the pan or the heat will melt the noodles to the pan.

    9.) To cook the freshest looking veg, go with the local farmer's market. Farmer's markets have produce usually days if not WEEKs before the grocery stores do. If you have to buy frozen veg, like broccoli or spinach, dump it in your strainer, fill the pot so that the water covers up to about half the strainer's net if it's resting in the pot. Remove the strainer, bring the water to boil, set the net full of veg in the water, wait for it to boil again, then bring down to a simmer and cover with lid. This gives you a margin of error of about 5-10 minutes and your veg should not end up being discolored as a result of this, nor will it lose it's crispness overly much. The biggest advantage is that it won't burn from the bottom-heat of the pot.

    10.) Timing is everything. Ideally, when your meal is ready to serve, everything should be finishing right about the same time. That way nothing is cold, nothing is overcooked, and everything is steaming hot. Before you take everything off the burner, alert your eaters to get ready and get the table set. From stove to plate you have about a 1-2 minute window before stuff starts getting cold. Better it be your guests fault they have to eat something cold than it be served that way. Nothing delights like steam off a hot plate of freshly cooked food. At first, it'll be hard to get the timing perfect, but with practice, you'll know how to stagger your start-times on what to cook and when and for how long. This is one reason why widening your margin of error on cook-times is so essential.


    I hope this helps. I love cooking, and would be happy to offer any advice I can give.


    [edit on 3/26/2007 by thelibra]



  • posted on Mar, 26 2007 @ 03:38 PM
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    Wow that was an excellent comprehensive run down for cooking thelibra. If that cant get anyone started down the right path, i dont know what can. One spice i didnt see on your list is OldBay Seasoning. Classic excellent spice for fish, meat, chicken whatever. Just thought id throw that in.


    Cug

    posted on Mar, 26 2007 @ 08:19 PM
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    To add to The Libra's excellent post.

    spices:

    Soy sauce
    Worcestershire sauce

    Personally I stay away from the seasoning salts, and pre-made spice mixes. Most of them are just a combo of basic spices anyway.

    Equipment:

    A 4 cup liquid measuring cup
    A cast iron skillet*



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 07:00 AM
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    Originally posted by S1LV3R4D0
    Wow that was an excellent comprehensive run down for cooking thelibra. If that cant get anyone started down the right path, i dont know what can.


    Thanks man. I'm definitely not the end-all of cooking, but it's definitely one of my favorite hobbies.



    Originally posted by S1LV3R4D0
    One spice i didnt see on your list is OldBay Seasoning. Classic excellent spice for fish, meat, chicken whatever. Just thought id throw that in.


    I've never heard of it before, but you can bet I'm going to run out and get some of it now. I love to try new spices that get recommended to me by fellow cooks. It's how I ran across all my current favorites. Thanks for the recommendation, and please feel free to share any other recommendations, as I'm still learning myself.



    Originally posted by Cug
    Pork:

    One word... Brining


    Brilliant!!! I've heard of it for using on turkeys before baking them, but never for pork. I'll have to try that out. Maybe I can finally make a decent pork chop for once. Pork's been my toughest challenge by far. I can even do salmon, but the magical other white meat has evaded my grasp for far too long.

    Tastypork, you shall be mine!!!

    Thanks Cug!



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 09:37 AM
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    Old Bay is a classic east coast spice for crabbin. I used to have to order it off the net till local retailers started carrying it. But its so good i use it for everything. Even made a killer marinade from it and some lemon juice and balsamic vinegar for chicken. The 2 seasoned salts you have listed are excellent suggestions also. Try some Pappy's if its available in your area. I replaced the majority of mine with that combo.

    Might i suggest Olde Thompson pepper mills with their excellent blend of tillamook, white and cherry pepper blends. They also have a lemon pepper that i mix in when i fill it. Cant live without my Olde Thompsons mills or my Boos Block cutting boards.

    Cug that brining suggestion for Pork is awesome, i will be trying that out tonight. Thanx for that.



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 05:10 PM
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    Originally posted by S1LV3R4D0
    Old Bay is a classic east coast spice for crabbin...

    ...Try some Pappy's if its available in your area....

    ...Might i suggest Olde Thompson pepper mills with their excellent blend of tillamook, white and cherry pepper blends...

    ...or my Boos Block cutting boards.


    Okay, I definitely am going to seek out those spices and try 'em out. I'm always on the hunt for new tastes.

    While I certainly appreciate Cug's choice not to use the specific spice mixes yet, I haven't yet advanced to the level of skill or appreciation of spices yet to make up for some of the ones I've already found. If I can ever replicate a spice mix like Garli Garni's taste, I would, but for now I'm still in the "Intermediate" cooking skillset, and spice mixes are fine with me.

    Cug, if you can recommend a good book on spice mixing, preparation, drying, grinding, etc, I'd like to know. I've seen you dish out some great book references before, and it sounds like you know your spices a lot better than I do. I'm looking to learn though, as I'm starting a veg and spice garden in the back yard.

    And I can't believe I forgot about the cast-iron skillet. We don't use ours as often, but you're right. There's some things you just can't make right without one.

    S1LV3R4D0, I'm glad you pointed out basalmic vinegar. That's another favorite of mine. Mix it with some ground pepper and some extra virgin olive oil, and you've got an incredibly good "sauce" to dip your bread in. But basalmic vinegar also works really really well for cooking zuccinni and yellow squash with a little zest.

    EDIT ADD: Oh, I meant to ask about the cutting boards. What sets them apart from just another cutting board?

    [edit on 3/27/2007 by thelibra]



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 05:21 PM
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    thelibra - Those are great, great tips. I've been cooking for a while and still found out some neat things from reading that.



