The growing interest in food and cooking has prompted several ways to learn how to cook but… is it possible to do it online?
There are basic techniques and easy basic techniques
Culinary professionals recommend beginning with the easy basic techniques; for example, learning how to cook pasta al dente, how to blanch vegetables to preserve colour and taste and how to cook a good piece of meat after searing it in a pan. These skills can easily be mastered in a short period of time by reading well written articles from blogs and by practicing.
However, nailing dishes that have many cooking variables and that traditionally are family recipes… can they be done by just reading blogs, such as Ruqui’s cooking tips? To bake a good piece of meat or fish (selecting the right piece is challenging enough) is important to know the correct oven temperature (as well as understanding your own oven) and if it is necessary to oil it or season it before. To prevent fish or meat from drying, it is important to keep adding liquid or its own juices (therefore, it’s also essential to know if it will squeeze out any) and to guess its doneness by checking its colour and its smell.
There are too many things to learn on your own from just blogs and practice. Talking to bloggers and other food lovers from online communities could replace some traditional family tips but… is it possible to learn if nobody checks how your dish is evolving and tells you how to know when to moist it or when it is done? Maybe Youtube is the solution here, although the skills to judge doneness by the smell still have to be developed. It’s the same with sauté and béchamel sauces, mayonnaise and other classics that are difficult to master.
It’s not only about learning to cook
Other key skills that cooks should have are the many different types of cuts: fast knife skills to chop all kinds of food accurately and safely. Learning cutting techniques such julienne, brunoise, or batonnet is essential to prepare many dishes. Technique and practice are the right ingredients to achieve it, but without a teacher that encourages speed and quality, many people are easy on themselves.
Moreover, knowing the main kitchen utensils is also important: when to cover or uncover the pan, how to fillet fish, how to debone meat, understanding mandoline slicers with different types of blades… All these are essential to prepare many dishes and some need special care. It’s also important to choose the right suppliers for getting good quality raw materials and the best pieces to cook.
In the 21st century, food presentation is crucial as it is to share your dishes on social media. As well as knowing how to cook, it’s now fundamental to know about culinary seduction and some food photography techniques.
Is self-learning unbeatable?
Most cooking schools use demonstration and guided practice to teach. To achieve a successful learning, it is necessary a detailed description of the processes, explaining why something is done, giving examples and solving doubts. Guided practice is extremely important because it is possible to ask on the spot about a specific step or something that has not been understood properly.
Most cooking blogs explain how to prepare a recipe, taking some knowledge for granted. Their mission is not to teach how to cook, it is to share recipes. Nobody guides the practice to online cooking learners: the way to self-learning is to compare recipes, check different sources and ask a lot of questions, which does not guarantee success.
What to learn?
We are living the revolution of the cooking methods.
Spherification encloses flavours with jelly-like algae that burst in your mouth. Liquid nitrogen freezes instantly creating new textures and ingredients. Kitchen utensils for cooking slowly achieve much perfect flavours and textures.
There’s a wave of online cooking courses to fill the gap of specialised and contemporary cooking. They make sure that all levels of a specific preparation or technique are learned. Cooking apps, on the other hand, try to make life easier.
The best advice to get started is to choose some easy recipes that you are keen to do and focus on them. Find alternative ways of preparing them, watch videos that show how to do them and talk to bloggers and online communities to solve your questions. Also cook for people that love food and that are going to give you feedback and advice.
Wikihow recommends believing in yourself and noting down all your impressions whilst cooking and of your final dish. This is the same that most food bloggers recommend: if you decide to learn how to cook, write down all the steps you follow, all tests and results, spend some time improving your sense of taste and smell and enjoy the process.