Learning to cook is a lot easier than you think. Remember that you are not a chef and your food does not have to be perfect the first time. Don’t get caught up with what you see on the cooking shows.
Concept 1: Recipes were created to use whatever you have laying around
Many meals were created to to find new ways to combine ingredients laying around the kitchen. They did not use a recipe, they just combined things together that sounded good together. Don’t stress about making a perfect recipe. Here are some of the foods that were created like this: pizza, pot pie, pie, soup, gumbo, stew, some breads (like banana bread).
Concept 2: Follow your taste.
When combining ingredients, put things together that sound good. In the beginning you will not be accustomed to tasting something and deciding “will this go with that?” If you think it does, then throw it in. Over time you will better develop the ability to tell what goes good together.
Concept 3: You will screw up, be willing to suck at it for a while, and it may be ugly looking
Look at cooking as an experiment. If you are cooking something new for someone, tell them that it is an experiment. It is okay to screw up an experiment. You are not going to get better if you don’t screw up from time to time. When you screw it up take notes on what you need to improve and try the recipe again later. I work from recipes on the computer with Evernote so I can copy them from the web and edit them as I see fit.
I really enjoy making bread and I have been doing it a lot lately. I am getting pretty good at it. Each time I make bread I experiment with a small change. A couple of months ago I forgot to add salt to the bread. Let me tell you that it was nasty, like gagging nasty. I had to throw out 2 loafs that I spent a couple of days making (normal bread does not take this long but I was making sourdough).
Just find something that tastes good, and looks easy to make, and make it for yourself. If you are adventurous enough to cook for others, just let them know that you are experimenting and that it may not turn out right. Most of the time they won’t even be able to tell you screwed up.
Where I gained confidence to cook
Tim Ferriss: his book The Four Hour Chef presents cooking by teaching a simple concept with each recipe. It was super easy to follow.
Epic Meal Time: I love junk food and these guys take the pretentiousness from cooking and helped me realize that some dudes like me can learn to cook and invent meals. Plus it is hilarious to watch them. I have made this and this.
River Cottage: Someone was nice enough to illegally post the videos on YouTube but they were pulled down. This guy from the UK was chef that moved from the city and started to cultivate his own food just outside his home. This helped me to realize the path of food from the farm to plate and how easy it is to make things. You can purchase the series on Amazon and he has a YouTube channel.