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Basic Cooking For Dummies, Third Edition digs you out of microwave dinners and tipping delivery persons and ...
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Basic Cooking For Dummies, Third Edition digs you out of microwave dinners and tipping delivery persons and propels you with all the ingredients you need toward becoming a superior home cook. This hands-on guide shows you the fun and easy way to prepare meals all your guests will love, from die-hard vegetarians to the most passionate meat eaters. You’ll be able to handle boiling, poaching, steaming, braising, grilling, and other essential techniques, making it easy to master:
Packed with over 150 tempting, hassle-free recipes that will satisfy every palette, as well as advice on supplying, organizing, and budgeting your kitchen, you’ll have all the know-how to become a culinary expert and possess the elusive key to anyone’s stomach!
Part I: Go On In — It’s Only the Kitchen.
Chapter 1: Cooking with Confidence.
Chapter 2: Gathering the Tools You Need.
Chapter 3: The Bare Necessities: Stocking Your Pantry.
Part II: Know Your Techniques.
Chapter 4: Boiling, Poaching, and Steaming.
Chapter 5: Sautéing.
Chapter 6: Braising and Stewing: Now That’s Home Cookin’.
Chapter 7: The House Sure Smells Good: Roasting.
Chapter 8: Coals and Coils: Grilling and Broiling.
Chapter 9: Creating Sensational Sauces.
Part III: Expand Your Repertoire.
Chapter 10: The Amazing Egg.
Chapter 11: Stirring Up Soup-er Homemade Soups.
Chapter 12: All Dressed Up: Salads and Dressings.
Chapter 13: Pastamania.
Chapter 14: One-Pot Meals.
Chapter 15: Sweet Somethings.
Part IV: Now You’re Cooking! Real Menus for Real Life.
Chapter 16: Champagne Dishes on a Beer Budget.
Chapter 17: Honey, I’m Bringing the Boss Home for Dinner . . . .
Chapter 18: Cook Once, Eat Thrice: Making the Most of Leftovers.
Part V: Special Occasions.
Chapter 19: Summertime Soiree.
Chapter 20: Super Bowl Buffet.
Chapter 21: Thanksgiving Dinner.
Part VI: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 22: Ten Common Cooking Disasters and How to Deal with Them.
Chapter 23: Ten Ways to Think Like a Chef.
Appendix A: Glossary of 100 (Plus) Common Cooking Terms.
Appendix B: Common Substitutions, Abbreviations, and Equivalents.
In This Chapter
* Taking a good look at your kitchen
* Familiarizing yourself with some basic cooking techniques
* Figuring out your menus
* Making your kitchen safe and user-friendly
* Trying your hand at a simple recipe
So you want to find out how to cook? Good for you! Cooking is fun, relaxing, exciting, and even therapeutic. It enables you to eat for less money than ordering take-out or dining in a restaurant every night, and it allows you to know exactly what you're eating and to make conscious, healthy food choices. Cooking lets you easily adapt your meals to suit your own nutritional and gastronomic preferences, whether you're eating low-carb or vegetarian, or you're determined to immerse yourself in classic French cuisine. Plus, cooking the food you eat puts you in closer touch to the process of nourishing your own body, and that can make you feel better about yourself, your health, your body, and your life. Yes, cooking can be that powerful!
We love to cook, and we're excited to share our knowledge with you, but we remember being beginning cooks, too. Sometimes you may not feel confident enough to try what looks like a complicated recipe, let alone figure out which equipment and supplies you need and how you should set up a kitchen that works for you.
In this chapter, we begin at the beginning: with your kitchen. Whether you have a cramped apartment kitchen with counter space the size of a cereal box, or a sprawling country kitchen with a commercial stove and a work island, this chapter helps you set up your kitchen in a way that will allow you to become a more productive cook. To be sure, space is great. But knowing how to use what you have efficiently is the real key. You would be surprised to see how small some restaurant kitchens are; they work, however, because everything is in its place and is easily accessible. Have you ever ricocheted around the kitchen desperately searching for a spatula while your omelet burned on the range? We want to ensure that you're never in that situation again.
To do that, in this chapter, we give you a broad overview of what you need to know to be an effective cook. We talk about how to set up your cooking space, introduce you to the major appliances of a kitchen, and give you a glimpse of some basic cooking techniques. Then we discuss menu planning, kitchen safety, and we even help you to get started with a nice, easy, practical recipe.
Warming Up to Your Kitchen
There it is: the kitchen. Maybe you don't go in there very much, or maybe you like to hang around watching other people cook. Or maybe you cook dinner in there every night, but you don't enjoy it very much. Never fear. Your kitchen can easily become a place you love to cook in and be in. It's all a matter of organization.
Setting up your cooking space
You don't need a fabulous kitchen to prepare fabulous food. But a well-designed workplace sure makes cooking easier and more pleasurable. Chances are, you aren't in the process of remodeling your kitchen, and you have to make do with the basic kitchen design you have. But if you are designing your cooking space, consider the concept of access. If you want to spend the day running, join a health club. If you want to enjoy an efficient and pleasurable cooking experience, put some thought into the organization of your workspace. Although nothing is wrong with a large, eat-in kitchen, the design of the cooking area should be practical. You shouldn't have to walk ten feet from the stove to get the salt, for example.
