Burning Up The Kitchen
There is nothing more annoying than to have a roommate who can not cook. You know why? Because typically those that can not cook always burn pots, pans, and food at every attempt. So, raise your virtual hand if you live with someone who needs help in the kitchen! This article is for you. For many people, cooking can be very therapeutic. Some culinary geeks told me that cooking can be very relaxing and enjoyable especially when exploring new spices, cooking methods, and varying cultural dishes. When you do not know how to cook, the opposite effect occurs. It could be stressful, frustrating, time-consuming, and messy even inconvenient when you are hungry. Patience, familiarity in the kitchen, and understanding how equipment works will prove beneficial in the prevention of foods, pots, and, cooking utensils. Burning food can not only be annoying, but the smell can overtake and linger in the home for days and not to mention frustrate your roommate. Here are five quick tips you can share with your no cooking roommate:
- Plan: I know, it is easier said than done. However, planning eliminates rushing and making Planning allows relaxation, the creation of a checklist of needed ingredients and management of your inventory.
- Cookware: It is critical to know the difference between a ladle and a serving spoon as well as the functionality of a cast iron pan versus a saucepan. It will also be beneficial to purchase nonstick pans to reduce the chances of food sticking and burning. Understanding the various types of cookware is basic Home Economics 101. If you did not get the pleasure of having these classes in k-12 then Google is always an awesome resource to find the answers to basic cooking techniques. Rachel Ray, an internationally recognized chef and author, has a cookbook that illustrates all the staple cookware and flatware. She also explains the functionality, and you can always contact your local Family and Consumer Sciences extension agent to facilitate a class for you and a few guest on basic cooking strategies.
- Stay in your lane: If you are not a fairly experienced cook, you may want to stay away from preparing certain foods. Especially those recipes that require deep frying and lots of pre-preparation. Stick to basic meals that require short cooking and prep time with minimal required ingredients.
- Clean your pots: It is important to use clean pots when preparing meals. Keeping the outside of the pot clean prevents food from burning and sticking to the pots. However, keeping the pots clean on the inside prevents debris from floating in your cuisine. It is equally important to make sure the cooking surface is clean. Otherwise, the debris on the surface will burn and possibly damage the cooking surface and your pots.
- Pay Attention: Depending on the dish that you are preparing, it may require much attention. You may have to stay fairly close to the pot to ensure the food is not sticking or to adjust the heat settings. This is not the time to take in a movie or get on the play station. If you are newly getting familiar with the kitchen and cooking surface, you want to pay lots of attention to your food. Stirring your foods frequently especially when making soups, rotating your pots if the burners are old in order to distribute equal heat, and tasting the food should be done cautiously when adding seasoning or not overcooking. You also may want to take advantage of using the stove timer or the timer on your cell phone. Set the timer based on the cooking instructions. The timer alerts you when it is time to check on your meal or remove it from cooking surface. It may also be beneficial to reduce the time by 10 percent because every cooking surface is different and cooking times may vary. However, by reducing the time by 10 percent, (ex: Instead of 10 minutes you may set the timer for 9 minutes), you have the flexibility to make adjustments.
Cooking should be fun, pain-free, burn free, and full of learning. Be patient with yourself and your cooking surface. Explore new dishes on days that are the less busy, and buy an interesting cookbook or contact your local extension office for some fun, easy, and expensive recipes that can kick-start your culinary journey without burning down your kitchen.
Danielle Y. Hairston Green, Ph.D., HDFS-CFCS
Program Specialist, Family and Consumer Sciences