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Teaching my best friend to cook

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I'm getting ready to teach my best friend how to cook. She has some what limited cooking skills and really wants to learn how to become better in the kitchen. She knows how to cook chicken and that's basically it. She wants to be able to cook quick meals without a lot of fuss but still taste good. I made her get some cooks books that were made for quick meals like the 30 min meal books and such. What I was planning to do was to show her how to follow a recipe and show her simple knife skills and what to look for meat and veggies in at the grocery store as well as how not to cross-contaminate. Is that enough? What else should I show her. What else is important? This is going to be over a couple of weeks.

post #2 of 11
Go to the store with her and help her choose the three basic knives -- chef's, bread and paring. Or help her choose on the net. Help her choose a sharpener; a steel; a block, bar or covers, and a board. Teach her how to sharpen, maintain and store her knives. Teach her how to clean her board.

Teach her to "pinch" her chef's knife. It's an unnatural act, you'll have to convince her it's important.

Get a few good, pro-level spatulas and one or two whisks. Oxo's OK for the whisks. Get a board knife.

Get pour spouts for her oil bottles. Get oil bottles.

Teach her never to put food in a cold pan.

Teach her how to know when to turn food in a pan and how to know when to leave it alone.

Teach her to stop, taste and adjust the seasonings several times as she goes along.

Teach her how to truss and roast a chicken.

Teach her how to make fried chicken.

Teach her how to make a couple of dishes she really likes to eat, a couple of dishes she'd like to serve to a boy-friend, and a couple of dishes she'd like to serve at a party. You don't have to dumb these down.

Teach her how to check for doneness by touch, and how to use an instant read thermometer.

Teach her to keep her hair out of her face and the food when she cooks.

Teach her how to make: Pan-reductions for quick and fancy. Beurre blanc for fish. Veloute for gravies in general. Mornay for mac and cheese. If she's in or from the South, she needs to learn how to make a "cream" or "milk gravy" as well.

Teach her how to cook bacon.

Teach her how to fry an egg, make an omelette, poach an egg, scramble an egg.

Teach her to make mac and cheese without anything from Kraft.

Teach her how to make a salad that does not involve iceberg lettuce, or a knife ever touching any green. Teach her how to make an emulsion vinaigrette.

Teach her how to deal with hot liquids in the blender without baptizing the ceiling.

Teach her hot to make biscuits, pie crust, fruit pie, and basic bread.

Teach her how to make cake from a mix.

Most importantly, try to convey the idea that almost all dishes are cooked with the same basic techniques. That cooking is more about technique than recipe. And once she has the techniques she can follow any recipe.

Teach her that no matter how wrong everything goes, the worst that can happen is you call out for pizza -- and everyone loves pizza. No pressure.

Good luck,
post #3 of 11
BDL as always, perfect advice. Aquaviolet, I think the overall impression your friend should get, is that having the right tools, and knowing how to use them, makes for much better time in the kitchen. As BDL says, "Cooking is more about technique than recipe." Get her comfortable with her tools, and everything after that will go smooth.
And for me, Adults, like children, loose interest once it is no longer fun. Always keep a glass wine in the kitchen.
Fishmonger Ran
"The health benefits of eating fish, far out-weigh any risks of eating it"
Fishmonger Ran
"The health benefits of eating fish, far out-weigh any risks of eating it"
post #4 of 11
This advice is gold--every sentence!

This kind of reply should not be glanced over like any other!

Thank you boar_d_laze for free culinary diamonds!

Perhaps you might consider putting each sentence into its own chapter and then marketing it all into a lovely book?
post #5 of 11
Wonderful advice BDL.

May I also add, visit your farmer's markets (growers or green markets)

Do side by side tastes of different varieties of the same product.....ie:
tomatoes, apples, lettuces, grapes, oils, vinagers

Visit Penzey's or a spice shop.....if one's not available then getting a couple of salts.

Visit a cheese monger and sample through the various offerings

Basically dispelling any preconceptions of sameness along the way.

