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Hot and Tasty Tips for Choosing the Right Cooking Class

BY: Kelly MacDowell |

We’ve all been there or somewhere like it. A Sopranos binge left you jonesing for homemade pasta. The bakery down the street makes you dream of macarons every night. But there’s just one small problem. You don’t know how to make homemade pasta. Or macarons.

Luckily, there’s a very easy solution to this quandary: take a cooking class. It may not turn you into the Barefoot Contessa after one session, but it’ll definitely teach you a thing or five about anything from fondant to french onion soup. But the sheer number of classes to choose from makes it hard to, well, choose one, so here are some tips on what to consider, including some wise words from editors.

For starters, not all classes are created equal.

If you really want to pick up some Food Network–calibur skills, then you might want to research the facility before signing up. Check out photos of the space online, or drop by to have a look around in person. Sarah tried out two very different places with very mixed results.

“[One place I went to] had separate tables. Everyone got a chance to measure and weigh their own ingredients, it was like being in a professional kitchen and I loved it,” she said. “[Another] class had mostly pre-measured ingredients, so I didn't really feel like I was doing anything. And there was only one oven for 12 people, which meant lots of opening and closing of the oven door…No one's macarons came out quite right.”

Some skills are easier to learn than you think.

It’s probably not that far off to estimate that 99% of people go out for sushi when they’re craving it. And they’re all suckers. “I took a sushi class several years ago, and I remember being surprised by how easy it is,” said Brian. “Making the rice correctly is the most challenging part (they did that for us), but I didn't realize that you could totally make sushi on your own for fairly cheap.”

But some are not, and you might get frustrated.

Unless you’re a celebrity chef, there’s a good chance you’ve been doing some basic things wrong. Coming from someone who was given dozens of those pencil-grip thingies in second grade and still holds her writing utensils wrong, skill correction can be a source of frustration. Don’t let it get you down too much, though.

“I've been to a very practical knife-skills class, and it was more challenging than I thought it was going to be,” said Colleen. “I learned I was holding my chef's knife completely wrong. The proper way actually hurt my hands a little because I wasn't used to it, but it did help me chop vegetables a lot faster. Still, I rarely use the proper holding technique at home.

Also, "kitchen fright" is kind of a thing.

You know, like stage fright, but in the kitchen. Christie went to a private cooking class as part of a bridal party, and she had to swallow a bit of pride. “I know how to cook for, like, survival purposes…If I cook, I need to be by myself because I don't like people observing my lack of skills,” she said. “Being responsible for one whole part of the meal was very stressful for me. I was so worried I was going to mess it up…[But] when we all gathered at the table afterward to eat, everything was delicious and well worth the [stress].”

It might require some additional investments.

Not to attend the class, per se, but to reap the full benefits of your newfound skills. Fall in love with your French cooking class? Making all that bouillabaisse and ratatouille will be a lot easier with a proper dutch oven. (Yes, we see the irony in that.) And you definitely won’t be replicating that ginger stir-fry at home without a wok. At the very least, a knife-skills class will encourage you to invest in some shiny new blades. Those herbs aren’t going to chiffonade themselves. 

Or it might just be a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Don’t get it twisted for one second: you don’t actually have to care about cooking to go to a cooking class. They’re pretty social activities, after all, so they’re a fun way to meet new people, or a fun way to hang with a friend or significant other. And they culminate in a delicious meal, which is hardly a shabby way to spend the day.