You should be able to move from your working counter space to the stove and the refrigerator in a smooth, unobstructed fashion. This working space actually has a name: the kitchen triangle (see Figure 1-1). If a table, plant, or small child is blocking the way, move it. For suggestions on designing your kitchen, check out Kitchen Remodeling For Dummies, by Donald R. Prestly (Wiley). But remember, even if you can't design your kitchen space, you can arrange what you need in a way that works for you. Here's how to do that.
Decluttering your countertops
First things first: Take a good hard look at your countertops. What's on them? Coffeemakers, blenders, food processors, stacks of bills, permission slips, and grade school art projects? Counter space is the single most overlooked item in many kitchens. The counter is where you set out and prepare food (often on a cutting board), stack plates, put kitchen machines, and lose car keys amid the clutter. A clean, clear counter space can inspire great meals. A cluttered one is more likely to make you want to pick up the phone and order a pizza. Try to keep your counters neat and clean. So many kitchen counters are cluttered with paraphernalia that they become nearly useless.
The most important key for organizing your counter space is to keep it clear of most stuff. Unless you use an appliance at least several times a week - the coffee machine, toaster, and blender, for example - put it away. That's precious work space you're filling up with all that stuff! Also remember that a kitchen counter is not a magazine rack, plant holder, wine bin, or phone book shelf, so try not to use it for these purposes if you actually want to cook!
In addition to keeping your countertops clutter free, take steps to care for them. Use cutting boards for cutting and trivets for hot pots and pans, and wipe up spills quickly to prevent stains. The nicer your counters look, the more you'll enjoy being in the kitchen. (Flip ahead to Chapter 22 for more information about countertop care.)
Let there be lighting
Kitchens should be well lit - the stove and workspaces most of all. If you have a combination kitchen/dining area, you may want to put the lights on a dimmer. That way, you can keep the kitchen bright while the dining area is dim. Lights under the stovetop hood can really help when stirring sauces or sautéing vegetables. You haven't replaced that burned-out bulb in a year? Time to do it!
Another option is to have special lighting for the cooking area, either inset into overhead cabinets or in the ceiling. Nothing is worse than trying to check your food in a dimly lit area. If your kitchen is poorly lit over the cooking area, the least expensive solution is a wall-mounted supplementary light.
Staple city: Organizing your pantry
The pantry is the place where you store your basic cooking staples, as well as other dry goods. Dry goods are foods that aren't refrigerated or frozen, including staples like flour and sugar, and packaged foods like crackers, cookies, pasta, and rice. If you're lucky enough to have an entire room or closet dedicated to a pantry, keep it well organized so that you can see and easily reach the staples you use most, like flour, sugar, and cooking oil. But even if you have only a cabinet or two for your pantry, organization is the key to efficiency. (For tips on what to keep in your pantry, turn to Chapter 3.)
The first thing to consider in organizing your pantry is the kind of closet or cabinet you decide to use and whether the food you store inside of it is easily accessible.
We've seen many ingenious kitchen cabinets on the market, such as those that have storage shelves on the swing-out doors as well as inside, Lazy-Susan-type cabinets that rotate for full access to round shelves, or cabinets with shelves that roll out on tracks so you can easily reach even those things you store at the back of the shelf. If your cabinets don't have these convenient features, you can improvise by mounting racks on the inside of the doors or installing those handy roll-out shelves yourself. Look for such kits in hardware or kitchen stores.
A good cabinet or closet system enables you to see exactly what's in your pantry, thus helping to inspire your culinary creativity and allowing you to grab what you need without knocking over vinegar bottles and stacks of spice jars. Store dried beans, pasta, different kinds of rice, flour, sugar, tea, and coffee in large glass or clear plastic jars with lids. This type of storage is practical and looks professional, too.
If you use something all the time, consider taking it out of the pantry and storing it closer to your stove or workstation, in a "satellite" pantry like a cabinet or shelf. You might want to do this with your cooking oils and sprays, your spice rack, or your baking supplies such as baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla.
Kitchen islands are extremely efficient in that they can have considerable storage space below. Moreover, they can double as a kitchen table. If you don't have an island (and you have the space), consider buying a butcher block table with shelving underneath.
Introducing major appliances: Friends, not foes
There they are, those formidable appliances that make your kitchen into a room custom-made for food preparation and storage. Your major appliances are capable of producing the most exquisite gourmet meals or the most horrible, burned disasters; of yielding fresh, glistening produce or slimy bags of who knows what?
Major appliances are your allies in good cooking. Until you make friends with your stove, your oven, your refrigerator, and small appliances (which we discuss in Chapter 2), you'll never really feel at home in the kitchen. To know your appliances is to love them, and knowing each appliance's relative strengths and weaknesses can help you make the most of what they can do for you.
