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5 Basic Cooking Skills to Know Before You Begin a Healthier Diet

You don't have to be a cooking whiz, but it helps to know a few things.

March 5, 2021
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Photo Credit: Jason Briscoe | Unsplash

Eating healthy is hard at first, and everyone goes through a learning curve to some degree.


The cool thing is you don't have to be a culinary expert to eat healthily. You don't even need to cook extravagant meals either.


Choosing to eat healthier is absolutely possible, especially if you can master the basics of cooking and preparing food, including these:


1. Know how to cut and chop


More likely than not, you'll be including more natural, whole foods into your meals, right? Foods like veggies, fruits, and even herbs come in all shapes, sizes, and consistencies, so it's important to know what to do with them, whether it's peeling the skin off or cutting to the right sizes for proper baking.


Learn what terms like mincing, dicing, and chopping mean, and practice! Over time, you'll know what you're doing.


For a refresher, check out the visual tutorials in this article. So satisfying!


2. Make the most of downtime


While cooking, you'll often have spans of time when you're waiting. For example, the water in the pot hasn't reached the boiling point yet. Or the sheet-pan dinner in the oven still needs five more minutes. 


Don't just stand there—clean! Put ingredients away, wipe down the counter and workspace, rinse off cutlery, utensils, and cutting boards (bonus points if you wash them!), or set the table for dinner. Multitasking is a tricky skill to master in the kitchen, but cleaning during downtime is a great place to start.


3. Read the entire recipe from start to finish


As we've discussed in tip 1, knowing what to do with the food you're incorporating into your diet. This includes what to do with it when following a recipe and when.


If the ingredient list on the recipe says, "2 cloves garlic, minced", you probably need to mince the garlic cloves before you begin. (More on this in the next tip.) When will you need the garlic? What do the instructions say? 


If the instructions list "Preheat the oven to 375°F" as the first step, it's probably because you're preparing things while the oven is preheating, which will save you gobs of time in the kitchen. You'll pick up on many other tricks like this by reading the entire recipe.


The recipe is your friend. Read it carefully and soak up the entire process to understand the flow and avoid neglecting crucial steps.


4. Prep all the ingredients first


The cooking process will feel overwhelming when you're running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Unless the recipe indicates otherwise (which you should know if you follow tip 3), get everything ready before you begin cooking. The cooking process will be a breeze, and you'll keep your sanity intact.


This brings us to the final tip...


5. Understand basic cooking methods


Again, you don't need to be a culinary genius. But by knowing the basics, you can not only master healthier recipes (where you may be limited on butter and oils, for example), but you can whip something up in a pinch.


Cooking methods that use direct (or indirect) high heat applications are known as "dry-heat" methods. Examples include sautéing, stir-frying, roasting. Cooking methods that use liquid or steam for cooking the foods are known as "moist-heat" methods. Steaming and poaching may come to mind. Smaller, simpler recipes only use one method, while other recipes include more than one.


If you're limited on certain foods you can eat, you're trying to watch your calorie count, or you're on a tight budget, understanding basic cooking methods can help fine-tune a plan that works for you without sacrificing tasty meals.


Wrap-up


There you have it! Five skills you should absolutely have under your belt before jumping into a healthier diet. Changing your cooking routine isn't going to be easy, but you can make the process of learning less intimidating.