Cooking is a creative activity, or at least it should be. It’s about experimenting with lots of different flavors, textures, and colors to produce the best dishes you possibly can.
However, for most of us who are not professional chefs, cooking is often little more than a chore. It is something that we do because we need to eat something nutritious and cooking at home is the best way to achieve that.
Of course, when you cook out of necessity rather than as a form of creative expression, you can get stuck in a rut, eating the same old meals in the same old ways, and you begin to stop enjoying what you do eat.
If that sounds familiar to you and you want to put some flair back into your food and start relishing mealtimes once more, here are some very effective ways to be more creative in the kitchen.
Blend Your Own Spices
Most of us use spices to give out foods more flavor and most of us use preblended spice mixes that someone has deemed work well together. If you want to be more creative in the kitchen, why not free yourself from the shackles of pre-approved spice blends and buy single spice jars instead. That way, you can think about what you like and what might work and give it a go. You can tweak old faithful blend to make them a bit hotter or give them a bit more of a citrus kick or whatever and you can wow your family with the new taste sensations you have created.
Experiment with small batches at first, so you don’t end up wasting a lot of spices if one of your concoctions doesn’t work out but be as bold as you can because you never know what you might discover! Keeping such spices in beautiful glass jars is a great idea for those who master kitchen photography and want to have an interesting backdrop.
Experiment With Nitrous Oxide
You may know nitrous oxide as a laughing gas; the stuff that dentists sometimes use to put you under before they give you a filling or take out a tooth, and although it can be used for that, it is also surprisingly useful in the kitchen too.
You can use a food-grade nitrous oxide cylinder for everything from making your Belgian waffles fluffier to making a frothy cheese foam that will knock your usual cheese sauce right out of the water and enable you to serve up something a bit fancier goer the family.
Try Cooking With Leftovers
A great way to challenge yourself creatively in the kitchen is to limit the number of ingredients and methods of cooking them as possible. Working with leftovers forces you to challenge your preconceptions about what can be a meal and what can not, and you will be quite surprised at what you can make from leftover guacamole, bolognese sauce, and rice if you’re hungry and you need to get something on the table fast.
Doing this is also a good way to save money on your grocery bills and limit the amount of food waste you and your family produce, which is really important right now.
You might think that blowtorches are best left in the auto shop or steelworks, but you can use the tiny little flame-throeing tools to great effect in the kitchen. From warming up knives to enable you to cut through frozen joints of meat so you can cook half, to making no-bake baked Alsaka by blowtorching the meringue to perfection, there are so many things you can do with a naked flame in the kitchen which is anything but boring, just make sure you are very careful!
Make Your Own Sodas
If you’re partial to a glass or two of soda with your masks, why not make your own with a new and unusual flavor? You could try an English classic like dandelion and burdock or something sophisticated like lavender and lemonade. All you need is water, sugar and the herbs, spices, or flavorings you desire, and a nitrous oxide cylinder to ass the bubbles. Coke may taste great but it is so ubiquitous that it is hardly exciting, and by making your own unique flavors you can make any occasion that little bit more exciting.
Let Liquid Nitrogen Do the Cooking
If you want to get really exciting in the kitchen, then adding a little liquid nitrogen in the mix is a very good way of doing it. You’ll feel more like a mad scientist than a chef as you use the liquid to flash freeze a homemade sundae in an instant or freeze fresh fruit for a healthy treat on a summer’s day. Just make sure that you read up on how to use liquid nitrogen safely and that you follow the advice, It’s lots of fun, but it also has the potential for danger if you are not sensible.
Cook Around the Globe
If you need a break from all the mad scientist stuff, why not take yourself on a cooking tour of the world without ever leaving your kitchen? Choose your starting country and use Google to find an interesting dish from that region, cook it and then move on to the next closest county and so on until you have tried at least one dish from every country o the planet. There’s no way you can be bored when you do this!
Try a New Ingredient
If that seems like a lot of work and you’re looking for something a bit simpler to get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen, you could simply try buying one ingredient at the store that you have never used before.
Most of us tend to stick to the same few recipes all of the time, so you may not have tried the notorious ugli fruit before or you may have yet to sample the delicacy that is Scottish haggis for yourself. Change that, and although you probably won’t like everything you try, and although you might not really know what to do with it, it will push you as a cook and you will be all the better for it.