Stovetop and oven
Whether you have an old gas stove that looks like it belonged to your grandma or a fancy space-age-looking glass cooktop, your stovetop may be the cooking appliance you use the most. Right under it, or sometimes over it, or possibly off to the side, is your oven, which you'll probably use almost as much for baking, roasting, and warming up leftovers. Your stove and oven are your best friends in the kitchen (see Parts II, III, IV, and V for recipes using your stove and oven), and if you're buying new ones, you have all kinds of new technology to choose from. Even if you won't be going appliance shopping any time soon, knowing exactly what kind of stovetop and oven you have and how to use them may help your cooking efforts.
Most serious cooks prefer gas stoves. You can turn a gas flame up and down quickly, which is important in sautéing and sauce making. You can adjust the flame in tiny increments, more so than you can with an electric stove with numbers on the dials. Commercial gas ranges are extremely powerful and can cut your cooking time by as much as one-fourth, but simple home ranges work just fine for most purposes. New cooks may feel intimidated by gas because of the flames, and gas stoves can produce higher heat than electric stoves, so those used to cooking on electric stoves will need to adjust so that they don't burn their food or destroy that expensive sauté pan. But with a little practice, you'll get the hang of cooking with gas. When you can confidently proclaim, "Oh, I like to cook only with gas," you know you've reached a whole new level of culinary prowess.
Newer gas ranges should not smell of gas from flaming pilot lights. Newer models no longer have standing pilots. They ignite electronically; therefore, gas doesn't flow through the system unless the range is turned on. If you do smell gas, you have a leak in your system. This situation is dangerous - call your gas company immediately. Do not use the stove or any other electrical appliances, even your lights, because doing so can spark an explosion.
Electric ranges became all the rage after World War II. They were considered clean, easy to use, and modern. The drawback to electric ranges is their slow response time. Reducing heat from high to low can take a minute; gas can do it in seconds. However, many professional chefs prefer electric ovens, especially for baking, because they're very accurate and consistent. Today's gas and electric ovens generally hold and maintain oven temperature within a variance of about 5 degrees.
Induction is a new form of kitchen heat. Some professional chefs are so impressed with it that they predict it will replace all other systems in ten years.
Whether that is true or not, induction cooking is impressive to watch. Basically, it works on a magnetic transfer principle - heat passes via magnetic force from the burner to the pan. If you place a paper towel between the burner and the pan, the towel does not get hot. A 2-quart pot of water comes to a boil in about a minute. However, an induction cooktop uses only selected metal pans to which a magnet adheres, such as stainless steel. Copper and glass cookware, for example, do not work. An induction cooktop is expensive, priced at over $800 for four burners.
Chefs have used convection ovens for years. If we were to recommend an addition to your kitchen, a convection oven might be the one. A small fan in the rear of the oven circulates air all around the food to cook it rapidly and evenly. Cooking times and temperature settings are reduced by about 25 percent, so most manufacturers suggest that you reduce the cooking temperature given in the recipe by 25 degrees when baking. Some oven manufacturers offer both regular and convection cooking at the flick of a switch. Do you need a convection oven? No. But if you bake often, you might learn to love one.
If a convection wall oven is over your budget, consider the smaller, less expensive convection toaster oven, especially if you're cooking for one or two. It can toast, bake a cake, broil a burger, and roast a small chicken. And cooking times are shorter than in conventional ovens. Small convection ovens can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, while larger, full-sized convection ovens can range from a couple thousand dollars to $10,000 or more, depending on the model and brand.
Microwave cooking is unlike any other kind of conventional cooking. You must follow a different set of cooking rules. Although over 90 percent of American kitchens have a microwave, most people use the microwave only as a reheating and defrosting device. If this is your intention, purchase a simple unit with only one or two power levels. If you're short on counter or wall space, consider a microwave-convection oven combination that allows you to cook by using either method.
Microwaves can't pass through metal, so you can't cook with traditional metal cookware. You can, however, use flameproof glass, some plastics, porcelain, paper, ceramic, and plastic cooking bags. Some microwaves permit you to use aluminum foil to cover dishes, as long as the foil doesn't touch the oven walls or the temperature probe.
Excerpted from Cooking Basics for Dummies by Bryan Miller Marie Rama Excerpted by permission.
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Posted November 3, 2009
Sure nothing can compare to Voc ed food service course at an adult education community to get hands on experience.And the meeting of new friends.But i wish i knew of this book at the time..This is an excellent book to learn as the pro's..Everthing a professional learns is in this book..great for gift giving and to have one as copy for all the professionals for a quickie refresher..
6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2009
I purchased this book to give as a gift. It was exactly what I was looking for to introduce someone to cooking.
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 16, 2011
Posted January 7, 2013
I am not a complete dummy when it comes to cooking.. I know basics and can cook most things with a recipe.. But this book helped me SO much! It covered a few basics I already knew but also gave me a lot of tips and techniques for things I had no clue about. It even gives pictures for visual learners (for example, showing pictures of exactly how to fold an omelet). I am very thankful for this book and I constantly go back to it for reference when I need to. It also gives some great, quick and easy recipes! HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who likes or wants to learn how to cook. Its easy to read and follow. Sometimes, I even find myself correcting my mother, who happens to be an excellent cook. Really love it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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