Cooking in Someone Else’s Kitchen, A Guide (with video)

What is it about eating something at someone else’s house that makes it taste better? Picky eaters will try things, fried things are crispier, everything looks easier. The Practical Cook loves to eat, the location is less relevant than the company of good friends. As such, she often invites people over and conversely accepts all invites. (Seriously, check your door before you open it, might be me.)

(Video shot on location in someone’s kitchen: Do not try this at home. Just give up or buy a corkscrew.)

And because The Practical Cook is, well, The Practical Cook, she often finds herself in the kitchen, helping. Generally speaking, I’m invited to help, but I also just can’t stand still in a cooking environment. If I see pancakes burning, I’ll flip them, and even ask in advance depending on how well I know you. But there are rules to be followed, and I should certainly try to improve in this regard myself.

So here are 5 Tips When Cooking in Someone Else’s Kitchen:

1. Unhand the Seasonings. This is the biggie. Do not even think of reseasoning the food unless you are specifically asked to do it. The adage about “too many cooks spoil the soup” is age-old for a reason. Clearly people have been manhandling the herbs for centuries. Don’t be tempted. (I follow that with taste before adding salt and pepper at the table, but I’m a stickler.)

Pork Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Siracha

Pork Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Siracha

2. Offer to Help, Accept the Answer. If help is wanted, the host/ess will let you know. If the person is not fond of an audience or is particular (fingers pointing right back at me here), it may not be a good time to show off your knife skills. Yes, I am a kitchen dictator. I bark orders, speak in shorthand, and focus with unbroken precision on the task at hand. I have to cook for small, growing, hungry kids at warp speed, forgive me.

Garlic, Knife, and Spinach

Wustof Classic Chef's Knife

3. Corollary: Don’t Let Things Burn. Rule #2 is out the window if you see anything truly burning or on fire. This doesn’t mean the potatoes are a we bit crisp, this means the wooden spoon slipped onto the eye of the stove and  no one else has noticed.

Lemon Curd on Pancakes

Lemon Curd on Pancakes

4. Be the Sous Chef. There are a few people I cook with often. They know my style and feel free to ignore me. They offer to help do the million little things that speed food to the table, and what a gift that is. Peel some fruit, stir a pot, chop some parsley, pour the wine. Thank you.

Flat Italian Parsley!

Flat Italian Parsley!

5. If They Lack a Tool, Buy a Gift. Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily include a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (though I would love one if you’ve got a spare one in red or chrome). Tongue in cheek here (watch the video to see the backstory), but if you notice something missing that you really enjoy, like a functioning corkscrew, buy your friend a gift. They may save it in a special drawer for you to use, or they may fall in love with it. Might I recommend the Kitchen Tool Talk category here for ideas?

Do you cook well with others? Share your story here in the comments section.* (*Unless it’s about me, and then perhaps it’s best to keep to yourself. Looking at you Mom.)

Send your questions and queries to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Punting with Grilled Cheese Bar.

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