Cooking Tips For Beginners: The Easy Cooking Tips That Took Me From Clueless To Impressive In The Kitchen

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Looking for easy cooking tips for beginners? Here's how I went from being clueless in the kitchen to impressing party guests with delectable dishes.

5 easy cooking tips for beginners

It didn't happen overnight. In fact, cooking was never a high priority for me so my skills evolved over a few years. The tips for better cooking that you'll find below can be applied however you like - gradually over a long period of time or much quicker in just a few months.

Either way, you'll find yourself cooking meals that are surprisingly impressive. Sound good? Let's go!

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5 Easy Cooking Tips For Beginners

After I graduated college, I lived in a very walkable neighborhood full of places to eat. Needless to say the temptation to eat out was too high, and I didn't cook very much until we moved into an apartment that wasn't walking distance to a multitude of restaurants.

This is the point where I could do things like boil eggs or make pasta and making salads and sandwiches still counted as "cooking." There's a big gap between that point and where I am now which is just a few years later, and these are the simple cooking tips and tricks I followed in this transformative process.

I hope these cooking tips for beginners help you as much as they did me, and as always, please feel free to leave any additional ideas in the comment box at the bottom of the page. Enjoy!

Cooking Tips For Beginners
1. Nail one recipe. I mean really nail it; then build from there.

Pick a really, really simple recipe that requires little prep and few ingredients and get good at it. Get really good at it.

The first recipe I really nailed was my stepmom's baked chicken. I remember it being so tasty as a kid, so I asked her for the recipe and it was very easy. I simplified it even more by only doing drumsticks; that way I could avoid what was involved in cooking a whole chicken (like pulling all the yucky stuff out of the inside).

Here's the recipe:

The Easiest, Tastiest Baked Chicken In The Universe

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash off chicken and pat dry.
  3. Put chicken in a foil-lined glass baking dish.
  4. Pour olive oil over chicken and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.
  5. Cook uncovered for 1 hour.

That is where I started. I would (and still do) buy the couscous that comes in the box and serve that with the chicken. Boom! There's a meal. I got really good at it and started building upon that.

I would cut up carrots or some type of veggie and throw it in the baking dish with the chicken or I would add a side salad, so that we had healthier meals.

Then I started branching out from there trying all kinds of simple recipes cooking things in the oven, on the stove, in the crock pot and so on. The bottom line is to just pick a comfortable place to start and jump in with both feet.

Cooking Tips For Beginners
2. Start by cooking once a week.

Now take this recipe that you're going to nail and cook it once a week. First, practice makes perfect. Second, cooking more than once or twice a week at the beginning may seem pretty overwhelming, so start small and work your way up from there.

One way to maximize only cooking one meal a week is to make way more than you will eat in one sitting. Then you can have leftovers that can last another meal or two or three.

This is also a good way to get into the habit of weekly meal planning. At the beginning of the week, decide which day you will cook this one recipe you want to nail and plan to have leftovers the next day or two. That leaves four or five evenings to fill in with eating out or doing no-cook recipes like sandwiches or salads.

Then go to the grocery store and get the ingredients necessary for the meal you are going to cook in addition to some items that will be helpful in getting creative with leftovers. Keep reading for an example of using leftovers cleverly.

Cooking Tips For Beginners
3. Get creative with leftovers.

One of the best cooking tips for beginners (and one of my top tips on cooking no matter the skill level) is to get clever with those leftovers. Doing so saves you money as well as time and multiplies the amount of meals you get out of one cooking session.

For instance, I would make a lot of that baked chicken I was talking about earlier with couscous and maybe a few veggies. It would be more than I could eat in one meal, so here a few ways I would maximize.

  • Heat up the leftovers and have the same thing as the night before.
  • Pull some of the chicken, mix it with the couscous and add feta to eat it as a cold dish.
  • Pull some of the chicken, put it on a tortilla with cheese and melt it in the microwave for a yummy quesadilla or burrito.
  • Pull some of the chicken and add it to a green salad.

Cooking Tips For Beginners
4. Follow the recipe exactly.

I'm not one of those people who can just throw something together, and all of a sudden there's a tasty meal on the dinner table. Oh no. I need to follow a recipe exactly, so one of my best cooking tips for beginners is to choose recipes that require no superfluous thought or effort and do exactly as it says.

As a guideline, I like to choose recipes that involve ingredients that I already have (e.g. olive oil, common seasonings) with the exception of a few (e.g. chicken, fresh veggies). If I look at a recipe and the ingredients list is longer than 5 or 6 items (seasonings counting as one item), I usually click away or turn the page pretty quickly.

I also pick recipes that have very little prep. I'll do a little chopping, maybe a little blending, but not too much more than that. If the recipe is using words that I don't understand and/or requiring me to use cooking tools I don't have, then it's on to the next recipe.

Lastly, I like recipes that require little to no monitoring. For instance, I like putting something in the oven for a set amount of time and then taking it out when the timer goes off. That's it. If I have to stir the whole time or keep checking it, it's probably too much work.

I know these sound like pretty rigid guidelines, but trust me, there are millions of recipes out there that fall within them (especially if you use a crock pot). I'll give you some of my favorite resources, so you can find them easily.

Cooking Tips For Beginners
5. Find a recipe source (or two or three) that you love.

This can be your mom, your grandmother, a friend, a blog, a service, a book, a social media platform or whatever you prefer. The point is to start with one source to follow, so you don't get too overwhelmed too quickly (because the amount of recipe sources out there is staggering).

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Pinterest (social media) - I never really got into using some of the recipe directories out there (e.g. I prefer Pinterest a hundred times over. I follow some food bloggers/cooks, and I can also easily look up recipes using their search function.
  • Make Dinner Easy (blog) - This food blogger is awesome. I'm subscribed to her email newsletter, and her super easy recipes come right to my inbox.
  • The Six O'Clock Scramble (service) - This service is fantastic, and it's less than $7 a month! The features are very extensive. They offer weekly meal plans, organized grocery lists and so on, but one of the things that caught my eye is the meal planning for special diets. They take into account people who only eat gluten-free, kosher, etc. It's all inclusive and very impressive.
  • Mealime (service) - Another great service that provides personalized meal plans for busy young professionals. They also have a ton of free, useful content on their blog.
  • Real Simple (magazine) - My mom subscribes to their magazine and passes them along to me, so I tear out some of their simple recipes. I've gotten some real gems from them. Follow them on Pinterest to get access without subscribing to the magazine or searching their website.

As you build upon your meal planning and cooking skills, you'll get into a routine of making easy, healthy, quick and inexpensive dinners that your family will love and your party guests will be very impressed with (which is what happened when we hosted a recent BBQ and I got all sorts of compliments on the food to my surprise and delight). Good luck and happy cooking (and happy eating)!

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