How do you spot a serious home cook?


Gasp - I was convinced it was going to end in salted butter, like french style salted butter - extra salty. It is my favorite thing. Just back from Paris where one place (Avant Comptoir) had huge piles of salted butter on the bar, I was in love.


I guess for me, a serious home cook is one who has made almost everything - but even if not has paid attention to the details. E.g. if they are serving an appetizer like bruschetta, did they bother to toast the bread lightly or just slice and go with a grocery store baguette? If they bought a pie for dessert, did they think to bring it above fridge temp?

I’m sure we all cut corners now and then (I do at least) but those little details show to me they are serious - just busy.


If I see bottled dressing in the refrigerator, I lose some respect for the cook. I know it’s rude, but I just do.


Keep in mind that some of us keep condiments in the fridge for picky spouses or children that we would never serve to guests! :wink:


For me, it’s the little things that point out this person is a serious home cook, as opposed to someone doing it because they have to.

Good bread – not generic store brand dinner rolls. Doesn’t have to be homemade, but just decent quality.

Even cuts – if the crudites are cut into all different sizes and widths, and the veggies in the food are all chopped in different sizes, I know they don’t know or don’t care how to learn to use a knife. Doesn’t have to be perfect squares or dice, but somewhat consistent.

How much homemade versus store bought – For a small get together, if the bulk of the meal is catered or store bought, I assume they are not comfortable with their cooking skills. If it’s a large party, like 25+ people, then I understand getting more items from outside.


The salt. If there is just iodized table salt next to the stove/in the cupboard and on the table i would doubt their ability to season dishes properly- most any recipe now calls for kosher salt or sea salt, especially for finishing or as a table salt for guests


For me it is everything apart from good bread. Buying anything in for me says they either can’t cook well or can’t be bothered.

There are some things you can’t cook easily at home and a good cook doesn’t include those in their menus unless they have got the specialist equipment i.e. a tandoori or pizza oven.

(Dave Skolnick) #28

I don’t agree. Time management is a factor. We had family in for a long weekend (they’re all off at a minor league baseball game). I didn’t make bread, or mayonnaise, or mustard. We used a good jarred sauce for chicken parm rather than starting from scratch. Those are all things we make with some regularity but time did not permit last week and we chose to spend our time with family during the visit.

I didn’t raise a pig for proscuitto and I certainly didn’t go to Parma to cure it and get it branded.

I recently made lasagna for an upcoming trip that I am comfortable saying was from “scratch” although I bought the noodles rather than making my own. I’ll be making beef stew ahead for the same trip without butchering my own cow either.

I think that a good cook whether home, semi-pro, or pro makes choices about what makes the most sense in awareness of the implications.

If I’m going to use beans I may choose dry beans or canned. I might make salad dressing or buy a jar depending on the time and complexity and conflicts. If I’m going to serve ham I might buy a Spiral-Cut® rather than making my own and even there, no pigs - I still stand on the shoulders of those before me in the supply chain.

While I think you are too harsh, I do agree there are some things that need to be made. Hollandaise is an example - if I don’t have the time and a pair of hands for that at the last minute it won’t go in my menu plan. I can’t imagine buying a turkey someone else roasted. I won’t make sushi or sashimi from a fish I didn’t just catch (although I won’t digress into parasite issues - I do know the rules).

(Memory) #29

Agree, and don’t take this the wrong way, but this thread reminds me of a scene in Pride and Prejudice - a drawing debate about what defines a Truly Accomplished Woman.


A good cook is a good time manager. But I do agree context is relevant. I was thinking in terms of being invited to a person house for lunch or dinner as opposed to cooking for the family (although my mother used to bake for days before family weekends as she never bought cake or biscuits).

If I cook for guests I do take the trouble to cook the best food I can and will avoid bought in dishes, sauces etc. My week day cooking is different and I will use some shortcuts - but there is a limit which for me is defined by quality i.e. a salad dressing takes a couple of minutes so never shop bought.

To me thats an ingredient/product where there is little point in making it yourself. Good quality artisan products, especially when they have a PDO certification are an example - so cured meats, cheese, etc are fine. But a good cook knows how to source the best and most appropriate.

And again a good cook makes the best choice in terms of quality. With beans the best the ones are often in jars and are plumper and have a better texture than canned. The same for peas, high quality frozen peas are often better than fresh unless you pick them fresh from your garden, and when making a puree they will give a better result.


My friends are not serious home cooks . Being invited to dinner is always a pleasure . I enjoy eating their food . I enjoy they do the dishes . I enjoy their hospitality . I enjoy that they went out and shopped for the groceries . I seriously enjoy their company . After all that . Yea , they are serious .


Yes, exactly! I have dressings my husband is going to prefer no matter how improper for the dish or salad I’ve made in the fridge. They’re high quality, all natural, etc… but I never touch them.


Yes! The menu thing was what I was going to say. I have a good friend who cooks well but their meals are often composed of multiple dishes that are all soft in texture and subtle in taste, for example. Halfway through, I’m usually dying for something crunchy, crispy, acidic, spicy or something. It’s no different than colors - they’re sensed differently depending on the combination.

(Gastronomos) #35

Today most people go out to eat.
Today most people don’t cook let alone have dinner parties.
With most of the invites I receive, I’d appreciate ordering a pizza or other delivery, if it’s not catered.
That speaks directly to the cooking skills of the host.
Nothing, Nothing beats home cooking. Nothing.
Except a home cook that doesn’t cook.

If I find a home cook that is good (we’re not talking about grandmas, are we?) I look to see if they get the basic dishes tasty. If they are really serious, just as I do in a restaurant, I look for the techniques. If I can taste the technique, then that’s proof of a serious cook. Difficulty in technique is subjective. A simple restaurant technique may be difficult to execute in a typical home kitchen. And when a home cook reaches that level, we’re onto another type of discussion and meal…

P.S. the NY Times cooking Facebook page had a title, “You can do this”:

Really? LOL



I just don’t like these blanket statements. Many many people I know cook at home and have friends over for dinner (that they cook).

But I get your sentiment.

(Gastronomos) #37

True. And I hate blanket statements as well. But, here in the suburbs of NYC… restaurants outnumber residents…


While I don’t know about the numbers in US.
I read that recently, here in Europe, 81% of the French meal are eaten at home, Portuguese 73% and English 72%.


You need new friends. :slight_smile:

(Gastronomos) #40

I am the only food-centric person I know in person :confused:

(Doo B. Wah) #41

But how many of those meals were “take away”? :wink: