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Joined: 26 Sep 2015
Posts: 927

25 Nov 2021, 12:54 am

I'd like to be able to cook cheaply with basic ingredients, how do I get into this?


Joined: 8 Aug 2019
Age: 40
Gender: Male
Posts: 659

26 Nov 2021, 5:53 pm

enz wrote:
I'd like to be able to cook cheaply with basic ingredients, how do I get into this?

Pick a basic ingredient. Learn how to do stuff to it.

For example, if you like meats.

Buy some meat that requires the least amount of prep to be cooked. Pork chops are an easy example. Pre sliced, easy to handle. Boneless skinless chicken breast also works. Ground beef is another easy starter.

Now find a cooking technique to learn / practice - such as browning ground beef on a skillet. Nothing fancy, lust learn the temperatures and technique to brown some ground beef. Even easier than hamburgers. Or learn to bake or broil a chicken breast or porkchop. Temperature and time is everything.

Or veggies - learn to sauté, to fry, to boil, to steam - most of them are fairly easy - still just timing and temp.

Or starches - get good at boiling pasta or beans. Slow-cooked bean soup is easy tasty and filling.

Once you can do one of those things consistently, then add another. Boil pasta, then sautee some veggies to add. Grill some chicken to go on top. Or brown some hamburger/lamb, boil some potatoes for mash, add some veggies, and make a cattlers/sheppards pie. But start simple, and build up.

Practice in small portions or single servings so you can afford to ruin a serving or two without sacrificing the whole amount.

Season them AFTER you cook it, at first. Use small amounts of seasoning, one spice at a time, on bites of food, to see how it tastes and what you like. Once you get the hang of what seasonings work, and how much, then start adding them to the things you're successfully cooking, while you're cooking them.

Salt amplifies other flavors. Use it sparingly, and use it last when possible. If a food is already too heavy with garlic or pepper, salt won't cover it, it will pair up with it and make it worse. Pre-mixed seasonings (such as Adobo) are very useful to start with.

Youtube videos are your friend. Watch lots of them, take what works from each. Cooking is half science, and half art. Time and temp is the science part. Seasoning prep and technique are the art part. Both take practice.

If there's a local cooking class available, take it. All practice helps, as does learning technique from others.

TIMERS TIMERS TIMERS!! ! I always have 2 - one for the cook time, and one that goes off every 5 minutes no matter what to keep me paying attention to the food.

Local and farmers markets often have better product and prices than chains or supermarkets. Also nice to support local producers.

Electric is easier than gas to learn, on a stovetop.


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Joined: 28 Jan 2008
Gender: Male
Posts: 11,238
Location: Seattle-ish

27 Nov 2021, 3:49 am

Good cookbooks can be really helpful as well, especially when you're just starting. I really like The New Best Recipe from America's Test Kitchen or The Food Lab from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt as general purpose beginner friendly books, they both have a wide variety of recipes, and go out of their way to explain the why of the recipes and some of the food science behind them, which is very helpful when adjusting things to your own tastes later. My advice would be to make the recipes exactly as written the first time, and then adjust them to your own tastes as you grow more experienced and learn what you like and dislike about them, having a baseline "this is what it's supposed to taste like" is very helpful, as you can't always tell just from looking at the ingredients what they're going to taste like in the finished dish.

Also, just a personal preference, but cookbooks are the one place I stick to old fashioned paper books rather than digital, I just find it easier to work from in the kitchen, and you can put post-its in them with adjustments as you learn. Once you get the basics down you can start working from online recipes, I'd suggest Serious Eats, as you'll have a better sense if a recipe is worth making or not just from experience, and not risk wasting a bunch of time and ingredients on something you may not like or doesn't come out how you expected.

“The totally convinced and the totally stupid have too much in common for the resemblance to be accidental.”
-- Robert Anton Wilson


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Joined: 3 Jan 2021
Age: 17
Gender: Non-binary
Posts: 1,192
Location: UK

29 Nov 2021, 4:41 pm

One of the recipes I started with was spaghetti Bolognese. It is both very simple and very tasty. Spaghetti can be harder to cook than ordinary pasta though.

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