Confidence in the kitchen is a result of two ingredients: patience and speed. I would argue, however, that patience is the more important of the two. Why? Well, without it you will never become accurate enough in your cooking to incrementally increase the speed at which you turn dishes out of your kitchen.
So, if you want to improve in the kitchen, first you’re going to have to learn to exercise some patience in the following ways:
Proper Cooking Length
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Things will take as long as they need to cook. It doesn’t matter if you move your ingredients around in the pan in hopes that you will magically speed up their cooking time. Those mushrooms are going to take exactly as long as they need. Just let them be.
You’ll find that if you aren’t obsessively monitoring the progress of your cooking you’ll free up some time with which you can chop up your herbs and garlic (or whatever else) so that they are ready to add into your mixture at exactly the right moment.
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Similar to the undeniable fact that cooking will take exactly as long as it needs, flavors will not instantaneously harmonize in a dish. There are reasons that some sauces are best made a day ahead. It’s amazing how simmering for hours allows flavor particles to break down, interact, and rebuild into a new, full-bodied, flavorful melody.
The same goes for cakes. A little planning for someone’s special day is probably all around beneficial, but it is especially so in the kitchen. If you know that you’re going to need a birthday cake on Friday evening, don’t try to rush it together Friday after work. Instead, spend some time Thursday night baking the cake when you’re relaxed and calm. Not only will the end product be less stressful, but it will taste like it was make with time and care. Exactly the way you expect a homemade cake to taste.
Letting Things Cool
It is quickly quite obvious if you pick up a plate that is too hot or sample soup that just stopped boiling that you were not patient enough to let things cool. In the kitchen, although you want to keep the food you’ve prepared warm, you don’t want to burn your guests or yourself. Exercise a little patience, your mouth will thank you.
The same goes for when you store leftovers. Putting leftovers that are still hot in the fridge is never a good idea. First of all, doing so will force your fridge to expend much more energy trying to keep your freshly packed leftovers from heating up everything else in the fridge and spoiling.
Secondly, putting warm leftovers into the fridge does not allow them to cool evenly. This can be a problem because uneven cooling due to trapped steam can alter the texture of what you’ve cooked making it less delicious next time you eat it.
The virtue of patience is most visible in this step of any cooking project. If you try to rush your saucing, your plating, or your cake decorating, you may just find that although what you made may taste good, its presentation may not encourage others to sample its outstanding flavor.
Don’t think that presentation of a dish is trivial. It is actually paramount! A well-plated dish allows you to show off the beauty and effort that you have put into creating it. It will make mouths water. It will impress your guests. And it will be beautiful up on Instagram.
Think about it. After all, there is a reason that the old chef’s adage, “You eat with your eyes” exists.