Get the Most From Your Cooking Class: 5 Tips For Making a Class Worth Your Time and Money

Tips from The Kitchn

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Last week, we took a look at some of the things to keep in mind when choosing a cooking class. This week, we'll discuss how to get the most from your class once you're there. Read on for our tips and suggestions.

5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Cooking Class

1. Be sure you understand what you're getting into.

We covered some of this in How To Choose a Class That's Right for You, but it bears repeating. Is it a hands-on or demo class? What level is it being taught at and is that right for you? Are you sure you want to get in there and butcher a whole pig? Selecting a class that meets your skill and interest levels is key to a successful experience.

Of course, the class can also be a stretch for you —that's often why we take a course, after all. But be sure you know and understand just how stretched you will (or won't) be.

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2. Arrive prepared.

Be sure to read the information sent to you about the class. Sometimes you may be asked to bring your own knives and aprons or to dress in a certain way. Butchery classes can often be a little chilly, for instance, so you may want to slip on a few layers.

If the class is hands-on, remember that standing on your feet and cooking for several hours can be tiring, so be prepared to work hard and wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes. I'm going to repeat that: comfortable and closed-toed shoes! The kitchen is not a place for flip-flops. Just imagine dropping a pan of boiling water or a sharp knife or having someone step on your toes.

Bring a notebook. You will be surprised at how much you'll forget if you don't take notes. Also feel free to snap a few pictures or take some videos to record techniques but don't spend the entire class behind the lens (and be sure to get permission before taking anyone's photo.)

Come hungry, or not. Pay attention to whether the class will be offering a meal at the end or if you will just be tasting as you go along. It can be torture to arrive hungry only to find that you'll get four small bites paced out over an entire afternoon.

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3. Be clean and safe.

Your instructor should go over this but just in case they don't, here are some good rules to follow, especially when cooking with a crowd of people.

  • Remember to wash your hands before you start cooking.
  • Pull back and secure long hair.
  • Use a clean tasting spoon each time — don't taste with your fingers! Don't double dip your tasting spoon!
  • Adopt the restaurant workers habit of saying 'behind you' when moving through a crowd with heavy trays and hot pots or any time you don't want someone to turn suddenly and jostle you.
  • Walk with your knife pointed downwards and pressed against your thigh to avoid accidentally stabbing someone.
  • If you're sick, please don't come to the class. Seriously. Just stay home.
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4. Get involved.

Ask questions! Even if they seem dumb or you're feeling shy or intimidated, be sure to ask questions and clarify anything you don't understand. You are probably not the only one in the group who has this question, so everyone will be glad that you did.

Volunteer! Always volunteer if the instructor asks for help, especially if it's a demo class as you may not get a lot of hands-on experience there. The best classes are those that help us to feel engaged and involved, and volunteering is a great way to do that. Also, speak up if you have something to contribute to the class but don't dominate the instructor — be sure to let the teacher teach!

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5. Have Fun!

Most people take cooking classes as a way to relax and enjoy themselves so don't forget to do that! Yes, cooking can be complicated and fraught with opportunities to make mistakes but mostly it's really a lot of fun. Often cooking classes will have you pair up to make a dish, so consider coming with a friend or loved one, or see it as an opportunity to meet new people.

Thank you San Francisco Cooking School for allowing me to sit in on your wonderful hands-on cooking class!

(Image credits: Dana Velden)

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Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.

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