Use an Old Ingredient in a New Way
Of course, you could go the other way and try to find new ways of using those old faithful ingredients that you always shave in the kitchen. Perhaps you could use some of those spaghetti noodles that you usually have with bolognese to make a Neopolitan pasta and ricotta pie or you could take those avocados you’ve been planning to smash on toast and use them to make a creamy green soup with instead. Pretty much every ingredient you can think of can be used in a million and one different ways that you have never considered before, so why not start considering the possibilities so you can give your tastebuds something that really makes them pay attention!
Eat Out More Often
You might be wondering how eating out more often could possibly help you to be more creative in the kitchen, but it’s really obvious when you think about it. The more you eat out at different restaurants serving up a wide range of different cuisines, and the more often you choose something new on the menu, the more ideas you will store in your mind.
You’ll get a better feel for how flavors work and why something tastes good, and you’ll see how trained chefs handle various ingredients, all of which you can put to good use when you are cooking your own dinners at home.
Learn New Techniques
The best cooks are the ones who know a wide range of techniques. They know at least five ways to cook a humble chicken, a dozen ways to make perfectly crisp batter, and even more ways to perfectly season soup.
If you only know the basics like simmering, sauteing, and stewing, then it might be a good idea to expand your horizons to include things like curing, searing, and braising so you can do more in the kitchen.
The great thing about cooking is that there is always something new to learn and the more you do learn, the more your brain naturally starts to think like a chef, experimenting with new techniques as you have just made up on the hoof. Great cooks are adaptable but they are only able to adapt because they know a wide range of techniques for cooking everything, from chicken to vegetables already.
Read More Cookbooks
It’s an obvious point, but the more cookbooks you read, the more ideas you will have, and the more ideas you have, the easier it will be to formulate your own ideas when you’re in charge in the kitchen.
Invest in Great Gadgets
As well as the aforementioned nitrous oxide cylinders and liquid nitrogen, which are about as exciting as it gets, there is a range of other, more humble, cooking gadgets that you can use to spice things up in the kitchen.
Even investing in a humble blender will give you many more options than you had before. You can throw in a handful of pineapple, some spinach, and a few strawberries and have yourself a healthy smoothy with no effort at all.
Buy a dehydrator and you can make your own beef jerky by simply slicing up beef, seasoning it, and leaving it in the dehydrator for a few hours. Dehydrators are also great for drying your own herbs and making your own dried fruits, which are much nicer than the ones you can buy at the store.
Those are just two examples, but they do, I think, highlight how having a few well-thought-out gadgets in the kitchen can naturally lead to you being more creative.
Visit as Local Farmer’s Market
Visiting the local farmer’s market is a great way to get some foodie inspiration. You will find just about every form of produce there you can imagine and the vibrant colors, shapes, and textures are sure to inspire you.
If you are buying produce you haven’t cooked before the sellers are usually a good source of inspiration, so don’t be afraid to ask them. After all, we learn by asking questions when we don’t know something already. There is no shame in it.
Boost Your Creativity in Other Areas
Creativity is not something that is confined to one area of our lives; you can be a great artist, writer, and chef or a fantastic choreographer, photographer, and cook, and the more creative you are in one area of your life the more creative you will be in another.
So, if you are serious about being creative in the kitchen, why not try to be more creative in general. Some easy ways to start are by keeping a journal of your day, drawing one thing you see each day, or taking a great photo of something you dee every morning. Pretty soon, you will be thinking creatively in all areas of your life and every aspect of your life will improve as a result, including your culinary creations in the kitchen.
Cook for Pleasure
That being said, there is nothing like simply cooking for pleasure to get your creative juices flowing. When you don’t have to worry about being creative or turning out the most amazing meal you have ever eaten, and you simply relax and try to have fun with good ingredients, the results can be much more impressive than you might have imagined.
Oh, and don’t forget to have fun with your food because it is, after all, supposed to be a pleasure, and the more fun it is the more likely you are to keep cooking and keep creating.
Being more creative in the kitchen is a process – you don’t have to go all in all at once – pick out a few ideas that appeal to you and start experimenting with them, see how it goes, then add something else to your repertoire and keep doing that until you can safely say that your tie in the kitchen is no longer dull or uninspiring.