How Good Of A Cook Are You?

Talented amateur, due mainly to preparing meals daily. Practice, practice, practice.

Living in NYC and eating in NYC restaurants, I can’t always say “I could do that better!” The chilluns are home for the holiday with their significant others; we had Brooklyn Chinatown dim sum this morning and Manhattan Chinatown upscale Szechuan for dinner. No way I could have prepared any of that in my home kitchen.

I’m halfway between choices 3 and 4. I fall back on familiar things that are simple to make. I avoid spending longer than ten minutes in the kitchen, if I can help it: In, grab, prep, heat up, eat, that’s my methodology.

I have occasionally spent more effort on food, and did a creditable job, so I am capable, I just choose not to be.

No need for me to reply since you took the words right out of my mouth

I can cook, sorta. I can throw together a simple meal, like pasta, or grilled chicken with a salad. I can make a birthday cake for a kid’s party. But my cooking is nothing special. I’ve never been asked for a recipe. I really like food, though, just prefer to have someone else do the work.

I’m fairly certain that if I lived in NYC and had that kind of food available all the time I’d not be half the cook I am now (and that would be just fine). I fully acknowledge that a large part of my motivation for cooking is that, living in the middle of nowhere like I do, there are so many things that if I don’t make them, I’d never get to eat them. Even basic things like decent Mexican or anything other than generic “Chinese” food (as opposed to dim sum or Szechuan) aren’t available here.

Cooking is one of those things with very narrow bands between the lowest skill levels. There are only a few relatively simple lessons to master and then, quite suddenly, you’re very competent. A little more practice and you’re pretty much at the “really excellent home cook” category.

Making a dish that “passes for professional” just means that you’ve perfected a few specific techniques and have found/inherited/developed a truly excellent recipe. There are people who have opened (successfully or not) restaurants and food trucks with just a handful of recipes like that.

Passing beyond that level gets into developing encyclopedic knowledge of preparation techniques and food interactions, memorizing dozens of baseline recipes and their variants, perfecting complex mechanical skills through endless repetition (shucking oysters, butchering meat, forming a baguette) and so on. That’s what culinary school is for. It’s about a lot more than making a few tasty dishes.

Like Chefguy, I’m good enough to cook most anything that I fancy and smart enough not to try it professionally.

I’m pretty good. It started when I worked second shift and got home at 11pm. I had roommates and needed to be a bit quiet, but needed something to do. The whole world was going to sleep just as I got off work.

I just whipped up some home made spaghetti the other day. All you need is flour and eggs. Well, and a rolling pin. No tomato sauce or tomatoes? A little butter and cracked pepper is wonderful.

I can almost always find stuff in the fridge to make a nice meal.

I selected as home cooks go I am pretty good.

Back in the pre-OSHA days I got my first job, at age 14, in a local Italian restaurant. By age 15, I was cooking on the line. (For the few people here familiar with Omaha, this was at the original Caniglia’s in Little Italy) I worked in various restaurants until I left college. I do pretty good in my home kitchen and out on the patio with my grill and off set smoker.

I can make a few simple, quick meals:

  • jacket potatoes (served with ham, cheese or salad)
  • baked beans on toast
  • omelettes (served with ham, cheese or salad)
  • stir fry (admittedly from packets!)

Not the best, not the worst. I can definitely get by in the kitchen, but in recent years, my wife has done the vast majority of the cooking, while I’ve done most of the cleaning, laundry, and yard work, so I’m out of practice with all but a few core dishes.

When I have time, I can do pretty good. I’ve got a subscription to Cuisine at Home, and I read it cover to cover. I can handle most dishes it offers up, I just lack the time and energy to do so. I’m looking forward to retirement where I can rediscover my skills.

So at present I put down that “I’m not the best but I’m not the worst”. I do pretty good with a pressure cooker and a roaster.

As home cooks go, I’m not the best, but I’m not the worst either.

My standard answer to this type of question is : “If I’m the one cooking, you won’t have the greatest meal of your life but you’re definitely not going to starve and you’re not going to rush to the bathroom either.”

In other words I can cook. I like to think I have a knack for trying interesting flavour combinations. I can follow recipes all right. But the thing is, I’m lazy about it. I stick to the dozen easy meals I master and only try slightly more elaborate stuff on holidays, when I have the time, and only if I’m in the mood. Yet, I find cooking fascinating and would love to have the motivation to do more.

Not the best, not the worst. I’m certainly a step or two above being dependent on packaged food and can follow most standard recipes with a fair to high degree of success. Soups, stews, pastas, roasting, sautés, pan-frying - no problem. However I am not much of an intuitive cook and I avoid the most arcane and demanding recipes( partly because I’m lazy and don’t enjoy hours of prep ), as well as baked goods generally.

I can do( and have done )a successful turkey dinner for multiple people with all the standard sides. But I’m also just as likely to get lazy and do the turkey and a couple of sides - then pick up a couple more at a restaurant to save time and energy ;). I like eating the food, but get no great sense of satisfaction from making it.

I could pass for a pro, meaning the mean of pros, and not those outliers who do the artsy-fartsy stuff. I’m not an artist, and cupcake wars and cake wars aren’t real cooks.

If I had been blessed with deep pockets, I might have never become a good home cook. Unfortunately, dining out regularly in New York requires big bucks.

So tonight the whole family sits at the family table for homemade Corsican-style fish soup with rouille and shredded Gruyere (me); a fresh baguette (baked by little Pianola); and an elaborate salad including pomegranate and pears (the Ukulele Lady). We used to do boulliabaise, but realized we prefer a simpler maritime dish.

Damn, if I’d read this yesterday I’d’ve jumped on a plane. Good fish and seafood are hard to come by here, with the exception, of course, of Lake Superior whitefish and trout and the occasional perch or walleye. I wouldn’t be so rude to come empty-handed, though; I’d bring along the tourtière I made for today’s dinner: pork shoulder braised in Guinness with cinnamon and allspice, goose confit, some more ground pork (can’t have enough pork), mushrooms, potatoes to bind it together, all in a butter crust. Judging on just the filling, it should be a good one.

The salad you mention wasn’t this one, was it? I made for Christmas Eve family dinner last night. I was dubious about it as I put it together - the pears seemed a bit too wobbly - but it turned out pretty damn good.

Nice. On past Christmases, I’ve made seafood paella with shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, and Spanish chorizo, which is always a hit. This year we’re going to a friend’s home for a large group potluck. I’m making a platter of pork and shrimp lumpia with a sweet chili dipping sauce, which may upstage the salmon and ham they’re serving.

I expect that my inherent level of ability is about average or perhaps a bit below, but I’ve had the advantage of learning good recipes and techniques from my grandmother and others, which is enough to put me into the above-average category. I can’t come up with new recipes from scratch, but I’m scientifically-minded enough to follow existing recipes, and I have enough of the art in me to modify those recipes to my own taste.

I chose “something else”. I can cook, pretty competently, but I choose not to. I dislike doing it, and food just isn’t that important to me. I can meet my nutritional needs without cooking “real” meals OR eating hamburger helper, so none of the options really fit.

I posted above, but reading this thread makes me realize how different things are for folks.

The closest grocery store is 15 miles away. The closest restaurant is 5 miles. There is no pizza or anything else delivery at our house (not even mail). So All dinners are home cooked.