Cooking classes for the single middle aged man?
November 8, 2018 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I know it's not much, but I can cook pasta, grill chicken breast, make scrambled eggs, etc. I'd like to start cooking at home more often and eating a bit healthier to save on money and get in better shape. Is there a good place in Denver to take not too expensive cooking classes for a single middle aged guy that would help me go from beginner to intermediate level skills? Thanks!
posted by Gosha_Dog to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Other folks will have better and more specific suggestions, but just jumping in here to recommend Smitten Kitchen recipes, especially those tagged "quick" or "weeknight favorites" --- make really delicious food.

And as a former grad who ate boiled frozen pasta every night and cooked everything in one pot ----- starting from scratch and learning how to shop, how to judge stovetop heat, how to chop vegetables well, which tools to use, etc. pays off.

Just learning how to taste as you cook, to drain pasta before it's overdone, or when to let meat rest after cooking it goes a long way. A lot of it is being open to asking questions, especially about basic things. Everyone's usually trying to learn one new cooking skill or another, no matter what their background. Eg. This zucchini side dish takes very little time and tastes lovely (even though I had to look up what the heck she meant by matchsticks)

Don't be afraid to google or youtube search for unfamiliar terms or phrases. Alton Brown's site has a bunch of good suggestions about cooking and the How to Cook Everything Cookbooks are also a decent place to start.

Also friends might have a recipe or two they could show you? Learning more about cooking can be a great way to hang out.

Good on you for looking into this! Hope lots of delicious food is in your future.
posted by Geameade at 8:16 PM on November 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know of a class, sorry, but you may like Michael Ruhlman's book "Ratio". It's ostensibly about simplifying cooking by remembering recipe ratios, but really is full of advice on techniques for taking your cooking to the next level, what's worth cooking from scratch, etc. I was encouraged to try a lot of things I normally wouldn't, and my cooking greatly improved. I have also found that simply cooking at home does result in healthier eating.
posted by xammerboy at 8:16 PM on November 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Can't help you with a class in Denver, but-

Craftsy has online cooking classes. You can post questions for the instructor, see what the other students have made and have lifetime access to the classes. They do a great job producing the videos and get some top notch instructors.

I've taken several classes (cooking and craft) and felt it was better than a real life class in some ways since the view was closer for detail and you can pause and rewind!

Craftsy put on good sales frequently too.
posted by cat_link at 8:28 PM on November 8, 2018

Agreed that cooking along with Smitten Kitchen yields consistently great results. This Beef Stew is tasty, and this Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter is shockingly easy, cheap, and so delicious I have literally made a pot of it and eaten the whole thing with a spoon, no pasta involved.

Pioneer Woman also has tons of tasty, very American-style recipes with step by step photos, and she also has lots of videos. I really like this frozen pea salad.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:51 PM on November 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Denver has a Sur le Table, which puts on lots of classes. Also look around for knife skills classes (here's a random one).

It's not what I'd call super healthy, but I like the Food Wishes videos and accompanying blog posts.
posted by rhizome at 9:33 PM on November 8, 2018

Have you ever tried a meal delivery kit? My husband said he learned a ton of techniques and methods cooking Blue Apron, Home Chef and other meal kits. The pictures give you a good idea of what the dish should look like at most stages and because they only send you small portions if you don't like a recipe you won't have a bunch of barely used bottle of things hanging around.

We also liked them because afterwards if we wanna make the thing on our own we have a rceipe card already.

You can usually find codes to get discounts off a first box so it might be worth trying if you can get one cheap.
posted by Saminal at 9:47 PM on November 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

chiming in for an online solution - the "Rouxbe" video courses are quite good and start from the very basics of "how to properly hold a knife" and go to "making a sauce" and higher up (saute, braising, baking, etc). I can definitely recommend them:

after you get to a certain level then go and watch the Thomas Keller series on SO much fun!
posted by alchemist at 12:33 AM on November 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you don't find any desirable cooking classes in your area you could start a cooking club. Find a neighborhood community center or place of worship that has a proper (health department approved) kitchen and ask if you could use it for a free community club maybe one night every couple of weeks. Then spread the word. Decide with the group on a format, like maybe everyone reads recipes or watches videos beforehand and then cook together.
posted by mareli at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Good for you! Cooking is a fundamental self-care skill that is becoming somewhat vestigial in mainstream US culture and people's diets and bodies are suffering as a result.

There has been an effort to address this for "at-risk" populations, but that category as used in public policy omits folks like you who definitely are at risk as well.

I tell people to start with soups because they will not find them intimidating. You can sneak a lot of vegetables in - good for your knife skills and your body. You learn about cooking to doneness and not overcooking - the dynamics of heat, flavor, and time - in a context that is more forgiving than meat or pastry, say. The results, even if executed in an amateurish fashion, generally are pleasingly edible - bonus!

Think about the more peasant-y or working-class soups that may be a part of your food experience or culture. These are tried and true templates that are nutritious, not too delicate, and forgiving of substitutions. They were made by real people for real people. Go for it!
posted by Glomar response at 5:53 AM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Colorado Free University has a few classes in the culinary range. I'm not sure if any of them are exactly right for what you are looking for, but the knife skills classes will really help you learn how to do stuff in the kitchen. Their breakfast class looks fun and is $50 and is along the lines you are looking for. I have a good friend in town here (Vermont) who took a Cooking for Bachelors" class that he still raves about, taught him some basic meals (chili and cornbread, enchiladas, mac and cheese, a few other things) that he still makes regularly. That is the name of, apparently, a show you can watch on YouTube or Roku that might be worth looking at.
posted by jessamyn at 7:54 AM on November 9, 2018

I found a nice vintage cookbook, Cooking for One is Fun, in a used book store during grad school. I really enjoyed it then and during subsequent single days. The author, Henry Creel, retired and single, was friends with New York Times food titans Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey. He'd hang out with them as they developed recipes, tasting them in return for informed comments and cleaning up the kitchen. His goal is to guide readers to eating well, enjoying the preparation, and making it a positive experience. It is however from a 40-year-old perspective: a bit meat-centric, canned vegetables in some recipes, a few other era-specific shortcuts. Most important It has surprisingly good recipes that really work: one deviled egg; two biscuits; a single pound of rare roast beef; a single piece of smothered chicken is my favorite. (Mmmm, gravy.)

Read the NYT review with sample recipes for Lamb Stew French Style and Chicken Sauté Chasseur. Read reviews on Amazon, but buy it much more cheaply from eBay.

posted by conscious matter at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2018

I found that a good basic cooking book (in my case (in Oz) The Commonsense Cookbook) was sufficient for someone who couldn't boil water without burning it. Find a cookbook that is pitched to the learner, I'd suggest browsing secondhand bookshops.
posted by GeeEmm at 1:55 PM on November 9, 2018

Hello, Denver! If you have Netflix, check out the recently four episodes of Salt Fat Acid Heat.

I've taken a class at the Uncorked Kitchen and Wine Bar in Centennial, and it was fun. Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma often have classes.

Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything is a classic for a reason. His "Basics" version strips it down even more and gives you a lot to build on. There are currently 2 copies of this available at the Denver Public Library.

Have fun!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 3:05 PM on November 9, 2018

One more thing... take the things you're doing now, and elevate them to perfection. I think chicken thighs are in all ways superior to breasts, but regardless of that... google, experiment and practice until you make THE BEST darned grilled chicken, et cetera. Scrambled eggs, when done exquisitely (different people define exquisitely differently), are sublime. Make the best. Be known for making the best.

Even if you're only cooking for yourself, mastering a few things will give you a lot of confidence.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 7:47 PM on November 9, 2018

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