I know, I know, you thought this was going to be another steamy sex-filled Dude Society article. This article however is things you should know about cooking a meal, which in turn should get the evening “cooking” for you and your lady, and allow you to utilize all that information we have been providing you these past few weeks.
I have written articles about how to pick a first date restaurant
, how to handle yourself at the bar
, and how to make a dinner date go well
. But what happens when it’s time to invite your girl over for a home cooked meal? Maybe she has done it for you and it’s your turn to reciprocate. In any event, if cooking scares you, here are a few things to remember before we dive into future articles on how to actually cook something more advanced than tomato sauce
- Figure out what you’re making ahead of time
- Read the recipes all the way through (believe me this will go a long way to making it a less stressful, chaotic situation)
- Buy the ingredients the day before
- Think through your game plan
The key to putting a meal together is that you want everything ready at roughly the same time. Have an idea how long each component of your dish is going to take, and work backwards. If the string beans are going to take 5 minutes to cook and the chicken 20 minutes, then start the string beans 15 minutes into cooking the chicken so everything is done at once.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Cooking is not a science, baking is, but not cooking. Things do not need to be measured as if you’re administering doses of heavy medication. Cooking, like what should follow after it, is about passion and creativity. If you like something, you can add a little more. If you don’t like something, leave it out. All within reason of course, but don’t obsess over what “half a medium onion” is or what a “heaping tablespoon” is. Recipes are just guidelines with a loose process to follow in combining the ingredients. Don’t believe me? Google recipes for tomato sauce and you will literally find hundreds of variations. All good, all different.
Use All Your Senses
Just as eating involves all of your senses, so does cooking. If something smells like its burning, it probably is, so turn down the heat. If something looks dry, it probably is, so add more liquid. The thing to remember is that your senses will tell you how to proceed. Just because a recipe says to “cook over medium heat until well browned, about 5 minutes”, doesn’t mean you should sit there with a stop watch while your burner is set exactly at Medium. There are too many variables. How much water is in the onion you bought? How full is the pan? What is the temperature in your kitchen? Is it humid, etc.?? Therefore, 5 minutes is a guideline and you should use your sixth and most important “sense”, common sense. Get to know when something is just brown enough, or has thickened enough and learn to control the heat on your stove.
Tasting while you’re cooking is extremely important. It’s a learning experience as well as one of quality control. If it tastes like crap while you’re cooking it, chances are it will taste like crap when it’s on the plate. Taste things as you go along. If you added an ingredient and can’t really taste its impact on the dish, add a bit more. Maybe you like things more “lemony” than someone else, that’s ok. Likewise, when adding ingredients, add half at a time, so you can see if it’s too much.
The most important ingredient in your kitchen! Books have been written about it, it has shaped whole civilizations, entire stores are dedicated to the many varieties, the human body can’t live without it, and neither can your cooking. When something tastes, flat, bland, like dirt, etc. Add Salt. Don’t be afraid of it, as long as you follow the previous paragraph. Add it a bit at time and taste it after each addition and you will be fine. In most cases you will use more than you would expect. Starchy things like potatoes and rice can take a lot of salt to bring out their flavor. Read my article on stocking your pantry to see what kind I like.
Clean as you go
There is nothing more disappointing, or quite frankly disgusting, for you and your guest to finish a tasty meal only to look over at a kitchen that looks like an explosion occurred. You know exactly what I am talking about. The sink filled with dishes, the counter smeared with grease, dirty pots on the stove, and enough spoons, ladles, tongs, and whisks to stock a small store. It’s real easy; first get yourself some kitchen towels. I like these, they last forever and do a good job
. Use it to wipe your hands, and wipe up the counter as you cook. When you’re done using that bowl, put it right into the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, rinse it off and put it in the drain board to dry. If you don’t have a drain board, take one of those kitchen towels, fold it in half, and put it next to the sink.
If you have planned well, you will have some down time while your onions are cooking, or your sauce is simmering, so clean up and put things away. The goal is to only have one or two pots left to clean at the end of the meal.
These 5 tips will help you become a better cook, and enjoy yourself while doing it. Cooking should be fun and rewarding, not a chore. Plus, most women will say there is nothing sexier than a guy who can cook them a good meal.