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Jun 22, 2011 08:23 PM

Signs that someone is a GOOD cook

We've hashed and rehashed what things may make you think a cook is not very good, but what makes you have faith in their cooking skills or at least the tastiness of the food they'll churn out?

For me, it would probably be:

Lots of fresh produce and a freezer full of "from scratch" items, like beef stock, pasta sauces, enchilada sauce, etc.

This is obviously problematic, but not too many "single tasker" gadgets that could otherwise have their job done by something else.

Well-used items, like stained silpats and heavily scoured stainless pans.

Fresh lemons and garlic in the pantry, not for decoration.

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  1. Besides great smells and a quiet dining table, most good cooks seem to like to talk about food.

    10 Replies
      1. re: KayceeK

        Especially while you're eating! At a nice restaurant for dinner talking about another........

      2. re: wekick

        Funny I was thinking slightly the opposite. Most of the people I consider good cooks or skilled in preparation don't spend a lot of time on bravado; they just let their food do the talking.

        OTOH, these people tend to know where to source and score wonderful produce, meat, spices and supplies for less money and with a first name basis relationship. That always gets my attention.

        1. re: eatingjoy

          i'm not sure talking about food could be considered as bravado.

          1. re: ritabwh

            unless you're talking about your food, and then that's just dick-waddish. but you do get to say "Oh you like it? I'm so happy." and "Oh OK I'll e-mail the ingredients and sort of a recipe later"

            and that's about it.

              1. re: ritabwh

                you just don't want to sound self-congratulatory. that's all.

            1. re: ritabwh

              a bold manner or a show of boldness intended to impress or intimidate.

              Too much of IT demonstrated through skill isn't what I see from a confident cooks. That is what I was referring to ritabwh.

                1. re: ritabwh

                  Said elsewhere: a good cook is someone OTHERS spend time discussing.

        2. For me it would be watching them cook and tasting their food.

          Casual observation isn't adequate (how do you know that beef stock and pasta sauce is any good?), though I would be on the lookout for fundamental hygiene.

          1. Generally, I'm more likely to trust their cooking if the equipment looks used but not abused. I trust people whose tools look like they see regular use.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Nocturnalbill

              Cookware that is not battle-scarred is always suspect.

              1. re: law_doc89

                Yeah, never trust the food made by a chef with a pristine fryin' pan.

            2. Minimally processed ingredients. Is that an actual chicken, or a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store? Are you actually mixing rosemary and thyme, or is it just Italian seasoning mix?

              4 Replies
              1. re: gilintx

                They like to cook and want to learn.

                They grow or buy local, fresh ingredients. Hunt or raise poultry, etc. if they are so inclined. Ditto gilintx minimally processed comment. There's no attribution on this (we have it in our kitchen)


                1. Buy it with thought

                2. Cook it with care

                3. Serve just enough

                4. Serve what will keep

                5. Eat what would spoil

                6. Home-grown is best

                don't waste it

                Based on my experiences, people who enjoy food and are good cooks seem to have a certain spirit about them . . .the need to create . . .a respect for the ingredients, etc.

                James Beard's "Simple Foods" first chapter is Good Cooking is in Your Hands . . . "Hands were the earliest of all implements for preparing food, and they are still the most versatile, efficient and sensitive."

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  I think that list is from (at least part of it, anyway!) WWII propaganda leaflets, btw. I have a reproduction postcard from the Imperial War Museum (in Britain) which lists the first three statements. I love it because it's not really 'austere' advice, just advice that stands the test of time.

                2. re: gilintx

                  dammit, they made blends for a reason. some of the spices work best in blends. That, and I can buy a blend in bulk ,a nd spend the rest on fresh produce.

                  1. re: gilintx

                    While I agree, many good cooks are also aware of the prepared and partly-prepared resources around them. I can get very good rôtisserie chickens (quality meat) at Jean-Talon market and other nearby places, and I certainly buy bbq ducks at a nearby Sino-Vietnamese shop; moreover the person tending to them also deftly cleaves them into small pieces.

                    I can also get spice mixes from a shop with a good turnover.

                  2. The ability to open up the fridge, root around to see what's in there, and produce a tasty meal out of what they find, without opening a cook-book.

                    1 Reply