Have you ever heard someone say a recipe didn’t work? I have many times and people ask me for advice and this is what I tell them, “Recipes are a list of ingredients you need. It’s not an instruction guide to show you the method they used.” This is the bread and butter of a successful recipe that works. (no pun intended) Don’t feel bad if you followed the instructions step by step and failed. This is only someone’s opinion on what they think works.
I am a professional caterer cooking for hundreds of people and that doesn’t come by a recipe it comes from skills and methods. Your recipe may call for a chopped tomato or instructions to cook under medium heat. This sure can be confusing because tomatoes come in so many different sizes and as a chef cooking in many different kitchens, all stoves are not the same and give out heat differently. Food items are natural and have different cooking times especially when we all have different pans, stoves and ovens we are not all going to get the same result. You don’t need to go to culinary school to learn to cook, all you need is to learn the cooking methods! Many home cooks have many magazines with hundreds of recipes and look on the internet for ideas to make for their families. I know for me I can’t follow any kind of reading directions at all and didn’t go to culinary school, maybe that’s why I’m a good cook and have a successful catering business because I learned the cooking methods to prepare mouthwatering dishes for your guests.
Ever hear someone say, “It was my grandmas recipe”? Our grandmas back in the days didn’t measure ingredients they just threw stuff together of what they had available to make a historic meal we drool over. Your grandma knew the cooking methods and added her ingredients on the fly. This is the key to cooking without a recipe. Recipes have always been an epic fail for me and overwhelming when I was young. It’s ok to look at recipes and get inspired but look at the variety of ingredients that are being used and use what you have in your kitchen. If a recipe asks for honey and you don’t have it, use sugar or anything that has the similar flavor they are asking for but most importantly learn the cooking methods and make it like our Grandma’s recipe!
Learn these basics of how heat is transferred to food and you will be able to cook without recipes
- Direct Heat
- Indirect Heat
How Heat Affects Food:
- Gelatinization of Starches
- Coagulation of Proteins
- Evaporation of Moisture
- Caramelization of Sugars
- Make sure your pan is HOT
- Add your protein with a small amount of fat
- Heat your protein 75% one side 20% on the other (rest will cook off the heat)
- Check with a thermometer to make sure you reached your safe temperature zone
- Remove protein to the plate
- Add your vegetables or any kind of aromas to your pan until they sweat
- Deglaze with liquid to stop the heat
- Add your butter, cheese or cream and melt in the liquid
- Return Protein to liquid or pour on top of plated protein for final dish with garnish
Basic Roux – butter and flour White Blonde Brown
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This is so true, I tell people this all the time about cooking. I learned from my grandma too