How to be a Better Home Cook using the P.R.I.M.E method

I’ll admit, cooking is something that comes rather naturally for me and I really do enjoy it. While working as a nanny, I was responsible for feeding a family of four every night. I learned to be organized and efficient when cooking at work, then I would go home and do it all over again at my house (with a glass of wine). Many people just assume that they are not good cooks because they don’t have the methods they need to create a sense of calm in the kitchen.

IMG_9643 copyP.R.I.M.E is my recipe for better home cooking that I hope will give you the confidence you need to feel good in the kitchen. Let’s get into it!


PPick a recipe that is approachable.

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This first step goes back to my suggestion to make nice with cookbooks from my How to Plan a Menu post. Many home cooks set themselves up for failure by picking a recipe that is out of their league. There are so many fabulous books out there that are sure to appeal to you, no matter your skill level. If you’re new to cooking, a beginner’s cookbook such as The Can’t Cook Book is a great place to start. If you’re more adventurous and seeking to expand your palate, go for a book like Danny Seo’s Naturally Delicious. Either way, be honest with yourself and what you’re up for.

Picking a cookbook

If you have a feeling a dread when looking at an ingredient list, move on. The recipe that is right for you should give you a sense of excitement, not terror. Start small and work your way up to more complex cooking techniques. This is step number one and it is the most important of them all. Pick a recipe that suits your skill level. (If you want to see my cookbook recommendations, click here.)

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*For this post I chose to make “Minty Sugar Snaps” from the The Can’t Cook Book.

RRead and read again.

Once you have chosen a recipe that is appropriate for your level of skill, read it through at least twice and envision yourself going through the steps. When a recipe is only glanced over once, there is more likelihood that you will forget an ingredient, accidentally skip crucial steps, and be left with a frantic feeling.

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Knowing that you will be butterflying the chicken breast, prepping a sauce, and need to make a marinade that rests for 24 hours, are examples of things you need to know before you begin cooking, not once the cooking has already begun.

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Studying the recipe lays a foundation for the magic that is about to be made in your kitchen. Read the recipe, then read it again, then read once more. Trust me, it helps so much.

I: Ingredients as listed.

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Ingredients should be used exactly as they are presented in the recipe—no substitutions.

Okay, hear me out. When I say use the exact ingredients in this third step, I am not talking about those of us who need to make changes due to dietary restrictions. For example, because I am lactose intolerant and can only digest goat dairy, any recipe that calls for cheese/yogurt, in my case, goat products are used. These types of substitutions are okay. I am not suggesting that you use any ingredient to which you have a negative reaction. What I am saying is that the very first time you attempt a recipe, it is best to cook it exactly as intended (or as close as possible).

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This step also applies to the measurements of said ingredients. If you are a seasoned cook, you may be able to eyeball two tablespoons of olive oil, but for all my novices out there, make good use of your measuring tools and be precise. When you follow a recipe exactly as it is written, you will have a strong sense of accomplishment from knowing what the author had in mind when they created the dish. In other words, you’ll be able to shout, “nailed it!” across the kitchen.

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Another reason to stick closely to the ingredient list is so that you can make changes down the line. If you think the shrimp was too lemon-y, exclude the lemon next time, or use less. Want more of a kick to your chili? Double the cayenne. Making changes after you have tasted the original recipe helps with understanding the layering of flavors more intimately. Let the recipe get you started and go from there. Especially for beginner cooks, ingredients as listed, is step three. Are you still with me? Good. Only two steps left to better home cooking! 

M: Mise en Place or Everything in it’s place.

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Mise en Place is a French term for “Everything in it’s place.” The term is used in professional kitchens around the world, and for good reason. As you prepare to cook, it is essential that you gather all the ingredients and tools necessary for the recipe (as well as prep the ingredients). This includes food items, spices, measuring spoons/cup, pots, pans etc. Having everything set up “in it’s place” before you, makes carrying out the recipe much, much, easier.

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If you skip this crucial step you are likely to be running around your kitchen grabbing a knife here, a whisk there. Oh shoot! Gotta fill that pot with water, the noodles are done already?! Where is the strainer??? You get the idea. Mise en Place frees you from that hectic rush around the kitchen and insures a more tranquil cooking experience.

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Mise en place also means being your own sue-chef. Once you have your ingredients laid out in front of you, take a look at the recipe again. If it calls for minced garlic or chopped onions, get to mincing and chopping before you start cooking. This fourth step is a game changer. Everything in it’s place; mise en place.

