How to Cook (an Introduction)




About: Ask me questions. I know the answers.

Don't know how to cook? Here's a tutorial. :-)
This instructable is to answer one of life's burning questions.

(The things in the picture are chilaquiles, I don't tell you how to make them in this instructable but they taste great. Link to recipe, here, my aunt makes them :-D)

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Step 1: What You Need to Know About Cooking/baking

First, cooking is NOT an exact science. Despite what people may tell you, it is, for the most part, not.
You're first step to cooking would be to know how to follow a recipe. Follow, follow, and follow recipes. The only way you will be able to learn to cook is by doing it over and over again. If you come across a term you don't know, Google it, there are dozens of people out there who want to tell you what those terms mean.

Step 2: Basic Building Blocks

When cooking, you need to understand the basics. Cooking is just like playing with Legos, except not quite. ;-) For example, When I bake bread, I never measure things exactly. I always start out with the same basic "base" though. 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of hot water, 2 Tbs. oil, 2 Tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. sugar, and 2 Tbs of yeast. After I let that rise, I can do just about ANYTHING with my bread. I just add enough flour, usually about 3 more cups (but remember, you didn't measure perfectly for the "base"), and then I can make just about any bread I want. Cinnamon swirl, loafs, braided bread, etc.... And if I add, say, sweet potato's to the sponge (that's what the base is called) then I can make all sorts of fun things. if you make several sponges with different kinds of sweet potato's, then you can braid together three different colors!
See, with the same basic "base", I can make any kind of bread I want!
Some bread that other intructables user have made:
Honey Maple Bread
Butterfly Bread
Home Made Sourdough Bread
Rice Cooker Bread

Step 3: Enjoy It

For years all I could make was eggs and mac and cheese, but that changed when I was about 14. You see, I have 3 brothers, and we eat like crazy. When I was about 13 or 14 my mom started encouraging me cook a LOT. Before that point I had been making brownies and such, but never anything real fancy. I found that I loved to make deserts. besides the obvious reasons, I loved it so much because I could make ANYTHING. with the same basic ingredients I could make a dozen different deserts. When I was 14 I made a fancy desert consisting of chocolate cake, home made ice cream, and fancy chocolate bowls. That may not seem like a very big accomplishment, but for a 14 year old it was huge. I had just made a fancy desert, that actually looked good, and I had done it all by myself.

Some deserts posted by instructablers are:
Micro Mud Pie
liquid nitrogen ice cream
Killer Dessert

Step 4: Be Creative!

This is where the fun begins. As I said before, you can make anything. If you don't know how to make something, look it up! Find a recipe and experiment with it until it's your own recipe. Tinker with it, change it so it's exactly what you want. Some recipes will need to be followed EXACTLY. Not all, but some. Especially recipes for certain cakes and candies. With candy you have to be SO careful to get things heated to the exact right temperature, etc...

Step 5: How to Do Some Basic Basics

Here's how to do some basic basics:

Eggs- making eggs is a valuable skill is essential.
Hard boil them, Some one just posted about this! Here.
Scramble them, Spray a skillet with non-stick spray and turn the burner to medium. Crack 2 or 3 eggs in and still them just a little. Cut in some cheese if you like, or potatos or chicken, or anything that sounds good. Cook for a few minutes, stirring/flipping/moving them so it all gets cooked.
Plenty more ways to make eggs, you can make omelets, or poach them, or do any number of things to them.
Some othe egg ideas are,
Egg Muffin
Tomato Frittata
The Easy 40 Second Egg

Vegetables- These are healthy, and good for you!
Fresh vegies, these are great. You can eat lots vegetables fresh, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, etc. Just wash 'em, cut them up and eat them!
Cooked vegies, steam 'em! broccoli, beets, carrots, potatoes, you name it.
Some steamer/steamed food would be,
How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke
Quick Homemade Steamer Hack

-Cooking chicken: You can cook this so many ways. one of my favorite ways is to grill it. It's best to marinate it, the simplest marinade is to stir spices into plain yogurt, put some chicken breasts into this, and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour or two.
-Sandwich making skills: This is a handy skill to have. most people think they can make a sandwich, and usually they can, but load on the meat, cheese, tomatos, and lettuce on home made bread and you're golden.
-Rice: This is an essential part of many courses, and is good to know how to make. You don't need a rice cooker to make good rice. the water and rice is alway going to be a 2 to 1 ratio. 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice, boil it, cover it, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Step 6: Keep Doing It

Keep cooking to get better at it.
The picture below are some things I've made recently.
(The cookies are molasses)
a helpful site is My sister's kitchen.

