Starting with, "If you can read, you can cook."
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There’s an old saying, “If you can read, you can cook.” While that’s technically true, we need a little more guidance in the kitchen. There’s an infinite amount of cooking tips on the Internet, so to simplify things, we narrowed down this list of the best pieces of cooking advice we’ve ever received. Even expert home chefs could use a little refresher on the basics.

1. Read the Recipe—Then Read It Again

If you’ve been cooking for a while, you know the feeling. You’re moving and grooving through Step 3 of your breakfast casserole recipe when you realize it has to chill in the fridge overnight. Oops. It happens to the best of us, which is why our advice is to read the entire recipe. Once you’ve done that, read it again, from start to finish. That way, you know exactly how long the recipe will take you, what tools you’ll be using, how many ingredients there are, and how much of each ingredient you will need, which brings us to our next piece of cooking advice.

2. Practice Mise En Place

Once you’ve thoroughly read the recipe and well before you preheat the oven or start boiling water, it’s time for a little mise en place practice. A French term that means “put in place,” mise en place is the strategy chefs (and now, you) use to stay organized and move through a recipe without any hiccups. This involves prepping all your ingredients beforehand. Chop those veggies, measure out that sugar, and grab each tool you’ll use prior to cooking. That way, not only will your cooking process go smoothly, but you’ll realize if you’re a cup of sugar shy before you’re halfway through the recipe and can’t go to the store. (Psst…This also makes cooking tip Number 4 easier.)

3. Taste and Season as You Go

You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it out of a dish. Some cooks follow the philosophy that there’s no such thing as over-seasoning, but you’re better safe than salty. Rather than seasoning at the beginning and end of a recipe, season and taste throughout the cooking process. That way, you know your flavors are in the right direction and your final product will be perfectly balanced.

4. And Clean as You Go

There’s an old saying about not going to bed angry, but as one of our wise readers told us, it’s just as important to “never go to bed with a dirty kitchen.” The worst part about cooking is the messy kitchen afterward. To prevent staying up all night to clean up after your masterpiece, clean as you cook. As soon as you’re finished using a dish, knife, or kitchen tool, go ahead and wash it or throw it in the dishwasher. That way, after you enjoy your dinner, all you have to do is put up the dishes you ate off of, wipe the counters down, and relax.

5. Buy a Few High-Quality Kitchen Tools and Take Care of Them

If you want to become a great cook, you don’t need a restaurant-worthy kitchen and expensive tools. Find a set of nonstick cookware you love, a trusty sheet pan, a cast-iron skillet, and a good-quality chef’s knife, and you’re off to the races. Be sure to keep your knives sharp and take care of your cast iron. As you learn to cook, you’ll find fun kitchen tools to add to your collection, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple.

6. Practice, Practice, Practice

Julia Child said to “be fearless” in the kitchen, and with fearlessness inevitably comes mistakes. Guess what? That’s just fine! As with any new hobby, there’s a learning curve with cooking, and you’re going to mess up from time to time. Even the best chefs have soufflés that don’t rise, casseroles that won’t set, and biscuits that burn. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes just because something might go wrong. If you’ve never baked bread from scratch, try it! Want to recreate a dish from your favorite Indian restaurant? More power to you! Cooking is creative, innovative, and fun, so don’t forget to keep it that way as you go. You learn by doing, not watching.

Regardless whether you take this cooking advice or not, there’s one important tip we have to leave you with: Whatever comes out of your kitchen, cook (or bake, fry, sauté, toss…you get the picture) with love. Food is the great connector, the one language every human on earth understands. Cook with and for your family and friends. Make memories together. Have fun. Learn something new. You can go to bed angry, but always, always, always, cook with love.