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Cooking Tips

9 Ways to Cook Yourself Out of the January Doldrums

I’ve always thought of January as a month of opportunity—especially in the kitchen. 
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Published Jan. 4, 2024.

January gets a bad rap. But I’ve always looked at it as a month full of opportunity.

Sure, the holiday excitement is over. People are back from vacations. The weather is gray and chilly.

But it’s also calmer. Quieter. There’s less noise and fewer obligations competing for your time.

In the part of the country where I live, it also means spending more time inside. For me, that means more time in the kitchen. Learning a new cooking technique, playing with a new gadget, or cleaning and reorganizing. (It’s more fun than it sounds!)

If you’re feeling the January doldrums, here are nine ideas to brighten your spirits.

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1. Start a Sourdough Starter

Just because this was the trend of 2020 doesn’t mean it’s fallen out of style! Bread expert and former Cook’s Illustrated Test Cook Andrew Janjigian spells out how to start and maintain a sourdough starter so you can have freshly baked sourdough bread anytime you want.

2. Cook Through a New Book

Choose a cooking genre you’re familiar with or select an exciting new challenge. There are lots of great books out there, but here are a few of our favorites that would make great cook-throughs.

New Release!

A Very Chinese Cookbook

Equally happy cooking American Chinese takeout or Sichuan banquet fare, James Beard Award- winning writer Kevin Pang and his father Jeffrey offer a wide-ranging and affectionately irreverent look at Chinese cooking.
A Host's Dream!

Gatherings

More than twenty-five ATK pros and cooks reveal their favorite ways to gather with friends and family. Learn their personal recipes and stories, playful menus, and practical game plans and tips to make your gatherings go smoothly.
400+ Recipes!

The New Cooking School Cookbook: Fundamentals

Attend your personal culinary grad school and learn to cook your best, with 100 advanced courses full of new-school techniques given by 20 expert test kitchen instructors. Finally, a cookbook written for confident home cooks ready to explore new territory and learn by cooking spectacular recipes.
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Everyday Bread

Introducing the only cookbook to make homemade bread baking convenient by letting you choose what to do and when. Learn seven core failproof recipes that offer pauses in prep and baking tasks, and then manipulate the dough into different shapes and flavors with ease for a practically endless array of breads.
Perfect for Gear Lovers!

Kitchen Gear: The Ultimate Owner's Manual

Calling all curious cooks: Get more, much more, out of your kitchen tools. Packed with science-backed advice from professional equipment reviewers, practical how-to guides, engrossing trivia, beautiful full-color photography, and 100+ recipes that showcase great gear, this guide is an indispensable source of collected wisdom found nowhere else.

3. Master a New Cooking Technique

Don’t know which technique to start with? We’ve got 100 of them for you to choose from! Whether it’s learning how to make a simple pan sauce, the best way to cook pasta, or how to cook a whole fish, we’ll “join” you in your kitchen and walk you through it. Check a few (or all) off your list and become a masterful cook in 2024.

4. Jumpstart Your “Spring” Cleaning

Want to feel a sense of accomplishment? Deep-clean and reorganize your kitchen. Use our expert tips to give your spice rack a serious makeover, and clean your Dutch oven, coffee pot, and even that gunk on your toaster oven window. A shiny, spotless kitchen will have you feeling better in no time.

5. Play with a New Gadget

A new kitchen gadget, whether it’s a small appliance or a simple tool, can reinvigorate your cooking routine. So, if you got an air fryer, Instant Pot, or cast-iron skillet over the holidays, congrats! Now is the perfect time to get yourselves acquainted and familiar. Read through the manual and experiment with gadget-focused recipes.

6. Watch a New Series

Watching cooking shows is a great way to learn something new. I’m a big fan of Top Chef, Beat Bobby Flay, and Julia. ATK fans can check out our episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country right on our site and app or head over to our YouTube channel to watch my very intelligent coworkers in episodes of Techniquely, What’s Eating Dan?, and lots more.

7. Make and Store Homemade Stock

Soup season is far from over, so go ahead and make stock! Gather your ingredients for chicken, vegetable, or fish stock, and make a big batch to use all winter long. It’ll keep in the refrigerator for two days, or store it in a freezer-safe container until you’re ready to cook!

8. Make a Project Recipe

Got some extra time over a January weekend? Choose a cooking project and go for it! Whether it’s fresh homemade ravioli, savory braised Quesabirria Tacos, or a sweet and elegant Paris-Brest, you can’t go wrong if you’ve got the time. In my experience, pulling off a project recipe makes you feel triumphant (and tastes amazing).

9. Host a Dinner Party

The parties don’t have to end with the holidays. After you’ve cooked through a new book, learned a new technique, or watched a few shows, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to good use. Invite your friends, put on a playlist, put out an appetizer, shake up a cocktail, and enjoy yourself. Cheers to 2024!

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