If you’ve ever wanted to cook an entire meal – for example to feed your family or impress a date – here’s the right place! I’ll assume you’ve never cooked before. We won’t go over how to make a meal that’s exceptionally flavorful or special – we’ll go over tips for that tomorrow and on Thursday – but you’ll learn how to make dinner happen. This article will include very basic techniques that will help even the rawest of newbs get a meal on the table. Here’s how to cook a meal.
How to Cook a Meal
A typical meal is composed of a carbohydrate, a protein, and a fruit or vegetable. Your goal is to make sure that you provide one of each component. Here are some examples of complete meals:
- A steak, steamed spinach, and garlic bread (this would be a lovely dinner).
- A waffle, a fried egg, and orange segments.
- A sandwich made of bread, chicken, and romain lettuce.
Let’s discuss some of the easiest examples of each component so you can get those wheels spinning.
- Boiled pasta
- Mashed potatoes
- French bread or rolls (bread from a bag will totally do)
- Rice made in a rice cooker
Then we have some easy proteins:
- Whole roast chicken (just make sure that it’s thawed)
- Ground beef
- Salmon filets
- Firm tofu
- Canned beans
- Scrambled eggs
Finally, we have easy fruits and/or vegetables
- Cherry tomatoes
- Baby carrots with ranch
- Orange segments
- Apple slices
- Roasted broccoli
- Fresh spinach (alone or mixed with any of the above).
The Process of Cooking a Meal
Find a recipe for your entree. Simple recipes are great. I enjoy three or five-ingredient recipes because they keep things manageable. Usually recipes from traditionally published cookbooks have been tested and edited, so they’re more reliable.
Clean up the kitchen. Wash and put away the dishes, take out the garbage, and clear the counter so you have room to maneuver. Then put that recipe where you can see it and set out your mise en place.
Set the table. Include serving spoons and trivets to protect the table from hot dishes.
Jot down your game plan. You can be detailed or keep things concise. But figure out when you will do what. Then, finally, you can begin cooking.
(Imagine trying to cook without having done the previous steps. As a beginning cook, you might very well encounter disaster. The above steps prevent most disasters. Complete them.)
Move logically through the steps of making the meal. Don’t skip anything. Don’t let yourself get distracted by a screen, a call, or another person. Stay focused.
How to Serve a Meal
There are a couple of good, easy options.
One option is to plunk all of the food on the table and let everyone have out. This is what I do most nights.
On days when there’s a ton of food, I set out a buffet.
By this I mean that I get one of those six-foot long plastic tables and put the food out on a road. I put plates, forks, and napkins at the start of the food train and have people serve themselves.
You can get fancier than this, but the above options are serviceable options that will leave no one wanting. Make sure that everyone has a fork, a napkin or paper towel, and something to drink.
Make Sure the Leftovers are Put Away and that the Dishes Get Washed
I try to fob this off on someone else. I will mention that I cooked so it’s not fair for me to also have to clean up as well. However, sometimes it can’t be avoided. Safe yourself from a messy future, complete with flies and mysterious smells and wasted food, by socking the leftovers in the fridge. I use plastic containers or foil for this. Then get those dishes washed.
This prevents all manner of unpleasantness in the future. Plus, with the right mindset, it’s downright soothing.
Remember that Not Every Dinner Will Go Right – For Any Cook
Toast burns. Noodles refuse to soften. Desserts won’t come out of molds. Just laugh and move on. It happens to anybody, including these professionals:
Here’s Your Homework
In the next week or so, make a dinner. One protein. One carbohydrate. One fruit or vegetable. It doesn’t matter how simple it is. A hot dog on a bun with some sliced tomato is a valid meal, although you might need two or more per person.
If you do do, definitely leave a comment below, sharing your experience, and share this post with your friends – are they up for the challenge?
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