Ina Garten's Best Advice For Cooking A Recipe For The First Time

Ina Garten's recipes are famously easy to follow, even for beginners. However, trying out a new dish you have never attempted can still be daunting, especially when cooking for others. Luckily, Garten has some simple advice to help.

When cooking a recipe for the first time, Garten encourages home cooks to follow the recipe exactly as it is written rather than trying to make any changes or substitutions. While you may feel inclined to read a recipe and think about how you might tailor it to your tastes, Garten doesn't mess around when it comes to a recipe. She told BuzzFeed: "I follow the recipe every single time I make a recipe. I don't just throw things in," said Garten. 

This also means measuring ingredients accurately and precisely when following a recipe. Then, once you have attempted a recipe, it is okay to make changes the next time. However, it is often best to only change one element at a time so you can easily keep track of which changes were successful — and which were perhaps less so.

Read the recipe thoroughly before you start cooking

We've all done it. You quickly skim a recipe, start cooking, and discover you've made an error halfway through. Perhaps the beans needed to soak, or the meat was supposed to marinate for hours. Oops. Just like when you were sitting for tests at school and were told to read the questions in full before you started writing, it's critical to read any recipe thoroughly before beginning to make anything.

In her book, "Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust," Ina Garten emphasizes this technique to help home cooks follow her recipes more easily. You can even read a recipe twice to pick up on extra tips. Double-check to ensure you have all the ingredients and equipment required before you begin, then prep and weigh the ingredients in advance. That way, you'll be ready to cook without annoying pauses to chop, peel, or measure.

In the foreword to "Foolproof," Garten explains that she took the time to identify any common pitfalls home cooks might run into when attempting any of her recipes. Therefore, you shouldn't hit any snags once you're ready to cook. This guidance helps explain why recipes like Ina Garten's simple roast chicken are so popular — they are foolproof.

Learn 10 recipes well for endless variations

Once you've made a recipe and are familiar with it, you can experiment by swapping ingredients and making it in other ways. The good news is that you don't need to memorize hundreds of recipes to produce a variety of unique dishes.

In a YouTube video demonstrating how to make salmon cakes, Ina Garten says, "I'm a big believer that you really only need like 10 recipes." If you can make each recipe three different ways, as Garten points out, you'll have 30 different recipes at your disposal. For example, she might switch up the salmon in her salmon cakes recipe with crab or other types of seafood. A peach tart could be made with plums or other seasonal stone fruits. Or, you might want to try a recipe with different herbs and seasonings to play with the flavors.

The key to building confidence in the kitchen is to always follow the recipe correctly in the first instance. Then, you can start branching out, which could lead you to develop new recipes in no time!