I’m almost 26. That means I have four short years before I enter the realm of quite sophistication that is 30. Turning 30 means that, well, you’re no longer 20. With the sophistication of that 3 and 0, a sense that food and taste is much more than a box of white cheddar shells Pasta Roni slowly creeps up on you. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to understand and know how to cook well, not only for yourself but also for your reputation as an adult who enjoys the finer things. Here are 10 essential cooking techniques to master before you turn 30:
- Roasting Vegetables
Roasting is an easy and healthy way to prepare your favorite vegetables. Begin by preheating your oven to 400 F. Cut up a selection of fresh veggies (red potatoes, quartered, with halved brussels sprouts and carrots are my personal favorites.) Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Brush with quality olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Wait 20 minutes and you’ve got a side dish full of flavor.
- Making Soup
Soups are great for a cold, winter day and are incredibly versatile when you’re in a hurry for something quick. Keep chicken and beef broth on hand, or invest in inexpensive bouillon cubes to use at a moment’s notice. Chop up and brown a meat (turkey sausage or chicken works great) and half an onion. Throw in some veggies. Add pasta, if you like, and let simmer with red pepper flakes and garlic. You can vary the ingredients however you’d like, and you’re likely to come out with something hearty and delicious. Serve with crusty bread and butter to make a hearty meal.
- Hard-Boiling Eggs
A hard-boiled egg should be easy to make, but many people don’t realize the simple mistakes they’re making when trying this recipe. Eggs should only be boiled in a single layer with water just covering the tops. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before running cool water over the eggs.
- Cooking a Turkey
Turkeys are much easier than they’re made out to be. The trick is in the preparation. Invest in a good roaster and roasting bags to lock in the moisture, and make sure the bird has been completely thawed. Generously rub the outer skin with butter, salt and pepper before enclosing the turkey in the bag. Keep a meat thermometer on hand, as cooking times vary depending on the size of the turkey and the heat of your oven.
- Making Stir-Fry
Sesame oil and veggies are a great combo when heated in your skillet. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, adding in your favorite Asian sauce. Throw in cooked chicken or steak pieces to get a little more protein into the dish. Spread over rice that’s been slightly seasoned with celery salt.
- Cooking Meats to Various Temperatures
For many, there’s only one temperature out there for meats: well done. Spend some time practicing searing meats, and learning the ins and outs of preparing food that is medium-well, medium and rare. Though you may prefer one over the other, knowing how to prepare all will keep the options open for when you have guests. Be sure to have a meat thermometer in your utensil drawer to make sure everything you cook is safe to eat.
- Using Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs can take your cooking to a whole new level. Adding a few to garden containers can ensure that you’ve always got a little extra spice to add to your dish. Use rosemary to garnish roasted potatoes and sage to add flavor to your turkey.
- Mastering the Crock-Pot
The slow-cooker is one of the most underutilized devices in the kitchen. However, its ability to prepare your dinner while you’re away makes it an essential piece of equipment for busy homes. Throw your ingredients in before you leave for work and come home to a delicious, home-cooked meal, without all of the hassle.
- Pairing Wine With Food
Cooking with wine and pairing wine are two different things, but the latter is just as essential as the former. A general rule of thumb is whites with white meat and sauce, and reds with red meats, though there is definitely some room for interpretation. Add a dry Vidal to your cooking chicken to flavor and tenderize, or add a little sweet Concord to grape jelly meatballs.
Potatoes are extremely versatile and are a great, low-calorie addition to any meal. Use in soups, roast with a main course or cut up to make baked fries. Mashed potatoes become a show-stopping side when you add cream cheese, unsalted butter, garlic salt and pepper.
Spend some time learning these techniques and master the art that is cooking, before the big 3-0 hits.