To some people, cooking can bring feelings of joy and satisfaction because they truly enjoy the act of preparing a meal for themselves and others. To others, cooking can create stress because they may not know how to even start this act.

Although cooking can be difficult at times for some, boiling an egg can already be considered cooking.

Cooking is defined as the art, science, technology or craft of preparing food for consumption.

Yes, cooking is considered all of these things!

When you think about it, combining wet and dry ingredients to create delicious dishes, that is definitely an art.

But how do we even know how to cook?

You may remember seeing your mother or grandmother cooking as you were growing up, which is the case for plenty of people.

Certain recipes that you learned from them, maybe favorite ones, stay in one’s mind and you find yourself preparing it on your own as an adult.

Not all recipes are by learning it from family members, although those are great to learn and keep. Others enjoy finding new recipes in cookbooks, looking up online cooking blogs, watching cooking television programs or taking cooking classes in their city.

The First Known Cooks

food being prepared by a group of people
Cuisine is a big part of a country's identity and can allow visitors to learn more about a country. Source: Lan Pham on Unsplash

It is said that our human ancestors began cooking about 1 to 2 million years ago.

Can you imagine the recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation?

Our ancestors may have not used crock pots, but there is evidence found in countries such as South Africa that show control of fire by them and additional evidence of burnt bone and plant fragments.

But how were our ancestors cooking without any pans or spatulas?

The first method of cooking is believed to have been roasting. This could have been by taking meat, such as a fish, at the end of a stick and roasting it over an open flame.

In other countries like Europe and the Middle East, archeologists have found earth ovens and hearths from around 300,000 years ago.

Hearths were stone-lined fireplaces inside a house that was used for heating and were originally for cooking food.

Hearths commonly date back to medieval times but archeologists have found older ones.

We should be considered lucky with the number of gadgets available now to cook. Electric stoves, ovens, grills and a favorite one for plenty: crockpots!

Cooking tools was not the only thing our ancestors were limited on back then. Living in the United States, we are lucky enough, maybe even spoiled, to have a vast variety of fruits, vegetables or meat to choose from.

Some may even say that we are too spoiled because no matter the season, you’ll find it at just about any Ralphs, Vons or Whole Foods store.

Early humans were limited on ingredients based on where they were living.

If you lived in the Old World, generally any country in Africa, Europe, and Asia, you had access to ingredients such as cattle, sheep, pigs, wheat, oats, barley, rice, apples, pears, peas, chickpeas, green beans, and carrots.

If you were from the New World, however, countries in the Americas, you were limited to potatoes, tomatoes, maize, beans, peppers, avocado, peanuts, pineapples, blueberries, chocolate, and squash.

It wasn’t until Christopher Columbus began the immense transfer of plants, animals, culture, technology, and humans, otherwise called the Columbian Exchange, that ingredients were introduced from the New World to the Old and vice versa.

Remember the delicious Italian food you made while taking that cooking class in Rome? Without this exchange, who knows what ingredients you would have used for the marinara pasta sauce you made!

Commonly Used Cooking Methods

A whole roasted chicken served on a table
There are many different types of cooking methods such as roasting, baking, smoking, boiling and steaming. Source: Gabriel Garcia Marengo on Unsplash

We mentioned how roasting might have been the first method of cooking, but what about now?

Cooking methods may continue to evolve now, but the most commonly used ones are the following:

  • Roasting
  • Baking
  • Boiling
  • Frying
  • Steaming
  • Smoking

If you cook now, you may already do most of these, even if you aren’t a professional chef.

Or you may just be starting cooking lessons, which in this case you are studying the following methods.

Each of these methods changes the end result when cooking something. Some meat is better for some methods and the same goes for vegetables.

Have you recently gone to the market and noticed the huge clear windowed ovens with 20 chickens rotating all at once?

That is a full display of what roasting is. And let us be honest, we have all fallen victim of changing our dinner plans and buying one of those juicy chickens!

Roasting uses dry heat to create a brown and flavorful crust effect, such as roasting an entire chicken. Roasting is also done in an open flame or oven and you can roast at a low, moderate or high temperature.

This method is usually used for breads, pastries, cookies, and anything made with dough, but you can also bake casseroles and potatoes.

Baking is also a dry heat method, normally in an oven, where heat bakes from the outside first then to the center.

We mentioned earlier that boiling an egg is a form of cooking. This brings us to our next cooking method, boiling.

If you are just starting to learn how to cook, this method is safe, simple and cooks food in boiling water or water-based liquids such as milk or stock.

Boiling can be a disadvantage because it may be slower than other methods and nutrients can be lost if you throw away the water where you just boiled all of your vegetables.

Two words: French fries. We all love them and we all have tried them, which brings us to frying.

Practically anything that is fried tastes so much better, such as French fries, doughnuts, potato chips, and chicken.

Frying is also considered a dry method of cooking because it doesn’t involve water. Instead, it utilizes fats, such as oil, to transfer heat to food. Frying cooks food much more quickly and leaves a crispy texture.

Going from not so healthy, frying, to very healthy, steaming!

Steaming boils water continuously causing steam, which then carries the steam to the food and cooks it. This cooking method keeps the food separate from the boiling water and results in a moist texture to the food.

Steaming is preferred when cooking vegetables because the water remains separate from the food and it allows the vegetables to retain more nutrients versus boiling.

For seafood, such as fish or shellfish, this method is preferred as well because it doesn’t dry the meat.

Our final cooking method on our list is smoking. This makes us crave a glorious pastrami sandwich from Katz Deli in NYC.

Smoking is the process of cooking, flavoring, and browning food by exposing it to smoke from burning material, usually wood and usually oak.

Pastrami isn’t the only thing you can cook by smoking; there is a long list of things you can cook by using a smoker such as ham, eggs, cheese, oysters, etc.

Find the best tutor for your cooking class on Superprof.

The Importance of Cooking

group of people cooking outdoors
Cooking can not only be fun but can be a great way to get together with family and friends to enjoy food together. Source: Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

We may have already made you hungry by reading this far, but don’t get H-angry just yet! Instead, continue reading for just a bit to see why cooking is important.

You may have heard around your office that people try to save money by packing lunches. This is true. Cooking your own meals will definitely save you money versus eating takeout every single day.

If you buy a pack of three romaine lettuce heads at the market, you are paying around $2 to $4 and you can make around five salads with that pack alone. With only $4, you can barely buy yourself a side salad at a restaurant! Plus, who knows how fresh the lettuce that is being used is.

Which brings us to our next point, cooking your own meals is healthier. For starters, you’ll be the one purchasing your ingredients at the supermarket, you’ll know how long ago you bought them and you’ll be preparing the food yourself.

Cooking your own meals also lets you control quality. You may be saving more money by cooking at home so you splurge for the higher quality meat instead of buying the almost expired pack that is on sale.

We can go on and on about the benefits but one that we want to highlight is that cooking is FUN!

You get to experiment with new ingredients and recipes all while letting your creativity flow in the kitchen. At the end of it all, you create a delicious meal and you get to enjoy it!

Whether you are cooking for friends, family or just yourself, cooking brings joy and some may even use it to help relieve stress or depression.

Go online to search for the next cooking classes near you and get cookin’!

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A California native, reader and writer who is enthusiastic about traveling, cooking, cinema, and yoga.