Today is my dad’s birthday and wouldn’t you know that he sent ME a present on HIS birthday. And it should come as no surprise that it was kitchen-themed. Before I left Florida on Monday he told me to be on the lookout for a package from him in the mail. Well, it arrived today and it was two new All-Clad nonstick skillets.
When I called to ask him a) why he was sending me a present on his birthday and b) why he sent nonstick skillets he answered, “Isn’t that how birthdays work?” and “Your mom said that your nonstick skillet situation was a sad state.” REALLY, MOM!? Guess she wasn’t impressed by my nonstick skillet selection when she was here for Thanksgiving. To be fair…I only had one pan and it probably wasn’t the best ever. 😉 I do most of my cooking in All-Clad stainless steel but these new pans will help greatly with things like egg cooking, meat and seafood sautéing, pancake flipping and more!
For those who might not know the backstory, my dad is a self-taught cook and baker and the reason why I love food and cooking so much! When I graduated from high school and moved away from home, I quickly realized that if I wanted to eat the way I was used to that I needed to learn how to cook. I cannot tell you how many hours my dad has spent on the phone with me answering questions or how many dollars he’s spent stocking my kitchen. I am a lucky, lucky girl and I am so grateful to him for all the wisdom he’s passed down to me.
In honor of my dad’s birthday, I thought it would be fun to write a post with the top 10 kitchen/food/cooking tips that I’ve learned from him.
1. MENU PLANNING AND GROCERY SHOPPING FOR THE WEEK IS KEY WITH KIDS AND A FAMILY TO MANAGE
Growing up, my dad was an AMAZING menu planner and grocery shopper. He would plan our menu for the following week the weekend prior and do one big shopping trip to get everything we needed. I loved accompanying him on those trips and I can close my eyes and see our small hometown Kroger now.
Both of my parents worked full-time so this ensured that we were set up for success to eat at home as a family in the evenings. Our menu for the week was always posted on the fridge so we knew what to expect. We always sat down and ate as a family at the end of the day.
These days, my dad is definitely more lax about menu planning and shopping for the week. I secretly think he likes the day-to-day challenge of figuring out what to make for dinner and going out to shop for it. But let it be stated for the record that this man has it TOGETHER when it comes to occasions that require planning and prep like holiday meals. He is #goals with lists, timelines and execution.
2. BECOME A REGULAR AND MAKE FRIENDS AT THE GROCERY STORE
Oh my gosh, I think my dad has been on first-name basis with the produce and meat managers in every store he’s ever shopped in. Haha. My dad gave me so much confidence around talking to these people and asking them questions and for help when needed. This is especially key in the meat/seafood department. There is so much they can do for you that you might not see in the case whether it’s a certain cut or a special order.
3. INVEST IN GOOD KNIVES AND KEEP THEM SHARP
I have zero patience for crappy knives thanks to my dad. He makes me the kind of person who wants to travel with my own knives because I get so frustrated with cheap ones. Last Christmas he sent me a new set of Wustoff knives (on amazing sale right now) and I use them every single day. I know they are pricey but when you think about how they come with a lifetime guarantee along with how often you use them, they’re worth every penny.
Annnnndddd about keeping them sharp…that is my number one area for improvement when it comes to the kitchen in 2020 and I COMMIT FULLY to doing it. He would be so ashamed if he used one of my knives. I don’t know what it is about knife sharpening that intimidates me so much.
4. QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY
Good knives leads me to quality kitchen equipment. I am a huge believer in investing in the good stuff and I learned this from my dad. I have had most of my All-Clad, Le Creuset, Emilie Henry, Willams-Sonoma Gold Touch, Vitamix and KitchenAid gear for over 10 years and it’s standing the test of time. I know it’s attractive to go for the cheaper stuff but you’ll be replacing it every year or two and when all is said and done, you could have just bought the nice stuff to start. Also, the quality of the cook and what you get from the nicer stuff is so much better and more predictable.
