Whether you’re adulting or decided to finally start cooking, here are five things that will make your kitchen life much, much easier.
With the plethora of foods available to us at the hawker centre, it’s no wonder that one in four Singaporeans eat out every day, with dinner most often consumed out of the home. However, food outside of the home may not always be balanced, while being high in fat or salt. (Of course, there are healthier hawker food options.) Excessive intake of saturated fat from deep fried food, salt from gravies, or inadequate intake of fibre from vegetables have been linked to chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension.
On the other hand, by cooking at home, you can control the ingredients, and the amount of each, that you put into your dishes. Of course, preparing home-cooked food requires extra time and effort, but it comes with health benefits. Here are some tips on how to get started with home cooking, slowly but surely.
1. Plan ahead
Factor in time for grocery shopping every week. Take some time on the weekends to come up with a grocery list. Think about what you’d like to eat for the week, and get ingredients down on that list.
If this is your very first grocery run, you’d realise that you’re introducing a lot of new foods items into your pantry. Don’t fret – foods like garlic and onion, or condiments like soy sauce and oil, store well and are common in many dishes. You’ll find them handy to have around! If an ingredient in your recipe seems like it’ll be infrequently used, like Worcestershire sauce or mustard, and may be wasted, either omit it from the recipe if it’s a small amount, or look for another dish to cook.
Also, don’t forget to defrost or marinate meats the night before you need them.
2. Make sure you have the right tools
There are some kitchen essentials you most definitely need in order to get started with cooking. You would need two chopping boards (one for raw meats, and one for fruits and vegetables), a chef’s knife, a saucepan, and a frying pan. If you’re new to cooking, I’d suggest getting a non-stick frying pan so you don’t have to worry about raw meat sticking to the pan.
On top of these essentials, other tools may help make the cooking process more efficient. They include a garlic press for minced garlic, a food processor to dice up vegetables, a handheld blender to puree soups, a slow-cooker for stews, and a salad spinner for crisp salad leaves. Of course, what you need depends on the types of food you cook most often. You may decide to invest in one of these as you start preparing a few meals and have a better feel of what you need to help speed your cooking process up.
3. Get family members on board
Cooking can be tiring, especially if you’re doing it every day. Let your family members know about your plan to start home cooking, and see if anyone can give you a hand. If someone’s at home before you, they may help to wash and cut up vegetables, or pre-heat the oven first. If not, they can help with setting up the dinner table, or even with washing up after! Sharing the work can make cooking at home more efficient, especially if everyone at home has busy day jobs.
4. Watch cooking shows/videos
There, your license to tune into Jamie Oliver’s or Gordon Ramsay’s channels. Don’t be disheartened if your first attempt didn’t quite turn out as expected. Just like picking up a new sport, it takes practice to get comfortable with cooking, be more kitchen-efficient, and eventually master dishes. If you’re interested to learn about the science behind cooking, Serious Eats goes into the technicalities in an interesting way. Read this for smart ways to cut your cooking time.
5. Think about your goal and commit
Everyone has a different reason for wanting to cook at home. What’s yours?
Perhaps you want to lose weight, or there are certain members in your family who would benefit from healthier home-cooked food. Perhaps you’re starting a family and would like to create a culture of having home-cooked dinners. Otherwise, you may have realised that eating out puts a hole in your pocket, or you may simply just be tired of eating outside food.
Change takes time, but it also takes commitment. Home cooking may be tricky, time-consuming, or infrequent at first. However, if you commit to cooking at home every other day, if not daily, you’ll soon find that it becomes second nature. Start to think of this change as a new long-term lifestyle, not just a New Year’s resolution that fades away as the year goes on.
Home cooking can be enjoyable, and a way to de-stress once you get the hang of it. Remember, when you prepare your own food, you are in control of what you eat. This way, it can be healthier than eating out, which can mean better health for you and your family in the years to come.