More time at home means more time in the kitchen to sharpen your skills and become a better cook. Here are 4 areas to focus on.

By Matthew A. Moore
May 21, 2020
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With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, many of us have found ourselves with more idle time than we're used to. Sure, all 50 states are opening up in some form or fashion, but lots of folks will continue working from home for the foreseeable future. And spending more time at home inevitably means being in the kitchen more.

So with all that extra time spent getting cozy with your kitchen appliances and reorganizing your spice cabinet for the umpteenth time, why not set aside several minutes each week devoted to improving and honing some of your kitchen skill sets that are lacking?

That's why we reached out to some staff members, past and present, to find out what kitchen skills they've been honing lately. Here are four that you can start improving today!

Start Baking.

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Do you find that even when following the instructions on a boxed cake mix that the finished product is less cake and more pudding? Well, now's the time to focus on honing your baking skills, friend! That's what former Food Editor of Cooking Light Josh Miller recommends, as he's doing the same. "When I walk into any kitchen, yeast dies. I'm convinced that I'm cursed. A friend gave me some sourdough starter at the beginning of this mess, so I set out anew to conquer my fear of baking. I still haven't managed to make a delicious loaf of bread (all four attempts have been incredibly dense, albeit beautiful), but I have perfected the art of feeding my starter with the sole purpose of having a weekly surplus of starter discards to make waffles, pancakes, and crackers. The crackers are bonkers-easy and so delicious. My first couple batches were thick and kinda tough, but now that I'm on batch four, I may never buy crackers again. They are super easy, addictively crunchy, and I tell myself they're healthier because they're homemade. Believe whatever you need to believe to make it through this, kids!"

Make your own crackers at home: Everything Lavash Crackers

Waste Nothing.

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Know what's a good focus area in the kitchen when certain ingredients are hard to find? Using up every bit of the items you do have. Spend a little more time planning so that you can squeeze every last bit of utility out of what you have on hand. As former Cooking Light Executive Editor Ann Taylor Pittman says, "I'm making sure to incorporate every last bit of produce and every random thing I find in the freezer or pantry. I have a renewed, deep appreciation for how precious all food is. Leftovers get reworked until they're eaten up completely. Nothing is going to waste now." So if you've been concerned about food availability, now is the best time to revisit the darkest recesses of your pantry and fridge in an effort to use what you've got before you order more food.

Get Creative.

Getting more creative in the kitchen doesn't have to mean figuring out how to make ice cream in an air fryer. But it should mean expanding your wheelhouse and trying new things. Get creative! Hearken back to your childhood when, if you were like me, an Easy-Bake Oven was an outlet to a whole new world of discovery. Try out recipes you never would've considered in the past. Experiment and share the results with friends and family. Former CookingLight.com Editor Kimberly Holland says that's been one of the most enjoyable experiences to come out of this strange time. "I'm being far more creative with flavors and trying more new recipes than I might have before. I also have neighbors who happily take half of what I'm making and try it with me, too, so nothing goes to waste. I've made quick breads I probably wouldn't have before. I've made some cakes and cookies that I wouldn't have taken the time to make on a weekend before this. It's all just given me an opportunity to play and be creative, and if nothing else. I'm appreciative of that." The beauty of this situation is there are no "kitchen fails" anymore, just opportunities to get better cooking and honing your kitchen acumen.

Increase Endurance.

Endurance is a strange skill to associate with your kitchen, but hear us out. In "normal times," hardly anyone cooks every single night of the week. Long days at work combined with hangry kids at home? Just order a pizza, or better yet, take the family out to eat so that someone else can handle the cooking and dishes. But now, most folks have been doing all the cooking (and all the dishes) at home. So, logically, now's the time to really get into a rhythm and accumulate cooking endurance that will benefit you far past the time when we can sit down for a restaurant meal again. And more time spent in the kitchen means sharper skills, whether that be baking, not wasting ingredients, getting creative—you name it.

Darcy Lenz, a seasoned recipe developer by trade, says that endurance has been the skill she's been refining the most during this time. "I love to cook, but I've never been in the position where cooking dinner just about every night of the week was the obvious thing to do. But with both my significant other and myself working from home and dining out/takeout being less of a go-to option, cooking dinner daily—and preparing a lunch remix with leftovers—has become the new rhythm. And naturally, through all of this, I'm finding that I can whip up a really delicious dinner in less time than I ever would have thought possible before, simply through habit of repetition."

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