As the new year approaches, many of us set goals to expand beyond our beloved high-rotation menu items, eat healthier and reduce food waste. But as easy as new year’s cooking resolutions are to make, they can be hard to keep—especially without a plan. To avoid becoming overwhelmed and giving up, start simple and take your “new you, new cooking skills” journey one step at a time. Ahead, discover tips for your new year’s resolution cooking that will help you do just that.
Resolution: Master the Basics
There’s no shame in starting at the beginning. A good foundation is key and will only make it easier to advance when you’re ready. Start by kitting out your kitchen with a few must-have fundamental items, including:
- A colander for everything from draining pasta to washing berries
- A utensil set for flipping omelettes, easing chocolate chip cookies off a tray, mixing cake batter and ladling the soup you’ll be cooking in no time.
- A pair of tongs with silicone heads for handling delicate items
- A sheet pan—or a set of two, because you’ll use them for everything from roasting vegetables to making weeknight dinners
- A steaming basket that fits into various pots, so you can serve up perfectly steamed vegetables
- A set of measuring cups and spoons
- A color-coded set of cutting boards, that makes it easy to limit cross contamination and remember which you’re using for raw meats and which are for fresh fruits and vegetables
Next, familiarize yourself with common stovetop cooking methods, like sautéing, searing, frying and poaching; as well as knife skills like mincing, chopping, slicing and julienning. These skills will be crucial in sticking to your new year’s resolution cooking.
Resolution: Get Over Your Fear of Grilling
If your new year’s cooking resolution is to learn how to grill or barbecue (they’re actually two different techniques), start by gathering your equipment, including:
- Grilling utensils to protect your hands from the heat
- Skewers for meat or veggie kabobs
- A basting pot and brush or a few squeeze bottles so you can easily reapply marinade as you cook
- A grilling station that keeps everything within reach
Resolution: Challenge Yourself
Make this the year you conquer a cooking technique that’s always seemed a bit intimidating. A few suggestions to consider:
- Refrigerator pickling, which uses air-tight glass containers and a basic brine recipe (1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and 3-4 tablespoons sugar) to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables for up to several weeks.
- Reverse searing, which is the perfect way to caramelize thicker cuts of meat on the outside while keeping them juicy on the inside. Start by roasting the meat on a silicone or wire rack and sheet pan at 250ºF in the oven. Then, transfer the meat to a frying pan that contains a few tablespoons of hot—but not smoking—oil, and cook until the surface is golden and crispy.
- Baking mini soufflés. The secret? Whisking enough air into the egg whites so that soft peaks form, before folding them with a flexible spatula into oven-safe glass bowls. After that, bake them on a tray in the center of a low oven rack where the temperature is most consistent.
Resolution: Branch Out to Bold New Flavors
We all have our favorite go-to sauces and condiments—but what about throwing some new, exciting options into your daily mix? Try pairing a grilled steak or dressing up an omelet with a fragrant homemade chimichurri or pesto sauce made from fresh herbs. Or liven up salmon and chicken with a simple marinade made with a splash of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a dollop of honey, grated garlic and deseeded, chopped chili pepper.
If you’re ready to advance your dessert-making skills, grab a candy thermometer, a saucepan, a mixing bowl and a silicone spatula. Then, start with homemade caramels, fruit roll ups or marshmallows. For something more substantial, try a homemade ice cream recipe that requires only an egg beater and a freezer-friendly loaf pan instead of a machine.
The real secret to seeing any new year’s resolution through is setting yourself up for success. If it’s inconvenient or insurmountably hard, you’re less likely to stick with it. So start with the first step—and if you need a break along the way, well, that’s what cocktails with friends are for.