How to improve your cooking skills

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You are home from school with 40 minutes before work, wondering what to cook for dinner that will be quick and easy. After looking through the pantry at the limited options, you realize there is only time for a three-minute microwavable dinner.

This dilemma is easily fixed by following a few steps to improve one’s cooking skills.

1. Start with a plan

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Kara Lohberg dresses a fruit pie. This is one of many recipes taught in the Food Preparation in the Home class. (Elliott Miller)

Experts say people should always bring a list when grocery shopping so their shopping is more efficient. The same concept can apply to cooking. By planning meals ahead of time students can make better foods in a shorter amount of time.

The website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is important for people to plan ahead to make sure they have healthy options available.

The small window of time students often have between school, work and other obligations leaves little room for wondering how many things can be made with a package of noodles. For senior Dani Abbott, planning ahead saves time and money.

“I know what food my family is eating, and I’m not scrambling at dinner time to get something made,” Abbott said.

She has found that planning not only improves what she makes but also what she eats.

“Before I planned meals my husband and I would just eat out, and that isn’t very healthy or money friendly,” Abbott said.

2. Understand basic food safety

Students can find quick answers about the proper way to store food or how long it lasts in the refrigerator on sites such as foodsafety.gov. This site also explains common myths about food poisoning and ways to prevent it.

3. Prepare balanced meals

The key to a good meal is balance achieved through eating the right amount of nutrients.

“An accurate understanding of nutrition, what foods and nutrients are needed and in what amounts, allows students to make more informed choices,” said nutrition program coordinator Lora Brown.

She further explained that people who know more about the facts are less likely to waste money on fads and dietary choices that are unhealthy.

“We know a diet high in fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,” said Sarah Bellini, an assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics and food science.

4. Improve cooking skills

Students who want to further their cooking skills, or just learn the basics, can take classes such as Food Preparation in the Home (SFL 110) or Essentials of Food Nutrition (NDFS 100) at BYU, which will satisfy a general requirement starting this fall.

“In this course students will gain nutrition knowledge that will help guide their choices,” Brown said.

For alumna Kara Lohberg, the cooking class she took had multiple benefits.

“I have learned skills that I continue to use to this day,” Lohberg said.

Lohberg not only improved her cooking skills but enjoyed a class that focused on hands-on experience.

“It also helped me to realize how much I really love cooking,” she said.

Students who want to expand their skills even more can attend Provo City’s World Culture Tour cooking classes to learn techniques in creating ethnic meals. This year’s cooking classes feature dishes from Italy, Peru and the American South.

Whether students want to brush up on the basics or expand the type of meals they make, these steps will help them.

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