For someone who wants to learn cooking from scratch, how should they begin?
Two things, neither of which seems obvious...and everybody assumes they know already (but do not):
1.) Learn technical skills. Good knife skills will last you a life-time. I know because mine are awful and I have the hand scars to prove it. You can learn enough to be the top 1–5% of knife-wielders in a 120 minute course at your local Sur La Table for about $80. (This is a good resource for most technical skills...I've been less impressed with their cooking classes, but their tech-skills classes are fast, fun and effective.) Most people suck with the sharp objects. Learn how to use your pans, learn the differences between baking, roasting, broiling, saute. Learn the technical side of cooking...with that, you're halfway to a solid cooking base to make just about anything.
2.) Learn how to shop for food. All the talent, training and skill in the world will not overcome poor ingredients. Garbage in is garbage out. Learn to shop well, identify quality produce and meats, and what staples should always be in your pantry. (This varies by cuisine.)
If you know those two things...practice, experience and tasting will pretty much automatically make you a better from-scratch cook.
I second Jamie Doherty's answer to For someone who wants to learn cooking from scratch, how should they begin?, though I'd like to expand on his first point of learning technical skills.
First I'd like to congratulate your decision to learn cooking, regardless of reason.
For a noob, the kitchen is a dangerous place. Safety is fucking important, if you would pardon the expletive. There are
- extreme heat,
- sharp objects and heavy objects(mortar and pestle),
- water and electricity together,
- physical hazards(slippery floors) and chemical hazards(gas stoves).
All of these in one place. Be particularly careful if you have a propane stove(at least in my experience). A leak or a still-on-but-not-burning stove can saturate the air with propane gas and cause poisoning, or an explosion.
Depending on what kitchen you are using, you MUST know what can go wrong, and train yourself to avoid these sorts of issues(say using a checklist) till the point where it becomes second nature. This will reduce your risk of fucking up in the worst possible way(the "cutting your fingers, burning your house down, slipping and falling" sort ). Some cardinal laws apply like using a timer if you are leaving your stove unattended, turning off your stove after use(people die here because of that), and keeping your kitchen floors dry(not oily or wet).
Learn how to use your kitchenware AND learn what mistakes that must be avoided. For example, how to use a microwave. 13 Things You Should Never Put In The Microwave. For further reading, read the science behind cooking and the fancy gadgets to enhance your common sense.
Besides safety, it's also a good idea to inventory what sort of utensils you have and what they can do, because it's directly related to what you can cook. There are reasons why there are different knives, different pans, and different "sticks"(ladle, spatula, scoop, etc.). When you know how to cook using these tools, you can start experimenting with techniques or ingredients or venture into different recipes.
Had the good fortune to come from a family of good cooks and use many of Mom's Italian recipes today with little or no variation. Find a cookbook you are comfortable with, read the recipe before beginning and stick to the recipe the first time or three. Some recipes are just made to personalize while others come out better if you adhere to the directions. I like "Joy of Cooking" as a great place starting out:
You already received some good advice and I would like add only a few tips from my own experience, in no particular order:
• use only sharp knives, dull ones are dangerous;
• start with easy recipes, it will help you to learn the basics and to acquire some needed self-confidence in the kitchen;
• eat the results of your efforts, even the failed ones, not to punish yourself but to understand your mistakes so to avoid them in the future;
• keep you kitchen organized, I'm quite chaotic but in my kitchen I know where everything is;
• and keep all the condiments, herbs, salt, pepper, etc. in clearly labelled and recognizable containers. nothing is worst than preparing a dish with care and love only to find you used sugar instead than salt.
And good luck for this new adventure, or as we say in Italy "in bocca al lupo".
First assist someone who knows cooking like helping her/ him in chopping , putting some spices, making dough for bread/ roti and observe his/ her cooking. This will help you to learn basic of cooking ( I helped my mom in cooking and learnt basic of cooking). Meanwhile see good cooking videos too. Get a good recipe book and try your own ( try simple and easy recipe first). Be sure that all ingredients are ready.
Have a safe cooking!
I was a novice cook a decade back. I too learned from scratch.
I suggest you spend some time reading about cooking.
There are many chefs out there with their books. Though for a newbie, the simpler the book the better it is.
I started with books from Tarla Dalal. She has simple recipes. You will gain an insight into cooking basics.
You can try the same route.