“There is literally no one thing that you can do that’s more beneficial to your health, both physically as well as financially, than cooking at home.” – Chef Elizabeth Buckingham
Engaging with local, whole foods requires a skill and that skill is cooking. For many of us, it’s a skill we haven’t mastered but for all of us, it’s a skill we can master. It takes practice, confidence and a few tips from an expert chef and teacher.
Chef Elizabeth Buckingham is a Colorado native; she earned a Grande Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. A spontaneous scuba diving trip to the Bahamas following her culinary school graduation led to a passion for the ocean and the next eight years of her career, first cooking aboard dive boats and later progressing to head chef aboard private yachts worldwide. In 2009, Elizabeth returned to Colorado and started her own private chef venture, Moveable Feast Colorado through which she offers all kinds of fun and useful services from in-home classes to edible garden setups. Elizabeth is also a certified Master Gardener and runs a tiny urban homestead complete with chickens and a large vegetable garden. She is an avid home canner and preserver, a passionate advocate of local food and thinks everyone should know how to cook at least a little bit.
- Chef Elizabeth’s top tips to increase your confidence and success in the kitchen TODAY!
- Check out cook books from the library instead of buying them. Trust Julia Child. Don’t trust Internet recipes unless they’re reputable sources like Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and America’s Test Kitchen.
- Have a small dish of kosher salt wherever you’re cooking. Season as you go, in layers. Taste as you go. Salt is tops but fresh ground black pepper is another key ingredient. You can always underspice or undercook because you can fix that. You can’t fix overspiced or overcooked.
- Read the recipe BEFORE you start. Does it need to braise for 4-6 hours? Do you understand all the ingredients and techniques it calls for? Is this recipe appropriate for your ingredients and skill level?
- Know your oven. Ovens vary so learn to test doneness beyond simply cooking it as long as the recipe specifies. (Also, everything takes longer to cook at elevation, if you didn’t know.)
- Cook everything to the doneness you like, not that the recipe writer likes.
- Let meat rest. Generally, leave it covered for at least 5 minutes for something small but as long as 30 minutes for something big like a big roast or turkey. Don’t cut in to meat to test doneness. Use the “touch test” using the skin between the thumb and pointer finger or drop some coin on a serious meat thermometer. America’s Test Kitchen recommends Thermapen. Meat, as well as most things, keep cooking after being removed from heat. Don’t wait until it’s done but a bit before it’s done and pull it then. It’ll keep cooking a few more minutes.
- Cut your ingredients into similarly sized pieces. Vegetables should be sliced or cubed to similar sizes. Cuts of meat of varying thicknesses should be cut or pounded to a similar thickness. Think chicken breasts that are super thick at one end and half that at the other. Salmon steaks can taper from belly pieces to tail pieces. Uniform thickness means uniform cooking.
- Hone your knife skills. Cooking shows demo assembly but not the skills that enable that assembly. Pre-chopped ingredients abound but to really know and appreciate your food and reach true independence, you need knife skills. They’re also much more expensive by weight. Also, your CSA isn’t going to chop your veggies for you.
- Trust yourself and practice. It’s about what you like, not about what the chef or cookbook writer thinks you should like. And if you don’t like what you get, learn from it and try again. But keep practicing, be confident and be patient. Cooking takes practice.
- Chef Elizabeth’s company Moveable Feast Colorado
- Get on her mailing list by sending an email with the subject “Subscribe” to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Thoroughly tested recipes from Food & Wine Magazine, Bon Appétit Magazine and America’s Test Kitchen
- The meat doneness test using your hand on YouTube
- Michael Pollan’s “Cooked” TV series on Netflix
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