Please help! v.can’tcooktosavemylife

I want to learn to cook, and I want to learn to love it. Right now, the state of affairs looks like this:

– I can make pasta (premade sauce ), rice and vegetarian stir fry. That is all. I tried meat a few times but it always comes out tough and stringy.
– I currently find cooking boring and a waste of my time, which I’m sure isn’t helping things.

I think the only reason my weight hasn’t soared is because I tend to avoid classic junk food (soda, candy bars, chips, etc) and would rather not eat than expend the effort. Obviously that last bit is some flawed thinking. I’m reasonably bright and creative in other areas, so I’m sure I can learn to cook and love it. I think I need a kick in the right direction.

Can you tell me how you learned to love to cook, or recommend me some books?
No one who loves cooking now started off not liking it so much?
well I used to not like it so much, but I just started to cook more often and cood more "difficult" dishes and people liked them. Then I just started to do it all the time.
what type of cut of meat were you using? slower is almost always best for tenderness. You could try using a crock pot for roasts-plus they are super simple! sear your roast, add a package of onion soup mix to you crock pot, mix in a cup of water or broth, cook 4 to 6 hours on high, add veggies (carrots, potatoes, mushrooms. etc. whatever you like) and cook 2 more hours. easy!!
you could also try watching some of the cooking shows on food network, sometimes the recipies tend to be a little more complex, but it will give you the basic idea, and you can always improvise as far as ingrdients if you don’t like something. Rachel ray tends to be fairly simple to follow along with, and for a newer cook, her ideas are usually pretty simple. good luck!!

I’ll second your assessment of Rachael Ray and throw in there that if you want to try some of her recipes pick up her book "30 Minute Meals" and watch her show a few times for tips on how to successfully cook one of her meals in 30 minutes. The recipes are really easy to follow and her tips for newbies are pretty spot on (like instead of trying to deal with the plant waste as it comes up…just toss it all into one bowl and deal with it all later…)
Thanks for the responses.

What channel is the cooking channel? Are the shows on late at night? Does the 30-min meal include prep time? I’m not so worried about the clean-as-you-go bit as I do that by rote anyway. I’ll look into that book, thanks for the tip.

Cut of meat? Heh, I don’t know. When I was in college it was whatever was cheapest, but that’s not an issue now. What ones have a better chance of turning out softer? Also, I have to learn what exactly it means to ‘sear’ something. I’ll have to check and see if we still have the crock pot – I think it got pitched because the inner bowl had a crack.

I think if I could manage some decent dishes in half an hour, my interest level might go up. I’d guess, too, that the simple dishes would take less time as I got more efficient in my processes and started prepping for more than one meal at once, which would mean the more complicated ones won’t take as long when I eventually get there.

I forgot to add in my original post that I’m eating well now because hubby does the cooking. However, I think I should also know how to cook dinner when he’s busy and have it not suck, lol. I can bake sweets like there’s no tomorrow (hence the autopilot cleaning habits), but it’s rather embarrassing how disparate my skill level is between that and cooking. Thinking back on things now, this is also how my mom was – great at baking pies and sundry, but only so-so on the cooking end, and dad was no better. Not a whole lot of guidance there. Step-dad does all the cooking in that household now.
I would ditto Rachel Ray – I don’t watch her show, but that 30 minute cook book is extremely popular

if it’s that you know what you want to eat but don’t know how to prepare it – get a basic cookbook like joy or fannie farmer or good housekeeping, they are all pretty good at explaining techniques (check your library – borrow and browse)

also allrecipes.com – great site for finding recipes that are tried and tested

you can do a search by ingredients – say chicken and tomatoes and pasta and get a list of recipes – just look for the ones with lots of positive reviews. They have a section called "cooking school" as well

FTMFW!
Consider thinking of cooking as a set of methods.

Depending on the type of meat/vegetable a certain technique/method will be applied.

You don’t have to learn all these techniques in one day but eventually you can have a full understanding of the science behind each technique and there is no limit to what you can do (based on ingredients)

Eventually you can go without recipes and just gather ingredients and use a technique and go nuts

Consider thinking of cooking as a set of methods.

Depending on the type of meat/vegetable a certain technique/method will be applied.

You don’t have to learn all these techniques in one day but eventually you can have a full understanding of the science behind each technique and there is no limit to what you can do (based on ingredients)

Eventually you can go without recipes and just gather ingredients and use a technique and go nuts

I think that’s exactly the approach I need to take. Do you know of any cooking books which demonstrate this?

Alton Brown is the man, he always makes sure to discuss the details. Watch "Good Eats." This guy uploaded a bunch of the episodes on youtube:

Thanks for the responses.

What channel is the cooking channel? Are the shows on late at night? Does the 30-min meal include prep time? I’m not so worried about the clean-as-you-go bit as I do that by rote anyway. I’ll look into that book, thanks for the tip.

