Outside of skill, money, and time, I find that confidence is the biggest barrier between new cooks and putting dinner on the table. Confidence in cooking is more than just having the right equipment and necessary ingredients for a recipe. What are the steps you can take to trusting yourself in the kitchen?
The obvious answer to gain confidence at anything is just to do it more, but I've never found that advice particularly encouraging or helpful. Here are a few small, practical things you can put into practice in the next couple weeks that will improve your confidence in the kitchen and help you fall in love with cooking even more.
At an event I was at a few weeks ago, someone asked Mark Bittman what his worst cooking disaster has been in recent years. He answered that he didn't have disasters in the kitchen because there is no such thing as a kitchen disaster if you can eat the food afterwards. If you undercook a chicken, you put it back in the oven, and if the chicken is dry and tasteless, you eat it for dinner and you learn from what you did.
If your goal is to feed yourself, you can never really fail. Some things you make just might be better than others.
For some people, being confident in the kitchen means coming home every night from work and making dinner; for others it's tackling complicated recipes and becoming obsessed with good food. Set your goals for cooking and your focus in the kitchen will become more clear.
5 Ways to Gain Confidence in the Kitchen
1. Make your favorite recipes over and over again.
If you're new to cooking, choose three dinner recipes that you truly enjoy and make them over and over again. Don't choose recipes that alter your diet or that you wouldn't normally eat. If you like eating pizza on weeknights, learn how to make pizza.
Once you've mastered these three recipes, try playing with each recipe to suit what you're interested in at the moment. Taste your recipe while you're cooking to see how it changes to learn what you like.
2. Write out the recipe in your own words.
When I was in culinary school our instructor made us write out every recipe before class. It was tedious at times, yes, but it made me think about how the recipe would come together. I never was blindsided by a step that I forgot to read through.
For extra points, mime out the steps as you're writing down the recipe.
3. Get comfortable with your knife.
You don't need an expensive chef's knife to be confident in the kitchen, but you do need a knife you're comfortable with. Heavier knives tend to be best for beginners, but really anything that feels good in your hand will do.
I became confident with a knife by peeling potatoes with my paring knife instead of using a peeler. I quickly became comfortable with how sharp the knife was and how to maneuver the blade to peel faster.
4. Practice good mise en place.
Nobody wants to cook in a dirty, disorganized kitchen. Make things easier on yourself by cleaning regularly and knowing where you can find that specific tool or ingredient for the recipe you're making.
Take things a step further by measuring out and organizing all the ingredients for the recipe ahead of time so you won't have to stress when you realize you can't find that spice and you need it for the recipe now.
5. Give yourself a time limit to finish a recipe.
I always thought that if you wanted to learn to enjoy cooking that you should give yourself all the time in the world in the kitchen. But when that soup recipe that was supposed to only take 30 minutes to make ends up taking an hour and half, you might feel daunted by the thought of making dinner the next night.
I'm not saying you should rush through a recipe haphazardly, but if you read or write down the recipe beforehand, and are comfortable with your knife, don't fuss with the simple stuff. Stop trying to make your recipe perfect or Pinterest-worthy, and just focus on making something delicious for dinner. Trust your sense of taste.
Set a timer and stick to it as best you can. You'll surprise yourself with how much you actually know.
Those are the things that have really helped me grow in confidence. What about you? What's helped you get confident in your kitchen?
(Image credits: Lucy Hewett)