5. READ AND RESEARCH
My dad is the best about reading and researching food topics. While he is a long-time Cook’s Illustrated subscriber, he is also open to ideas he finds on Pinterest and food blogs. We both agree that Joy the Baker is pretty great. 🙂
For example, he will spend hours reading about sourdough bread baking techniques and watching video tutorials. Although he’s NAILED killer sourdough, he recently purchased an online course to learn a new method. I admire this so much and it keeps things so fresh. Just today he sent me photos of sourdough he tested with 25% whole wheat flour!
6. READ THE RECIPE BEFORE YOU START BUT FIND FREEDOM IN PUTTING YOUR OWN SPIN ON IT
Raise your hand if you start a recipe by reading the first line and get halfway in and realize you’re screwed because you didn’t read the whole recipe before you started. Yep, me too! My dad is so good about thoroughly reading a recipe before he starts. He’s also given me a lot of confidence around putting my own spin on recipes once I understand the full picture of them. This has served me so well as a home cook and given me a ton of flexibility and creativity!
7. SEASONING, SEASONING, SEASONING
Well-seasoned food can be the difference between a mediocre meal and an EXCELLENT meal. My dad is amazing when it comes to seasoning food whether it’s as simple as salt and pepper or a favorite spice rub.
8. HOMEMADE PIZZA + FROZEN PIZZA BOTH HAVE A PLACE IN THE KITCHEN
If I had to give my dad a title, it would be King of Pizza and Steaks. 🙂 He’s taught me that the best steaks are the ones that are marbled nicely with fat (with ribeyes coming in #1) and that the the best pizzas are pizzas. Okay, just kidding on the last one but in my dad’s kitchen there is equal appreciation for an old school Totino’s frozen pizza (with extra cheese, of course) and a homemade pizza. My dad’s homemade pizza is THE BEST by the way and he must share his crust recipe soon.
9. DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY SEEMINGLY INTIMIDATING THINGS
One of the best things my dad ever did for me was to stop baking me sourdough bread and to send me home with starter instead. I was SO intimidated by the process but my dad lit a fire in me that I could do it myself. It’s truly been one of the best gifts that he has EVER give me. He equipped me with all the tools that I needed to do it on my own and sent me on my way.
I think this is a bigger parenting lesson…it might be easier to do it for your kids…but they will learn and grow so much more by doing it themselves. The sense of achievement I get every single time I bake a loaf of sourdough never seems to fade and I think of my dad so fondly each time as well.
10. BE PREPARED AND CLEAN AS YOU GO
My dad is great about setting up mis en place which is basically having everything ready to go before you start a recipe and he’s THE BOMB at cleaning as he goes. It’s basically my dream scenario to cook with my dad as sous chef. Being in the kitchen with him makes me so happy and it’s like there’s a magic fairy keeping things orderly, organized and neat.
Happy birthday to my dad and here’s hoping that “Grandpa Lew-y” has lots of cooking knowledge to pass on to Finn too! 🙂
And a special thanks to all of you for being so welcoming of my dad as I’ve shared so many of his meals and recipes here on my blog. Remember when I thought he was going to be a regular contributor to my blog? Let’s show him some LOVE and beg him to commit in the comments below!
Talk to me about food + cooking + growing up in your life.
What’s the best cooking/food/kitchen tip that you learned from your parents?
Who thinks my dad needs to lean into this food blogging thing!?
Been reading for 10 years – would LOVE to see more of his self-taught skills. I love the recipe and technique sharing – I feel like I’ve learned so much here over the years…and your dad knows what he’s doing! YES PLEASE!
Happy Birthday to your dad! He should absolutely be a regular contributor, and most definitely share that pizza dough recipe ?
Happy Birthday to your dad! I vote he contribute 🙂 and thanks for the tips! Also, I think Finn looks a lot like him ?
Your dad is such an inspiration! I’d love to learn more about how he meal prepped and what kinds
Of meals you guys ate as kids growing up. My husband and I both work and have kids, and I’d love new meal ideas for busy working parents! Happy birthday to him!
Happy Birthday to your Dad! I’d love a Cooking with Jen’s Dad series.
What a wonderful post! I love to hear about the shared passion for cooking you and your dad have, and all the lessons you’ve learned from him. I’d love to see your dad be a contributor to your blog!!
Happy birthday to your dad! Dinners growing up were planned out too since my parents worked full time. It was chicken Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; pasta night on Wednesday; pizza on Friday and weekends were up in the air.
