Noob hit list

Joined Mar 8, 2011
Im an occasional cook wanting to get serious on cooking. I would like to create a list of techniques and dishes to learn, Kind of like a check list of things i should know how to do perfectly. Right now I have: Poach eggs, make an omelet, process fish (scale fillet), make risotto.

What elese do you guys think i should add to the list?

PS......Any tips for a beginner? especially on sauces and reductions. :p for some reason i just cant get them right.  
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
Good cooking almost entirely depends on technique, Tapslog. In fact, for my cooking classes I define cooking as using good techniques to manipulate good products towards a desired end.

Recipes, per se, are actually of little importance once you share that view. They are guidelines, not instructions.

With that in mind, first and foremost in importance is knife skills. Learn how to sharpen, maintain, and use your knives, practicing as much as possible (potatoes and onions are great for this) to achieve a level of proficiency.

I believe knowing how to break down proteins is very important. You're already on your way in those terms with fish. Now learn how to do it with a chicken, and with primal cuts of beef, etc. Butchering, btw, is a whole different set of knife skills from prep work, so you'll be developing in two directions.

To me, there is no way of prioritizing which techniques to learn, as it depends so much on what you intend cooking. If forced to make such a choice, I think I'd put frying techniques at the top (i.e., searing, sauteing, pan frying, deep frying) because so many dishes depend on them. I'd follow them by learning moist heat techniques (i.e., steaming, poaching, braising, boiling).

Why the emphasis on technique? Because if I teach you a recipe for, say, pan-fried chicken you'll be able to make one dish. If I teach you how to pan-fry, however, you'll be able to make hundreds of dishes.

Along with techniques I'd want to learn the effects changes have on a dish. For instance, to pan-fry chicken breasts, pound them slightly so they are evenly thick. Then set up a three-bowl breading station. Flour goes in one bowl; beaten egg in the second, breadcrumbs in the third.

Bread a chicken breast and pan fry it. Then start running changes. What happens if you season the flour instead of or in addition to the breadcrumbs? Does anything happen if you mix cornstarch with the flour? What if you add hot sauce to the eggs? What if, instead of breadcrumbs you use ground nuts? Or crushed cereal? Or Parmesan cheese? Or potato flakes? Or....well, you get the idea.

What if you cut a pocket in the breast and stuffed it, then pan fried it? Now you can run through the breading changes and have an addition option of what to use as a stuffing.

Lookee here. We've just made 15-20 different dishes, none of which used a recipe, but all of which resulted from the technique called pan frying.

The only other advice I can offer is: don't be in a rush. You can't start learning today and have 20 years experience by tomorow.
Joined Jun 13, 2010
I learned so much by watching Jacques Pepin, he is a master of technique and his videos are freely available on youtube. Also he has a great, cheap book called Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques which you might want to check out.
Joined Jun 14, 2002
One of the neat things about the classic Escoffier system is that you learn several master techniques that spawn lots of derivitives.

Learning roux is an important skill.

Roux -> bechamel and veloute (also espagnole/demi but they are only for sauce)-> Infinite variations of small sauces, gravy, savory souffle, and soups.


pate a choux -> shells for desserts and savory appetizers, savory and sweet fritter base, churros, french style gnocchi

pastry cream -> puddings, fillings, german style buttercream, sweet souffle base.

creme anglais -> small dessert sauces, ice cream base, bavarois base.
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
In school first thing we taught was understanding and definitions of cooking prep terms , like     Braise, saute ,roast ,poach ,deep  fry ,poeling etc    Then the actual cooking
Joined Aug 25, 2009
To this day perfecting a good sauce comes from much practice. I think it is just great that you want to hone your cooking skills.

I am still learning so much and no matter how long we have been cooking there is always something new under the sun.

 Sauces first started with Antonin Carême who classified four sauces in the 19[sup]th[/sup] century calling them:

Mother Sauces

In the early 20[sup]th[/sup] century Chef Auguste Escoffier updated that class of sauces and added one more making it 5 Mother Sauces:

Espagnole, Veloute, Béchamel ,Tomato and Hollandaise .

From these sauces many others are formed.

Example: Espagnole becomes Bordelaise with the addition and reduction of red wine, shallots and poached beef marrow.

There are also the finishing techniques:

Deglazing, Enriching, Straining, Seasoning and Pan sauce.  

Of course there are just so many sauces out there but these are just a few thoughts......
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Excuse me, I'm hugging TheTinCook and giving him/her a peck on both cheeks.

  This question will almost always be answered by culinary veterens leaving out one important factor.  Non Savory, Dessert, intermezzo etc.

The base technique for most sauces and such are so similar I personally think it is a waste to not mix sweet and savory when learning as a home cook.

It takes twice as long to go back and learn desserts after becoming an accomplished cook.

  Not being a smart a$$ but I've heard it said many times, you can send a pastry cook over to the hot side without to much problem but it's harder

the other way around.

good luck to you

Joined Apr 3, 2010
Sauces  Why?  The concept of sauce was a neccesity.. Europe had little refrigeration at one time and a lot of foods were salted or smoked or dried. Many of the sauces were developed to hide some of these flavors or change them or enhance them.
Joined Apr 25, 2011
I like to compare cooking to playing a musical instrument.  You need to know your fundamentals and then have the choice of playing someone else's song perfectly or creating your own.  My definition of cooking fundamentals are technique, ingredient knowledge, and equipment.  Then you can make anything you want.  (I think that puts me in agreement with all of the other posters so far  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif) 

Technique - If you can cook an egg perfectly. Every time. Every way possible.  Then you have technique. ok Knife skills are just as or MORE important.  Cut things regularly. (just not yourself /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif)

Ingredients - Learn all herbs and spices you can.  Know what each one does to a dish (fresh and dried)  Learn your proteins/cuts of meat/vegetables/oils/etc and try to expand your knowledge constantly.  (You will never know everything)  sn- A chef friend of mine learned from his father who was a great chef.  Before he could apprentice, he needed to know every spice in the pantry by smell and taste blindfolded.  He couldn't work in the kitchen till he knew every one.

Equipment- Every chef will tell you your knife is your best friend.  Learn all you can.  Other equipment does matter though.  Learn metals for pots and pans and how they react to different foods.  Learn proper maintenance and care of your equipment.  Early in my career, Worked my way up in a great establishment and moved to a less than great to advance position.  The owner of the new restaurant was a cheapskate and I learned the difference between cheap and well-made equipment.

I wish you luck, and just want you to enjoy what you do.  If you make every dish with passion and love, every dish you make will be great. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
Joined Oct 2, 2010
My suggestion is to buy a good cookbook, browse and mark a few recipes YOU would like to eat and to get on with it. Pick a recipe, buy the ingredients and do it!

You don't learn how to cook from looking at pictures in cookbooks and magazines, nor from making hit lists.

Which cookbook? Please, when you're a neophyte in cooking, do yourself a favor and buy a book from Australian Donna Hay. Her recent books and her earlier Modern Classics etc. are a real must, not as a book to fill the home library, they are genuine do-books, just what you need. In my opinion must-haves for people who want to learn basic French, Italian and Asian cooking.

In fact, any of her cookbooks will do fine. Donna Hay won prices for best cookbooks and the pictures in her books are a real treat!
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