While you grow your skills in the kitchen you will inevitably become more confident in your cooking. Something we are able to do now that we have done extensive amounts of cooking and learning is cooking without a recipe as well as recipe development for our own spins on different meals and recipes. Intuitive cooking is a culinary skill that allows you to get away from the step-by-step instructions of a traditional recipe and allows your creativity to shine in the kitchen. It’s a way of utilizing your intuition, taste, and the ingredients you have on hand to make your meals. We will elaborate more into cooking intuitively and offer some additional tips to utilize this skill on your own.
What is it?
Intuitive cooking is simply using your own instincts in the kitchen to cook your meals without a step-by-step process. It allows room for creativity and use of the ingredients that you have on hand. It can be a super helpful skill to use and grow and it is one we use all the time whether cooking at home for our family or when looking to develop new recipes.
It’s a Learning Process so Embrace it
Cooking without a process is not something that you can necessarily just start at the beginning. During culinary school we didn’t get recipes like this until our 4th or 5th quarter, so about a year in (this will also depend on where you go). That’s because you have to learn the basics of following instructions first.
- Start with the Basics: It is essential to have a solid understanding of cooking fundamentals, skills, equipment, safety and sanitation. Learn the basic cooking techniques like sautéing, roasting, and braising. Familiarize yourself with various ingredients and how they work together so that you can start to learn what works as well as what doesn’t work.
- Taste as You Go: This is a big tip for you to start doing if you don’t already. Use your palate to guide your cooking. Seasoning as you go through your steps on recipes builds on flavor and if you are also tasting as you cook it allows you to adjust the seasoning throughout too. Not only can you fine tune the flavor to your preferences, but if something needs to be fixed you have the time to do it.
- Trust Your Senses: Develop a keen sense of smell and sight in the kitchen as these senses can tell you when a dish is ready, if something needs to cook a bit more or if something is cooking on too high of a temperature. This muscle is grown through the basics and going through the process many times.
- Get Creative: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients, spices, and techniques. Some of the most exciting dishes come from taking risks and trying new combinations, we know this from experience. As you move through the processes above this step will come easier. Also keep in mind that not everything will work out as you hope, but it’s all a learning experience.
- Use What You Have: Challenge yourself by using the ingredients you already have in your kitchen. This can lead to inventive and resourceful meals, and it leaves you with less waste in the long run.
- Build Flavor Gradually: Start with a base and build flavors as you go. Adding in each ingredient adds in a new layer of flavor to build upon with herbs, spices and liquids over time. Let the flavors develop as you cook.
- Balance Flavors: Pay attention to the balance of flavors. Learn more about your palate for sweetness, acidity, saltiness, bitterness, and umami. These should harmonize to create a well-rounded dish. This step may take a while to grow into so give yourself grace.
- Learn from Mistakes: Just like we said in the previous section, not every dish will be a masterpiece, and that’s fine. Mistakes are valuable learning experiences that will help you improve your intuition over time. Just keep trying and cooking!
- Document Your Creations: Keep a kitchen journal to record your experiments, what worked, and what didn’t. We can’t even tell you how many journals, legal pads and notes we have taken on different recipes, skills, and techniques we have taken, but we can tell you that they help. From refining your cooking intuition to keeping track of a new recipe idea, notes are very useful.
When Cooking Becomes an Art
We feel that Chef Gusteau from Ratatouille said it best “Anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great”. Intuitive cooking is a culinary art, which allows you to express your individuality and creativity in the kitchen and it’s a journey. It takes a large amount of practice to become a more confident and spontaneous cook, but once you get there you are capable of crafting delicious meals that reflect your unique culinary vision.
If you haven’t joined our Facebook group Meal Planning for Busy Parents yet, please check it out HERE. That is where you can find our community and easily chat with us. We also go live every Friday to answer your questions and talk about all kinds of cooking and meal planning topics. We’ll see you tomorrow!