Five Tips to Master Your Kitchen

As cooler weather starts rearing its head in Chicagoland, you may be getting the itch to make use of your kitchen once again. You’re not alone! Some scientists actually hypothesize that the colder weather reminds our “primitive impulses” to start stockpiling calories for the winter – meaning we’re hungrier and we want some comfort food. So, let’s give the people what they want.

Say “see ya ladle!” to boring pasta night. We’re turning your kitchen skills into something even Gordon Ramsey would be proud of. Whether you’ve been in your kitchen for years or are just making it your own after a recent purchase, we’ve got five tips to help you turn into a kitchen master this season.

#1 Know the Difference Between Liquid and Dry Measuring Cups

Turns out, all measuring devices are not created equal. The measuring scoops with handles are meant for your dry ingredients and the spout-looking cups are meant for liquids. Sure, they are (theoretically) the same volume. However, bakers know all too well that getting the perfect amount of a required ingredient is pertinent to a recipe turning out successful. 

With dry measuring cups, cooks have the autonomy to level off dry ingredients, like flour. When done in a liquid cup, you don’t get that same level of precision. Inversely, getting the right amount of a wet ingredient in a dry measuring cup would require you to fill it perfectly to the brim and then get it in the bowl without sloshing any over. Not the most reliable way to measure! 

For those thinking “how big of a difference could it make?” this chef laid out exactly how easy using the wrong tools could lead to adding in a half cup of flour by mistake. 

#2 Know Your Food’s Shelf Life

It’s basic but so important – knowing how long your food is fresh makes a huge difference to a recipe. Boxed pasta, for example, has a year or two before it’s time to go. Dried beans, on the other hand, could literally outlast your grandchildren if you held onto them long enough. 

Keeping an eye on “sell by” dates is always a good place to start. For the foods that don’t come with one, there are helpful charts to know just how long that apple can sit in your fridge. And for those of us who have a hard time remembering when we bought something, erasable food labels are the easiest life hack in the world. 

No matter what your ingredients are, kitchen masters agree that bringing the freshest things to the table is a key start to making a meal they’ll be talking about for years to come!

#3 Sharpen Your Knife Skills

If you’re not confident behind the blade, don’t panic! From properly holding a knife to cutting finely (without cutting your fingers), there’s a lot to be learned if you’re looking to sharpen up your skills. For example, when gripping the knife, you’re going to want the palm of your hand to choke up on the handle, while the thumb and index finger grip the top of the blade. Then your helping hand – or bear claw – is going to be right by your side to get the job done. 

Check out this list of 23 basic knife skills from the New York Times to familiarize yourself. 

#4 Personalize Your Kitchen

When was the last time you reflected on the layout of your kitchen? Are your appliances working properly? Do you have a solid center of the kitchen for your cooking? Are the colors making you happy? 

As of this past year, researchers found that only about a third of Americans were cooking at home on a daily basis and less than 14% were doing it because of a strong passion for cooking. Whether you need some tiny tweaks or a larger project, making sure your kitchen is a space you feel comfortable and happy in could actually be pertinent to your cooking journey. 

So take stock of how your kitchen feels and consider making some adjustments this fall! Not sure where to get started? Here are seven things you may be forgetting to personalize, as a place to start. 

#5 Invite Your Friends Over

Okay, kitchen master – you’ve got your space looking exactly how you want it, your knife-wielding skills would put Benihana to shame, and you’re ready to show it off. It’s time to host a dinner party.

If the thought makes you shudder, it doesn’t have to be a horror story straight out of The Office. Hosting a dinner party could include as few or as many guests as you feel comfortable with. The cool part is research shows throwing a party can actually improve a lot of your health factors. From learning to embrace your stress, to getting serotonin off friend interactions, parties can be total mood boosters

And if that sounds like a nightmare to you, maybe consider this author’s advice “the host is responsible for providing abundant food and drink and a comfortable environment, and guests are responsible for their own good time.”

No matter what this might look like for you, you’re well on your way to becoming a kitchen master this season.

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