Cooking Basics: The Foundation Every Cook Needs

Do you want to learn to cook but don’t know where to start? Mark Bittman’s Cooking Basics app takes the practical cooking style of his How To Cook Everything recipe app and applies it to the basic building blocks of understanding ingredients and mastering techniques. The most visual of all Bittman’s apps, Cooking Basics is rich in step-by-step photos and mouth-watering food photography. Preparing a meal is broken down into the smallest tasks, like how to toast spices or sear meat, so there can be no barriers to those who want to learn how to cook. If you’ve ever wanted to get in the kitchen but have been too intimidated to try, now is the time and this is the app you need.

Keep reading to learn more about this engaging cooking tool.

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Getting Started

Launch the app and you’ll find the Home screen is dynamic, with attractive photographs of the ingredients, dishes and Mark Bittman in the kitchen cooking. Photos zoom in for a close up and constantly change, drawing you into the app. To the left side of the screen you find the three sections of the app: Basics, Recipes and Skills. To the right is a list of Basics Classes and when they are available. It appears most of the classes can be accessed only during a certain time period, for example, “Love Your Skillet” is coming up from April through June. The time factor keeps users engaged with the app, watching for new classes coming through. It’s a smart move that takes the experience from a reference tool to an active learning environment.

The home screen is dynamic, with images constantly changing and moving. Mark Bittman, your teacher, is at the center of it all.

The home screen is dynamic, with images constantly changing and moving. Mark Bittman, your teacher, is at the center of it all.

Culinate, the creator of this app, has brought the functions to the forefront with a search button at the top of the screen and a tool bar on the bottom. The Bookmarks tool allows you to keep track of your place in a recipe by marking the step. If you navigate away from the screen or leave the app you’ll be able to quickly find your place when the timer goes off for the Chili. Favorites keeps tabs on your browsing history in case you need to refer back to something you read earlier (so handy!) as well as recipes you’ve saved.

As with all the How To Cook Everything apps, Culinate gives users the ability to create, name and organize sophisticated shopping lists. This feature is great for separating weekly grocery shopping from party planning and bigger weekend cooking projects. You can also add your own notes and upload images to recipes or lessons, then access them on the toolbar under Notes & Photos.

The toolbar at the bottom of the screen gives you access to several handy functions to make cooking more organized. Tap the Bookmark to see what the next step is in a recipe you’re cooking, for example: Chili boiling on the stovetop or Corn Bread baking in the oven. Keep an eye on all your timers, right.

The toolbar at the bottom of the screen gives you access to several handy functions to make cooking more organized. Tap the Bookmark to see what the next step is in a recipe you’re cooking, for example: Chili boiling on the stovetop or Corn Bread baking in the oven. Keep an eye on all your timers, right.

The button that looks like a sun enables the Constant-On function so your iPad screen won’t dim while you are cooking. Lastly, keep track of all the timers you have going and watch the clock for when your next timer is up. No matter what screen you go to, the toolbar is ever-present at the bottom of the screen. It’s obvious that Mark Bittman and Culinate had in mind more than a collection of recipes and lessons; they’ve created a useful tool that helps home cooks be better organized and efficient in the kitchen.

Classes

In the Basics Classes, Mark Bittman bestows his cooking wisdom in step-by-step lessons. The intro videos bring Bittman’s personality to life and set the stage for the technique you’ll be learning. Video is a great format for Bittman—too bad there’s so little of it. After the intro video each lesson is presented with step-by-step instructions and photographs.

Basics Classes offer lessons with step-by-step instructions and photos to guide you through a recipe so you can master cooking techniques and concepts. Here, the common conundrum, “Is it Done Yet?” is answered with a recipe for cooking chicken.

Basics Classes offer lessons with step-by-step instructions and photos to guide you through a recipe so you can master cooking techniques and concepts. Here, the common conundrum, “Is it Done Yet?” is answered with a recipe for cooking chicken.

