Starting to Cook with the Basics

Are you sick of spending so much money eating out because you don’t know the first thing about cooking? Does your kitchen counter collect dust instead of crumbs?

We have come to your rescue with some very simple steps to learn the basics. Whether you have never cooked from a recipe or if you are just a beginner cook looking for best recipes, we have some valuable cooking basics to know that will benefit you before you get into the cooking. Live simpler and save money

Let’s start with ways to cook

Know the difference between a stove, cooktop and range. Stove and range are two words used for the same thing – a one-piece cooking system that uses electricity, gas or induction. Just under the cooktop area is the oven. A cooktop does not include the oven and is usually dropped into the counter to cook just above counter height. Cooktops come in the same three version of cooking methods – gas, electric or induction. A quick note on the difference between electric, gas and induction is the speed of how fast the cooktop connects heat to your pot or pan and how long the cooktop stays hot when you shut it off. Gas and Induction apply immediate heat. Induction is fastest. Electric stoves and gas range tops take longer to cool down after use.

Starting with stove top cooking. Boil, grill, fry, sauté, stir-fry, steam and stew are the most common ways to cook on the stove top. Oven cooking is warming, baking, roasting, braising or broiling. What you are making determines the method of cooking necessary.

Various types of pots and pans are utilized to cook foods for a specific outcome. Pots deeper than they are wide with tops and handles on one side are used for boiling, poaching, stewing, deep frying and steaming for the most part on the stove top. Pans are shallower than they are wide are customarily used for pan frying, grilling and sautéing. Oven cooking would be done in a casserole, various sized and shapes of baking dishes, cookie sheets and baking pans.

So now we have covered the ways to cook. Now we will get into the basics of preparing food. You don’t need to be an expert chef to make a good meal. The simplest meals to make can taste the best. It is all according to taste.

Measurements & Basic Tools

A set of sharp knives are very important. A chef’s knife, a paring knife and a bread knife are the very basic sent of knives for every kitchen. Other necessary tools are: measuring spoons, measuring cups, a hand grater and a wire strainer are very basic elements for food preparation. Add tongs, a slotted spoon, whisk, ladle, spatulas and two thermometers. One for meat and the other for deep frying to round out tools necessary for very basic cooking.

Methods of Cooking Basics

  • Boil – Cooking food at rolling boiling water at approx. 212 degrees F
  • Simmer – Cooking in hot liquid at just below boiling point without rolling boil
  • Steam – Cooking food just above the water surface, in the steam made from boiling water in a vented/covered pot
  • Poaching – Cooking food submerged in a liquid at a low simmer
  • Sautee, Pan Fry & Stir Fry – Quickly cook over high heat in an open pan
  • Deep Frying – Cooking food by submersing in hot oil 365 °F-375°F typically
  • Stew – Cook food in liquid slowly in a closed pot or pan
  • Bake – Oven cook for a specified amount of time
  • Broil – Top cook in a very high temperature in oven

Basic Tools and what they do

  • Measuring spoons & Measuring cups – to measure ingredients
  • 4-sided Hand grater – grates, shreds, slices and zests
  • Wire strainer – useful to drain liquids and dry sifting or powdering
  • Tongs – tool to turn foods while cooking
  • Slotted spoon – Spoon with open slots to retrieve food from cooking while leaving liquid in pot
  • Whisk – used to mix liquids or solids around in a bowl
  • Ladle – retrieves medium amounts of liquid from pot like stews, soups and sauces
  • Spatulas – used to flip eggs, turn food in pans while not disturbing the surface of the item cooking
  • Three thermometers –
  • Meat Thermometer: When cooking meat, the thermometer will tell you what the internal temperature for how and if it is cooked when inserted into the thick of the meat.
  • Fry Thermometer: Fastens to the side of the pot to monitor the frying temperature. 360°F is usually the desired frying temperature.
  • Candy Thermometer: Fastens to the side of the pot to monitor various melting temperatures when making candies.


Know your measurements and various types of basic ingredients to cook. If you are following a recipe, you will probably be measuring out ingredients to prepare the desired entree. Keep in mind basic measurements are written out to specify dry or wet if the measurements are specific to either. Here is a guide to general measuring:

  • A Pinch – two fingers in the ingredient pinching an amount
  • 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = ½ oz = 1/16 cups = 15 milliliters
  • 4 tablespoons = 12 teaspoons = 2 oz = 1/4 cup = 60 milliliters
  • 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons = 30 milliliters
  • 1 cup = ½ pint = 8 oz. = 16 tablespoons = 48 teaspoons = 250 milliliters
  • 1 pint = ½ quart = 2 cups = 16 oz = 500 milliliters
  • 1 quart = ¼ gallon = 2 pints = 4 cups = 32 oz = 950 milliliters
  • 1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints = 16 cups = 128 oz = 3800 milliliters = 3.8 liters

Fluid Measurements are usually done in glass or plastic with a spout for pouring. Larger fluid measuring cups commonly will have markings on one side for fluid ounces with cup measurements on the other side. Here is an interesting fact: Fluid ounces are measuring by volume. Ounces are a measuring of weight. Measuring with a scale will offer options of adjusting the density of the liquid being measured. But that is way too involved for basic cooking. Stick with what is on the recipe. Recipes usually keep details simplified.

Cooking Temperatures

What temperature do I cook what at? We all have had our share of over cooking and maybe even burning when cooking. Here are some simple temperatures to help get you started:

Fahrenheit (degrees F)Oven Terms
225 degrees FVery Cool
250 – 275 degrees FVery Slow
300 – 325 degrees FSlow
350 – 375 degrees FModerate
400 degrees FModerately Hot
425 – 475 degrees FHot
500 degrees FVery Hot
500 degrees FBroiling

What temperature do I cook various foods at?

Meat: Whether cooking on stovetop, grilling outside or in an oven these are the internal temperatures (when using a meat thermometer) to use as a guide for cooking.

Desired “Doneness”RareMed RareMediumMed WellWell
Beef, Lamb & Veal
(Steaks, Chops & Roasts)
Ground Meat160F
Food Safety Minimum Done Temperatures for other foods:
Pork Shoulders, Roasts and Ribs145F160F
Ham (pre-cooked)140F
Raw Ham160F
Chicken,Turkey & Foul165F
Swordfish,Tuna & Marlin125F
Lobster,Crabs, ShrimpCook until flesh pearly & opaque
Clams, Mussels, OystersCook until shells open (do not eat if shell stays closed)
Casseroles and Leftovers165F


*Temperatures are top temperatures that the internal core should reach to achieve the desired doneness. It is recommended that meat should be “rested” after cooking so that the internal juices can redistribute. During that process the meat is removed from heat, taken out of the pan and set aside with a tent of foil for 10 minutes for each pound of meat. During the resting time, meat will continue to cook for a few minutes. Take note of that when checking temperature and remove just before reaching the desired reading.

Read your recipe start to finish so you have the general idea of what you are going to do.

Assemble all the ingredients