My failed attempt at cooking.

I can cook one thing, and one thing only: popcorn. Anything else I cannot cook. At all. I’m like Homer adding milk to Mr. Burns’ cereal and it bursts into flames. I think I’d be able to use a microwave, but unfortunately my wife thinks they’re “bad for you” and refuses to get one. Yes, that’s what she thinks. Plus, we don’t have room for it anyway - outlets are at a premium in our old San Francisco house, especially in the kitchen.

So I decide on Saturday that I will learn to cook something for my wife as a surprise. I’ve got all day. How hard could it be? After all, there’s instructions, right? Aye, but there’s the rub. The instructions assume a certain knowledge of what they’re talking about, which I do not possess. Here are the results of my fun day of trying to cook:

Chili - The very first word of the very first instruction killed this one: “Brown.” Brown some ground beef. Uh…what? Brown it…how? I boiled water and put the meat in there. End of experiment #1.

Chicken - Bake the chicken - OK, no problem, the word “bake” exists on the stove. We’re dancin’!!! Uh…how come the stove isn’t getting hot? Why does the kitchen smell like gas? Is the stove broken? Does the burner I use for popcorn still work? Better check… FOOOMP!!! End of experiment #2.

Vegetable Stir Fry. Thanks to the Internet I know what a Wok is. So THAT’S what my popcorn bowl really is! OK, let’s get started: “Blanch some snow peas.” You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. End of experiment #3.

Chicken Stir Fry. OK, I’ve got the chicken and the Wok, so I think I can cook the chicken in the Wok. Wok is heating up, no problem. Chop mushrooms and broccoli, “stir in” - I think I understand that. Add chicken. We’re making progress here!! “Let simmer.” ??? Let simmer? Why isn’t “simmer” labeled on the little dial? Simmer for how long? How do I know it’s simmering? Let’s check “to stew gently below or just at the boiling point.” OK…but for how long?!! I suppose I have to guess. I’ll check the hockey game while it’s busy “simmering.” … … … … Too long, it’s burned and ruined. And I can’t seem to get that burned stuff out of the Wok. Was I supposed to add water or something to keep it from sticking? Eh…I think I’ll just put the Wok in the dishwasher and hope she doesn’t notice. End of experiment #4.

Brownies. OK, I’ll just make brownies. Dessert can’t be that difficult, can it? “Cream butter and sugar together.”
I don’t have the first fucking clue what that means. “Beat in eggs one at a time; add vanilla; blend well; add syrup.” Beat them in …where? Why one at a time? OK, here’s a bowl, I guess that means crack the eggs and scramble them with this fork. Add vanilla…where would that be? Here it is - OK, blending well, I suppose, adding syrup. I guess I’ll just add the butter and sugar and scramble them up with the same fork. “Sift flour and baking powder together, then add to mixture.” What? “sift”? SIFT?!! again: “to put through a sieve <sift flour>.” And again: “Sieve: a device with meshes or perforations through which soft materials may be forced for reduction to fine particles.” You could put a gun to my head and I would be unable to come up with what this device looks like, if we even have one. End of experiment #5.

Ground beef, chicken for dinner: ruined.
Ingredients for dessert for wife’s office potluck: ruined.
Wok: ruined.
Wife: Not the good kind of surprised.

Will I ever cook again? No.

Two words:

Take out.

Take out is specifically for husbands who can’t cook.

Of course, you’re talking to the girl who made an incredible goat cheese and herb souffle last week. :slight_smile:

That’s why they invented slice and bake cookies :slight_smile:

Maybe you need an idiots guide to cooking which explains all the terms.

Or find a good restaurant :smiley:

[sub]I can’t cook either, but I am going to keep trying even if it kills me (and it very well may)[/sub]

Believe me, if it’s up to me we are getting delivery or take out. I was just trying to cook something b/c my wife gets sick of doing all the cooking. Although, now that she’s seen the fruits of my labor she’s more understanding. :slight_smile:

Slice and bake cookies would work if I knew how to turn the freakin’ oven on! (I still don’t understand why the burners come on but the oven just hisses and fills the kitchen with gas).

Deep frying of meats is the most foolproof method of cooking known to man.

-Put pan on stove.
-Put oil in pan.
-Make oil hot.
-Put meat in.
-Take meat out.
-Eat with barbecue sauce. Or buffalo sauce. Or ranch dressing.

If you start to get fancy with breading, you will run into trouble. But, if you stick to the basics of ex-cow, ex-bird, and ex-pig, it doesn’t matter how frozen animal flesh is when you dunk it in the oil, nor does it matter how long it stays in. And it will be much juicier and better tasting than anything you will be able to pull out of an oven, and less burnt than meat off the grill.

(((( Dooku ))) I too was once in your position then I discovered to wonder of Cooking Lessons.

