Teach Me To (series)

How To Become A Good Cook

become a good cook

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So you want to learn how to become a good cook? So did I.

Failure and dissatisfaction with one’s abilities torpedo many potential good cooks. They let discouragement get the best of them and they simply give up. You hear them say phrases like “I’m more of a cleaner than cook.”

But for others, failure and dissatisfaction are motivators to figure it out and find success. That’s my camp – and I’m going to tell you how to move into it.

How Frustration Motivated Me To Become A Good Cook

Did you know two people can use the same recipe and have vastly different results? I learned that when I brought a loaf of lemon zucchini bread to church and a friend gushed it was “the best bread I’ve ever put in my mouth.”  It was pretty awesome. It had a perfect, light texture and great flavor. But I had to admit to her that my daughter actually baked it.

So later that week, wanting to produce more of this heavenly bread my friend raved about, I put two loaves in the oven. And they came out like bricks – dense and heavy.

What?! I used exactly the same recipe, the same ingredients, and even the same oven – because my daughter made her loaf from my pantry and in my kitchen. I had no explanation for the difference. Voodoo, maybe? It made me crazy.

Fast forward a few weeks. I was visiting a friend and told her about the zucchini bread debacle and my puzzlement. She went into another room, returned, and handed me this: Cooks Illustrated’s The Science of Good Cooking.


I flipped through the table of contents, found page 350, and was floored to discover the answer to my zucchini bread mystery. It was ruined by the development of excess gluten!

While yeast breads – which depend on a strong gluten structure to give it a great chewy texture – love to be handled; quick breads like zucchini do not. In order to be cake-like, they only need a simple folding. That was my problem. I put my ingredients in my Mixmaster and walked away for a minute. Maybe two or three.

It made all the difference in the world to understand the science behind bread making. I never knew that mixing affects texture.

become a good cook

click picture to preview book

I wondered as I continued to flip through this amazing book, what else I could improve by simply learning the science of cooking. Turns out, a lot.

  • The indispensable technique that maximizes juiciness in meat.
  • What bones do to meat as it cooks.
  • Why some turkeys are dry and others juicy.
  • The science of salt.
  • How to make breading stick instead of flaking off.
  • How to get crispy french fries instead of limpy ones.
  • The science behind the perfect scrambled eggs or omelet.

And this information is just in the first third of the book! The book explains 50 basic concepts that, when understood and applied, will make you become a good cook. It also contains 400 recipes.

As soon as I got home from my friend’s house, I got on my computer and ordered it. It’s been game-changing for my cooking abilities. No more dense quick breads! Or over-cooked meat. Or tough eggs…

If I’d Only Known

I learned the hard way having a good recipe isn’t enough to ensure a good result. Click To TweetI learned the hard way having a good recipe isn’t enough to ensure a good result. You need to know how food reacts to variables. And once you do, you can apply that knowledge to all the recipes you make – just like professional cooks and bakers do.

If I knew these “secrets” when I was a young wife, I’d have been a good cook as a young wife. But I eventually learned you don’t have to know all the answers. You just need to know where to find the answers.

The Science Of Good Cooking is the best resource I know of to learn practical solutions to fix culinary mistakes. And the confidence you gain fixing your mistakes is what moves you into the camp of those motivated by them. It’s a delight to see yourself make progress.

The Science Of Good Cooking also the perfect gift (wedding, Christmas, birthday, Father’s Day) for anyone who wants to become a better cook.

become a good cook  become a good cook