Are You an Improv Cook?

Are You an Improv Cook?

Food & Drink

Are You an Improv Cook?


By Cari Martens

Recipes, as we know them, have been widely used in home cooking for well over a century. But an increasing number of people today are foregoing the regimented line-by-line recipe approach in favor of improvisational cooking.

As reported by Pervaiz Shallwani in the Wall Street Journal, one of the chief advocates for this ‘free range’ approach is Marc Matsumoto, a freelance writer and marketing consultant who launched the Web site last year. The site’s motto/philosophy states ‘No recipes: Cooking is more fun without them.’

Instead of detailed instructions, Matsumoto concentrates on technique and inspiration. He suggests that you ‘throw yourself in the kitchen, learn about ingredients’ and experiment.

Jean Johnson, a food historian, is promoting improvisational cooking on her book tour for Cooking Beyond Measure: How to Eat Well without Formal Recipes. She advises cooks to be ‘fluid’ and look to their pantries for inspiration instead of heading to the supermarket when a recipe calls for an ingredient they don’t have.

The Journal article lists five tips for improvising in the home kitchen.

Taste. Figure out what flavors you like and what goes well together. Taste ingredients both before and after cooking to get more familiar with them.

Work on your technique. Learn the basic skills first—using the right kind of oil and heating the pan to the right temperature are vital. You should know how to beat eggs properly and become skilled at sautéing vegetables.

Learn to make versatile bases. Homemade sauces and stocks are cheap and easy to make. Make big batches you can use in many dishes and freeze them.

Substitute ingredients. Many things are interchangeable: cauliflower/broccoli, chicken/pork, bean variations. Replacing one key ingredient with another is how new dishes are created.

Don’t worry about mistakes. Lots of great recipes/dishes were born as the result of a kitchen misstep. Learn to adapt, adjust and improvise on the fly.

Feel free to veer off and improvise with any of our Food Channel recipes (like you need our permission—ha!) In fact, we always encourage your experimentation and are interested to hear your feedback on the results.

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