Until then - fake it! Buy take out, transfer it to fancy serving dishes and dirty a few pots and pans to make it look like you’ve cooked. :slight_smile:

I’m of the belief that if you didn’t learn how to cook either while hanging around your cooking parent, the whole endeavor is useless. You’ll never catch up. Satisfy yourself with learning how to boil pasta well. Most people never learn that.

I thought, “there’s gotta be something that tells you how to cook on the Internet.” Because we’re all getting those fancy kitchens with the web browser built in to the counter, right?

Anyway, try this out: Basics of Cooking Lesson Series

Simmering is defined in the first lesson. So is browning:
“Browning the ground beef means to cook just until the pink or red color disappears. Stir with a fork so the chunk of ground beef breaks up as it cooks and you are left with small uniform pieces. This does NOT mean to cook until the meat turns the color of dark woodwork.”

I’m a guy, and a fairly darn good cook (not to toot my own horn, but ever I serve it to seems to like it)

If you’d like some help/tips/basic recipes just give me a hollar :wink:
It’s really not so hard once you get the hang of it…

I’ve taught everyone from old SO to frat buddies how to cook decent meals…
Good luck! Just work with it.

I will teach you how to cook something. It’s worked well in the past.

  1. Buy a restaurant.

  2. Show up in the kitchen.

  3. Begin digging around in the freezer and pull out something breaded (if in doubt, ask the nearest person in white if this is indeed breaded).

  4. Take it over to the deep fryer (a medium sized appliance with basket looking things that have long handles on them which is filled with hot oil, if in doubt ask one of the people in the white aprons if this is the deep fryer).

  5. Place the breaded object in the basket looking thing and lower it into the deep fryer. You may feel sudden sharp pains along the arm you are using to do this, but do not be alarmed. This is normal.

  6. Walk out of the kitchen, pull out your cell phone and begin yelling at someone. Yell until you are completely sure you have made your point.

  7. Return to the kitchen and go back to the deep fryer. If your breaded object is in the basket looking thing and the basket has been removed from the oil, congratulations, you’ve cooked. Ask one of the people in white to plate it for you.

  8. If your breaded object is not in the basket looking thing, ask one of the people in white where it is. When you find it, congratulations, you’ve cooked.

  9. If your breaded object is still in the oil, get back on the phone.
    Yell at someone else. Return to the kitchen. Repeat step 6 or if needed step 7.

There you go, a perfect way to cook. All your employee did is pull the breaded object out of the oil, you’re the one who did all the work.

Surprise your wife, bask in the glory, and if you really feel good either fire someone or give them a raise.

Variations on this technique work with just about any dish you can imagine.

Learning to cook can be rough. I grew up without the most basic of cooking knowledge. It wasn’t until I was living on my own that I found myself in need of cooking knowledge. I found the food network to be an invaluable aid. Check out their cooking 101 at . I’d advise finding a few dishes you really like, and learning to make those. Build on that foundation of techniques. Check out the library for cooking books, watch what your wife does when she cooks, but above all, cook. The only way to learn to cook is to cook.

Just don’t be afraid to mess up. It’s all part of the process.

Until this moment, I never even suspected that someone wouldn’t know how to brown ground beef. (I mean blanching, and creaming, and simmering aren’t obvious - and with those, even once you do know “how” it isn’t till a few failed attempts that you figure out “why” and gas stoves scare the hell out of me).
I now know why my parents made me hang out in the kitchen every so often.
For next weekend, pick a recipe, post the cooking instructions, and I’m sure that the SDMB can break them down enough. Surprise your wife with the good kind of surprise.

Ok, I’m a male and I’ve been cooking since I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. I have always thought that anyone who could grow to adulthood without learning to cook must be a complete and total moron (sorry **Dooku[/b). After all, all you have to do is read the frickin’ recipe, it’s right there in black and white, complete instructions right? However, I’ve watched my wife ruin all kinds of dishes because she didn’t read the recipe correctly (little t. for teaspoon, big T. for tablespoon), ignored some of the directions (reduce heat and stir frequently), or didn’t realize she didn’t have all the ingredients until the first six or seven items were heating on the stove (the recipe called for baking powder, but we were out, so I used baking soda instead. Does it taste okay?) On the other hand, we’ve been married 18 years and I haven’t lost any weight :D.
So while I can’t really sympathize with your lack of cooking acumen, I can at least understand it. BTW, the problem with your oven is probably a bad ignitor, or it is old enough to have a standing pilot which isn’t working. That means you have to light it manually. Be careful doing this. When I was about 5, we had a very old (even then) oven without a pilot. It was strictly manual. We kept a box of kitchen matches by the thing to light the oven and burners. I always had to light the oven for my oldest sister, because she didn’t get the match lit quickly enough once and the resulting explosion knocked her on her butt and singed her eyebrows off. We all thought it was really funny, except for my sister who still has an unhealthy fear of gas appliances.
My only real advice is to watch lots of cooking shows. If you don’t get the Food channel, PBS seems to run cooking shows pretty much non-stop on the weekends.

ps - I have two teenaged daughters and neither one of them can boil water without burning it. Must be genetic or something.