Techniques like chopping vegetables and concepts (Controlling Heat) are illustrated by working through example recipes from the app. It’s a self guided learning experience you can work through at your own pace and check off once you’ve mastered the lesson. Kudos to Bittman for giving home cooks everything they need to actually get in the kitchen and cook. He understands that looking at a pretty photo of a finished dish isn’t how you learn—the best way to learn is by doing it yourself!

Basics

This section of the app covers the concepts of cooking, everything from “All the Tools You Need to Common Grains and Their Cooking Times” to “Buying and Storing Seafood.” The aim is to give you a high level understanding of ingredients and techniques, whereas the Skills section of the app tackles how-to use the kitchen tools, cook the grains, fillet the fish and much more.

The app is divided into three sections. The Basics section contains tons of information on concepts of cooking, like how to set up your pantry or how to buy and store fish.

The app is divided into three sections. The Basics section contains tons of information on concepts of cooking, like how to set up your pantry or how to buy and store fish.

Bittman keeps the information short and sweet here, making his information sticky by presenting it in a clean little package, like “5 Rules for Buying and Storing Seafood” and interactive diagrams for “Cooking the Common Beef Cuts.” It’s like you’ve got your own personal mentor there to explain the why of every kitchen concept and break down ingredient categories so they’re easy to understand.

Recipes

Cooking Basics includes 185 recipes categorized just like in the cookbook, by course, beginning with Breakfast and progressing to Appetizers and Snacks, Pasta and Grains, Meat, Seafood, Dessert, etc. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful photo of the finished dish, along with photos of each step to guide you. Occasionally you’ll see a button for playing audio tips from Mark Bittman. Sometimes funny, sometimes informative, the tips give a bit more life to an app heavy on written content.

Wherever a time is mentioned you can tap it to set the timer. Select the shopping cart icon to add ingredients to your shopping list. You can also add a recipe to your calendar, add a note, upload your own photo or save the recipe to your favorites.

Each recipe is loaded with step-by-step photos and tools to make cooking more efficient, including the ability to set multiple timers, create sophisticated grocery lists and access related content quickly and easily.

Each recipe is loaded with step-by-step photos and tools to make cooking more efficient, including the ability to set multiple timers, create sophisticated grocery lists and access related content quickly and easily.

The recipes are interactive, with lots of opportunities to tap for more information on an ingredient or technique. At the end of each recipe Bittman includes several flavor variations and if you’ve got his How To Cook Everything app on your device you can access related content by tapping the button. It’s possible the developers have thought of everything when it comes to user experience!

Skills

If you really want to learn how to cook, you’ve got to master the skills. Here Bittman offers hundreds of demonstrations of basic techniques, including knife skills, how to season, baking techniques, cooking techniques like sautéing and roasting, plus much more.

The Skills section covers everything a beginner needs to know to get cooking. Skills are divided into categories, left, with photographed tutorials, right.

The Skills section covers everything a beginner needs to know to get cooking. Skills are divided into categories, left, with photographed tutorials, right.

Novice cooks will appreciate the specific concepts illustrated here, such as “Slicing Cooked Meat Across the Grain” and “Recognizing Doneness,” while more experience cooks will use this section as a reference for less often used skills like Boiling Lobster or “Deep Frying.” If you want to know how to do something in the kitchen, you’ll find the answer in Skills. Now your free to tackle recipes you never would have before!

Conclusion

Cooking Basics is the long-awaited prequel to the How to Cook Everything cookbooks and apps. Mark Bittman’s simple, straightforward approach to cooking is great for beginners, and this app brings more of his easygoing personality into the content to help home cooks feel at ease. Once again, Culinate has created an intuitive mobile interface, anticipating the needs of users by providing useful widgets that make cooking more organized and efficient. Cooking Basics is the ultimate teaching tool for home cooks to learn new skills, practice technique and build confidence with each new recipe.


Summary

Cooking Basics has everything you need to learn how to cook, packaged in an engaging app with step-by-step technique guides, foundational recipes and thousands of photos.

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