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Where Does a Newbie Start?

Hi all - I'm a newlywed & a teacher with very little time on my hands. I've never had an interest in cooking until now. I have a few cookbooks but a lot of the recipes seem quite complicated and I'm not even sure how to begin... any recommendations for great books/blogs/websites that will help a newbie like me begin to actually LEARN how to cook...? Seems like such a dumb question but any help would be greatly appreciated; hubby and I are both tired of eating mac & cheese for dinner! ;)

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    1. re: Alan408

      Excellent suggestions. I'd also go looking for old episodes of Sarah Moulton.

      1. re: Alan408

        +100000000000000 on the Good Eats recommendation.

        All the episodes are uploaded on YouTube as well!

      2. One suggestion is to buy a copy of "Joy of Cooking". Not only do you get many very easy recipes, but you get lots of basic instructions on cooking, cooking terms (what does it mean to "cream" the butter?), etc.

        Right now, my favorite cooking blogs are (in no particular order):

        http://food52.com/
        http://www.thekitchn.com/
        http://www.macheesmo.com/

        If you don't mind paying for a subscription, then America's Test Kitchen is good. Although, their recipes sometimes get a bit involved, I think.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mwk

          Yes, Irma didn't miss much. But get an earlier edition than the current one. 60's or 70's is fine. Also, Cook's Illustrated "Best Recipes" book. Some are elaborate, but others not. Roast chicken, for example.

          1. re: mwk

            I learned so much just reading Joy of Cooking cover to cover. I can't say that I was a total newbie as I'd always had a knack for cooking from childhood, but just reading the sections between the recipes was very educational.

            I'm sure you're to busy for that kind of reading, so maybe Youtube?

            1. re: mwk

              yes JoC is a classic. I too prefer the 70's edition.

              it doesn't have many show-stopping recipes, and includes some charming anachronisms, but it covers the basics on vocabulary and processes and is a real-building block. the chapter on "Know Your Ingredients" is worth the purchase price alone.

              Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" series of books is pretty darn good as well but the guy is so prolific that someday we'll be able to fill a wall with his volumes unless/until you develop specific areas of interest.

            2. I strongly recommend general books designed for the novitiate. Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker, and some local spiral bound fund raising cook books are great to get started. They are great at teaching techniques with readily obtainable ingredients.

              Branch out into specific cuisines as you desire. Again stick with the standards. Child for French, Hazan for Italian, Kennedy for Mexican. The joys of the near and far east I leave to those more conversant in STARTER cookbooks.

              I would not recommend spending a ton of money on knives or pots and pans until you and yours discover you actually like cooking. Search Chowhound under cookware for exhaustive research and opinions.

              As for learning techniques, Youtube for free beats any basic cooking class at your local school or cookware store.

              1. A VERY renowned CH who hasn't posted in quite a while taught herself to cook with Julia Child's The Way to Cook.

                3 Replies
                1. re: c oliver

                  Absolutely. "THe Way to Cook" plus "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" equals success in the kitchen.

                  1. re: jmckee

                    I learned how to bake from "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book." I got it as a birthday present in 8th grade and read it cover to cover. I learned so much from it and still have the the same copy.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    I'm with Catherine on Juila Child, The Way To Cook. When my niece got married I made sure she got a copy Another good one to have on hand is Malgieri's How To Bake.

                  3. Betty Crocker cookbooks are great for the new cook. Easy to follow recipes with photos. Over time you will gain experience and feel more confident about your skills in the kitchen. May I suggest that after you try a new recipe, you add little notes for future reference somewhere in the border around the recipe (example- hubby really liked this, seemed too salty, needed to bake longer than stated, use more onion next time). We all make mistakes. Don't get discouraged, instead, learn from them. The best thing a young cook can have is a good quality, really sharp knife. Good luck to you!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: i_am_Lois

                      Yes, make notes! Write in the book -- add post-its if you run out of room. Having notes accelerates the learning process immensely.

                      And, some day, when you give away or pass down your cookbook, the notes will be the best part!

                      1. re: DebinIndiana

                        I love old cookbooks full of notes in the margins - why my favorite source for cookbooks are used book stores and garage sales.

                        1. re: hill food

                          I have some of my Aunt Bea's cookbooks. She was an amazing baker, and she made copious notes. Notes on what she did that worked, ideas for next time, warnings on recipes she hated, quotes of kind or snarky things her family or friends said. It makes me smile to see that big loopy writing -- I can hear her laughing as I read.