Forks in the Road: Food and Travel in Central PA - A Community Blog

Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures

Learn to Cook Using These 5 Free Online Tools

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Jan 27, 2014 3:51 PM
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Photo by Adelle & Justin

Many of us are a little uncomfortable in the kitchen. Teaching yourself to cook is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself (and the people you love!).

Keeping the end in mind is a great philosophy to live by when feeling inspired in the kitchen. It's always great to visualize what your scrumptious meal will look like as you sift through the refrigerator to find your ingredients. Maybe the picture in your head is one you've seen in a recipe collection or "pinned" on Pinterest. Take a succulent crab cake for example. You can see its rich, textured patty carefully topped with vibrant sprigs of basil. It's enough to make your mouth water.

Unfortunately, the end result of your concoction does not always necessarily match up with the pictures we see in a book or in our heads. More often than not, we question, "What am I doing wrong?" "Did I not follow the directions carefully?" "Why am I a horrible cook?" You're not alone. So many of us have tried the so-called easy, simple recipes on platforms like Pinterest, and we've epically failed. What's an aspiring cook to do?

Instead of getting discouraged, try to embrace some new avenues for cooking. While Pinterest is a great source and can serve the purpose of inspiring a meal, look to other sources to carry you through the process. Including Pinterest, below are five free resources to boost your confidence when it comes to cooking the perfect meal.

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Jamie Oliver is, in my opinion, the most famous chef whose cooking is also the most approachable. Some famous chefs hide behind complicated techniques and ingredients that make their dishes impossible to replicate. Not so with Jamie Oliver.

1. Jamie Oliver

Wow Factor: A fun, "Food Tube"  showcase for developing a healthy lifestyle.

The world-renowned British chef and media personality, Jamie Oliver, hosts his own website that focuses on incorporating natural, unprocessed foods to make mouth-watering dishes and desserts. With a plethora of recipes and videos, this easy-to-navigate website allows you to think "outside of the box" to turn your favorite flavors and cravings into healthy, satisfying creations.  Given his cultural and culinary background, you can really explore different pairings and dishes like Biscuit Tin Pork or Sweet Italian Zuccotto dessert. Also be sure to check out the How Tos section of the site, which has tons of videos for basic cooking techniques. The possibilities are endless!

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CHOW's YDIAW series is not only good for a laugh, but also good for inspiring yourself to unlearn your bad cooking habits.

2. CHOW

Wow Factor: Eye-opening videos that change your perception of how you cook common dishes.

Ever wonder what it's like to completely transform a peanut butter sandwich? Does your peanut butter overpower your jelly? Does the jelly ooze out on the bread and onto your fingers? If that's the case, CHOW’s video series would deem, "you're doing it all wrong!" Filled with mind-blowing solutions for common cooking mistakes, this site really allows you to cook things right the first time, while expanding your horizons. Instead of two generic ingredients, they push you to get creative with your additions and gasp, even grill your pb&j's. For loads of great tips and tricks, look no further than Chow. These videos are fool-proof.

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Martha Stewart's online recipe collection is enormous and beautifully-illustrated.

3. Martha Stewart

Wow Factor: A video series that features key ingredients and lots of opportunity.

There's no doubt that Martha Stewart tops the charts when it comes to beautiful culinary creations. She strips down to basic ingredients and the foundation of your cooking skills to master general techniques. Instead of viewing a glorious, ten-ingredient masterpiece, Martha hones in on the essentials, helping you build your expertise from the ground up. For example, cooking fish is a very delicate task. Her site gives you the necessary knowledge to make sure you successfully cook "melt-in-your-mouth" fish that would make Chef Ramsey proud, beginning with choosing fresh fish to presentation. This no-fear approach can help you feel more confident in the kitchen.

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Feast's course isn't just for the hopeless cooks of the world - though it will help them as well. The crash course is a unique way to learn and sure to teach you some great basics.

4. The Feast Crash Course

Wow Factor: An email-based course that is convenient and easy to follow.

Feast, an emerging company that drives the "Average Joe" to cook like a professional, offers a free, seven-day, email course to promote confidence in the kitchen. With a laid-back approach, this course presents single-skill training for different cooking styles. Much like Harbor does for marketing, this site has thoughtfully, developed multi-media platforms in which any type of learner is able to hone each skill. This is a perfect avenue for beginners that are timid to cook, but maybe want to impress their friends or family for dinner. With fun, motivating tutorials, Feast will help set you up for culinary success.

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Pinterest is a grab bag of great recipes and recipes that only seem to work for one particular food blogger. Still, it's a great place to gather ideas and find uses for unusual leftover ingredients.

5. Pinterest

Wow Factor: Thousands of creative ideas for any occasion at the click of a button.

As one of the most talked-about platforms for recipes and inspiration, Pinterest is a gold-mine for food ideas and tutorials. While we sometimes fail to recreate each delicacy on its interface, it actually can be easy to sift through the pins to find the best steps and recipes for your cooking ability. Refine your search and type in "easy" or "simple" solutions into your search query for some great ideas. Do your research and read the comments to see if other pinners had the same amount of success in their reproduction of the recipe. When in doubt, try your skills and if it is too difficult, delete your pin and move on. Overall, this is a great place to store your favorite recipes and successes.

At the end of the day, remember to not get discouraged when you cook. Instead, plan ahead and get all of your ingredients ready. Make sure you read the directions carefully before you begin and keep your recipe within your reach. Take a deep breath and try your best. When in doubt, you can always order pizza. Just kidding! Navigate through these great sources and you will be an expert chef in no time!

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