Cut of meat? Heh, I don’t know. When I was in college it was whatever was cheapest, but that’s not an issue now. What ones have a better chance of turning out softer? Also, I have to learn what exactly it means to ‘sear’ something. I’ll have to check and see if we still have the crock pot – I think it got pitched because the inner bowl had a crack.

I think if I could manage some decent dishes in half an hour, my interest level might go up. I’d guess, too, that the simple dishes would take less time as I got more efficient in my processes and started prepping for more than one meal at once, which would mean the more complicated ones won’t take as long when I eventually get there.

I forgot to add in my original post that I’m eating well now because hubby does the cooking. However, I think I should also know how to cook dinner when he’s busy and have it not suck, lol. I can bake sweets like there’s no tomorrow (hence the autopilot cleaning habits), but it’s rather embarrassing how disparate my skill level is between that and cooking. Thinking back on things now, this is also how my mom was – great at baking pies and sundry, but only so-so on the cooking end, and dad was no better. Not a whole lot of guidance there. Step-dad does all the cooking in that household now.

to sear means to brown. heat a skillet with a little olive (or vegetable) oil, pepper and salt the meat, and just brown quickly on each side. crock pots are also faily cheap, you can get a decent, basic one for between $15 and $25.
food network has shows on all times during the day, just check your local listings for times. foodnetwork.com might help too. Paula dean has some good recipies on there too. Rachel Ray does include the prep time-30 minutes from start to table.
Teo
My best advice to you is to go out and get the Fannie Farmer cookbook. That’s how I learned the basics.
Another factoid I learned while watching Julia Child re-runs: Never use a glass bowl to whip eggwhites-they have nothing to grab onto and they’ll keep slipping down the slidey glass bowl (A copper bowl does make a difference and now I make perfect soufles).
Read cookbooks as if they were novels.
Experiment.
Never use canned peas.
Invest in a really good paring and cutting knife.
And, most importantly, have someone clean up after you.
Oh, and have FUN!!!
I also agree Alton Brown has a good approach to making what he creates passable onto newbies.

Like what sixsecrets said, dont be afraid to experiment with different ingredients, have some decent equipment.

If you can learn a little each day even if it was just reading something random online, and not actually cooking.

An example would be the use of sweet and sour or sweet and spicey. Learning what things accomplish these flavors opens up a ton of doors for making something good

Teo
My best advice to you is to go out and get the Fannie Farmer cookbook. That’s how I learned the basics.
Another factoid I learned while watching Julia Child re-runs: Never use a glass bowl to whip eggwhites-they have nothing to grab onto and they’ll keep slipping down the slidey glass bowl (A copper bowl does make a difference and now I make perfect soufles).
Read cookbooks as if they were novels.
Experiment.
Never use canned peas.
Invest in a really good paring and cutting knife.
And, most importantly, have someone clean up after you.
Oh, and have FUN!!!

i agree about the canned peas, lol!!!
@ canned peas

I went and bought the 30-minute meals cookbook. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet but I plan to start once I get back from overseas. I did flip through it though, and it’s kind of daunting although I think that’s more the ingredients than what I have to do with them. In the meantime I’ve tried (and succeeded) in cooking bland food myself for my lunches, which I suppose is a small start. I also went and located the food channel, but so far I’ve only seen Iron Chef, Top Chef and some silly show about some ditzy chick that eats food in different cities.

Incidentally we just got a good knife set for Christmas – the SO was pretty happy to see my crappy Ginsu knives go.

Spice is whole other can of worms. I genuinely like bland food at the moment and even remotely spicy is painful for me. I’m more a bitter/sour taste kind of person.

I’ll update when I try something new

If it’s the show that I’m thinking of, that ditzy chick is Rachel Ray…if the show is called "$40 a day" or something like that

I don’t think it was her… it was called "Weekend Getaway" or something like that.

edit: I think it’s this one:

sometimes you can find cookbooks from cambell’s soups…they usually have some good recipies that aren’t too spicy. thier cream of mushroom is something i use all the time. Great stuff! Most of the labels have recipies also that are pretty simple to follow. the one pan chicken breast is really good. Brown boneless skinless breasts, stir in mushroom soup, about half a can of water or milk, whichever you prefer, simmer for about five minutes and serve over rice or noodles with a salad or vegetable. Pretty easy, and pretty decent meal. I make this and everyone in the house eats it pretty well, from the two year old to the fifteen year old.
i’m gonna give you my secret for great beef. Lowry’s season salt and garlic salt, and a sprinkle of black pepper. just some specks on the surface, you don’t have to majorly pepper the thing. and when you decide to tackle burgers, lea & perrins mixed in with the ground beef. don’t substitute some cheap worcestershire sauce, it won’t be as good.

