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Jun 5, 2010 02:57 PM

How do I start cooking?

I'm 16 years old, and I would like to learn how to cook. My family eats out most of the time, and when we don't, we just order pizza. I'm wondering how to start cooking. My cooking skill/experience is close to none, the best thing I can make is toast (and I burn it often.) I'm just seeking your advice on how I could start cooking at home. Thank you for your input.

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  1. I'd say to just start doing it. Start with something very simple, pasta? scrambled eggs? etc. Remember 2 rules as you are a beginner.

    1. Follow a recipe (you won't need to once you learn the basics, but for now, always have a recipe written down in front of you)

    2. NEVER walk away from the kitchen while you have the stove on.

    Expect to make some mistakes, but just start cooking. Everyone starts somewhere. :)

    1. tz gave good advice...and, I would start with what you LIKE TO EAT! Keep it simple for now...then you can blossom into more involved, I guess that would be what I would add to tz's words. Oh, and GOOD FOR for yourself is one of the best things you can do, ever! It's nice to go out and eat occasionally, but to be self-reliant in the kitchen is a worthy LIFE SKILL...we all need to know how to cook!!! Good on you, phil!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Val

        I'm with Val. I just want to commend you on wanting to get started. You will be so happy with yourself later on. And I agree with the other posters. Just start simple and initially start with recipes. Once you get those down, you can branch out. Heck - I am making things now that I have never made before and I have been cooking a long time. Keep us posted on how you are progressing. And don't forget to enjoy the experience.

      2. I think the best thing to do is find someone who does cook and ask to help them in the kitchen sometime. Check with family members and friends, and ask to help with something not-too-complex to start with. I'd suggest you try cooking things you'll want to eat for lunch or dinner on a somewhat regular basis. I'm not an expert in the kitchen by any stretch of the imagination, but the things I cook well (read: the things I've done many times) are things I learned to make so that I could have a satisfying meal whenever I wanted.

        Second, a good cookbook can help. Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" has a ton of recipes (as the name suggests) and most don't involve too many ingredients. Start with the basics (marinating and cooking a steak, making an omelet, sautéeing vegetables, making a fresh pasta sauce). Once you've learned some simple main course options, you can tweak them by adding new spices, new vegetables, new sauces, and in the course of doing that you can learn new and fancier techniques.

        Finally, expect to screw up a bunch at the beginning. It takes a while to get a feel for how hot the burner should be, how to chop a tomato without spilling the seeds everywhere, how to flip a pancake, etc. Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but the day will eventually come when you feel like you can actually navigate a stove top without tripping all over yourself, I promise!

        I hope this helps. Good luck!

        1. If you have a local library it can be a valuable resource for books and dvds on cooking. A great book for beginners is Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Primer (it's out of print but many used copies are floating around) Any dvd featuring Jacques Pepin will provide you with proper techniques and reasons for doing things along with great recipes.

          As you watch a chef prepare a dish, if everything is already cut up, look for another show where they cut and prepare the ingredients that will be used. Don't worry about the speed that they can do things, that comes with practice.

          Turning the stove to HI on a regular basis generally means that things will end up burnt on a regular basis.

          Some things that are relatively cheap to practice with are eggs and onions. Eggs are great for learning about the heat that your stove produces and onions are great for learning basic knife skills.

          Have patience and try the same recipe a few times within a week or two. This will allow you to see where you may have gone wrong and how your pots, pans and ingredients interact and make adjustments as necessary.

          Good luck and remember that it is really a lifelong journey. With practice it will become more enjoyable and you may find your family asking you to cook versus going out to eat or ordering a pizza.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SanityRemoved

            Two words. Alton Brown. Watch all his "Good Eats" episodes from the Food Network. They are on YouTube. Get his book "I"m Only Here for the Food" from the library. He not only explains how to cook in a humorous and entertaining way, he explains what's happening to the food while it cooks.

          2. Start with a basic pasta. Feeds a crowd without much hassle. Something like Mark Bittman's Penne Arrabiata is a great starter recipe, as is his pasta with onion and bacon. Pasta is also a great template for learning how to improvise and personalize your recipes.