‘Start Small’: Nat’s What I Reckon On Taking the Stress Out of Cooking

‘Start Small’: Nat’s What I Reckon On Taking the Stress Out of Cooking

It’s been three years since Nat’s What I Reckon’s YouTube cooking tutorials skyrocketed in popularity and he became a household name in Australia. Since then, Nat has been working hard (perhaps too hard) turning around not one, not two, but four books. Nat’s latest is Smash Hits Recipes, a compendium of all his favourite meals, with illustrated guides to each.

In conjunction with the release of Smash Hits Recipes, Lifehacker Australia spoke with Nat’s What I Reckon about how he keeps things cheap and affordable and how he pulled together his largest book yet.

Cheap as chips cooking tips

potato bake nats what i reckon
Image: Nat’s What I Reckon/YouTube

If there’s one price rise that has hit hardest during this cost-of-living crisis, it’s the cost of food.

“It’s hard to see cooking made more difficult for people; it’s such a bummer not being able to afford food,” Nat said. He added that he does “try to keep stuff as simple and cheap as possible”, meaning his recipes from years ago are still just as relevant today. And even when they’re not, they are tagged appropriately.

Each recipe in Smash Hits Recipes is labelled with unique tags like the Cheap AF, Low Stress and Quick Sticks section, with aims to make things as approachable as possible for all kinds of cooks.

“People don’t need more challenges at the moment, particularly in the kitchen…” he said “I like a challenge with cooking because I’m at a stage where, you know, I feel like I’m up for the challenge. But there are a lot of people that aren’t, so it’s nice for me to think of ways that I can simplify those things or make them a bit cheaper.”

Nat’s What I Reckon’s cooking videos are responsible for getting a lot of people into home cooking, proving just how simple it can be to make tasty and affordable recipes that may seem more complicated than they are (case in point: chicken salt chips).

Nat’s wisdom for those struggling to get into cooking? “Don’t make yourself hate it. If you’re someone who is new to cooking, start small.”

“I started really getting passionate about cooking when I started really cooking one thing. Roasting things is what got me so excited for cooking stuff. I like roasting because I can cook for lots of people,” he said.

He added that it’s important not to get hung up on looks.

“When you’re looking at a dish online or you’re looking at it in a cookbook, you’d notice that they look beautiful. That’s because usually someone’s paid to make that look really beautiful,” Nat said.

“I am shit at making food look particularly good, but it tastes good… it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like the thing.”

Smashing the fourth book

As mentioned, Smash Hits Recipes is the fourth book authored by Nat’s What I Reckon, following Uncook Yourself, Life: What Nat to Do and Death to Jar Sauce. However, this one is a bit different to his past ventures.

“This is exclusively a cookbook, whereas the first two are combinations of my carrying on and worldly views,” he explained “This one is a compilation of the [recipes] in the first two but none of the other waffle.”

That said, Smash Hits Recipes does continue Nat’s tradition of having unique art depicting each of the recipe methods. Aussie artists Glenno, Bunkwaa, Warrick McMiles, and Onnie O’Leary all contribute to the book’s illustrations.

Nat explained that the collaboration process to bring recipes from written to sketched is different for each artist:

“It’s best to ask the artist what they need. They’re all friends of mine, we’re real chatty. One way we’ve done it is I’ll send the recipe through written in my language and they’ll read through that and be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got these ideas for this kind of thing. Maybe this could be like that.’ I might have ideas too. And, you know, I kind of collaborate a bit there,” he explained. “We started doing a thing where the artists would, like, send me a picture of them just holding a thing, gesturing, and asking ‘Could you do this?’ So I just, you know, took a photo of myself doing the same shit.”

Nat admitted it’s a “huge logistical headache” for everyone but that the end result is “worth the punish.”

Festive cooking

Image: Nat’s What I Reckon/YouTube

With four books out the door amongst a hectic life of scripting, filming and editing cooking videos, as well as a worldwide comedy tour, Nat said his next step was to take a break.

Luckily, we’re at the pointy end of the year, and the holiday period is approaching. Cooking is inherently a big part of the festivities and can be a stress for many, but Nat has some advice for this:

“I think it was Julie Goodwin who told me… ‘I’m just gonna get people to bring stuff over.’ That I recommend you do just to take the stress out of it wherever you can. Unless you are Christmas-tree-is-up-already kind of excited, delegate. If it’s your place or bring a thing and offer to chip in,” he said.

As for Nat himself, his Christmas go-to is a rotisserie:

“It’s like a bit of set up, but they’re fairly easy. Just go to Coles, put a thing on a stick, baste it and hang about.”

Cooking, let alone Christmas cooking, does not need to be as complicated as we tend to make it. Nat has proven this. But if it does stress you out, luckily, there’s a hit new cookbook you can turn to for support.

Smash Hits Recipes by Nat’s What I Reckon is available now, RRP: $49.99.

Lead Image: Penguin Books/Nat’s What I Reckon – YouTube

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