I’m fascinated by learning new skills. For me, it’s a vital part of my quest to become a well-rounded, self-reliant, and attractive man. In the last few years this passion has lead me to the art of cooking.
I believe everyone should be able to prepare his or her own meals. Not just good meals, but great meals. I love going out to restaurants (perhaps too often), but there’s a certain satisfaction to creating your own fresh, delicious dishes.
When I began teaching myself how to cook, I discovered that:
- You gain control over your food. Cooking at home lets you to choose exactly what ingredients go in your mouth. You can pick quality produce, eat healthier, and portion effectively. It’s helped me keep my weight off.
- You save a ton of money. With the same amount you pay for a restaurant meal, you can make multiple dishes that last for days. Eating out at work adds up quickly and leftovers are awesome for next-day lunch.
- It makes for great dates. Women love a man that can cook. Inviting a girl to your place (or hers) for collaborative cooking on a second or third date is perfect. It establishes a fun atmosphere, facilitates closeness, and allows for a lot of physical contact. Plus, you’re already home which naturally leads into a more intimate night.
Sold yet? Good. Here are my 25 cooking tips to cook smarter and wow the ladies:
- You need three fundamental knives. You’ll use an 8” or 10” chef’s knife for the majority of work, a paring knife for peeling fruits and vegetables, and a serrated bread knife for duh, bread. Filet knifes and cleavers come afterwards. Victorinox (cheaper) and Wusthof (more expensive) are excellent choices.
- Keep your knives sharp. Dull knives are dangerous as hell and will cause accidents. Hone your blade with every use (it straightens the edge) and get knives professionally sharpened every six to twelve months. You can sharpen at home with an Accusharp, but it could eventually ruin the knife.
- Mise en place. Have all your ingredients measured and prepared before cooking. Make sure you read the entire recipe before you start as well. Then, give yourself an extra 15 minutes longer than you think you’ll need.
- Cook fluffy, moist scrambled eggs. I hated scrambled eggs growing up; they were dry, clumpy, and flavorless. I’ve tried every recipe out there and this one wins. You can use milk instead and it’ll still taste great.
- Timing is critical. Especially when making multiple dishes or courses, map out the chronological order of steps. Figure out what needs to be defrosted and pre-seasoned, how long you’ll need to boil water or preheat the oven, and what needs to cool before serving. You’ll learn when to multitask and when to devote your full attention to something.
- Defrost your meat properly. There are three approved ways: in the fridge (best, a day or two beforehand), Ziploc sealed and submerged in lightly running cold water (good, 30 min-1 hour maximum), and in the microwave (last resort, fastest). Never ever defrost at room temperature or in warm/hot water – that’s asking for bacteria.
- Watch the master chefs in action. Visual aids are important in understanding proper cooking technique. Alton Brown (all episodes of Good Eats), Jacques Pepin, and Gordon Ramsay are some of my favorites. They not only show you how to cook, but teach you the science behind it.
- Flip your burgers as much as you’d like. Contrary to popular belief, they will cook evenly. Just don’t squeeze all the juices out of them.
- Salt and taste at every stage of the cooking process. Salt doesn’t just make your food taste “salty”, it brings out the natural flavors of almost every ingredient. A major difference between restaurant food and home cooking is how much salt they use – LOTS.
- Use kosher salt when preparing meats. This is a coarsely ground salt and will draw more moisture from the meat, increasing it’s yumminess.
- Peel fresh garlic like a pro. For one or two cloves, you can use the side of your chef knife to smash it. For any more than that, use the shake method.
- Pyrex is your friend. Pyrex is tempered, soda lime glassware that can be refrigerated, microwaved, or put in the oven. There are rumors that claim their formula has changed and is prone to exploding — it’s not true. Pyrex has even created a full page discrediting the allegations. Just follow these four basic rules and you’ll be fine.
- Develop basic knife skills. They drastically cut down your prep time and ensure your safety.
- Get a pepper mill. Freshly cracked pepper has way more flavor and has superior presentation on food. Say no to pre-ground pepper!
- Dry your meat before cooking. Use a paper towel to gently pat down the surface of the meat. Excess moisture will prevent your meat from browning or searing correctly.
- Rest your meat after cooking. This is huge and always overlooked. If you cut into your meat right away, all those wonderful juices will end up on your plate. Letting the meat rest for a few minutes before eating allows those juices to absorb back into the flesh.
- Generously salt your pasta water. Add a minimum of one to two tablespoons to the boiling pot. This will infuse your pasta with extra tastiness.
- Use aluminum foil in the oven for easy cleanup. Place a piece on your baking sheet or inside your casserole dish and add your food on top. Once you’re finished, roll up the foil and throw it away (or re-use if still clean).
- Learn to pan fry the perfect steak. As recommended above, watch Gordon Ramsay’s magic at work. If you need help choosing and preparing your steak, check out the seriously thorough Serious Eats guide.
- Test before cooking for guests. As much as you want to try something new, save the first experiment for yourself. Keep to a tried and true recipe. There’s nothing worse than panicking out of frustration or delivering a bad meal.
- Don’t start cooking with a sink full of dirty dishes. They’ll only pile up and look more intimidating. Also, clean as you go along. That way food doesn’t have time to dry and stick.
- Use unsalted butter. You can control exactly how much salt is going into your food for optimal taste. There are two exclusions: use salted butter as a spread (on toast, etc.) and when a recipe specifically calls for it.
- Cut onions efficiently. Random chopping is fun but not the most precise. By keeping the root on while cutting, you’ll prevent any man tears in the kitchen.
- Care for your cast iron skillet. A well-maintained cast iron pan lasts for generations and is great for cooking meat. When you first get your pan, you’ll need to “season” it: lightly coat the surface with Canola oil (like spray Pam) and pre-heat in the oven at 450-500 degrees for 30 minutes. Make sure to preheat the pan regularly before use – it needs to gradually get hot. Clean with water but no soap.
- Use reliable recipes. Serious Eats and Cook’s Illustrated (paid) always provide incredible dishes. Allrecipes is another wonderful resource, just make sure to pick highly reviewed recipes and read the comments for suggestions. Also, every recipe I’ve made from The Best New Recipe cookbook has been a smash hit.
As with building any new skill, appreciate the journey. Experiment. Keep an open mind to new flavors or techniques. Praise your successes and laugh at your mistakes. Fully embrace the process of trial and error when cooking.
When cooking with a woman you like, you always want to have a smile on your face. If you’re having fun with it then she will, too.
Looking to meet girls you can cook with? Let’s chat for a free consultation.