When the pandemic swept the world, life changed for everyone in one way or another. Seeing as everyone found themselves home all of a sudden, it’s no surprise that it didn’t take long for people to decide it’s time to head to the kitchen and sharpen up those cooking skills. With fun videos and endless social media posts boasting of the “BEST WAY TO MAKE” one’s favorite dish, it’s easy to decide which one really is the best. A simple search for any “easy, quick, simple” dish will garnish hundreds of recipes, both written and videos, all with unique twists and varying ingredients. With all the options, it can begin to get a bit overwhelming where to even start.
First and foremost, you need to choose the platform in which to find the recipe. Between cracking open great- granny’s book to watching an entire meal be made in 30 seconds flat while scrolling through social media, there is a multitude of waves to find the recipe that works just for you. When looking, make sure there is enough information in terms of cooking temperatures, pan sizes, cooking methods, etc. This information is needed so one can aptly prepare and not run into a preheating hold up or overcrowding in a pan. Just because it looked easy online doesn’t mean it’s that easy in person. With that in mind, one must also be honest on their skillset, and quite honestly, time to devote.
You’ll often hear the phrase “low and slow” when cooking. That’s to say, the longer you let something sit and really absorb flavor (think marinades, soups, roasting, etc.) the better it will taste. It’s not expected that everyone has 7 hours to dedicate to brining the best turkey in the world for a regular Tuesday night dinner. When choosing a recipe, it’s important to know how much time you have to dedicate so you can adjust the steps if need be. Think family potluck dishes: a simple bread pudding is delicious and sure to be a crowd pleaser.
While you can throw one together last minute with oven dried bread from your cupboard and a quick toss in eggs, cream, butter and sugar, or you can plan it out a day in advance and pick up some artisan sweet breads from your grocery store and give them time to air dry, then leave the assembled bread pudding in the fridge overnight to really soak in the cinnamon and vanilla egg yolk goodness. The difference is in the time, so be honest with yourself in your level of dedication when perusing. Once you know what you’re in for, it’s time to look at the ingredient portion of the recipe.
Another important thing when picking a recipe is to make sure you are not visiting a specific product’s website. That recipe isn’t trying to provide you with quality food—it is trying to get you to go purchase their product, taste be damned.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I was trying my hand at Japanese Milk Bread and produced one of the blandest batches of bread ever after a brand advertised a recipe using their products to “cut back on ingredients and keep the flavor!” This could have been avoided by simply checking the name of the website and reading a few different recipes to see if others have suggested using that product as well. But beware, even some personally submitted recipes are sponsored by certain brands and products, so beware of the underhanded advertisements!
Some recipes to have the shortcut or easy way out, but bear in mind that some tried and true recipes are what they are: you cannot cut corners if you want quality. Without certain techniques or ingredients, you aren’t actually making the dish. For example, when looking for a hummus recipe, it must contain tahini or else it’s not a traditional hummus. Or if a recipe is claiming their “easy consommé recipe” doesn’t involve the tedious work of creating and, let’s be honest, stressing over the egg white raft, ditch it. Rest assured, though, that cooking isn’t always a strict, no nonsense task. Just as important as it is to know the rules, you also need to know when you can change them.
Some people prefer to stick to the rules and not stray, and that’s ok! In that case, these people need to find a detailed, thorough recipe that doesn’t lend room for mistakes. This recipe should also explain why things are the way they are so someone can make an educated decision. Like when marinating, 24 hours is great, but 3 hours is better than nothing, so just because you don’t have time doesn’t mean that recipe is automatically out. On the other side of the spectrum are those who love to find customizable and easy to manipulate recipes. Personally, I prefer to use recipes as guides, so one that doesn’t provide me with any room for creativity is probably a recipe I will skip. Either way, the perfect recipe is the one that makes a delicious meal!
The average person spends an hour preparing and making themselves food every day. It’s up to you whether you Sometimes that means doing a bit of research and recipe shopping before diving in. Watch videos, read blogs, and ask friends for their family’s way of making something. You may be surprised to learn that you haven’t even learned the best way to make your favorite dish yet!