Thanks for the links, everyone. I wish I’d found them myself.

amarinth, I may just take you up on that. Unfortunately, I’m gone for the next couple weeks, and I only post from work, so I’ll have to post the recipe the day before. But I will find a recipe and post a “help explain this” thread at some point in the future. I’ll need to figure out why the burner works but not the oven, though.

Alright, Dooku, you need to start out easy. How about chocolate chip cookies? That has always seemed to me to be one of the easiest recipes. I just looked at a Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chip (the kind I always use) bag, and they have easy to follow directions on the back. I didn’t see anything on there which looks like it could be confusing. When it says to “drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet”, what I would suggest doing is getting a cookie sheet, putting aluminum foil on it (that way, you can just throw away the foil and not have to worry about cleaning the cookie sheet), and taking a regular spoon. Using this spoon, put spoonfuls of cookie dough on the aluminum on the cookie sheet. I generally space them out so that there are three across and four down so as to allow for spreading while they bake. Also, set the oven to a few minutes less than what the recipe says and then check on them- some ovens are hotter than others. If they appear to be done, take them out, if not, put them back in for one minute increments until they are done.
Alright, I think I’ve made this as fool-proof as possible- but if all else fails, ask a friendly neighbor to help you. :slight_smile: Once you’ve mastered the chocolate chip cookies, you can move on to bigger things.
Oh, and another thing- according to the recipe, it makes several dozen cookies. I would doubt you and your wife would be able to eat all of these at once. So if you take another cookie sheet and put wax paper on it, you can put more spoonfuls of dough onto it (don’t worry about spacing them out). Put this into the freezer for a couple hours; when the dough is hard, you can take them off and stick them in a ziplock baggy and store in the freezer until you want more cookies.

Kinda the whole point of the thread is that the frickin’ recipe is NOT right there in black and white. NOT complete instructions. How am I expected to know what simmer, brown, cream, sift, pinch, “let sit” or any of that other shit means if it was never explained to me? My mother cooked for the 7 of us growing up, I had no kitchen in my dorm at school, when I finally had my own kitchen it was too late. Why would I have spent money on ingredients to ruin learning how to cook when I could use my limited funds for Taco Bell instead? I’m no Rhodes Scholar, but I can assure you that I’m not a complete and total moron.

If that’s the case, why would the burners work but not the oven? Although, there is a box of kitchen matches up there and I’ve always wondered why. At any rate, I will just casually watch my wife do it next time before she shoos me out of there.

(Previewing): monica, that sounds like a plan. I don’t happen to know what a “cookie sheet” is but I’m certain I can look it up. I also have no idea how wide or high the “spoonfuls” should be, but I can probably figure that out also.

Dooku: A copy of Joy of Cooking and/or Fanny Farmer would be useful to you. Both books explain the basics, right down to the level of “what simmering is”, etc. They are useful references even if you don’t use the recipes in them.

I don’t know what a cookie sheet is either? Is it like an oven tray?

Nope. When I was growing up, Mom cooked, and if she was not available, Dad cooked. I rarely got near a kitchen appliance (other than the sink where I washed dishes) until I moved out on my own.

I started with a cookbook for novices (perhaps Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book or something similar, such as a “cookbook for people who don’t know how to cook”). Once I got the terms straight, I got a copy of The Joy of Cooking and kept going.

Now I am sufficiently comfortable to invent my own recipes or to try to recreate something I ate elsewhere just by my best guess at the ingredients. (I frequently miss replicating the other dish, but I never create anything inedible.)

If you can read (and find the right sources) you should be able to teach yourself to cook.

A cookie sheet is a very long and wide pan (usually) with very low sides on which one can put lots of little dough balls that will flaten out into cookies.

If my dad could learn to cook after my parents got divorced, trust me, anything is possible. It was pretty pitiful that his 10-year-old daughter had to explain to him that turning up the burner all the way may make the burgers heat faster, but this isn’t always a good thing, because then half the meat sticks to the pan and the remainder is either raw or charcoal.

I second the idea of buying a good, basic cookbook, one with an introductory section where they have glossaries of ingredients and equipment, and where they spell out the basic techniques. (Fannie Farmer and *The Joy of Cooking *are both good, and have enough variety and sheer number of recipes to give you years’ worth of material.) It will require some prep work…i.e. if you really want to surprise your honey, read the book first (OK, I’m weird, but I love to read cookbooks for ideas) and practice in secret a few times until you’ve gotten a couple of dishes down pat (I recommend starting with soup, maybe something basic like chicken with veggies; at least it’s almost impossible to burn, and you can monkey around with the proportions as you go.)

Good luck, and post if you get stuck!