When you kiss your Mammy and Daddy goodbye and move out for the first time, you become responsible for keeping yourself alive. This means at some point or another you'll have to learn to cook if you haven't already. While instant noodles, coffee, and chocolate bars are the makings of any solid student diet, you will eventually decide that maybe it's time to cook something a little more wholesome. As you enter the kitchen for the first time to make something more complex than beans on toast, difficult questions begin to enter your head:
Which end do I hold a knife? How do I turn on the oven without burning down the kitchen like last time? What does a frying pan look like again?
When it comes to learning the basics, here's what you need to know:
If you've never even picked up a knife before, learning to chop will be your greatest struggle. Your first attempts will probably resemble that of a slasher film, except the victims are vegetables. You'll be slow and impatient, your food will come out uneven and lumpy and you'll probably cut yourself more than once.
There are a lot of ways to chop but to start off, it's best if you focus on learning how to slice and dice. If you can slice a tomato and dice a chicken evenly, you'll get away with that for at least ten years before you have to learn to mince and shred food. When slicing and dicing, try do steady even strokes with your knife and remember to keep your thumb and finger tips clear of the blade.
When you chop everything up, make sure it's all about the same size. If everything's different in size, it all cooks at different rates. This results in you eating a piece of undercooked chicken, getting salmonella and dying. It's not fun and also a super lame way to go.
Generally, it's smarter to cut smaller pieces when you're learning to cook because it cooks faster. While your food might be a little overcooked or even a little charred or burnt, this is definitely the lesser of two evils compared to having undercooked food or, yknow, dying.
Just buy yourself a peeler. Yes, some people can peel with a knife and it's very cool, but you will just fail at it and end up taking out huge chunks and wasting your money. Peelers are cheap and faster to learn to use. So save the badass chef act for when you can actually cook properly.
4) Boiling and Frying:
When it comes to these two, don't think you can just wander off and watch Netflix when you've put it all on. That's how you burn your food or your house down.
Small cuts in a frying pan work well on a high heat for a short amount of time; 5 - 10 minutes for most foods. Large cuts should be cooked on a slightly lower heat, and can take normally anywhere from 10 - 20 minutes.
Boiling rice and pasta can take between 10-30 minutes depending on what type you buy, so always check the packaging. If you're boiling a large potato, you should cut it in half and peel it. It can maybe take you about 30 minutes on a medium to high heat. Add oil to the pan, and stir regularly. Otherwise, you get to spend two hours scrubbing charred shit off the pot and you become known as that girl who managed to burn rice (you know who you are).
5) Checking the food:
So here's how digestion and food work normally. Most vegetables and red meats can be digested raw with a low risk of causing illness as our bodies are designed to break down these kinds of food. Fish, white meats and potatoes, if digested raw, can make you very sick. Simple as that. You are to live by your own special rule, known as COOK EVERYTHING COMPLETELY THROUGH.
Normally to check that food is properly cooked, you need to pierce a knife through it and check that clear juices run. For potatoes, again pierce with a knife through it, and if goes in easily it's done. Rice, Pasta and most vegetables can either be recognised as done by eye or by tasting them. One day you'll get there, but for now cut all your meats and check that they're cooked all the way through and try a few pieces of everything before you dish it up. Better not to accidentally poison any dinner guests.
If you do feel uncomfortable in a kitchen, you're probably going to want to overcook your stuff a bit just to be sure. While that's all well and good, sometimes over cooking in excess can result in burnt food which is icky, or if you're boiling something, the food will become limp and soggy and lose a lot of its nutrients. Either way, play it safe, but there's no need to have your dinner resemble coal or a bowl of sick.
We all hear the horror stories about when food goes bad and it's left us all a bit too terrified and wasteful when it comes to using food. However, the reality behind it all isn't nearly as bad as people would have you think. You can freeze something once when it's raw and once when it's been cooked. Both cooked and raw food can last several days when unfrozen, but the best way to check to see if it's still good is to simply give it a good look over, a hearty sniff and if it's cooked, a wee nibble.
Now go forth and attempt to cook something resembling