Let’s face it. Even if you have tons of experience, and you’re generally satisfied with the dinners you cook on a regular basis, cooking at home can get stale over time. Maybe you have classic dishes that you keep returning to, or maybe you seem to follow the same weekly rotation every week. The point is, you’re tired of cooking the same old things and you want to branch out to try something new.
There are plenty of articles on the internet that can help you find new recipes, even if those recipes are usually overburdened with personal narratives and anecdotes. But what general strategies can you follow to stay fresh in the kitchen and push the limits of your culinary abilities?
Invest in New Appliances or Tools
First, you can consider investing in new appliances or tools. While you may not be thrilled about the idea of spending thousands of dollars on new materials when your existing kitchen works perfectly fine, the reality is, even a small investment can greatly improve your range of capabilities.
For example, you could purchase a wood stove with a cooking insert and cook food over a real, wood fire, ultimately making that food more flavorful and distinctive. If you don’t already have appliances like pressure cookers, deep fryers, or induction stoves, now may be a perfect opportunity to get them. And if you’re on a budget, you can invest in simple new tools, like organic meat butcher, to guide your cooking in new directions or allow you to hone your craft with more precision.
Experiment With New Cultural Cuisines
Next, break the mold by experimenting with new cuisines from cultures all over the world. If you want to make the most of this, you need to go beyond “taco night” or occasional, generic Asian stir-fry meals. Instead, you need to do some reading and research to learn about the elements that make each unique culture so distinctive. What types of ingredients do they use? What types of materials do they use? What kind of flavor combinations are preferable?
Learn as much as you can and apply those techniques in your own kitchen. Regardless of whether you’re creating new dishes from scratch or just adding new tastes to familiar dishes, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Follow New Cooks, Chefs, and Influencers
Get more ideas by following new cooks, chefs, and influencers on social media. There are thousands, if not millions of people you can follow, from world-renowned chefs with famous luxury restaurants to amateur cooks trying to build a channel by filming themselves cooking in a small studio apartment. If you keep an open mind, there’s probably something you can learn from each of these individuals.
Master the Elements of Cooking
Food columnist and former chef Samin Nosrat identifies the four elements of cooking as salt, fat, acid, and heat. And these are certainly important elements to consider. But if you’re trying to rebuild your culinary skills or philosophies from the ground up, we can get even more basic.
- Basic tastes. Become intimately familiar with the basic tastes available to humans, which are salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). Humans tend to prefer foods that have a nice balance of these different flavors, with the balance shifting to one end of the spectrum for certain types of foods; for example, we expect meat dishes to be saltier with a strong umami flavor, and we expect desserts to be sweet.
- Heat and timing. Heat is essential for cooking. But what intensity of heat should you use and how long should you cook? Searing meat results in a much different taste than gradually cooking it in a slow cooker over the course of a day. There are some general guidelines for how to use heat and timing effectively, but there’s also room for experimentation here.
- Ingredient interactions and balance. It’s also important to learn how different ingredients interact with each other. Everyone is familiar with the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter, but what is it that makes this work – and not, say, chocolate and oregano? The more combinations you try, the broader your culinary palette will become.
Eat More Foods Cooked by Others
It’s hard to discover new trends and push the limits of your own culinary abilities if you’re trapped in a kitchen of your own making. Accordingly, you should spend more time eating foods cooked by other people, especially if those people are famous or experimental chefs. Even if you don’t copy their techniques exactly, you can walk away with new inspiration.
Cooking doesn’t have to be stale or repetitive. If you employ these strategies, you can come up with new dishes on a regular basis – and impress your friends and family members with your culinary abilities.