general thoughts for the young/Inexperienced cook


Please try to read all of this section.  It will just take about 4 minutes and you might learn something.  You never know. 

There is a separate section with baking tips.

Decide what you will make for the week over the weekend or when you have extra time and start a grocery list – look at ingredients, make a list, then go to the store for whatever is missing from the pantry or fridge.

Always preview a recipe – sometimes you will need to marinate overnight. It’s good to know that the day before!

Before you cook, read the recipe through first and a second time so you have a basic understanding of what has to happen.

Try to get all ingredients prepped before you start (esp as a beginner). Dice, chop, mince, etc.

Ignore cooking times. Well – ballpark is good – but otherwise, check your dishes by using your own senses (smell, taste, touch) to decide when they are done. Use a meat thermometer for safety with poultry.

You can always google questions like “what is a good substitution for xxx?” It’s all at your fingertips.

I often double the sauce or spices in a recipe because it often needs more sauce (esp. Asian) and I like things with extra flavor. I also tend to add more kosher salt. And I finish my recipes with Maldon Salt which is delicious. (You can find this in “my favorite things”.  

Experiment. Recipes are only a guideline. Feel free to substitute ingredients that you prefer. And always taste your dishes before serving. Then you can adjust your salt/pepper, or add a splash of lemon juice if too sweet.
And remember, If you don’t like your food too spicy you can always ADD spice but you cannot take it away!

This is a good one that I learned in cooking school.  Anchor your cutting board to the counter with a wet paper towel under it to keep it from moving around – this will steady the board and it will be safer and easier for you to chop.

Prevent bacteria growth by cooling hot food in a shallow dish in the fridge – or break into smaller bowls.

You can substitute ground turkey, chicken and beef for each other. Do not buy the “leanest” chicken or turkey – or “plain white meat” as it needs a bit more fat to be tasty.


Learning how your oven works will take time. Although if it is very basic it shouldn’t take too much time. I’ve had ovens that run hot and cold also differing in temp between the front and the back. This can result in uneven browning so I usually rotate my sheet pans half way through cooking.

Remember to let the oven preheat fully before you cook. This is very important. Don’t rush.

Most recipes will say “bake”  and you can certainly follow that. Bake is when the bottom heating element in the oven heats up.

Convection – newer ovens have a convection button that you can add to bake or roast. Convection means there is a fan inside the oven blowing the air all around – this can make the food cook faster and more evenly. If you are using two racks at the same time, it might be good to put convection on.  Lower the oven temp if switching to convection by 15 degrees or so.  And check on your food earlier than stated in the recipe.

Roast – This is like bake, but it adds heat from the heating element on the top of the oven along with the bottom element. So you have heat coming in both directions. Your food will likely cook faster and brown both the bottom and the top.

Convection Roast – both the top and bottom heating elements are on as well as the fan that blows the hot air. I often cookie sheet pans of vegetables this way as we like them crispy.

Broil – is when only the top heating element is on and it is very hot. This is how you quickly brown your meats, or crisp up that chicken skin – or produce that yummy crackly sugar on a creme brûlée.


When sautéing, it is important to first heat the pan, then heat the oil, then add the ingredients.
Never overcrowd your pan/skillet with food. The heat will not distribute evenly.  And instead of sautéing the food it will almost boil in their own juices which isn’t terrible but way less appealing.  
When you sauté – make sure the oil is hot before adding all of your ingredients. Throw a small piece of something in the oil and make sure it sizzles before adding the rest.


Seasonings are up to you – if you know you like hot spice, add a little extra of it. If you know you don’t like oregano (me), then omit it. I often add a bit more kosher salt in the recipe. Usually a lot more – and then I finish with Maldon Sea salt which is delicious.


If you are using a rice cooker, the brown rice takes almost an hour to cook and it can stay in the rice cooker for a while. It will automatically stay on “warm” until you unplug it. White rice cooks a bit faster. Rice cookers make life easier because once you set it up, you are done with it until you eat.  


Sauté with regular olive oil or canola oil or another high spoke point oil. Use the extra virgin olive oil for finishing a dish – like drizzling it on salad or meat – or naan – or for roasting veggies.


Usually it is large eggs in a recipe unless otherwise noted


If your recipe calls for buttermilk, you can use regular milk with lemon juice – google that.


Let raw steaks come to room temperature before seasoning and grilling. Allow cooked or grilled meat to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.


(I’ve quoted from others…) Embrace salt. Don’t be afraid to use salt; it pulls the flavors out of your dishes. Cook with kosher salt and season with sea salt. Season! your! food!

Salt is the key to making food’s flavor jump around on your tongue. Most recipes will mention when you should add salt (and probably pepper as well), but it’s a good rule of thumb to add at least a pinch or two when you start cooking and again at the very end. Your palate will be the ultimate guide here, so taste often.


Use plain Greek yogurt as a healthy substitute for mayo, sour cream, heavy cream and more.