when it comes to doing meat, the grill is your best friend (well, to me anyways). i use a gas grill with seasoned or flavored ceramic briquettes above the flame. this gives a great smoky taste and is quick and easy. it takes me about 20 mins tops to preheat and cook on the grill.

if you can’t use a grill (apartments) then a george foreman grill can be your next best option. i’ve found that the best thing for me to cook on it is pork, but you can do most anything on it. when i do use my GFG (like when i’m out of propane ) i might sprinkle some liquid smoke on the meat while i am prepping, so it has a little bit of an "outdoorsy" taste.

oh and one more thing. when i season meat, i use any liquid on there first, then top with dry seasonings so that the dry stuff doesn’t wash away.

and look on the back of many food items around the kitchen. often times there are recipies on the labels! pick up a saturday or sunday newspaper. these usually have a "food" or "living" section that will offer some ideas.

whew, now that i think i’ve typed my longest post on OT, i hope this helps!
I’d say if you want to learn cooking watch someone like Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, or Bobby Flay over Rachel Ray.

Learning good cooking is more about learning techniques than it is learning specific dishes imo.

I’d say if you want to learn cooking watch someone like Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, or Bobby Flay over Rachel Ray.

Learning good cooking is more about learning techniques than it is learning specific dishes imo.

In my opinion, you’d be best to stay away from Rachael Ray! Not only do I find her extremely annoying but she doesn’t actually know how to cook.

I used to find cooking overwhelming. Part of learning for me was just having self-confidence and daring to try new things. Now I’m getting ready to marry a professional chef.

The tips that most people gave are pretty good. I wanted to give you a few of my own:

I agree with the crockpot! It does take a good amount of time for the meal to cook but the preparation for slow cooker meals is usually quite simple.

Another simple method of cooking is stir frying. I found that my wok (or deep frying pan) became my best friend when I was learning.

Pick up some popular magazines that contain recipes. These are typically directed toward the average person.

Also about recipes…use them! Don’t try to improvise just yet. And find recipes that have ingredients that you are familiar with, at least at first.

As far as meat goes, I found the easiest ones to work with were ground beef, boneless skinless chicken breast, and pork chops. Start with those.

Make sure you have the proper equipment. Everyone needs a good set of knifes, measuring spoons, dry measuring cups and a liquid measuring cup. That would make your life so much easier.

Don’t cut anything but bread on a wooden cutting board!

Most importantly, keep practising. Cooking’s like any other sport.

Completely agree.

I definitely wouldn’t call making sandwiches and 7 different versions of ketchup-meatloaf cooking (Rachel Ray).
Whoa, this thread sort of exploded while I was away!

Now that I’m back, I’m going to start putting some effort into cooking. I had a friend over tonight and I did cook, nothing too far out of my comfort zone (macaroni + cheese ) but I did try to jazz it up a bit by putting in some broccoli to blanche (?) for a couple of minutes before the pasta was done, and then I added some tuna and extra cheese for a sort of non-baked casserole feel. Put that together with some pickles and ants-on-a-log on the side and I felt kind of like I was back in grade school …but then I did do everything myself; do I get props?

I figure this will be kind of like Tetris: learn the shapes of a bunch of different ‘blocks’ and then start mixing and matching til I find things that work.
Props on putting together a meal, baby steps hehe.

I guess I really got into cooking once I started to really expand and search for recipes that fit my tastes. I like really bold flavors, for food to be good IMO, the flavors have to pop. So I LOVE mexican food, and just started going on the internet looking up different recipes. You will find cooking is alot of experimentation, it usually takes a few tries to get something to taste as it should.

Also try new things, go out and buy a cut of meat or fish that you wouldn’t normally find yourself eatting and find a new recipe to try. As stated earlier, try that allrecipes.com as it has tons of stuff.
I learned by just watching the Food Network. I realized they all used olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and salt. For ALL dishes. And they use a lot of garlic.

then you just learn to put some more stuff in more foods… like various herbs and spices. I just picked up a vial of basil and some cayenne pepper, and put them in potatoes. WOW, they taste great!

You’re not going to go from beginner to pro chef, but if you start cooking your own foods like this, you can get a good idea on how to cook anything
kraftfoods.com has incredibly simple and pretty healthy recipes. When I first started cooking, I watched Rachel Ray all the time and got the free kraft food magazine in the mail.

Both were incredibly helpful, and now I’m amking more complex dishes and they’re turning out great;
Rachel Ray is a little annoying, but it’s good training wheel stuff.
Alton Brown’s "Good Eats" can explain the "whys" for you.
Betty Crocker cookbooks are indispensable for "Mom food"
P.S. if you know or meet any cooks, don’t tell them you watch Rachel Ray.
You’ll wear the mark of the feygh.