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