How to cook anything in 4 simple steps
A beginners step by step guide to cook any meal you want and nail it… and it’s not what you think.
I honestly believe when it comes to simple home cooking. We’ve got it all wrong.
We chase recipes and other people’s ideas for how to cook. When all we really need to do is understand the basics of a meal. So you can open the pantry and fridge and work with what you’ve got.
Unless you’re following recipes from Noma or Heston or some crazy talented top chef – which, if you’re simple looking for everyday meals, I doubt you are. Then I’m here to tell you – there are 1,000 meal combo’s sitting within your pantry and fridge (unless they’re bare) and you don’t need a recipe for any of them. I cover this concept in my free guide The Meal Matrix – check it out.
But before go down that rabbit hole. There are 4 very simple steps you need to be taking first. So find a recipe and get to work.
HINT: Number 4 is where the magic happens. But don’t skip the rest, they build on each other.
Watch the video version:
How to cook anything in 4 simple steps
STEP 1: Make the time to cook.
You’re either going to prioritise the cooking or you won’t.
There are so many distractions to fill your time with that will make you feel busy. Cough cough scrolling, FB stalking or talking about being busy.
They say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Which begs the question, are you actually as busy as you say you are? Only you know the answer to that. This is how I figure out whether my busy excuses are BS or not – I ask myself “what’s stopping me?”
Am I tired?
Do I need to just lay on the lounge?
Am I pretending to be more tired than I am because I really want a spring roll?
Do I know what to cook that would excite and energise me? Or maybe I don’t know what to cook because I don’t know what’s in my fridge/pantry/freezer and I haven’t bothered to look?
How do I want to feel? That spring roll feeling is fleeting and I know within 30 minutes of eating it (or even faster) I’ll be feeling even more tired, even more shit, even more lazy.
STEP 2: Make something
It doesn’t matter what it is.
We get so caught up in making something and choosing what it is. Countless times, I’ve found a recipe after searching for 20 minutes, only to realise that type of chicken is deep my freezer and if I defrosted it, I’d be eating at 8.30pm or later.
Lower your standards, in the way of needing your meal to be fancy. Everyone thinks that everyone else’s meals are so much fancier than their own. The smart home cooks are just making it work, every day, 3 meals a day.
If I had to choose a fancy meal (with lots of steps) over a whack together meal using flavour bombs from my fridge that had dinner on the table in 20-30 minutes…. I choose the whack together meal every time. This is what my work is based on.
We’re all winging it.
You don’t need to begin your cooking adventure with main meals either. You could begin by making a batch of bircher muesli or granola, or simple soft boiled eggs for the week.
If you’re hating on cooking and find it a drag and not worth your time. How in the heck is cooking a 7 hour braised lamb leg going to be the thing that excites you and propels you to cook more? It won’t, it’ll feel like a burden the whole time and drain you even more.
Now I’ve just told you that your busy excuses are crap….. maybe you’re actually busy?
Maybe you have 30 minutes before you need to leave the house for an appointment and you’ve committed to cooking. What do you do?
You allow the time limit to be the time limit and work within it.
On this occasion, it’s not the time to make something new. It’s the time to lean on an old favourite or a freezer reheat or eggs on toast with some fancy sauerkraut or kimchi or amazing granola with yoghurt/fruit or a salad with a bunch of toasted nuts, oil, lemon and herbs.
Make something that’s within your means.
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STEP 3: Eat it
So you’ve made something. Try it before you serve it.
A study from 2015 proved that 78% of cooks starting out don’t even try their food before they serve it.
OK I MADE THAT UP. But I know it’s true because my clients tell me and I’ve had meals where the difference between it being OK and amazing was simply an extra squeeze of lemon.
This is where your flavour knowledge comes in and maybe you think have none but you do!
You’re a human whose been eating meals for 20, 30, 40 + years, 3 times a day, everyday. You go to a restaurant and judge the shit out of a meal, the LEAST you could do is starting doing it to your own – in a constructive way.
The number 1 step missing from recipes is – ask yourself: How does this taste to me?
Adjust to taste doesn’t do it justice. There’s no self responsibility in that line. I want you to ask you and your kitchen intuition how you feel about the meal. More salt? More lemon? More sugar? More oil? More herbs? More cheese (always)? More cooking required? More pepper? More chilli? More flavour in general, maybe some stock paste?
You know it. I’m relating this to me pretending I don’t know what to do in my business next. Maybe you could also relate it to not knowing what you want in life and whether keeping that annoying friend is worth it or not. Or whether you should go left or right on your daily walk, when you usually go straight. We forget to ask ourselves and just roll with not asking, 30 years later…. mid.life.crisis.
STEP 4: Judge it. Learn from it.
So you’ve made it. Did it work? Or did you stuff it up?
This is important because either way IT DOES NOT MATTER.
Of course, we want all our meals to be easy, less stress, super quick and delicious – but shit happens. Just like in life. Sometimes you miss the bus, even though you were at the bus stop 2.5 minutes early.
What you do next is what matters.
You can make the shiteness of your meal mean the world.
Make it mean you’re a shitty cook.
MAYBE you missed a step in the recipe.
MAYBE your lemons were smaller than what the recipe writer used.
MAYBE you got distracted and burnt the chicken.
MAYBE your soup needed a extra tablespoon of tamari for a salty kick.
Whatever happened. This is where you learn – this is where you go from being the cook you were yesterday to the cook you are today, this is where you get to propel forward, if you choose to.
Take the lesson. Write it down. Adjust course for next time.
The only guarantee in cooking and in life, when you’re learning a new skill, the puzzle pieces won’t make sense. You will feel like you’re flailing and failing.
You will feel like you’re going nowhere for a good few weeks, then all of a sudden, you’ll burst through. You’ll cook the perfect roast chook, a perfect pot of quinoa, crispy roasted potato chips, a kick arse roasted veggie dip – and for a moment in time, you’ve nailed it. Watch out though, the next lesson is just around the corner. Trying to avoid it will get you nowhere. Embrace it.