Ditto advice on not dumbing down.....just take it slowing and work through the various steps talking about options.....ie, fillo dough class....basic info on how to work with the dough, different shapes, different fillings, how to store fillo dishes for later use......I've taught 4 year olds to make apple strudel with fillo dough.

"Joy of Cooking."......I give it to all my fledgling family members.....

Target has inexpensive good quality cooking equipment...not knives per se but everything else.
BDL did you mean to write making a cake from a mix?
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #6 of 11
Yes. I should add "with oil and pudding mix added." If may not be the ultimate goal, but most people make cake from a box. I think it frees up a lot of possibilities in the areas of improvising, being able to do what every one else does, and easy adequacy. Also, I didn't presume a mixer and I don't want her to learn about the simple joys of beating eggs to the ribbon stage over warm but not hot water by hand, to make a genoise -- at least not yet. That can wait.

Your advice about learning to shop for good ingredients, and distinguishing different foods was great. So was the implied lesson in learning to taste.

The four things that serve us best are palate, an aesthetic emphasizing quality and simplicity, technique and self-confidence. You spoke more to the first and I to the third, and the last comes only with time. While I've been thinking a lot about the underlying good taste that makes things taste good, I haven't written much. At least not yet. You may take that as a threat and not a promise.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks Boar_D_Laze and everyone else for the great advice! I can't wait to show her a few things. I hope she's as excited as I am. I think I might have to print out this thread. :talk:

LOL, it's funny you mention this because those the exact reasons that she wants to learn, moreso for the boyfriend part. You hit the nail on the head.
post #8 of 11
Another thing you could help her with is identifying spices and herbs. Point out which herbs can be used effectively when dried (oregano, thyme, etc), and which herbs must ALWAYS be fresh (parsley, mint, cilantro etc) and which can be frozen (dill, fennel, basil). Storing herbs and spices can be tricky for a beginner so make sure you help her designate the right spot in her kitchen.

Storing food is always good to know about too, like where to keep potatoes and onions and tomatoes for example.

Encourage her to watch cooking shows that can help her with technique. I find PBS with Jacques Pepin and America's Test kitchen to be really informative about technique and equipment.

I would suggest that you have her help YOU prepare dinner a few times so that she can watch and help as you explain your procedures.

A great lesson would be to teach her how to make a great simple tomato sauce, cream sauce, and broth pan sauce, and how to properly cook pasta.

And the most important rule of cooking: Taste as you go along!

Good luck it will be fun. I always have a great time helping friends cook. The most important thing you can do is to share how passionate you are about cooking and hope that it will inspire her enough to dabble in it more.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #9 of 11
Lots of good ideas here. There are certainly times when you want to explain the difference between a saute and a sweat, or talk about how boil, simmer, poach and steep are basically the same but completely different. Gee, I might get in hot water for that comment :lol:

In my opinion, the main goals for a beginner are not based so much on tools and techniques, but simply getting comfortable with the concepts that kitchens are not evil, play with your food and fear of cooking has no place in this world.

Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
post #10 of 11
My SIL back in KC was a great learner and I always enjoyed having her come over to the house to help out at Holiday time. I had always hoped the DW would like to share the kitchen with me but that was alwyas a disaster and we've come to terms that unless I am unable to get in the kitchen to even boil water for something, then she stay's outta the kitchen. She does do the occasional pancakes for the DD. For what it's worth she s a good cook but she always said she married me because I cooked, cleaned and repaired.:roll:

It's sometimes a risky task teaching friends and family but if they have the desire to eat good food then it seems to go easier. Shroom, BDL and the others have all had some great suggestions so I can't think of anythin to add other than to just have fun.:cool:
post #11 of 11
A lot of good ideas posted. But they all take second place to the primary technique: make it fun!

If she sees cooking as a chore, or as a task that has to be done, then she'll never be happy as a cook. Nor will she be a good cook.

If she sees cooking as fun, as an enjoyable thing in its own right, then she'll learn more quickly, and will be more adventurous as well.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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