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 05:38 PM
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    Originally posted by thelibra


    6.) Chicken - The easiest chicken to prepare is going to be boneless, skinless chicken breasts.


    Absolutley. They are very easy to make and very hard to screw up. Another easy thing to do with them is to take the chicken, season it, dip it in some Olive Oil or a beaten egg, cover it in breadcrumbs and pop it in the oven. Make some rice or noodles to go along with it and you have a very easy to make meal (That tastes good! ).

    [edit on 27/3/2007 by enjoies05]



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 05:38 PM
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    Aw, thanks Enjoies!

    I love food. My belly says perhaps too much, but still, I love good food.



    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 05:40 PM
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    The quality and the craftsmanship of the blocks are the greatest! I have a heavy cutting hand and have a tendency to destroy cheapy wood blocks. Plus i like to use very good knives and cheap blocks can dull them quickly. Ive had my blocks about 2 years now and they are still in excellent condition. My Boos Blocks even survived the fire in my apartment except for the butchers block. The smaller ones were in the cabinet and didnt get any flame put to them but they sure were ugly from all the destruction that occured. A couple of good cleanings and oilings later and whalla, good as new.

    Im sure its a preferencial thing but my blocks go with me to every bbq i cook at and are the center of my cooking in the kitchen. I have a little 12x12 for generality(is that a word?). The Maple AuJous board cuz it has a deep well for the juice of cutting meats. The GRV Kitchen island was way expensive so it will be a while before i replace that badboy.

    The Olde Thompson Mills are great quality mills also. Adjustable grind size and the great peppers you can order from them also. Theres nothing like fresh ground pepper. Im not a big salt guy so im not sure about the salt mills. My mom has one and swears by it like i do my pepper mills.

    So there ya go, my reasonings for paying a little more now to get a quality product instead of spending small amounts over and over for the cheapy stuff.

    The knives is a whole other department. I used to use Cutco till i went to a Japanese craft fair. There was a guy doing a demo with his knives and whatdya know, Cutco and OMG whatta difference. Mac Superior was the name.

    Heres some links for ya on all the things i been talkin about in this thread.

    Olde Thompson

    Boos Blocks

    Mac Knives


    Cug

    posted on Mar, 27 2007 @ 10:05 PM
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    Originally posted by thelibra

    Brilliant!!! I've heard of it for using on turkeys before baking them, but never for pork. I'll have to try that out. Maybe I can finally make a decent pork chop for once. Pork's been my toughest challenge by far. I can even do salmon, but the magical other white meat has evaded my grasp for far too long.


    Ironically the other white meat thing is the reason pork is so dry now. When the low-fat thing took off the pork farmers were losing money so they started to breed their pigs for leaner meat.



    Cug, if you can recommend a good book on spice mixing, preparation, drying, grinding, etc, I'd like to know. I've seen you dish out some great book references before, and it sounds like you know your spices a lot better than I do. I'm looking to learn though, as I'm starting a veg and spice garden in the back yard.


    I can't help much on the mix part as I don't use many. I have my secret BBQ rub, and my extra super top secret pizza sauce seasoning mix. and that's pretty much it.

    Drying is pretty simple, for leafy stuff just stick them out in the sun between two window screens, for things like peppers use a needle and thread and string them up through the stems and hang them up. The best grinder is just a cheap coffee grinder from walmart.



    posted on May, 7 2007 @ 11:25 AM
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    I was just making some lunch and picked up a couple more easy, but VERY helpful and important tips.


    When you go to turn the burner of the stove on, double check and make sure if you meant to put the back one on you didn't accidently turn the front one on, or vice - versa. That can cause some problems, I've learned.
    :shk:

    Because 1. You will stand there like a
    wondering why the water hasn't boiled after 20 mintues, and put something on the burner you thought was off and wonder why it smells like something is burning. :bnghd:

    And 2. You might accidently lean over the stove and touch the burner you thought was off. Ouch!


    And be sure you turn everything off when you are done cooking.



    posted on Jul, 13 2007 @ 08:26 AM
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    Get a Foreman Grill. (meat)
    Get a 2 Quart Saucepan. (side dishes)

    With those two, you can fix a ton of different meals...
    A good tip, try any of the McCormic marinades....just follow the instructions, and makes great meat marinades and sauces...



    posted on Jul, 13 2007 @ 05:05 PM
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    Thelibra

    Add Chinese 5 spice to your list of essentials.

    I bought a string of smoked french garlic about 6 months ago, and it's still good.

    If it's your first time cooking and you're short of cash, you might consider stews.

    My favourite consists of:
    1lb lean minced beef
    5 carrots
    2 red onions
    1 tin marrowfat peas
    1 tin kidney beans
    100 grams quick cook pearl barley
    3lb potatoes 1 knor veg stock cube
    mixed herbs
    Worcester sauce
    black pepper
    sea salt
    olive oil
    HP Brown Sauce

    Peel and chop the onions whilst heating olive oil in a BIG pan
    Add mixed herbs, salt and black pepper to taste to oil in pan
    add mince and onions, and turn down heat, gently moving the mince and onions around the pan, making sure the mince is nicely browned
    add peas, kidney beans, chopped carrots and 1/2 point of water and simmer.

    Cook the quick cook pearl barley

    Add the barley, worcester sauce and hp sauce. simmer for at least 1 hour on very low heat.

    Clean/peel potatoes, chop into medium sized pieces and add.

    Add more water as required, as the barley will soak it up.

    After the potatoes are cooked, take off the heat and allow to rest in the pan for 30 minutes at least.

    This does me 5 meals - separate into portion sized containers and freeze, then have them when you want them - do the same with curry sauces, pasta sauces etc






    [edit on 13/7/2007 by budski]



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