Myths About Cooking (What I Wish I Had Known as a New Cook)

In this post, I debunk seven myths about cooking. These are the things I wish I had known when I first started cooking for myself and for my family.

This post is part of the Myths About Homemaking series.

Myth #1: Cooking takes a long time.

Myth: As a child, I watched my parents devote hours every day to cooking. The combined act of grocery shopping, preparing ingredients and cooking meals took up a sizeable chunk of each day. As a result, I formed the belief that real cooking requires a huge time commitment. And when I started cooking for myself, I felt ashamed whenever I opted for any recipe that took less than an hour.

Reality: There is no rule that says that cooking has to take a long time. In fact, when it comes to cooking, longer does not always mean better.

There are days when I choose to devote an entire afternoon to cooking a big batch of beef stew. But there are also days when I spend less than five minutes assembling a cheese and tomato quesadilla. Both choices result in a delicious and nutritious meal.

Instead of focusing on the amount of time it takes to prepare a meal, focus on the intention that underlies the meal. Any meal prepared with love is a meal worth eating—regardless of how much time it took to make it.

Myth #2: You need a highly equipped kitchen to make delicious meals.

Myth: When I was new to homemaking, I was a terrible cook. At the time, I owned very little kitchen equipment—and I attributed my lack of equipment to my lack of culinary success.

Reality: A kitchen is only as good as the cook who commands it. Over the years, I learnt to stop yearning for new gadgets and start focusing on expanding my cooking skills. In the process, I discovered that delicious meals can be created with the simplest tools.

An abundance of equipment is not a prerequisite for cooking. It is true that if you want to cook, you will need cooking equipment. But you may need less than you think.

Aim to maximise your cooking knowledge while minimising your kitchen cupboards. And above all, guard against acquiring a cluttered kitchen, which can turn cooking from a pleasurable art into a stressful ordeal.

Myth #3: Meal planning is restrictive.

Myth: My early attempts at meal planning were failures. I spent ages creating elaborate meal plans, and I followed none of them. Unsurprisingly, meal planning felt like a waste of time.

Reality: You can create a meal planning system that works for you, not against you. To learn about the process I use for meal planning, you can read my beginner's guide to meal planning.

Myth #4: Every meal needs to come from a cookbook.

Myth: When I first began cooking, I relied on recipes for instruction and inspiration. The recipes provided helpful guidance, but they also created a new problem: they filled my pantry and fridge with half-used ingredients.

Reality: Recipes can be helpful, but you should also be able to create a meal without a recipe. Learn how to cobble together simple and nutritious meals using leftover ingredients from your fridge and pantry. These one-of-a-kind meals allow you to manage your food inventory and exercise your creativity.

Myth #5: It’s impossible to eat every meal at home.

Myth: I used to struggle with being consistent with my cooking. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm of serving home-cooked meals every day.

Reality: It is possible to create a routine of eating three home-cooked meals every day. I actually find it easier to stick to my cooking routine when I commit to eating every meal at home. The key is to think of eating at home as an act of self-care, not self-denial.

If you want to challenge yourself to eat more (or all) of your meals at home, you can read my post about how to build a habit of cooking.

Myth #6: Home-cooked food tastes bland.

Myth: For many years, I believed that it was impossible to create a home-cooked meal that tasted as good as—let alone better—than a restaurant meal.

Reality: The more you practise cooking, the better your food will taste. Make a list of your family’s favourite meals, and prioritise learning how to cook those meals. Taste your results, write down your observations, and tweak your methods. Pay attention to the feedback from your family, too. If you persevere, you will eventually be able to produce meals that you and your family love to eat.

Myth #7: You should always follow the recipe exactly.

Myth: When I first started cooking, I treated recipes as rulebooks. I followed recipes to the letter, and if the results were disappointing, I would assume that I had done something wrong.

Reality: Recipes are guidebooks, not rulebooks. There are multiple ways to cook any dish; a recipe shows you just one possibility out of hundreds or thousands. Be guided by your common sense and your palate, and permit yourself to deviate from the recipe whenever you see fit.

Your Kitchen, Your Rules

These myths about cooking teach us an important lesson: your kitchen, your rules.

In your kitchen, you are the head chef, and you should trust yourself to make cooking decisions that are best for you and your family. This is the secret ingredient that will add zest and flair to anything that emerges from your kitchen.

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