What are the basic skills that aspiring cooks should learn?

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What basic things should every aspiring cook be able to do well??
 
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Mountain Cat

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Just a couple to start the ball rolling here:

Knife skills - not the high speed Ramsey style, necessarily, but good enough to cut efficiently and not cut oneself.... I can improve my own further, certainly.

Deglazing a pan. Even if you aren't deglazing for a sauce, I have found it a great way to get any gunk off a skillet for cleaning (just use water to deglaze if for that purpose).

Thickening sauces without making lumps.
 

TastyReuben

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Definitely knife skills, and like Mountain Cat says, not the super-speedy restaurant kitchen style, necessarily, but just being competent, knowing how to get uniform slices and dices, how to mince, how to julienne, and all while keeping your fingertips intact.

Knowing how to reduce a liquid, and along with that, knowing not to be afraid of the heat, when it's called for. Know the difference between a simmer and a boil, know that, yeah, sometimes you do need to use high heat on a pan.

Develop the discipline to practice mise en place as much as possible, even when it really feels like you don't need to.

Two things that'll set you on the road from basic to advanced: follow recipes when starting out, as closely as possible, then judge the results, and as you get some familiarity with different ingredients, don't be afraid to change it round to suit your tastes, and second, pay attention to what ingredients look like/feel like when they're done - how much resistance does that boiled potato give? What's that steak feel like at rare versus medium-rare versus medium?

Also, take care of your stuff. Keep your knives sharp, your pans clean, and your wooden boards oiled.
 

Windigo

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Learning knife skills is most important indeed. Already explained well above.

You should learn the most basic sauces, called the mother sauces. From those basic sauces, almost any sauce can be made. And learning to make sauces teaches precision and patience.The mother sauces

Learn different techniques like sauteeing, grilling, roasting, poaching and frying. Buy a good basic cookbook to learn those techniques from, I recommend Mastering the art of French cooking from Julia Child as a good starting point.
 
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Saranak

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Ciao,
Learn what go together and what not but no fear to experiment.
Understand how different ingredient behave in different cooking way.
Start simple. Mama always say to me ambition is good but can lead to fall on face!
Repeat steps until can do with out thinking.
Understand how heat level affect pan of different size and weight. Very light is prone to burn food heavy not so much.
Learn timing, no good putting meat on plate if vegetable or pasta already cold.
Understand difference of teaspoon, desert spoon an table spoon.
Practice hand whisk.
Learn to see fresh food that is good an no so good.
As Mountain cat say learn your knives.
Perfect basic technique then move on.
Most important enjoy it, if make mistake learn from mistake.

Sarana x
 

TastyReuben

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Learn timing, no good putting meat on plate if vegetable or pasta already cold.
That's an excellent point, and something that still bites me from time to time.

If making a meal with, say, four items (like a pork chop and sauce, mashed potatoes, and roasted cabbage), don't be afraid, when first learning, to look at the recipes and write out a plan that lists when to start the cabbage, when to start the potatoes, and when to fry the chops and make the sauce. It can go a long way to keeping you focused and calm as everything starts to come together at the end.
 

Mountain Cat

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Also: making stocks and broths. How a fish stock is made differs from the making of a chicken/poultry one, or a pork one, or a beef/lamb one. Or a vegetarian one... A lot of this is differences in timing. Also the stock flavor base will vary depending if you are going Cajun, or French, or Asian, or Greek....
 

Windigo

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Also very important:

Measure everything, weigh everything. Intuition comes with time but if you want to cook at a higher level, relying on recipes and measurements is really important.

As a pro I have seen many mediocre cooks use 'intuition' and fail, and many great cooks use tried and trusted books and recipes and become famous for it.
 

Mountain Cat

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That's an excellent point, and something that still bites me from time to time.

If making a meal with, say, four items (like a pork chop and sauce, mashed potatoes, and roasted cabbage), don't be afraid, when first learning, to look at the recipes and write out a plan that lists when to start the cabbage, when to start the potatoes, and when to fry the chops and make the sauce. It can go a long way to keeping you focused and calm as everything starts to come together at the end.
I often have timing problems too. If it's just me, I eat sequentially. WIth company I try to have at least one item that can sit and wait a little - rice holds well in the rice cooker, or that big pot of chili isn't going to go anywhere, and salad can nearly always be made in advance.
 

Saranak

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That's an excellent point, and something that still bites me from time to time.

If making a meal with, say, four items (like a pork chop and sauce, mashed potatoes, and roasted cabbage), don't be afraid, when first learning, to look at the recipes and write out a plan that lists when to start the cabbage, when to start the potatoes, and when to fry the chops and make the sauce. It can go a long way to keeping you focused and calm as everything starts to come together at the end.
Very good point Reuben NEVER panic.

Sarana x
 

morning glory

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You should learn the most basic sauces, called the mother sauces. From those basic sauces, almost any sauce can be made. And learning to make sauces teaches precision and patience.The mother sauces
Seconded. I was going to make this point. If you can master these sauces you can make many dishes from simple ingredients. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it should be the first thing (in terms of recipes) for any aspiring cook to learn.
 

Windigo

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Seconded. I was going to make this point. If you can master these sauces you can make many dishes from simple ingredients. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it should be the first thing (in terms of recipes) for any aspiring cook to learn.
Yes, this and knife skills. That's what happens at culinary school too.
 
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