How To Actually Cook More
Who had a New Year’s resolution to start cooking more?! We all know cooking at home saves us money and is healthier for us, but there’s so much more to love about it. Cooking is one of my favorite ways to create! From competing on a national cooking show to running my own catering company to the stars, I’ve learned a thing or two about cooking over the years – and the secret is to actually ENJOY it! In this video, I’m sharing my best tips for doing just that, so that you can *actually* start cooking more.
Let’s start with where you’re cooking. If you guys have seen my home tour and video on styling your kitchen, you know how I feel about this! No matter the size or design of your kitchen, there are lots of ways you can turn it into your own little sanctuary. I love keeping a clean and organized environment and being surrounded by beautiful things as that makes me feel inspired to cook and spend time here
If you tend to look at a recipe and see a ton of steps and feel discouraged, you’re not alone! However, I would encourage you try simply reframing the way you think about prep. For instance, I now love the process of chopping vegetables. Instead of buying them already chopped (which you can do if you really are pressed for time, of course) why not try sinking into the activity as a little meditation? I used to get frustrated if I had a lot of this to do, but now I actually look forward to it as a time when I can slow down, and really just be present in the moment.
We all know cooking isn’t rocket science. Preparing our meals is a necessary part of living as a human being, so it’s definitely doable for all of us! This is about changing your mindset – no more saying “I’m a terrible cook…” because that’s simply not true. If you’re curious to know how I started cooking, I didn’t grow up watching my mom cook (watch this video to learn more about that!). I just started doing it. A lot of it. The more you cook, the better you will be at it. It’s just that simple.
My best advice is to practice with dishes that are EASY to build your confidence. How many conversations have I had with a person who thinks they’re a terrible cook, because they try to make something really complicated once in a blue moon… you’re not a terrible cook, we just need to change up your strategy here!
I like to cook simply above anything else. And what allows me to do that is using the best ingredients. This means you need to start paying attention and getting to know what’s in season. Using what’s in season means that your ingredients are at their peak, so they’re more delicious and even less expensive.
And likewise, using quality tools makes a huge difference. When I used to cater and work as a private chef, I would immediately understand why some of these people didn’t like to cook… when you have those flimsy, inexpensive pans, for instance, they don’t heat evenly so the food often doesn’t cook properly – it’s really not you, it’s the pans!
One of the things I learned from my mentor Ludo on The Taste was to TASTE my food as I cook. It was crazy that I didn’t really do this! I would often wait until the end to taste the finished product, which is totally not how it works. You should be engaging with your senses throughout the process. This means using your sense of smell, taste, touch, sight – seeing what things look like, feeling things with your hands… it all become muscle memory the more you do it.
Recipes are wonderful but it becomes harder to truly learn if you’re too dependent on them. What I recommend is first reading through it carefully, start to finish, and then try and wing it. You can look back at it if you need to, but try to not be so dependent on it. Compare this to driving – you never really know where you’re going if you live by the map for every turn. Sure, you may make a mistake here and there, but this is how you’ll learn!
The #1 mistake I see home cooks make is not using enough salt. Hands-down. Use kosher salt for seasoning in general and, please, just toss the table salt – it has a metallic flavor, and because the granules are so fine it can be hard to control the amount you’re using, and often leads to an overly salty dish. I like keeping my salt in a little container like this, for easy access. You’ll really start to develop a feel over time for how much to use. I advise trying to eyeball it rather than following a recipe for the amount. Then just give it a taste and add more if needed.
Which leads me to my next tip: My favorite pro hack without a doubt is learning to finish a dish. All this means is adding a little extra seasoning just before serving. This typically includes three components: flaky sea salt, a drizzle of good olive oil (this one is my favorite), and then a touch of acid, most often fresh lemon juice. It’s almost like magic because it takes any dish, literally anything you cook, to the next level.
Lastly, I always do like to consider the presentation. We really do eat with our eyes! And even if you’re eating alone, it’s a nice little self-love moment to take care and pride in the way your food looks. It says, “You matter.” I love garnishing with edible flowers microgreens, and fresh herbs. Get inspired in the arranging or the plating of the dish. Don’t overthink it – just have fun playing with what looks good to you.