Over the years I have taught many friends how to cook. Some of them are so frightened when they first come to my kitchen. I ask them why. Usually it has to do with bad kitchen experiences as a child – being yelled at, criticized or physically or verbally abused in the Kitchen.
So, I ask them what their worst fear is. They may say: “Burning something”.
OK, I say, let me explain something to you. Cooking should involve All of your Senses – Sight, Sound, Taste, Feel and Smell. All of them. Start there. So, if a recipe says medium high heat but you start to hear sizzling or smell burning, the heat is too high. Stoves differ these days. Pay attention.
I will then give them something to sauté. They are so stuck on following the recipe correctly that they cook it on medium high heat and ignore the multiple pre-burning signs . They do NOT stop until whatever it is has been obviously burned. A friend burned the food in the pan and looked at me, mouth open and mortified. She was tensed, anticipating my screaming at her as, I assume, she had been as a child in the kitchen.
I said: “It’s OK . It is just food. Here’s what we do”. I took the pan from her, went to the trash and scraped the burnt food into the bin. I said: “Now, rinse the pan and start over – but pay attention this time” with ALL your Senses . The next time she did not burn it.