Learning to cook is learning what and how you like to eat

Yes, I strongly belief that learning to cook is learning what and how you like to eat. Let me explain.

Take a grilled cheese. Called a toastie in the UK, or tosti as we say in The Netherlands. It’s one of my favorite dishes to cook, eat and illustrate all things related to learning to cook. There’s my personal story with them, we can talk how you can play with the ingredients, but today I want to focus on the cooking technique.

What’s your favorite grilled cheese?

To illustrate my point, let’s forego the fat you’re using (mayonnaise fans here?), how you slice or grate your cheese, what cheese and other ingredients you’re adding.

For now, let’s focus on the cooking technique.

~~ Here’s an example of how you can change ingredients in a recipe. ~~

I know my favorite way to cook a grilled cheese

It’s a pan fried grilled cheese. It’s not just because this is how I ate them for the first time, but to me, it’s also the best way to make them.

It’s gotten so far, that I don’t order grilled cheeses when eating out anymore, as I can’t be sure they will good enough to my liking.

Not saying that I’m a better cook than the restaurant’s chef – though I might be. But cooking at home means you can make dishes the way you like them best. It’s a phrase you hear me say all the time in my cooking classes.

Cooking at home means you can make dishes the way you like them best.

Like that grilled cheese.

What’s the best way to cook a grilled cheese?

Please read that orange sentence above one more time.

I am not the one to tell you that there is a best way, although I have my (very strong) preference (pan fried is the best). There are many ways. You can use a panini press, your stove top griddle, the oven, or cook your grilled cheese in your skillet. Some even say a microwave works.

Every technique has it’s own effect on the outcome. With a foldable table grill or panini press you can flatten the bread a bit, in the oven the bread dries out more than it crunches up, in your skillet the bread will snuggle up all the (butter) fat, giving it a brilliant taste. And in the microwave… I honestly have no clue. I already have decided on my favorite way and can’t imagine a microwave makes a better tosti.

Each method comes with their own pros and cons. What the pros and what the cons are, is totally up to you. Some techniques are simple and quick, others take more time or attention. You can make your own choices depending on the bread you have, what you think works best with your cheese, how much time you have, how many people you have to feed, what mood you are in, and yes, even the weather. And of course, how you like them best.

For me, there’s only one way.

Why I prefer a pan fried grilled cheese?

Well, look at the picture!

A pan fried grilled cheese will give you crunchy bread and melted cheese. You will need to fiddle a bit and figure out the correct setting on your stove that works with the pan you’re using, but once you’ve found it, it will simultaneously crunch up your bread while the cheese melts properly. Is the heat too high, your bread is burnt before the cheese is melted, on a too low heat not much happens ans you can wait forever for your lunch is done.

Whatever bread I have (often sourdough straight from the freezer), what cheese I use (often two types of Gouda – hey, I’m Dutch!), whatever fat I’m using (always butter, and I have a special trick for it), I cook them in my skillet.

When I learned to make a grilled cheese, I wasn’t aware of the other options described above. Over time, I tried them out. But they never made me happy. So I make them my way. In the skillet. With a special trick to make sure both sides get nice and tasty.

With other dishes, your choices might be less obvious, but they are still there. And that’s often what I talk about in my cooking classes, whether we focus on one dish, a cooking technique, or one ingredient only. It’s my goal to show you what’s possible, and what effect your choices will have, to empower you to become a more confident and creative cook. And that works, according to the students.

Curious for my grilled cheese recipe?

I sent it to the mailing list subscribers that got this post + recipe pdf in their mailbox. Sign up too, and find it in your mailbox shortly.

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Do you have a dish that you make better than any restaurant, just because you can make it the way you like best?
Let me know in the comments below.

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