Trying to find Cooking for n00bs questions on November 1, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm having stupid-brain when it comes to finding a specific kind of cooking-for-total-newbies question on Ask.

So I know for a fact this is one of those perennial questions that's been asked and re-asked a dozen times - I'm just having one of those days where, even though I write code for a living, I apparently can't operate a google.

I'm looking for those questions that say "I am only tentatively aware that my kitchen exists, and consider saucepans distant rumors. Help me get started cooking."

I'm not looking for easy recipes per se, though obviously that's part of it. I'm looking for the ones that provide resources for someone who sees "then just sautee it all" and throws up his hands in confusion, who wants to know what the heck "chop it finely" means, who throws their laptop across the room when "then just add some spices!" enters the picture. Someone who wants to be talked to, basically, like an idiot, or a small child, albeit one who's trusted with very large sharp knives and eats too much take-out.
posted by Tomorrowful to MetaFilter-Related at 1:10 PM (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I don't have the links to the questions you're looking for, but I do have an answer: marry someone who likes to cook. Worked for me!
posted by desjardins at 1:12 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it here?
posted by zarq at 1:15 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another Google search: learn to cook
posted by jon1270 at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2011

I would do this search: bittman "how to cook everything"
posted by John Cohen at 2:22 PM on November 1, 2011

This dude didn't even know how to chop an onion...
posted by litnerd at 3:38 PM on November 1, 2011

This may help.
posted by deborah at 5:02 PM on November 1, 2011

Or, uh, what zarq already posted.

posted by deborah at 5:03 PM on November 1, 2011

memail me anytime - I'll both talk to you like you are a simpleton and help you cook. If you only want me to talk to you like a simpleton... it will cost you.

Part 1.
1. Your kitchen can be found by identifying a few key features: a. There's something that keeps things cold (perhaps you may find a beer in there) b. There is at least one device that heats things up ( A cook masters *every* cooking device and doesn't cast dispersions on any others... be it a traditional stove, a microwave or your engine block - hopefully the latter is outside and *not* in your kitchen). Lastly there should be a drawer or cabinet with a few formerly useless items: a random board of wood sometimes shaped like a duck that has some nicks in it, a colander that may be missing a leg, and a half dozen dull knives with loose handles. Throw those out and buy a new chef's knife, a pairing knife, and a bread knife. There are other knifes, but until you are competent with a chef's knife and a pairing knife you should minimize knife confusion. A bread knife is just necessary.
2. Pans exist. Here are some simple things: Cast iron is heavy, retains heat and can be made non-stick but the reality is that if you are a neophyte with cooking you'll probably wreck a cast iron pan on your first rodeo with one. Non-stick (teflon) pans are generally smooth when you buy them but in short order you can make them pitted, peeling and piss poor if you use them wrong. Teflon is not designed for HIGH heat - MEDIUM to MEDIUM-HIGH at the absolute most. Try to only use rubber utensils in/on teflon pans (no metal spoons or spatulas). Titanium pans are for camping, aluminum oxidizes but is good general purpose. Copper rocks but haters will tell you you'll slowly poison yourself with them. Stainless steel loks pretty but doesn't heat entirely evenly. Expensive pans (All Clad, etc) use mutiple materials in their core to help them look pretty, transfer the heat evenly and clean reasonably. Non-stick cleans just as easily (if not easier than) as teflon once you learn how to heat stuff. Saucepans are for liquid - wider saucepans are for reducing liquid. Saute pans have slanted edges, that helps you flip your wrist and the contents easier. Straight sided pans give you more surface area and do stuff like allow for pan frying (its not a dirty word).
3. To get started cooking: 2 pieces of bread, peanut butter, and a jelly jar... do what comes naturally to your mind. If you get those pieces together then realize you need a plate, a knife for the peanut butter and a spoon for the jelly you understand the basics of mise en place... next time you make the sandwich get those out first. Bonus points (and a possible HAACP certification) are in your future if you wash your hands first. Every thing else you can do with cooking just involves different ingredients and some variations on the techniques applied the the PB&J.

Part 2.
1. See easy recipe above.
2. Saute it means: start the pan on low heat, wait 30 seconds, add about 2 tbsp of oil, wait 30 seconds, turn up heat to appropriate temperature - probably Medium/Medium-High. Roll the oil around the pan so that it evenly coats. As an early rule of thumb, the thicker the cut the lower the temp (that way the heat has longer to disperse through the heat). The thicker the cut also means the longer. Season the product (Season: I'll elaborate that later. Product: protein, meat, vegetable, or principal component of the dish), pace it presentation side down in the pan. The product should sizzle. when you start to see some signs of the maillard reaction (BROWNING, crisping), Wait two more minutes then flip the meat. Sometimes to flip the product it hasn't released from the pan... Rock the oil back and forth under the product and slowly use a spoon or a set of tongs to slowly peel the product up, each time you lift, rock more oil under - if you do it right, the product will release and maintain that beautiful color (wrong and well... there's something stuck to the bottom). Flip it, repeat,and either banish it to the oven to finish or turn the heat down so that it can cook thoroughly enough that the center is cooked to your liking (in the case of chicken, that you don't get salmonella).
3. Chop it finely:
For things like carrots and onions: Brunoise - 1/8" x 1/8" x 1/8" (or 3mm x 3mm x3mm) - there are ways to do this precisely, functionally, or a hybrid of two. If you can't imagine what 1/8" is - its the width of the back of a chef's knife by the hilt. The hilt is the part that you hold. Curl your fingers and tuck your thumb in so your knuckles sort of drag against the knife - this way you don't ever have an excuse to adopt the nicknames "nick" or "nubby."
For leafy herbs like basil: chiffonade, which is: remove stems, align, layer uni-directionally and roll like Christmas wrap, then slice carefully. If you have to push hard, your knife isn't sharp enough. Learn to sharpen a knife or take it to a professional sharpening service. If chiffoade is too long for what you are doing, turn it sideways and give it some quick cuts before it looses its roll shape.
For herbs like tarragon, pick it, scrunch it into a pile, rough cut, turn, scrunch, rough cut again.
Master these and we'll talk about chives.
4. Add some spices. For now: Salt & pepper take a pinch of salt, hold it about 18" above the meat and sprinkle it on the meat. Flip the meat, take a second pinch and sprinkle it on the other side. Grind your pepper (or sprinkle it if you have pre-ground) You want about half as much pepper as you had salt.
For more advanced:
Red meats: cumin, chili powder, coriander - or rosemary thyme and sage
Fish: Dill, tarragon
Chicken: thyme, sage.
You can violate any of these suggestions at any time as well as bring in other seasonings. Cream of Tartar is not a seasoning.
When in doubt: 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of salt that you put on.

That should get you started.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:37 PM on November 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

Henry will show you pretty much everything not to do.
posted by maryr at 7:22 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This dude didn't even know how to chop an onion...

As a general rule you can go ahead and cut off the ends of your vegetables.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:49 AM on November 2, 2011

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