Thanks so much! I really appreciate it (especially the College Student's Cookbook), but I'm not so much looking for recipes as I am the processes and what things do, ie, how to cut up a chicken into pieces, what paprika does, how to fry things, which knife to use when you want to do "x", the difference between sauteing and frying, etc. Not so much "what to put together if you want to make X" but "if you do this then this will happen because of that". Do you have any resources for that?
Whoops, sorry I didn’t understand. I don’t have any resources for that, so I threw one together for you! My boyfriend has been a line cook for about seven years now, and he’s taught me so much about food. There are lots of simple things you can do to make food taste better- but let’s start with the basics.
College Cooking 101
Here is a list of materials that I believe are absolutely necessary to creating a quality product. Feel free to substitute anything based on your own personal preferences.
- Non-stick frying pan (cast iron pans are much more difficult to clean)
- Pot (I would recommend a small pot that you can use to cook for just yourself, and a larger pot for cooking portions or for company)
- Lid for said pot
- Rubber spatula (much better than wooden spoons)
- Sheet tray
- Scissors (kitchen scissors)
- A cutting board (I recommend plastic because they’re easier to wash)
- Cutting knife
- Bread knife (both knives should be sharpened every six months at least, you can take them to your local kitchen supplies shop)
- Dried chives (or real chives if you can swing them. Throw them in your ramen, your tuna salad, sprinkle them on top of pasta, etc)
- Thyme (dried or fresh… dried is 3x as potent, use to season soups or pastas)
- Rosemary (dried or fresh, use to season meats and starches)
- Cumin (use this spice to rub meat)
- Garlic powder or onion powder (used for meat rubs and seasoning soups or sauces)
- Paprika (I would recommend avoiding smoked paprika, it’s got a super aggressive flavor… use this in small amounts sprinkled over things like you would the chives)
- Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling over pastas, you can get it pre-grated)
- Cheddar cheese (for making sandwiches and mac and cheese)
- Tomatoes (whole, crushed, paste, whatever… just have some sort of tomato product in your pantry at all times)
- Potatoes (you can’t buy them pre-cut because the oxidize and turn gray if not used immediately… you can still eat them, but they don’t look pretty)
- Onions (you can get them pre-cut)
- Garlic (use to make sauce or soup bases)
- Romaine hearts (lettuce has a short shelf life, but romaine hearts literally last forever and are healthier than eating iceberg lettuce)
- Protein of some sort (whatever you like- steak, chicken, tofu, etc)
- Something salty (like pickles, black olives, anchovies, etc)
- Your favorite veggies (I like carrots and squashes the best)
- Pasta (whatever is cheapest or on sale at your store)
- Bread (freeze half a loaf and leave the rest in your fridge)
- Eggs (egg beaters or whole eggs, whatever you like)
- Butter (or a butter substitute)
- Oil (olive oil is the most expensive)
- Chicken stock (or vegetable stock, in a carton or cubed)
Basic (super duper duper basic) instructions on how to cook various items. I am not a trained professional- the information I’m providing is based off of personal experience only.
- Steak (skirt steak or cube steak are easiest)
- Cooking: Cook with oil. Outside of the steak should be grey. The inside should be light pink.
- Seasoning: Create a simple spice blend and rub it all over the meat. Spice rubs always include salt and pepper, add whatever other spices you want.
- Pair with: Starches or veggies.
- Chicken (skinless and precut are easiest)
- Cooking: Cook with oil. Outside should be starting to crisp, inside should be white and dry.
- Seasoning: Salt and pepper work best. You can also coat chicken in panko bread crumbs.
- Pair with: Starches, veggies, fruits, or pasta.
- Pork (pork chops are easiest)
- Cooking: Cook with butter or oil. Outside should be starting to crisp. Inside should be the same color as the outside, and should feel very dry and hard.
- Seasoning: Create a simple spice blend and rub it all over the meat. Spice rubs always include salt and pepper, add whatever other spices you want. Meat should be completely coated in the spice rub, or it won’t taste like anything but the oil.
- Pair with: Starches, veggies, or fruits.
- Potatoes (little potatoes are easiest)
- Cooking: Cook with oil. Outside should be starting to crisp, inside fork tender.
- Seasoning: Rub (literally rub the potatoes with your hands) salt, pepper, oil and rosemary all over the potatoes.
- Pasta (shapes are easiest)
- Cooking: Boil water with a teaspoon of salt. Wait until the water is visibly boiling to add your pasta. I like my pasta al dente, so I always cook it for the shortest amount of time listed on the box.
- Seasoning: Thoroughly coat pasta with whatever sauce you’re using, or it will taste dry. Good prepared sauce brands: Newman’s Own, Classico, and Barilla.
- Orzo/Cous Cous/Pastina
- Cooking: Cook in chicken or vegetable stock following package instructions. Stir every so often, and add additional stock as it is absorbed into the pasta.
- Seasoning: I like to add dried herbs to the sauce as it reduces to add flavor. You can also add veggies early on and let them cook in the sauce.
- Carrots/parsnips/beets (chopped are easiest)
- Cooking: These can be pan fried in oil, boiled, cooked in a sauce/stew, or put on a sheet tray to roast in the oven. The easiest way to cook them is to add them to a sauce that you are heating up, and allow them to soften until they can be pierced by a fork.
- Seasoning: Rub the veggies with salt before cooking, unless you are adding them to a sauce or stew.
- Green beans/asparagus/brussels sprouts
- Cooking: These are best pan fried with butter. Cook them until they are slightly crisped and fork tender. If you want to be fancy you can blanch them before hand. How to blanch: Boil water, and throw the veggies in for literally thirty seconds. Pour them into a strainer and douse them immediately with cold water from your sink tap until they are cool to the touch.
- Seasoning: Salt works best before cooking. Butter after cooking.
- Squash/eggplant/sweet potato (chopped are easiest)
- Yes I know that sweet potato is a starch, but it fits better here.
- Cooking: These veggies are best roasted until fork tender. Time varies. These veggies should be cooked with their skin left on.
- Seasoning: Rub these veggies with salt and cook in a little oil. Top with butter after they are cooked.
- My Pasta Sauce Post. Click here.
- College Student Cookbook. Click here.
- Broke College Kid Masterpost. Click here.
- Cooking on A Bootstrap. Click here.
- Good and Cheap. Click here.
- Budget Bytes. Click here.
- Meals On The Go. Click here. (Not a cookbook, but super helpful)
I hope this helps!