Cooking from scratch is more nutritious than eating packaged foods, and it can be more enjoyable. You can try new dishes and experiment with recipes to make them your own. If you’re still a novice in the kitchen, you’ll want to remember three basic principles of cooking
Add Enough Seasoning
Seasoning—including salt, pepper, herbs, and spices—enhance the flavor of your food and often define the style of cuisine. Yet, while cooking, many people season with too light a hand. It’s important to use sufficient seasoning while the food cooks so it can absorb the flavors throughout the dish. For spices, the rule of thumb is to add 1/2 teaspoon of each spice for the average dish. With herbs, use 1/2 teaspoon if the herb is powdered and 1 1/2 teaspoons if it’s fresh or dried. If your dish is designed to serve more than 4 to 6 people, add more. For strong spices such as peppers, use a little less.
Cook to the Ideal Temperature
Cooking food to the right temperature is essential. Food that is underdone or overdone may not be palatable. Many cooks like to use meat thermometers to check the internal temperature of beef, pork, and chicken. Cooking methods like sous vide helps cook to precision temperatures. Sous vide means “under vacuum” in French, and the method requires you to place the food in tightly-sealed, air-free bags before immersing them into simmering water. The sous vide cooking device keeps the water at the precise temperature for the ideal results.
Cooking a dish involves chemical reactions among the ingredients that are activated by heat. If there’s too much or too little of an ingredient, you may not get the chemical reaction necessary for the food to turn out the way you want it. Measuring is especially important in baking. For dry ingredients such as flour, use single-size measuring cups such as 1 cup, 1/2 cup, and so on. Overfill the cup and then level it off by scraping a straight-backed knife across the top. For liquid ingredients, a lined glass or plastic measuring cup is best.
Experienced home chefs make cooking look easy, but that’s because the fundamentals have become second nature for them. As you continue to expand your cooking skills and repertoire, don’t forget the basics. The best results take care and attention to detail.
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