Have fun!

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      34 Discussions


      10 years ago on Step 1

      Actually caramelized onions DO contain caramel. Since caramel is simply browned (with heat, not syrup ;) ) sugar, when you "caramelize" onions, you are actually caramelizing the sugar inside the onion, which is exactly the same process for making caramel (there are simply onions involved this time). You just aren't using pure sugar when you do it. You can actually make your own caramel by cooking pure sugar, you have to be very careful and move it a lot though, because it burns easilly, and then it is nasty. For the creamy caramel you add milk. :)


      11 years ago on Step 1

      The best part about cooking is that you'll eventually be able to make it from scratch without a recipe. You'll know it so well and you'll know the sort of consistence of a cake or muffin etc. You learn how wet/dry stuff is and finally: EXPERIMENTATION. Seriously, think of two flavours, example, Caramel & Onions. Voila: Caramelized Onions. Just go for it! I've tried Pizza Bread (pizza toppings in a breadloaf, came out like a doorstop) and my instructable on Caramel Pinwheels was all experimental. But that's how things are created messing around. I'll stop, this is long.

      2 replies

      caramelized onions don't contain caramel. It's onions cooked in butter until they turn a soft brown color. I agree with the original point though.

      Yes, I knew that. But it's combining flavours, ideas and having fun in general. Remember it's not just about looks. Taste is the most important thing!

      I'm going to respectfully disagree with your measuring statement. First, there are some bases (the bechamel roux comes to mind immediately) that will not work properly if you fiddle with them. A bit too much flour, and the whole thing is too thick, and seizes. a bit too much butter and the whole thing won't lock up, and eventually breaks.

      And there's something to be said for consistency. If you never measure anything (and by measure, I do mean that eyeballing is ok if you're able to eyeball to within tiny fractions of a teaspoon) your food is inconsistent. If you went to a restaurant once and they made an awesome dish, but the next time they were too heavy handed with the cumin, they served you 2 separate dishes. Personally, I won't eat anywhere that has inconsistent food. It's a pet peeve. Then again, I'm a professional.

      I've got a similar one to this.

      Takes your concept a step farther.

      Personally? I'd add a few things to this.

      Be confident. Don't be afraid to cook, it's not very hard and you'll mess up a few times until you get the hang of it.

      Read, constantly. I advocate new cooks pick up one recipe, master it, then move on. if everything else is crap from a can, so be it, but for a while take a recipe and keep working at it until you can make it in your sleep, then pick another.

      If you like a recipe, ask for it. The easiest way I've found to get people cooking is to give them the recipe when they say they love one of my sauces. They see how easy it is for the effect it gets, and from there they can make it. Obviously if you start with something you enjoy, you're more inclined to keep at it.

      Unplug the microwave for a month. 'nuff said, really. If you have the convenience taken away, you're more likely to try to cook something up rather than just nuke a tv dinner.

      I'd collaborate on a list like this, totally. I'm already writing a cook book for new cooks to be able to cook cheap, fast, and easy, with a bit of gourmet flair. This'd be good exercise for me.


      11 years ago on Introduction

      This will make college girls gain the freshman fifteen much easier.


      12 years ago on Introduction

      Hrmm.... Cooking is not an exact science.... But Baking is a fair bit more towards the exact side... If you don't believe me... find a recipe with baking soda... then leave it out :p It's not like forgetting to add salt to your split pea soup :p I say this because my banana bread failed on this account. It was edible, but really not chew-able (and thus not bread) :p

      5 replies

      My dad graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and like he always says, "Cooking is an art, baking is a science." I totally agree with step 4. Over the course of about 6 pizzas, I kept changing things, making it better and better, until now I've created my "famous" pizzas that everyone loves, and that I love making. I make it out of standard things you can buy, but I make my own changes to them to make the recipe my own. :D


      Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

      I forgot to mention.... perhaps this is a good topic to be open for collaboration ;) There's plenty of foodies around here :D


      11 years ago on Introduction

      Hi to all!!! first time here! hope not the last ;-) !!!
      Well, how to cook is not an easy point ah? most of the times you believe that u are the best chef in the world but at the end...the result that you have on the table is NOT RELATED with the recipe you wished to cook!!! (worst if you are preparing something for your couple...!!)
      whatever, I will read carefully some comments...apart of this, check here "How to cook" by some masters...I wan to submit my video...hahahaha... check it, I found it in Dubai when I was in there...

      regards!!! peace..



      Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

      I have the book: "Off the Shelf." It's ace for cooking. The book is centered around the precept that you can make hundreds of great dishes from a handful of staple items, spiced up with fresh or unique ingredients. I started a few years ago, just playing around with cooking and different recipes. I've tried to make things from a whole bunch of different traditions, styles, and recipes, to see what goes into different brands of cooking. Once you've gotten confident with a bunch of techniques (dough making, mixing, whipping, creaming, etc.) you'll be prepared to branch off making recipesup from the ingredients that catch your eye.


      Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

      This WILL help in college: understanding how to cook, especially in a crappy on-campus apartment (let alone a dorm room with just a hot plate and rice cooker!) will help in so many ways! -you don't have to eat the horribly nasty stuff they sell you at high prices in the student food halls -you won't get scurvy from just eating the afor-mentioned nasty food hall "food" -you really will save a ton of money, especially if you learn to cook a few things at once: fill up on rice (super super cheap), add a good serving of steamed veggies (if nothing else try tossing on a little garlic salt - that isn't grand, but it adds flavor and, hey, we're talking college cooking... try to learn spices over time, I still am. Lemon pepper is another good basic), then eat a SMALL amount of meat. Much healthier and MUCH cheaper. If you have a freezer consider cooking things like stew that you can freeze. I am far from being a good cook, but I've found you can pull off a decent stew with your eyes closed: kinda sorta follow some simple recipe the first time, cook the hell out of the cheap meat you bought so you can actually chew it (get advice from those who know on that part)... anyhow, casseroles may have been the food of the 50's through 70's, but anything you make a lot of and can eat leftovers of are great. Only make sure to cook at least three different freeze-ables so you don't get sick of one after eating it for a week straight! Lastly, and most importantly, being able to cook means you can get just about ANYONE at your college to come to your place for dinner! It is a wonderful way to socialize and make friends, and yes, impress them. I pulled off crepes stuffed with mushrooms, wild rice, chicken, peas, a little celery for texture, don't recall what else, with a bit of hollandaise and white sauce in and on top, served with polenta and some cheap wine. My guests were convinced I knew what I was doing, but really crepes are super simple (think thin pancake batter) and you just throw anything in them, add some sauce (those two are super easy but hollandaise just takes paying attention and a few minutes of patience), roll them up with the stuffing and put them in a casserole dish and bake until a bit browned and hot... crepes are miracle food because you really can stuff them with anything, you can freeze a stack of them for using later, and your college buddies will think you can actually cook! So yes, please do try to learn. You're talking about a skill that will serve you well your whole life.


      12 years ago on Introduction

      Someone should do some stuff on molecular gastronomy (maybe i will . . .). its crazy cool stuff, with some of the coolest sounding foods ever. Best i've ever heard of is "gelatine slices served on a naked women with scented rose water inhaled via gas mask" I'm not joking, i promise. That was on a menu at one point, albeit for a very short period of time, it being very not-healthcode and all. I forget the guy's name who came up with it, but in know he got fired from that place, as well as his next three. I think he's in NY now.


      12 years ago on Introduction

      A nice thing about cooking is that there exist MANY books that will show you how to do it, not to mentioned classes, TV shows, magazines, videos, and online sites. Some of these are aimed at kids or beginners, others at experts, but you can learn from all of them. Follow instructions to start with, but don't panic if you're missing a spice or some minor ingredient (however, you'll have to learn which things are "minor" ingredients.) A lot of Indian recipes in particular annoy me. "make 50g of spice mixture A that includes 1 g of spice S, then use 5g of this mixture plus a bunch of other stuff to make 8 servings." That's 0.1g of S across 8 servings; I think you can leave it out... Ignore style to start with. Appearance and fine-tuning hacks can come later, and are irrelevant to taste and nutrition. For instance, you really don't need to figure out exactly what "al dente" means WRT noodles. Be aware that as noodles reach the end of cooking, they go through pretty substantial changes in texture, and figure out at which stage YOU like them. (taste-test to check for doneness instead of obeying some timer...)


      12 years ago on Introduction

      There's a ton of recipes and food-related groups here you should include to make this complete.