Monday, September 30, 2013

From College Cook to Home Chef

Christina’s Guide to Cooking
Or, how to jump from college student to home chef in 10 minutes (kind of).

I wrote this up for a friend to summarize some cooking tips, thought I would share it more widely! This is for anyone who has an interest in developing home cooking skills. The focus is on simple and cost effective techniques. These also make great gifts to ask family for at the holidays. Also girls dig guys who can cook.

Things to Buy for your Kitchen
You don’t need all these things, they progressively will improve your ability to cook effectively at home. You can buy them one piece at a time. Amazon links provide examples, but research on your own what’s best in each category!
  • Refined Coconut Oil: Or other oil with a high smoke point. So you can sear meat at a high temperature.
  • Cast Iron Skillet ($32): Must be hand washed, rusts if you put it in the dishwasher. Provides the best sear on meat. Is very non-stick when used properly.
  • Basic Knife Block Set ($32): Ensures you have the right tool for any cutting task.
  • Chef’s knife ($37): Use this to cut most things, use the knife block set for everything else. Take good care of it. If you want high end try this one.
  • Crock Pot ($50): Make large quantities of tasty food simply and cheaply. Most recipies are - throw a bunch of ingredients in crock pot, leave alone for 6 hours.
  • Pressure cooker ($55): Optional, but you can do a lot of cool stuff with a pressure cooker.
  • Sous Vide ($404) + Food Saver($80): Ok this one is expensive and not for everyone, but with this you can elevate yourself from home cook to home chef. Long term this can save you money (see the Sous Vide section). Don’t buy the “combo” version that includes a vacuum sealer as the food saver brand one is much more reliable.
  • Modernist Quisine at Home ($86): If you buy a Sous Vide this will teach you how to use it and make restaurant quality dishes. You can do the same with the Internet, but this is a great guide and is highly recommended.
Also make sure you have cutlery, spices, and plates :P

How to make Tasty meat
I am going to keep this super short.
Season your meat. Salt and pepper is fine, or you can buy a different seasoning mix. Amazing how many people don’t do this!

Use oil in the pan. If you are concerned about calories, eat less meat.

Sear the meat. Meat with a good sear is much tastier than meat that is limply cooked. How to sear.
  • Heat your pan to a hot temperature with the oil in it. If the oil starts to smoke, buy better oil.
  • Drop the meat in and sear it. Don’t move it around for a couple minutes.
  • Flip or stir gently to achieve an even sear.
  • Also see this more detailed guide
If lots juice is coming out of the meat, you are stirring it too much. If it takes more than 2 minutes to sear, your temperature is too low. If the meat seems burnt, your temperature is too high, or you cooked it for too long.

Once the meat is seared you will want to cook it on a lower heat (assuming you didn’t use a sous vide). Your cast iron pan is great for searing, but takes too long to cool down, so use another pan if you have to cook it more. The other pan should be pre-heated. So irritating, why not get a Sous Vide?

That’s it for basic cooking, if you can make a great steak you are 90% there so figure out the other 10% by googling :P

Why Sous Vide are Awesome

A picture is worth 1000 words.

A Sous Vide is expensive, is it worth it?  Yes for many people for the following reasons:
  • It will cook your meat perfectly 100% of the time
  • Your meat will be better cooked than any restaurant unless they use a sous vide in which case it will be equally cooked.
  • You can leave meat in a Sous Vide for hours and it won’t become overcooked. You can go from Sous Vide to table any time in five minutes. This means you can focus on cooking the rest of your meal, the meat is easy.

How to cook meat in a Sous Vide:
  • Seal your meat in a food saver bag. Remember to season. You don’t need to marinade but you can if you want.
  • Put it in the sous vide, set the temperature, and leave it in for the prescribed cooking time (usually 2 hours but see this guide)
  • Leave it in the sous vide for hours if you want, it’s fine.
  • When you are ready to eat, take it out of the sous vide, sear it, serve it (takes 5 minutes)

How you can save money by cooking with a Sous Vide.
  • You can buy less expensive cuts of meat and they will taste better than expensive meat. Do this enough times, you'll save money. Try chuck roast, brisket, top sirloin.

How to Cook other things

Google it.

What if I'm Vegetarian?

I'm sorry.

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