In previous articles we reviewed some of the common ingredients that are usually included in vegan foods, how to stock the pantry and also how to find hidden ingredients in foods that vegans should not eat. The next step is to actually learn some vegan cooking basics.
Even if you already know how to cook I would recommend reading this article anyway because there could be things in here you don’t already know. To receive the proper instruction, you really should cook with someone who knows the vegan cooking basics so you can learn from them.
Or better yet, you can take some cooking classes. Search around your area to see if you can find a vegan cooking basics class that can give you a good introduction to some of the techniques.
Here is a basic list of some of the techniques you need:
• Setting up your kitchen
• How to follow a recipe
• Basic cooking techniques
People could spend a lifetime learning how to cook and not even scratch the surface. So, we’ll go over some of the basic techniques. If you want to learn more, you should probably consider enrolling in a class.
SETTING UP YOUR KITCHEN
As mentioned in the previous chapter, stocking your pantry is an important piece of the vegan cooking puzzle. The other is to have a well equipped kitchen to cook a variety of recipes.
Now, there are two types of chefs out there. Those who like to use a lot of gadgets, and those who don’t. Most home cooks tend to fall somewhere in between.
Here’s a list of some of the basic kitchen supplies you need to have on hand in order to be able to cook a variety of recipes. If you come across something that you want to make that calls for specialized equipment, you can either consider buying it or making a substitution.
• A good set of knives that include a bread knife and a chef’s knife. Unless they are serrated, make sure you keep them sharp. You’ll also want a large cutting board.
• An electric mixer. If you do a lot of baking, you may want to find an upright mixer that sits on your countertop.
• Various utensils such as a pair of sturdy thongs, a sieve, wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, and a sturdy wire whisk.
• A small toaster oven and a microwave
• A blender and/or a food processor.
• Optional, but nice to have on hand – a submersion mixer, crockpot, ice cream maker, a bread maker if you can’t do without fresh baked bread
• A good variety of pots, pans, baking dishes, and mixing bowls.
Some people make the mistake of buying everything at once. This is a mistake, especially if you’re new to cooking. You’ll start to understand your personal style.
HOW TO FOLLOW RECIPES
Learning how to follow recipes is a very important skill to learning how to cook. Most recipes are pretty straightforward. However, it is easy to take them for granted until something is going wrong. There are many handwritten recipes out there that leave out crucial ingredients without meaning to. If you come across a recipe like this, having a good knowledge of how recipes work can help you decode the missing ingredient.
If you are just learning how to cook, you’ll be following recipes all the time. However, as you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you’ll gradually start to lose your dependence of them.
After you follow a few recipes, you can start to write your own original dishes down. Just remember to list the ingredients in the order that they will appear in the instructions. This makes the recipe easier to follow.
BASIC COOKING TECHNIQUES
After you set up your kitchen and you make sure you understand how to follow recipes, the next step is to learn some basic cooking techniques. Here is a short list of some of the vegan cooking basics you’ll need to know in order to cook.
LEARN HOW TO USE YOUR KNIVES
There is a right and wrong way to chop. Most people don’t think much about it. However, the wrong technique can get you injured and also make you inefficient. In order to learn, you’ll want to work with a professional. Always make sure your knives are sharp, too. It’s actually more dangerous if they’re dull.
If you don’t want to take cooking classes in order to learn proper chopping technique, you could always watch a cooking show on television and mimic what they do.
It is essential to have a high quality chef’s knife on hand. When cooking certain things, such as salads and soups, most of your time is spent chopping. If you learn how to be efficient you can save a lot of time.
LEARN THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOILING, HEATING, AND SIMMERING
These are three very basic cooking techniques for the stove top and are essential vegan cooking basics. Boiling is when you typically set the heat on high and wait for the mixture to bubble. Heating something is when you let it get hot but not boiling (so there won’t be any bubbles). When you simmer something, you put it on low heat for a long amount of time. Things like soups and stews, for example, are typically simmered.
LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BAKING AND BROILING
The terms “baking” and “broiling” are not the same thing. However, some things that can be baked can also be broiled and vice versa. Baking happens at a lower heat than broiling. Classic things that are baked include breads, cookies, cakes, and savory dishes such as vegetarian lasagna and roasted vegetables. Things like vegetarian lasagna, for example, can also be broiled.
Most ovens come equipped with a broiler. However, each one is different. You’ll need to read your manual in order to learn how to operate yours.
LEARN HOW TO USE ALL OF YOUR APPLIANCES
Another crucial step relating to vegan cooking basics is to make sure you understand how to use all of your appliances. For example, you may not know it but your microwave may also have a convection oven setting. You may not realize what it’s capable of until you read the manual.
Also, you’ll be able to make adjustments in recipes according to how your appliances work. For example, if the instructions say to beat something on high for two minutes, your mixer could take longer if the “high” setting is not as powerful as the mixer used to test and write the original recipe.
COMMON COOKING TERMS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
Once you get acquainted with your kitchen and start following some recipes, you may come across some terms that you don’t know what to do with.
Here are some common ones you may encounter:
You can either mash with your fork if it is a smaller portion or a masher tool. Some people prefer to whip things that are normally mashed such as potatoes or squash.
You can use a hand mixer, upright mixer, or a wire whisk to whip just about anything.
You can crush things with the back of your knife, the bottom of a glass, or other heavy objects. There are also special kitchen gadgets used for crushing.
Graters come in different forms. Just take your pick. If you need to grate an orange peel or lemon peel, a small hand held grater is best.
• Knife techniques
There are several different kinds of knife techniques you can do including chop, julienne (match stick sized pieces), crush, and slice.
Depending on what you are blending you have three choices – a regular blender, a hand held submersion blender which works best for soups, and a food processor. The tool you use will depend on the recipe.
When a recipe tells you to puree something, you can do it in small batches in the regular blender, use a submersion blender, or use the food processor.
This is just an overview of some of the vegan cooking basics and techniques you will encounter. A good, comprehensive cookbook will help you define any other terms you need to learn. Or, you can look online.