Bittman Basics

My 5 Golden Rules of the Kitchen

Here’s how to increase your odds of success

Mark Bittman
Heated
Published in
3 min readMar 23, 2020

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Photo: Romulo Yanes

1. Anything you cook at home will be good.

Start with real ingredients and anything you make will taste better than anything from a box, bag, jar or fast-food joint. And if you mess up, so what? Even the worst mistakes will probably still be edible. Chalk them up to experience and move on, knowing that you’ll improve exponentially with just a little bit of practice. Really, you will.

2. Read the recipe through before starting.

Old-school advice, still valuable. Familiarizing yourself with a recipe before your start cooking allows you to gather all the equipment and ingredients you need ahead of time and prevent any unwelcome surprises. Until you get the hang of the pacing of cooking, it will also help if you prepare (chop, measure, etc.) all your ingredients before you start to cook — this will, initially, at least, help you relax at the stove and be able to focus on the task at hand.

3. It’s OK to serve dishes warm or at room temp.

No rush. No pressure. Keep this in mind when your pasta dishes really must be served hot. That said, if you’re trying to serve more than one dish at a time, it’s virtually impossible to serve a large, complicated meal if you want everything piping hot, but it’s very easy to do it if you accept that some dishes will be closer to room temperature. Only soup, eggs, and some pasta dishes really must be served hot. That said, you don’t want to leave food sitting out at room temperature for a total of more than 2 hours — including serving time — without refrigerating (if it’s over 90°F out, make that 1 hour). Other than that, give yourself a break, slow down, and enjoy the process.

4. Trust your senses.

Basics recipes are designed to hone your powers of observation. If something isn’t…

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Mark Bittman
Heated

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.