The following is a guest article from Dorian of Blade and Skillet, the cooking destination for simple, stylish, and satisfying dishes.

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Let’s face it gents, with the rise of reality food shows and celebrity chefs, there’s more pressure than ever to perform in the kitchen.

If you’ve fallen into the belief that you need a blow-torch, food processor, and Michelin status to do that, take a sigh of relief, we’re here to help.

With these four steps we’ll equip you with the hardware, knowledge, and resources to take your cooking game from embarrassing to impressive. 

1. Start Sharp, Stay Sharp

Whether it’s your closet or your kitchen there are a few items that you can’t skimp on. First and foremost, a proper chef’s knife. A chef’s knife is to a kitchen what a navy blazer is to a closet – it’s a staple.

They range in size, usually between 8-10 inches, but don’t let that distract you. Pick one that feels good in your hand. Everybody’s different so it all comes down to preference. Generally speaking, lighter ones are built for speed whereas ones with a little more weight will do more of the work for you.

How to Boost Your Cooking Game in 4 Simple Steps

In terms of materials, avoid stainless steel. If you want the nitty gritty, stainless steel is a steel alloy, meaning it’s combined with other metals – in this case, usually softer ones – making it more susceptible to nicks. Despite your best efforts to keep it sharp, over time it will lose its edge and be more of an inconvenience than anything.

Japanese steel is known to be the best, but if you talk to anyone who really knows knives they’ll concede that French and German steel is pretty damn good, too. Stick to brands like Global (Japan), Henckels (German), and Sabatier (French), and you should be fine.

Opt for their higher end lines and pay the extra cash now – it’ll last you much longer, and again, it’s made with better materials. You’ll pay anywhere between $150-$250 for a knife of this caliber.

2. Build with Blocks

Next you’ll need a surface to use your handy chef’s knife on, so pick up a proper cutting board. At the end of the day, you can’t really beat a nice wooden chopping block. They’re strong, durable, and always look nice.

The trick with wood is in the maintenance. Never throw it in the dishwasher, don’t let it soak, and if you’re going to use a lot of soap when washing it make sure you have some mineral oil in your cupboard to restore it.

A good trick is to have a nice big board for chopping all your fruits and vegetables, and have a small cheaper one for your meats. Veggies won’t contaminate your board and you can just clean up with a damp cloth. If you’re not afraid of raw meat, just make sure to scrub with a little soap in the places where the meat sits.

Mineral oil is the stock standard for wood cutting board maintenance. Depending on how often you use your board or how heavily you clean it, you may need to apply it anywhere from once a month to once every 2-3 months.

3. Quality is King

Next, you need something to cook with. No matter what type of synthetic material comes out next, nothing will replace a cast iron skillet. Your cast iron skillet will out live you, and it can probably take a harsher beating, too, so adding it to your arsenal is a no-brainer.

Go for a 10 inch fry pan – it’s all you really need. Don’t worry, you can still use that pots and pans set you got when you moved into your place, but use the old faithful for all the heavy lifting.

How to Boost Your Cooking Game in 4 Simple Steps

Like the cutting board, maintenance is the biggest factor to getting the most out of your skillet. You can buy them pre-seasoned, season it yourself, or just let it season over time. Regardless, like your selvedge denim, avoid washing with soap as much as you can.

Hot water and steel wool will do the trick for pretty much anything. Again, keep it away from the dishwasher and soaking – it’ll keep your skillet and you much happier.

4. Get Inspired

From the seasoned veteran to the fresh faced rookie, everybody needs a good source of inspiration and/or guidance in the kitchen. It keeps your personal menu fresh, your cooking skills on point, and can open you up to things you may have thought were out of your league.

Established chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay are always helpful when it comes to mastering techniques or discovering dishes with a little more flare to them.

Bloggers are great with experimentation and pushing boundaries with ingredients and flavours.

Also, the New York Times has recently given their cooking section a makeover, making their vast database of recipes more appealing and accessible.

How to Boost Your Cooking Game in 4 Simple Steps

That said, we naturally have a bias towards our own service, Blade & Skillet.

When we created Blade & Skillet, we were looking to combine the best of all worlds – simple steps, small servings, few ingredients all wrapped into a short 3 minute video. Through the eyes of a young professional in a big city, it relates to the busy life we all live.

Whether you get inspired by us or any other source, it’s important that your source fits your lifestyle as much as it fits your difficulty level. Much like your clothing, it’s not just about the fit, or the brand, or the material, it’s a combination of everything and how you pull it off at the end of the day.

To Wrap It Up…

Cooking can be intimidating especially if you don’t cook often, but with the proper hardware, simple direction, and a little inspiration, you can impress even the most experienced foodie (not to mention yourself)!

TELL ME, GENTS:

Do you fancy yourself a chef? Or, at least, a person who enjoys cooking? If so, what’s your favorite meal to whip up? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

[photos via Sebastién Dubois-Didcock]

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18 Responses

  1. Gus Walbolt on

    My guests always request the “House” favorite – BBQ’d Rib Eye steaks seasoned with corse ground pepper and garlic salt, salad (red onion, balsamic dressing, butter or Romain lettuce and tomatoes) and a fresh baguette. Remove the steaks early (slightly undercook) and let rest, covered with foil for a few minutes before slicing. Spread fine curls, or fine grate, Parmigiano Reggiano over fanned out slices of steak and tossed salad. Consider investing in a nice set of 4-6 quality steak knives and adjustable grind pepper mill. I’ve had mine for 15 years and everyone continues to comment on them whenever we use them. The knives are made by Laguiole and have rosewood and brass handles. The pepper mill is also French and made by Perfex.

