Quick Recipes and Easy

What Makes a Good Cook?

Trained chefs are supposed to be excellent cooks, but I have had lousy meals at well-known restaurants. I have also had five-star meals in friends’ homes. One friend served pork tenderloin, sourdough bread, Napa cabbage slaw, and chocolate souffle. Her simple meal was a gourmet meal in every sense of the word.

In the dictionary the word cook is defined as “to prepare food by the action of heat.” I reckon there is more to cooking than that. What makes a excellent cook?

A excellent cook understands recipes. Before the cook starts to prepare a recipe he or she reads it all the way through. The cook understands abbreviations, cooking terms, and follows the recipe step-by-step. After the cook is familiar with the recipe he or she may change it to suit personal tastes.

A excellent cook can use equipment. The cook can use a mixer, food processor, blender, immersion blender, grill pan, and other appliances. This cook is also familiar with kitchen tools like a whisk, mellon-baller, and microplane.

A excellent cook masters basic techniques. The cook knows how to saute, poach, braise, steam, grill, shallow-fry, stir-fry, and microwave food. In addition, the cook knows how to make a white sauce, thicken sauces with flour and cornstarch, beat egg whites, and temper eggs.

A excellent cook relies on fresh ingredients. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are the starting point for meals. The cook buys fresh fish and flavorful cuts of meat.

A excellent cook sharpens knives. As the ancient adage says, a dull knife is a perilous knife. For this reason and cutting ease, a excellent cook cares for knives properly, keeps them sharp, and stores them safely.

A excellent cook practices food safety. He or she washes hands thoroughly before touching food and during preparation. Separate cutting boards are used for meat and chicken and washed well after use.
Cold food is kept really cold and hot food is refrigerated promptly after a meal.

A excellent cook plans fascinating menus. Some cooks prepare recipes from one culture, while others prepare recipes from many. Each part of the meal fits together like a fascinating puzzle.

A excellent cook makes simple things well. Only a excellent cook can make rich coffee, fabulous soup, and fluffy scrambled eggs. Though the cook is able to prepare complex recipes, he or she excels at the simple ones.

A excellent cook cleans up the kitchen. My mother told me this when I was a teenager and I have never forgotten it. She was an brilliant cook and I learned a lot from her. She taught me to take excellent care of pots, pans, and dishes.

A excellent cook always adds like. You cannot rush when you are adding like, you must pay attention to what you are doing, and take the time to do it. Whether it is the first ingredient or last, a cook’s like is what makes food so tasty.

Copyright 2007 by Harriet Hodgson

harriethodgson.com harriethodgson.com
Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from amazon.com amazon.com A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. You will find additional reviews on the American Hospice Foundation Web site (“School Corner” heading) and the Health Ministries Association Web site.

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