Posted on June 19, 2011 - by

Getting Newbie Cooks (and Dads!) into the Kitchen

Man with a Pan

Smoke, fire and sharp knives—I’ve always felt cooking is one of the most awesomely impressive things that men can do. Unfortunately, too many of them shy away from the kitchen. So in celebration of Father’s Day, we’re bringing a great new book on dads and cooking to your attention. John Donohue’s Man with a Pan is a riveting collection of comedic escapades and accidental discoveries as men enter the kitchen. From Mark Bittman‘s lessons on the four stages of cooking to Stephen King‘s tips on using a microwave, the anthology captures the joys of learning to cook, the frustrations of inevitable mistakes, and the rewards of feeding your hungry family.

What about you? Do you know a reluctant cook? Are you inexperienced but willing to try? Inspired by Man with a Pan, we’ve come up with some tips to encourage everyone, from kids to busy parents to granddads, to start playing with fire. Here’s how to start cooking while improving your food, health and family life:

  1. Start with great ingredients.

    It takes little work to develop robust flavors when you begin with high quality ingredients. Be sure to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, artisanal cheeses and sustainably-raised meats.

  2. Brush up on the basics.

    For a primer on the foundations of cooking, check out Dad’s Own Cookbook. For a more advanced treatment, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything shows you, well, how to cook everything.

  3. Read through the recipe thoroughly.

    Preferably twice. In the beginning, start with simple recipes, the kind with five ingredients and one cooking method. Follow the directions rigorously for a few rounds, then when you’re comfortable, begin improvising with new ingredients.

  4. Work clean.

    Always keep your workspace clean. Have small bowls for sorting ingredients and a larger bowl for trash, so that it doesn’t crowd your cutting board.

  5. Ask your family and friends for advice.

    That mouthwatering pot of rice and beans that Aunt Carla always makes? Turns out the secret is using parboiled long-grain rice. How does your neighbor make his perfectly juicy roast chicken? It might have something to do with the whole lemon he threw inside. What other tricks can they pass on to you?

  6. Keep a stocked pantry.

    Even if you’re in a rush and don’t have time to pick up fresh groceries, you can make a satisfying meal using only dry and canned ingredients. For instance, if you have canned tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and pasta on hand, you can easily make pasta puttanesca.

  7. Use your freezer.

    To save time, you can make large batches of food and freeze it in portion-sized containers. This works for everything from bolognese sauce to black beans, as well as soups, stocks, stews and most purees. You can also freeze staple carbohydrates like bread and rice.

  8. Enlist free labor, er, get the kids involved.

    You don’t have to do it alone! Have your kids participate in making dinner with simple tasks like washing vegetables, tearing herbs or peeling potatoes. You may find that picky eaters are more willing to eat foods that they’ve helped prepare.

For more information and recipes, check out Donohue’s site, Stay at Stove Dad.

If this tip was helpful, or you have more suggestions on how to encourage new cooks, drop us a comment below!

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    June 19, 2011

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    Jean | Delightful Repast said:

    I really must get that book. Reading about it made me think of my dad in the kitchen. My June 3 post tells one of many funny stories about his cooking. I hope you’ll take a look at it!



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    Douglas said:

    If you’d like to be really healthy check out “The pH Miracle” by Dr. Robert Young.



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    June 19, 2011

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    Jill, The Veggie Queen said:

    These are great tips. Numbers 1, 6 and 7 are on my must do list. Without high quality ingredients you cannot produce high quality food. Buy in-season sustainably grown produce from local farmers or grow your own.

    Learning how to make a few sensational dishes will take you a long way. And remember that like many other skills, cooking takes practice. So, just start.



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    Gwen S. said:

    Good tips – but you left out the most important one – CLEAN UP after yourself.
    I don’t expect you need to ask where that comes from ;).