There are some basic cooking skills all adults need to learn. They can help you make all kinds of delicious foods and avoid always needing to eat out.
I started baking with my grandma as a toddler and I don’t know when I started helping my mom cook because I really don’t remember a time before helping.
I remember at a very young age cooking and baking on my own as well. My mom always kept ingredients around for baking things like chocolate chip cookies and other basic baking recipes and I took advantage of this often.
I enjoyed baking plus I love sweets and we didn’t have a lot of sweets in the house. I believe my mom figured I should at least be doing an activity if I was eating sweets. It also limited you some because you aren’t going to do it all of the time. Especially since I also had to clean up after myself, that’s the part I still hate.
I even remember occasionally cooking full, simple, meals for the whole family at a pretty young age. I enjoyed it and I felt like I was helping out.
This encouragement to help with baking and cooking gave me skills that I use daily as an adult. I see many people my age and younger that didn’t have this experience and struggle to cook on their own now.
I feel like this is one small contributing factor to increasing obesity. More and more we are relying on fast food, takeout, and highly processed foods.
It’s never too late to learn to cook and knowing some basic cooking skills can take you really far. It’s also important if you have kids to consider helping them learn these skills.
I know when kids “help” it can often mean more messes and that it actually takes longer but when there is the time it can be so valuable. I really credit the fact that I spent so much time baking with my grandma for why I still love baking.
These are some of the basic cooking skills all adults need to know. With these skills, you can cook many delicious meals and continue learning more as you go.
Basic Cooking Skills
Cook al dente pasta.
Pasta is very easy to make and needed for many recipes. Most people overcook pasta so learning how to properly cook it can greatly improve your cooking skills and dishes.
Always bring the water to a boil before adding the pasta. You should also salt your water, a general rule to follow is one tablespoon per pound of pasta. It sounds like a lot but most of it will not be on the pasta when you are done.
How long you will cook the pasta varies, often the package will give you a good idea. I’d test it early as you are learning the timing because you can add more time, you can’t take it away.
To know if it’s done, taste a piece, I usually run it under cold water for a second to cool it off. Al dente means it should still be firm but not crunchy. It is Italian for “to the tooth.” If it’s still crunchy cook it for 30-second intervals until it’s done.
How to make a few basic sauces.
Knowing how to make a few basic sauces can change your whole cooking game. Once you know the basics you can create all kinds of varies of dishes.
The sauces you want to know are often called the five mother sauces. This is because they are the start of almost all other sauces and they are their own head of a family of sauces.
The five sauces are bechamel, veloute sauce, hollandaise, Espagnole sauce, and classic tomato sauce. I feel like you should at the very least know how to make a bechamel and a tomato sauce.
Additional Resource: Five Mother Sauces of Classical Cuisine
How to roast a chicken.
These days I make more of my whole chickens in the Instant Pot but knowing how to roast a chicken is a useful skill. A roast chicken can be used for so many meals and is great if you want to get into meal prep.
You can get fancy when it comes to roasting a chicken but the main thing is to learn how to do a very basic roast chicken. These same skills can be used for roasting other birds as well.
Additional Resource: Brined and Roasted Chicken
Basic knife skills.
Learning basic knife skills will not only help you be a better cook but also helps keep you safe. I cringe so often when I see people cutting things because they are coming so close to cutting themselves.
New York Times Cooking has a great guide to basic knife skills. Even if you think you know what you are doing it’s not a bad idea to review. Good knives and knife skills make a huge difference in the kitchen.
You can even start teaching kids knife skills to keep them safer in the kitchen and get them involved more with cooking. If you need some help teaching your kids these skills check out Free Knife Skills Class for Kids. It can help you get started.
How to cook an egg.
Eggs can be a good quick breakfast or easy source of protein. Knowing how to at least soft boil, hard boil, scramble, fry, and cook an egg over easy can be very helpful for any home cook.
Also knowing how to properly crack an egg and separate an egg is useful. These are just skills that can take a bit of practice but are very simple.
Additional Resource: 8 Essential Methods for Cooking Eggs
How to bake a potato.
You can microwave potatoes but the texture and taste just aren’t the same. They are simple to make in the oven and it’s something everyone should know how to do.
First, wash your potatoes well. I recommend using a coir brush to make sure you get all the dirt off. Pat them dry and rub with olive oil and salt.
