Learning to Cook without Recipes

Have you ever had this experience: you find a recipe that looks good so you decide to give it a try. But, there are a few ingredients you don’t have, so you put them on the grocery list.

A few days later, you remember you were going to try the recipe, so you get it out and start going through the steps. This entails a lot of back-and-forth between reading the recipe and trying to do the cooking, then going back to make sure you understood the instructions and didn’t forget an ingredient.

In the end, you have something that looks a little bit like the picture on the recipe, may or may not taste good enough to be liked by your family and leaves you questioning whether it was worth the effort.

While we have access to more recipes than any other time in history and many can be great resources, the most creativity and joy in cooking can come when you break free from recipes and develop the skills and understanding to create delicious meals on your own.

In his cookbook ‘Think Like A Chef’, Tom Colicchio, of Top Chef fame, breaks down the skills of creating meals into mastering techniques, understanding ingredients, and combining and composing these into a finished meal.

Each facet of this approach can be learned at a simple and basic level. With proficiency in a few techniques, an understanding of ingredients, and knowing a little about how they go together, you can unlock the ability to create a lifetime of meals for your family.

From there, techniques can be added and refined, additional and deeper exploration of ingredients can be pursued, and experimentation can create new and exciting meals.

This can be a lifelong pursuit with endless possibilities, but you don’t need to become a James Beard Award-winning chef to be the creator of delicious meals for your family.

In future posts in this series, we’ll be sharing the basics of cooking techniques, going over what you need to understand about ingredients, and how to combine them into a wide array of meals.

Learning to cook without recipes can open up a world of possibilities. Here are just a few benefits:

  • Simplify and standardize your grocery list to few basic ingredients can be transformed into an array of meals.
  • Increase the use of whole foods, reducing the amount of processed foods in your diet
  • Utilize more of the food you have on hand, saving you money and reducing waste
  • Adapting and using ingredients that are in season, increasing connection to nature and the world around you
  • Make recipes the sources of inspiration that you can change to match your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.
  • Reduce time spent cooking through increased proficiency and time saving techniques