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Cooking Techniques

I know some cooking basics and am able to prepare food from recipes ok, but I am interested in learning more about fundamental techniques. I bought the America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook, which is helpful. Do any of you know of any online schools you've tried, or other books that have been useful?
 

Tirvine

ancient grey sweatophile
La Varenne Pratique by Anna Willan is IMO the best technique book out there. Get a hard copy because the photos do not translate particularly well on e-readers. If you go through that whole book and practice each technique as you go you will eat extremely well while using many less expensive proteins and you will master the equivalent of the basic Cordon Bleu course. You will also build a very fine basic pantry along the way.
 

DoctorShavegood

"A Boy Named Sue"
I’m not trying to pawn you off on YouTube, But there is some really great chefs on the different channels there. For me, I think mastering an omelette, sauces and béchamel sauce are three foundations. After that your world is wide open.
 
It depends what food you like.

If French food is your personal pinnacle, then the advice on this thread is spot on.

If Italian food is your personal pinnacle, then buy Marcella Hazan's Classic book. And also, accept that you won't get the results you get in Italy, because their ingredients are AMAZING. But the same is true of France. Their native grown herbs are stunning.

My personal pinnacle is Chinese food, which is far better than most outside of Asia imagine, and Barbara Tropp's The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking is excellent on technique.
 
All very good suggestions, but I'd recommend Betty Crocker and/or James Beard for basic technique. Get the fundamentals down before you go after croissants.
 

Ravenonrock

I shaved the pig
For style and pure fun archive some episodes of The Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr) and The French Chef (Julia Child). Basic cooking techniques with a penchant for classics and good old standbys. They both had fun with food, made mistakes and improvised on the fly. Educational and always entertaining.
 
La Varenne Pratique by Anna Willan is IMO the best technique book out there. Get a hard copy because the photos do not translate particularly well on e-readers. If you go through that whole book and practice each technique as you go you will eat extremely well while using many less expensive proteins and you will master the equivalent of the basic Cordon Bleu course. You will also build a very fine basic pantry along the way.
I ordered a used copy yesterday. My wife considered killing me, but thought better of it. We have ummmmmm quite a few cookbooks.
 
I learned to cook primarily by watching PBS cooking shows as a kid. I cannot recommend Jacques Pepin highly enough for learning just fundamental kitchen techniques. He also wrote a couple books on mastering French cuisine techniques, beginning with the fundamentals.

Martin Yan's old shows also showed some techniques for cooking Chinese food. For barbecue, Steven Raichlen's shows were really good about teaching techniques.

Unfortunately, most cooking shows today eschew showing technique in favor of something more akin to food porn and celebrity chefs.
 

Tirvine

ancient grey sweatophile
I learned to cook primarily by watching PBS cooking shows as a kid. I cannot recommend Jacques Pepin highly enough for learning just fundamental kitchen techniques. He also wrote a couple books on mastering French cuisine techniques, beginning with the fundamentals.

Martin Yan's old shows also showed some techniques for cooking Chinese food. For barbecue, Steven Raichlen's shows were really good about teaching techniques.

Unfortunately, most cooking shows today eschew showing technique in favor of something more akin to food porn and celebrity chefs.
I agree on shows today. Gordon Ramsay seems to delight in showing you how fast he can do something, fast enough that you cannot learn from it. I find Lidia Bastianich is the most instructive television cooking personality. Alton may be helpful, but he can almost put me to sleep with his eighth grade science.
 

Tirvine

ancient grey sweatophile
I ordered a used copy yesterday. My wife considered killing me, but thought better of it. We have ummmmmm quite a few cookbooks.
Oh no. I hope I have not brought on conflict. I have about two shelves of cookbooks, each three feet long. I keep going back to the same handful, not so much to find and follow recipes but to get ideas. I have found cooks who seem to approach food a lot like I do. I include Tony Bourdain at the top of that list but would also mention Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and Paula Wolfert. One of the few whose recipes for cakes and pies are so spot on that I do follow her recipes is Martha Stewart. She obviously tests them carefully. Some of the others, especially Claiborne, I find very hit or miss on baking, but his treatment of the classics of the 1960s is quite good. His cheese soufflé is frequently our light meal go to with a salad. We have tweaked it to add a healthy squirt of hot sauce like Cholula to the Mornay. Wolfert is a treasure, as is Pepin. I also love the recipes of Rick Bayless (Mexican), Madhur Jaffrey (Indian), and Marcella Hazan (Italian). However, I have loved Stanley Tucci's coverage of Italian cuisine on CNN. The notion of Italian cooking seems to be more of an American concept than Italian. You eat very differently in Napoli from eating in Firenze or Milano. I just got one of Tucci's cookbooks. Of course if you are in Texas, following Aaron Franklin's book will lead to barbecue nirvana. I have not tried his book on steak. I flatter myself that I can cook a steak to perfection.
 