    • Barron on

      That sounds incredible, Gus. And good point, a great set of steak knives and a pepper mill would be two other wise investments. I always use freshly ground pepper when I cook and the mill can take a beating.

  2. Hardo20 on

    This is kind of a weird post. If you don’t have these 4 items squared away, you probably don’t know much about cooking. So with this I’d add a basic cookbook to the list to get the novice started.

    • Barron on

      Not necessarily. I know people who have been cooking for years and years who use cheap non-stick pans, weird plastic cutting boards, and subpar cutlery.

      • Cameron Stewart Olson on

        While wood is nice for veggies, I’ve always used glass or plastic for meat and poultry, because it’s so much more sanitary. One thing I think ought to have been added is a mention about non-metal knives; having a nice ceramic blade for things that can brown from steel contact (like lettuce) is really, really handy.

        • Barron on

          good suggestions. and i guess that’s true; i use a plastic cutting board (i think it’s plastic) for my meats, but wood for everything else. i know some who only use plastic and haven’t yet discovered the awesomeness of a nice wood block.

          • Jay Doe on

            I’m actually the opposite: I used wooden cutting boards for most of my life until I realized that there’s no reason not to use plastic ones instead. They are inexpensive, more sanitary, take less upkeep, and you can fold/bend them however you want for transferring chopped up food. Best of all, you can actually store them easily by sliding them in next to your baking sheets, instead of having them take up permanent residence on your countertop like a large wooden board. The only thing they have going for them (other than aesthetics) is that they last longer… but that’s because they are so much larger and more expensive to begin with. In the long haul, buying several plastic cutting boards will be cheaper than buying one or two wooden boards, and will give you much less headache.

  3. Cameron Stewart Olson on

    I think it’s important to get comfortable cooking – especially the basics – and then try to experiment. I’ve done some experimenting with things I just had lying around and it usually turns out pretty good. But the trick is to have some experience under the belt, and for that I think a solid cookbook is a must (like Hardo20 said). Southern Living produced a nice one some years ago with basic info and solid recipes; maybe I’m partial because I’m from Little Dixie. There’s also something to be said for being baking-prepared. A lot of great food is baked and baking doesn’t admit for mistakes too much.

    • Barron on

      Absolutely. The nice thing too is that, like you said, once you have a few standard meals in your arsenal, you can deviate from the recipes and create your own versions. I personally love to cook, and while they’re not fancy meals by any means, it’s almost meditative (similar to how i feel when lifting weights).

  4. Danny on

    Every guy should be able to cook a few basic meals — even if you’re not making them often for yourself, it’s worth it to be able to impress a date. Once you master a few dishes you may find yourself making them more often than you would expect. If you can either get a pizza for $15 or make yourself some fresh, mouthwatering salmon, you’d be surprised how often salmon gets the nod. Eating well can help you lose weight, and virtually everyone could stand to lose a few pounds (it often makes clothes look better too)!

    • Barron on

      mmmm, I haven’t had a yummy salmon filet in a long time. The delightful crunch of the skin, the richness of the fish, yum. good call!

  5. Phi on

    As long as you don’t let yourself get intimidated cooking is easy.
    My favorite meal is whatever is on sale and whatever I am in the mood for.
    Another good kitchen tool to have is a crock pot. Throw everything in the pot before work, and when you get home supper is waiting. Add a salad and some wine and you’re all set

    • Barron on

      Using a crock pot is so easy it’s practically cheating, but i’ve made some delicious crockpot meals and it takes virtually no effort.

  6. Genuine Men's Mag on

    Nice post Barron, We find it really easy to stick with simple ingredients like chicken or fish(salmon or flounder) and try different things. Rosemary chicken.. to Chicken enchiladas… to chicken stir fry. All them can be made with minimal ingredients and after you make it, you know how much time each will take. Mix chicken or fish with a salad and you’ve got another meal. If you plan your meals before you shop, and also delegate who’s cookings.(split time with your loved one) It’s less intimidating. Keep up the good posts. Also, we should meet and discuss some menswear stuff sometime in NYC.

    Best,
    Steven of Genuine Men’s Mag

  7. markkoeks on

    Great article – I’m making a beef mince dish called Sloppy Joe’s quite a bit, really great flavour and versatile for wraps, on rice or with veg!

  8. andy on

    Apparently Blade and Skillet has never taken a class in metallurgy. Stainless steel used in knives is of the 400 series (little to no nickel, martensitic), and therefore every bit as hard as carbon steels. I’m curious as to what these ‘softer metals’ the author thinks are added to stainless steels. Might they be chrome, tungsten, vanadium, or molybdenum…all pretty damn hard actually. Stainless steel used in cutlery is generally more brittle than equivalent hardness carbon steels (due to chromium carbides), but this is a knife we are talking about, not a sword. In theory a good carbon steel can actually get sharper, but there is no way you could sharpen to such an edge in any case. We aren’t dealing with straight razors here. Stainless is easier to maintain, isn’t so easily damaged by acids, and won’t add a metallic flavor to foods. The knife makers the author listed ironically enough mostly sell high quality stainless knives. You don’t need to spend $150+ in any case. A forged blade isn’t necessary.

    http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Fibrox-8-Inch-47520-5-2063-20/dp/B000638D32

    This is one of the most loved items on all of Amazon. At $43, you can’t do better. Good fine steel takes a nice edge, polished sides, and a grippy handle. This is all you need.