8 Tips to be a Pro in the Kitchen

College can generally be stressful. For many, it's the first time they are entirely responsible for taking care of themselves. This comes with many challenges, including keeping oneself fed. Sooner or later everyone realizes they can only instant noodles and Oreos for so long, and that it is time to start cooking. Here are some tips to make that transition just a bit easier.

1. Pay attention when using knives

It probably seems like it should go without saying that knives are dangerous. Yet, every year students fall prey to evening emergency room visits in need of stitches. Unfortunately, if you spend enough time cooking for yourself, it’s very likely you will eventually find out just how sharp your knife is. There are some things you can do to delay this as long as possible, however. Whenever able, cut in the direction away from you and don’t hold whatever it is you’re cutting in your hand. Both of these create far too many opportunities for the blade to slip and find skin. (Be especially aware of the dreaded avocado-related injury). 

2. Clean up the kitchen

Your kitchen does not have to be spotless. The amount of cleanliness you feel comfortable with is something you and any roommates you have will need to figure out for yourselves. Just make sure you don’t let the grime pile up too much. You will want to clean up the big stuff, however. It is far too easy while in the middle of cooking to spill some ingredient or spatter some sauce. Clean up these messes as soon as you can, or it won’t be long before you accidentally put an assignment in a pile of egg white you forgot about.

3. Have food around

When money is tight, it can seem like any expense is too much. What you will need to remember in those times, however, is that you need to eat to survive. Food is an essential investment, and snacks can help you through intense study sessions. Some people don’t need a reminder that they need food, while others will forget meals. Whichever type of person you are, it’s nice to have some food around for when it’s time to eat.

4. Have a plan for meals

Grocery stores can sometimes feel like they are an alternate dimension, where the rules of time and space no longer apply. Without a list to guide you, it can take far too long searching the aisles for ingredients, and you may or may not get what you need to actually make a meal. Save yourself some time (and hassle), and make a plan for what you will eat between grocery runs, and then write down all of the ingredients you’ll need.

5. Make do with what you have

Sooner or later you’ll come upon a recipe with incredibly detailed instructions that use kitchen appliances you’ve never even heard about. Don’t let this stop you! Use some ingenuity to get around these obscure items. Come up with a way to use what you have to get the intended result. Substitute a water bottle for a rolling pin if you have to. The end result may not exactly be picture perfect, but it will probably be just as delicious as if you had done all the instructions to the letter.

6. Invest in kitchen items

At the same time, there are some kitchen items that you just can’t get around using. Things like can openers will be used repeatedly, and are going to last, so you might as well invest in them now. You will also want these items to be of decent quality as well. A peeler that breaks on its first carrot isn’t worth the money. Spices are good to have around, as they will last, and will be used multiple times.

7. Pay attention to the amount of oil you use

Oil is one of the most important cooking ingredients that you will use. It can also provide you with an incredibly painful and terrifying experience. As it turns out, oil will pop and splatter as it heats up, sending searing hot drops of liquid at you. This can be quite the impediment when you just want to cook some chicken. Obviously you will need a lot of oil to fry anything, but keeping oil amounts low at other times can save you some pain. Just make sure you use enough to keep everything from burning.

8. Pay attention to smoke

Chances are that, if you’re in college, you’re probably living in a dorm or apartment with other people. It’s also likely that you and those other people don’t like having fire alarms go off,  nor do you like being driven outside by their blaring. Everyone knows the cliché of college students leaving popcorn in the microwave too long and ruining everyone’s night. In this instance, don’t be a cliché. Keep an eye on whatever you’re cooking, and the quality will probably be improved as well.

Hopefully these tips will help to make the transition into cooking a smooth and painless experience. Now go forth, collegiate, and cook!

Pictures: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8