This next step is very important, poke holes in your potatoes with a fork. I usually just poke the fork in about four times along the top. Some people will say they never do this and have never had a potato explode but trust me it’s worth a couple of seconds. If you do have one explode, and I have, it’s a pain to clean up!
For how long it depends on the size. I generally do 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. Just poke the potato with a fork to ensure it’s soft inside.
I like to allow for some extra cook time if the potatoes are being served with other food because they always seem to take longer than you think they will.
How to make gravy.
Gravy can help a lot of dishes taste better. If you overcooked a chicken or turkey gravy will cover that up, it’s great with some warm biscuits, or with some potatoes.
Gravy is also very simple to make and so much better when homemade and not from a package. My mom posted her turkey gravy recipe and it’s a basic gravy recipe. You can just use stock instead of drippings if you aren’t making a chicken or turkey at the time.
A basic white gravy is also a good thing to know how to make if you love biscuits and gravy or prefer white gravy over your mashed potatoes. Eating on a Dime has a great white gravy recipe that you can make in 10 minutes. Add in a bit of cooked sausage and pour over biscuits and you have the perfect southern breakfast.
How to cook rice.
I usually use the rice setting on my Instant Pot for rice but it’s still a good idea to know how to make it on the stove. A friend once told me she and her dad were going to make rice and thought the water measurements given on the package were like pasta and filled the pot.
They soon figured out their mistake. Unlike pasta you want the rice to absorb the water you use and there shouldn’t be any left once the rice is done.
Poorly cooked rice is never any fun and it can be a little tricky as you get the hang of it. But once you can perfectly cook rice you have a simple and affordable grain you can add to all kinds of meals.
Additional Resource: How to Cook Rice Perfectly Every Time
How to knead dough.
Even if you never plan to make a homemade loaf of bread it’s good to know how to knead dough for many recipes. I remember learning this skill when my mom would make homemade bread. I enjoyed this task and still don’t mind it.
The basic idea is you are folding the dough over and over again. It helps make the finished product airy and light. It’s also a nice little arm workout.
Additional Resource: How to Knead Dough
How to roast vegetables.
I mostly steam my vegetables and I know a lot of people just pop them in the microwave but some vegetables really taste best when roasted and it’s a good skill to have.
Things like broccoli, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, squash, carrots, etc… are all great roasted and it’s very simple. You just want them to be pretty similar sized pieces, drizzle with some olive oil and season and that’s about it for some delicious vegetables.
Additional Resource: Oven Roasted Vegetables
How to season to taste.
Poorly seasoned food is the biggest mistake I see home cooks make. You may naturally be able to taste a dish and know what to add and be able to season easily but for most, you need to practice.
To start with you will likely want to follow recipes and season based on the recipe. Be sure to taste the food a lot as you add things to see how it changes the flavor.
Eating different foods at restaurants can also help you learn this skill. The biggest thing is to start tasting as you cook. And don’t be afraid to use new seasonings or taste a little bit on your finger to see if you think it will work well with your dish.
Once you master this skill recreating dishes becomes easier and you will have much better-tasting food.
How to make chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies were the first things I learned to bake. Chocolate chip cookies are a good simple recipe that most people enjoy so it’s useful to know how to make them.
They don’t need fancy equipment or difficult techniques so it will help you get started baking and learning. Chocolate chip cookies are also a great thing to make for guests or take to parties. And if you have mastered a recipe you can have people raving about your cookies.
Start with a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe and get really good at those before experimenting or trying different recipes. Over time you can start mixing in different things like chocolate candies or different flavors of baking chips.
This may seem overwhelming but just pick one thing at a time and keep learning. Once you have these skills you will be able to cook all kinds of things.
Knowing how to cook properly makes it much easier to avoid eating out and limit highly processed foods. It really makes eating healthier in general easier.
Another great way to practice is by signing up for a meal subscription box like Blue Apron. They do some of the work for you and give very detail instructions so you can practice cooking and start feeling more confident in the kitchen.
And parents, consider spending more time teaching your kids to cook. Kids that cook tend to eat better and it will make it easier for them as an adult to cook at home and continue healthier habits.
Meal planning is also helpful when cooking so be sure to sign up below to get my free meal planning ebook to help you get started.