I ordered a used copy yesterday. My wife considered killing me, but thought better of it. We have ummmmmm quite a few cookbooks.
Maybe this will help convince your wife that you are normal. These are my cookbooks. The bookcase on the left is entirely Chinese cookbooks.
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I agree on shows today. Gordon Ramsay seems to delight in showing you how fast he can do something, fast enough that you cannot learn from it. I find Lidia Bastianich is the most instructive television cooking personality. Alton may be helpful, but he can almost put me to sleep with his eighth grade science.
I also liked watching Lydia Bastianich when I was growing up. Her shows were fun and informative. "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!"

About 20 years ago, I liked Alton Brown's Good Eats show on the Food Network. I enjoyed the scientific explanations on the process of cooking. About ten years ago, I went to a cooking show of his when he toured the country and happened to perform nearby. His food gatekeeping turned me off. He insisted that Sriracha sauce should never be used because it was now used in everything. Well screw him! He may have learned about Sriracha sauce in the roughly ten years or so before his show, but I'd been using it for practically my entire life (including for about a good 30 years before the show). In fact, it helped me survive in college*, literally.

*Long story short, I was so sick that I was bedridden for a week (slept most of that time--and didn't even get up to use the restroom, which I somehow didn't need to do for the week). Toward the end of the week, I finally felt well enough occasionally to be a little hungry when I woke up (I was still sleeping for about 23 hours a day at this time). The only food I had handy were a row of saltines and a jar of Sriracha sauce on my desk by my bed. I made Sriracha sandwiches with the saltines.
 

Tirvine

ancient grey sweatophile
I also liked watching Lydia Bastianich when I was growing up. Her shows were fun and informative. "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!"

About 20 years ago, I liked Alton Brown's Good Eats show on the Food Network. I enjoyed the scientific explanations on the process of cooking. About ten years ago, I went to a cooking show of his when he toured the country and happened to perform nearby. His food gatekeeping turned me off. He insisted that Sriracha sauce should never be used because it was now used in everything. Well screw him! He may have learned about Sriracha sauce in the roughly ten years or so before his show, but I'd been using it for practically my entire life (including for about a good 30 years before the show). In fact, it helped me survive in college*, literally.

*Long story short, I was so sick that I was bedridden for a week (slept most of that time--and didn't even get up to use the restroom, which I somehow didn't need to do for the week). Toward the end of the week, I finally felt well enough occasionally to be a little hungry when I woke up (I was still sleeping for about 23 hours a day at this time). The only food I had handy were a row of saltines and a jar of Sriracha sauce on my desk by my bed. I made Sriracha sandwiches with the saltines.
Heck of a story. Your Sriracha sandwiches remind me of my migraine relief, Cholula on potato chips.
 
Oh no. I hope I have not brought on conflict. I have about two shelves of cookbooks, each three feet long. I keep going back to the same handful, not so much to find and follow recipes but to get ideas. I have found cooks who seem to approach food a lot like I do. I include Tony Bourdain at the top of that list but would also mention Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and Paula Wolfert. One of the few whose recipes for cakes and pies are so spot on that I do follow her recipes is Martha Stewart. She obviously tests them carefully. Some of the others, especially Claiborne, I find very hit or miss on baking, but his treatment of the classics of the 1960s is quite good. His cheese soufflé is frequently our light meal go to with a salad. We have tweaked it to add a healthy squirt of hot sauce like Cholula to the Mornay. Wolfert is a treasure, as is Pepin. I also love the recipes of Rick Bayless (Mexican), Madhur Jaffrey (Indian), and Marcella Hazan (Italian). However, I have loved Stanley Tucci's coverage of Italian cuisine on CNN. The notion of Italian cooking seems to be more of an American concept than Italian. You eat very differently in Napoli from eating in Firenze or Milano. I just got one of Tucci's cookbooks. Of course if you are in Texas, following Aaron Franklin's book will lead to barbecue nirvana. I have not tried his book on steak. I flatter myself that I can cook a steak to perfection.
Don't worry... I was just joking around. We both lived in Indonesia for a few years so we have several Indonesian cookbooks. And several great American cookbooks... French, Italian, Indian. This is going to sound a bit strange, but when my wife follows a recipe line by line, we seldom enjoy the meal. She's one of those amazing cooks who know just how to tweak the spices to get things just right. Maybe we just have the wrong cookbooks. We only have two shelves of cookbooks in one of our pantries... about 3' in length, though i have a dozen or so BBQ/Big Green Egg cookbooks in my own bookshelves.
 

TexLaw

Fussy Evil Genius
About ten years ago, I went to a cooking show of his when he toured the country and happened to perform nearby. His food gatekeeping turned me off.

I also am a big fan of Good Eats, and we went either to a more recent show of his five years ago or so. The kindest thing I can say about it is that it was sophomoric. We didn't stay for the whole show. It was no Good Eats.
 

Luc

"To Wiki or Not To Wiki, That's The Question".
Jacques Pepin would be a good place to start. He gives a lot of basic techniques and shows a lot of simple recipes to start with. He's been on PBS for years. I just don't put as much butter as he does!
 
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