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Apr 15, 2012 11:08 AM

Help Me Teach My Cousin How to Cook

My cousin has never been much of a cook and has recently moved to Reno. I've forwarded some recipes that are easy with cooking tips, but it's not working. I realize that Reno is a higher altitude than Chicago (where I'm from) and I think this might be a contributing factor. I have educated myself on how altitude affects cooking, but it's difficult offering guidance from a distance. I've suggested she watch cooking shows for some basic techniques too. She's gotten disgusted with her progress after wasting alot of food. She can't afford to enroll in a cooking class either. Does anyone have a good source for (free) on-line instructions or good beginner recipe books? I'd like to help instead of just nominating her for Worst Cooks in America. Thanks!

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  1. May I suggest Youtube? Type in what you want to cook and get videos on how to make it.

    1. This is a great beginner's book with step by step photos:

      1. I've cooked at altitude and it was only in baking that there were any major differences. What dishes is she having problems with?

        Also, I recommend she go to the local library. There are many beginners level cookbooks that will get her started.

        8 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          From the sound of it, she's having problems with many things. Since I have no experience with high altitudes, I wondered if it was causing additional problems. Good to know the major differences are mostly just baking related. I read this article and it sounded way more complicated.

          1. re: LanaD

            Reno is 4500 ft above sea level that means water boils at apx. 204F, while that is high enough to mess around with baking a bit, it isn't really high enough to screw up other cooking. I lived at 10,000-11,000 ft for awhile and that was much different.

            This sounds more like she needs to read some QUALITY cookbooks, ones that have been written with TESTED recipes, rather than many big name cookbooks that are ghost written. Then practice making the recipes EXACTLY how they are written.

          2. re: JMF

            and beans... You have to use a pressure cooker at that altitude for beans.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              hmmm, your experience is wildly different from mine. I lived at about 7200' and never had a pressure cooker but always had great beans. What happens when you cook beans at altitude without a pressure cooker?

              1. re: miss louella

                When I was a kid, I lived in Farmington, New Mexico which is about 5000 ft (very similar to Reno). Unfortunately, my knowledge isn't first hand. My parents did the cooking but they always swore that the beans would take twice as long to soften at altitude and that they never seemed break down which at least for us was an important part of beans. As an adult, I still don't want a bowl of soft individual beans. I want a lot of those beans to break down and form a creamy thick broth. I will sometimes take 3/4 of a cup of beans out and whir them with an immersion blender to assure that effect.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  It could also have been the dry air. Older, drier beans have tougher skins and take longer to cook.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    Water hardness (does the cousin use city or well water?) also affects the cooking rate of beans, as does the amount of salting of the cooking water.

                    1. re: kcender

                      Yes to the water, no to the salt....Alton Brown and many others have dispelled the "don't salt" myth for cooking dried beans.

          3. America's Test Kitchen cookbooks have recipes that work and have precise directions as well as a lot of cooking tips and techniques. I don't know which cookbook to recommend however. I'm sure Amazon can help. (I won't recommend going to their website, there are people on this board that might do me verbal harm if I do ; )

            (ATK has a reputation for squeezing every last nickel out of their subscribers and it is annoying to some).

            1 Reply
            1. re: John E.

              +1 for ATK. Although, they can a bit light on the basics...they assume you've got proper knife skills and know how to saute or simmer. But as a rule, I like their approach. They don't profess to be the BEST recipes...but they sure know how to improve on them.

            2. Tell her to keep at it and don't give up, great cooking technique evolves from practice and support (and a steady stream of supplies)! I don't know how many horrid-tasting batches of white sauce I had to go through before I got the rhythm down, but now I can make it in my sleep. Does she know anyone near her that she can cook with? I find that watching a person cook right in front of you can be insanely helpful, especially if you can get them to cook in your own kitchen. Youtube is a fantastic teaching tool as well.