Cooking Tips for Beginners (Cooking Mistakes That I Made)

This post contains seven cooking tips for beginners. If you are new to cooking and want some basic cooking tips, this post is for you.

In this post I also reveal some of the cooking mistakes I made when I first started cooking, along with my favourite tips on how to avoid making these mistakes.

This post is part of the Homemaking for Beginners series.

Tip #1: Learn How to Use a Lid

When I first began learning how to cook, I rarely used a lid. I didn’t even own lids for all my pots and pans.

These days, I will only buy cookware if it comes with a lid. Using a lid can help you save time and energy. It even helps you keep your kitchen clean.

If you want to improve your cooking skills, learn to use a lid when necessary. To get you started, here are three instances where it can be helpful to use a lid:

  • When you want to heat your food more quickly. When you use a lid, it becomes so much faster to bring a pot of pasta water to the boil.
  • When you want to minimise evaporation. The lid helps to retain moisture, which is helpful when you are cooking soups and stews.
  • When you want to minimise splatters. A lid can help to contain splatters, which is perfect if you want to keep your kitchen clean!

Tip #2: Sit Instead of Stand

When I was new to cooking, I didn’t realise how time-consuming it was to prep food—especially as a beginner.

For a period of time, I tried to save time by rushing through my food prep. But rushing made me careless and stressed, and it robbed me of the enjoyment of preparing a meal. So I stopped trying to rush, and I started looking for ways to make prepping more enjoyable.

Here is my favourite tip for making time-consuming food prep more enjoyable. If possible, sit instead of stand. For many tasks, sitting can be more comfortable than standing.

If it’s not feasible for you to sit down in your kitchen, try doing some of your prep in a different room. Whenever I need to peel a big bowl of chickpeas for hummus, you’ll usually find me seated comfortably at the dining table instead of standing at the kitchen bench.

Tip #3: Taste Before Serving

For Christmas Eve a few years ago, I decided to make beef stroganoff. I found a recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks, and I followed it exactly.

I still remember how excited I was to serve that dinner. The beef stroganoff looked so appetising resting atop a nest of egg noodles.

But when I took my first bite, I was incredibly disappointed—and more than a little embarrassed. The beef stroganoff was so bland!

That beef stroganoff taught me a lesson that I will never forget. Always taste every dish before you serve it. That is the best way to avoid any surprises at the dinner table.

Tip #4: Remember to Defrost

In my first few years as a homemaker, I frequently forgot to move food from the freezer to the fridge to defrost. When it was dinner time, I would often open my fridge and discover that I had nothing to cook.

Over the years, I tried lots of different solutions. Here are the three strategies that work best for me:

  • Make it part of your daily routine. I peep into my fridge and freezer every evening to check whether there are any items that I want to defrost.
  • Do a double-check. I also check my fridge and freezer before each meal. During each check, I make sure that I have the ingredients I need for the next two or three meals.
  • Get your partner involved. My husband knows about my routine, and in the evenings he often reminds me to check the fridge and freezer. This is so helpful, especially on days when I am preoccupied.

Tip #5: Spice Up Your Seasoning Technique

When I was new to cooking, my dishes would often look fine, yet they didn’t taste quite right. This puzzled me for a while, but I finally realised that the culprit was my seasoning technique.

Here are my favourite tips for seasoning to perfection:

  • Season lightly at first. Start with less seasoning than you think you need. It’s easy to add more seasoning, whereas it can be hard to fix a dish that has too much seasoning.
  • Choose the right time. I used to only season my food at the end of the cooking process. Now I often season before cooking, as well as throughout the cooking process.
  • Branch out from salt. I used to reach for the salt whenever I needed to add flavour to a dish. But there are many other ways to counteract blandness. To add flavour, try also adding herbs, spices, and acids.

Tip #6: Wear an Apron

I like to wear an apron for most homemaking tasks, but I find it especially useful to wear an apron when cooking.

Accidents in the kitchen tend to happen when you are least expecting them. The best way to guard against wayward splatters is to wear an apron. It is much easier to clean an apron than a whole outfit.

Here are my criteria for choosing an apron:

  • Check the strap style. The straps are the first thing I check when buying an apron. I avoid halter neck aprons because I find them uncomfortable. My favourite aprons have H-shaped straps that rest on my shoulders.
  • Choose lightweight fabric. Look for comfortable, breathable material that allows you to move freely. My favourite aprons are made of 100% lightweight cotton.
  • Look for pretty prints and trimmings. Aprons can be pretty as well as functional. My favourite aprons have floral prints and are trimmed with lace and ruffles. You will be more likely to wear an apron if you find it pleasing to the eye.

Tip #7: Stock Up on Pantry Staples

When I was new to homemaking, it felt like I was always running out of pantry staples. I would walk into the kitchen to make pancakes, only to realise that I had no flour. And no sugar. And no milk, for that matter.

Or I would go to season a pot of homemade pasta sauce, only to realise that there was not a single speck of salt in the house.

If you are new to cooking, stock up on pantry staples. Pantry staples are basic ingredients that you use frequently—like salt, flour, and oil. If you have a stock of pantry staples, you will always be able to conjure up a variety of meals on short notice.

Here’s my favourite rule for stocking the pantry—buy it before you need it. Aim to have at least one spare unit of each pantry staple, and repurchase each item as soon as you open it. This simple rule has saved me from countless culinary crises.

Make One Tiny Change

The tips that I have shared in this post are simple and easy to implement. So if there was a tip in this post that resonated with you, I encourage you to take action on it today.

A single tiny change might seem inconsequential, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Each time I made one of the tiny changes that I described in this post, I was surprised by how much it helped. Even the tiniest adjustment can have the potential to propel you a great distance forward on your cooking journey.

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