E: Embrace and Enjoy the Experience

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When you follow all the above steps, this last one is likely to be a natural occurrence, but I want to encourage you anyway: No matter your level of skill, embrace the process of cooking. Do your best to be present and cook with all of your senses: Listen to the mushrooms singing as they cook (seriously, they do). Wait for that moment when the sizzling onions release their aroma into the air, then inhale deeply. If it helps, create a playlist, or listen to a thoughtful podcast while you cook.

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Do whatever it takes to enjoy the moment. If you have kids tugging at you while you cook, embrace that too— give them an easy task so that they can be involved (Time for Dinner has some great ideas for this). Light a candle or incense near the kitchen. Pour yourself a glass of wine or sparkling water to sip as you prep your meal.

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Enjoy knowing that cooking at home means you are nourishing yourself, and perhaps others. Even if you have had trouble with cooking in the past, that’s okay. Start fresh each time you approach a new recipe and allow yourself to have a new, more enjoyable experience.

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So there you have it: P.R.I.M.E My five steps to becoming a better home cook. I hope these easy tips help make your cooking experience more joyful.

Remember:

PPick a recipe that is approachable for your level of skill.

RRead the recipe through at least twice before you begin.

I–  Ingredients as listed (making exceptions for dietary restrictions only).

MMise en Place. Everything in it’s place, ingredients prepped and ready to go.

EEmbrace and Enjoy the experience by being present and using your senses.


Items featured in this post:


If you have specific questions about your home-cooking experience, please don’t hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading and happy cooking!

xo, Joi

Photographer: Donnell Spencer Jr.

Related Posts:

10 Amazing Cookbooks

A Few Thoughts on Food

The PRIME Method for Home Cooking

31 Comments

    1. I love the concept of P.R.I.M.E.
      Well written. Totally understandable. And the photography is impeccable!! It takes TEAMWORK to make a DREAM WORK!! Thank you for this Ms Joi!!!
      I’m subscribing now!!

      Like

    2. Hi Nysa!! Thank you so much for taking the time to read. 🙂 It was awesome having my pops behind the camera to help bring my vision into focus.

      Thank you for subscribing!

      Like

  1. This was such a great read and the pics are amazing! I’ve been cooking consistently for the past 2 years and am really starting to enjoy it. I typically skip right through the “M” and find myself all over the kitchen grabbing ingredients (that I just know I have)! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Angela, sounds like step 3 may be the missing part of your cooking puzzle. It seriously helps sooo much to have everything set up before you get started. Happy to help! Xo

      Like

  2. First – Your pictures are lovely! I think your advice is spot on and I love the way you have it broken down into steps. My favorite, by far, is your last step: enjoying the process and being present in the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Yolanda! Thanks so much. My father took the pictures, he’s super talented and very supportive of my blog 🙂 THe last step is, without a doubt, the most important. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

      Like

  3. D’Ana, it makes me smile to see your vision Come alive!
    This is very well written and informative! Glad I am able to help deliver beautiful photographs to align with your blogs. Keep dreaming and I love you and every creative bone in your body! 😊✨❤️
    Daddy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. D’Ana, I love the look of your Blog, it’s so inviting! So does grandma Anita and grandpa Willie. Thanks for sharing your PRIME tips and the Minty Snap Peas recipe. I would never think to combine mint with snap peas, neither do I have the time or same desire to look at cookbooks from cover to cover. So, it’s great that you shared this recipe, I’ll give it a try. Keep up the blog posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joi, this was REALLY good stuff – LOVE the P. R. I. M. E. approach for two reasons: its practicality, and its marketability. From a marketing perspective, it’s a really smart gimmick! Kudos to you and I wish you the very best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, thank you oh so much. Want to know a little secret? It was my boyfriend who thought creating an acronym would be a good idea! Good thing I was willing to be flexible and listen. The letters came to me easy once I had decided to create the acronym. Best bf ever right? Lol. Thanks so much for reading.

      Like

  6. Your blog is amazing I think that your idease are very creative, Miss D’ana. I used to be one of your mom’s students (2016-2017). Please tell Mrs.Rock that I miss her so much and I miss you being a helper a our school. xoxo-Jaqueline

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jaqueline! I’m so happy that you are continuing to read my blog. It means so much to me. I will tell my mom you say hello and I know she misses you and her other students as well. I’m so glad I was able to come and spend time in her class and help you all with a few lessons.

      I hope you’re having an amazing summer!

      xoxo 🙂

      Like

  7. Such a great post, I wish I had this when I packed my daughter off to Uni last year! Although I made sure she had a handful of basic recipes down pat before she left, I know cooking in a new kitchen without mum on hand was a bit daunting. Looking forward to browsing your lovely blog.

    Helen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Helen,

      Thanks so much! Not to late to forward the link over to your daughter. 🙂 I kept beginner cooks in mind when building the steps. Thanks again for checking it out and for the feedback.

      Like

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