I’m totally like him when it comes to getting everything ready before you begin cooking and cleaning as you go. My mom taught me that as well. (I pretty much learned all of my cooking from my mom; my dad could only boil eggs, ha!)
Happy birthday to Jen’s dad!! What a great post. Love the relationship you guys have. Very special! ❤️
Oh, I love this! How did he learn to keep up with the cleaning and timing of cooking? Will he please write a blog? Is he up for adoption, or a short class? Thank you for all your wisdom!
Happy birthday to your dad! If he ever does decide to contribute, he’s got a reader here! I would love to benefit from all of his self-taught knowledge. 🙂
Yes! I vote for a YouTube cooking series – Jen cook with Dad. ? Happy Birthday Grandpa Lew-y. ?
Jen, what perfect timing for your post, I was actually thinking about an idea for you recently that is along these same lines. The idea is to share your top ten cooking tips, so a more focused post than the above.
I always enjoy hearing your dad-inclusive food stories, so yes – that would be fun to have him write a bit here.
Also, I am glad to hear someone else feels intimidated by knife-sharpening. If you find a solution/tool/approach that you end up liking, please share with the rest of us!
Tell your dad he is a real source of inspiration. I have sourdough starter coming in the mail on Friday, and cannot wait to begin baking. I’m wondering if there is a Pizza Crust recipe for using with sourdough?
Yes to the Blog!
Aww, this is such a sweet post! HBD to your dad! I love the helpful cooking content you provide on this blog. Definitely would love to read any content the man who taught you is willing to provide with us.
Happy birthday to your dad! I love these tips and stories. I always forget to read the recipe first ahead of time!! I do clean as I go, but my boyfriend doesn’t, so walking in to the kitchen while he’s cooking dinner gives me the shakes lol. Goal is to have everything cleaned up before I eat (besides the final cooking vessel and serving paltes/bowls/cutlery of course).
Papa! Can you guest post??? or even a weekly share of meals from he past week? Instagram!?
Your Dad seems so great! What a great post idea! It would be fun to have him post! Your family seems so great and I honestly get such a warm and cozy feeling when you write about spending time with them! I, too, have an amazing Dad I feel so grateful for!
A really wonderful post and tribute to your dad!!
Awe I love this post! Thanks for sharing!
This is a terrific post. In the spirit of sharing recipes and inspiration, I’d like to pass along the buttermilk biscuit recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Like you, I’m a Southerner, so I hope you’ll appreciate a biscuit recipe that is completely badass and off the charts.
I so enjoyed reading this post and the close relationship you have with your dad! Reminds me of my dad and our relationship! I agree with everyone, please have your dad contribute! Such a treasure to have your dad teach you his tips and tricks in the kitchen. My dad is a great cook, my husband still talks about a time when we were dating and my dad was bbqing a few different types of meat at once. He was flipping away and everything turned out delicious. Happy birthday to your dad!
Love this relationship, so special! And yes, by all means, have your Dad contribute here, his wisdom needs to be shared first-hand!!
Happy Birthday to your Dad! It is so awesome to have been able to learn so much about cooking growing up. I’ve been slowly improving my skills over the years, but I wish I had started with some extra help.
I would love to see you Dad do some guest posts on your blog. I would also love a blog about knives. I desperately need to replace mine, but I’m so overwhelmed by the options for types of knives. If you could write about your 3-4 go to knives, what they’re called, and what you use them for, that would be awesome!
This was such a fun post for read and really great advice. I guess I never realized how much my mom taught me in the kitchen but I was nodding along as I read thinking of her! And when I see you next, can I have some sourdough starter?! I had one in college (yes seriously) and I swear older ones are better vs. if I started one from scratch! I wish I still had that one from my college dorm!
This was such a great post! Trying to introduce my toddler to cooking and that has finally forced me to do the mise en place! Can’t wait to see the pizza crust post.
Thanks Stephanie! And love the toddler inspiration for mis en place! Haha, that’s awesome!
awwww love this post! happy birthday to your dad! would LOVE it if he started contributing…what a wealth of knowledge. and pizza first 🙂