With more cookbooks, television shows and stores dedicated exclusively to the culinary arts than ever before, you would think that we are a nation of gourmet chefs. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. As America's waistline expands, our knowledge surrounding cooking and nutrition seems to be shrinking away. Yes we all know someone that home-pickles, has mastered coq au vin and can whip but a soufflé in no time -- but that "culinarian" is now the rare exception. Studies show that if we cook we tend to have a lower body mass index.  Additionally, research also shows that children who dine with their family, even as much as twice a week, tend to have 12.6-13.5 percent less risk of obesity. 
Now more than ever we must learn some tasty cooking techniques to cook ourselves healthy. I know that most home cooks use recipes; however, I have always lived my life recipe-free and instead focus on basic cooking techniques. There are only a few; once you learn to master them you will see that a dumpling is just ravioli in disguise (which may just be a pierogi in hiding). Being able to demystify the piles of recipes that are on your "to make" list will release you and allow you to dine in more often.
Here the "quick and dirty" of mastering the toque. Cooking methods can be categorized into three basic areas: moist heat, dry heat and fry cooking.
• Moist heat uses a liquid for cooking -- usually water, stock or steam. These recipes include boiling, poaching, steaming, stewing and braising.
• Dry heat methods use heat is transferred through air or fat. These recipes include roasting,
sautéing, grilling and baking.
• Fry-cook methods cook and brown in hot oil at a temperature of 140° - 190°C (284°- 374°F). The methods are defined according to the amount of fat used and include deep-frying, pan-frying and stir-fry.
The list seems too simple; however, I assure you that if you are dining, chances are high that your menu fits in one of the categories above.
You can conquer one cooking technique at a time by working on your own with the help of internet research or, my favorite suggestion, hire a culinary student and have them walk you through the techniques. Keep in mind that once you learn to roast a chicken you can then roast fish, lamb or really any ingredient because the basic technique stays the same. A little timing tweaking and some basic knowledge of correct internal temperatures and you are good to go.
I know that learning to cook can seem overwhelming, but by deconstructing the recipes into simple cooking techniques you can shed yourself of your overly processed fast food menu, as well as those extra pounds, in the tastiest way possible.
1. Coffield, E., Nihiser, A. J., Sherry, B., & Economos, C. D. (2015). Shape Up Somerville: Change in Parent Body Mass Indexes During a Child-Targeted, Community-Based Environmental Change Intervention. American Journal of Public Health, 105(2), e83-e89. Retrieved from 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302361
2. Fernandez-Alvira M., J., te Velde, S. J., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Bere, E., Manios, Y., Kovacs, E., ... Moreno A., L. (2013). Parental education associations with children's body composition: mediation effects of energy balance-related behaviors within the ENERGY-project. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity, 10(1), 80-88. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-80