Cooking Tips - Food - University of Derby

Cooking Tips

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We know from experience that many students leave home without being able to cook a significant number of meals.

By following the tips below and practising each day you will soon be able to confidently cook for yourself and your friends.

Don't worry if things go wrong at first. Watching TV chefs can convince you that cooking is a magical process that you will never master. It isn't, it simply takes practice. The more you cook the better you will become, so get practising now.

Basic ingredients

There are some common ingredients that it is good to have in your kitchen. These include:

  • Salt and pepper
  • Caster sugar
  • Olive or sunflower oil
  • Rice and pasta
  • Tinned tomatoes or passatta
  • Canned fish such as tuna
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Spices - e.g. chilli powder, paprika, curry powder
  • Herbs - e.g. basil, thyme, bay leaves,


You don't need to equip your kitchen with the latest gadgets and expensive equipment. You will find life easier though if you have 2-3 saucepans, a frying pan or a wok, 2 chopping boards, some wooden spoons, a ladle and some sharp kitchen knives.

Start simply

Chose a recipe that only had a few ingredients to begin with then you can gradually start to master more difficult recipes as your confidence increases.

Prepare before you start cooking

If you are new to cooking it will be much easier if your prepare all of the food you are going to need before you start to cook.

Do heat your oven in advance if your recipe requires you to bake or roast.

Use fresh ingredients

Generally speaking the fresher the ingredients the tastier the finished dish will be.

Be safe

  • Keep raw meat and fish separate from all of your other ingredients until the last moment and use separate chopping boards.
  • Be careful lifting hot items in and out of the oven.
  • Don't let fat from several meals build up on your grill pan - it can catch fire Don't leave your cooking
  • Store unused food in plastic containers not metal cans


Most new cooks struggle most with getting all of their food hot and ready at the same time. Plan before you cook. Figure out how long each things takes to cook and when you will need to start cooking them for them all to be ready together.

Taste your food as you cook

Don't trust the recipe by waiting until the end. Try as the food is cooking, as your skills develop you will be able to judge the taste and adjust it by adding other ingredients.


  • Simmering: This means you are heating a substance to a high temperature. It comes close to boiling, but does not get hot enough to create bubbles. Food has the potential to stick to the bottom when you are simmering, so stir occasionally.
  • Sautéing: When you sauté an item, you are cooking it in an oil or substance, preferably flavored, over medium heat. Sautéing is best at high heat, the oil should be at least at 375 degrees to avoid from penetrating inside the food.
  • Marinating: This means to soak a food in oil or spices. Food generally marinates for extended periods at a time