4 Helpful Resources for Learning to Cook (or become a better cook)

A lack of cooking skills is a barrier to meal planning for many people. And being able to cook homemade meals is a great goal for anyone who wants to move away from takeout and pre-made food. 

The second half of this post has resources for learning how to cook, from popular YouTube channels, to helpful websites, but first, I’d like to share my personal tips for learning how to cook. 

Tips: 

1) Learn technique rather than recipes.

Reading a recipe and following directions is simple enough, but if you don’t know the cooking techniques needed to follow the steps correctly, your recipe won’t turn out the way you want it to. Start by learning simple techniques like how to chop an onion or dice celery. These might seem too simple, but if you are cooking savory recipes, you’ll do these steps over and over, so learning how to do it right will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Knife skills are super important for any cook! You will also need to learn the difference between what is boiling vs. simmering and even how to whisk eggs or liquids. Learn techniques first and following recipes will be easy!

2) Read the recipe before you start cooking! 

This was the first thing my mom taught me for cooking and baking and it’s still the first thing I do when I pick a new recipe. Reading through the entire recipe gives you a chance to look up any words or techniques you don’t know, make sure you have all the ingredients, and understand the general flow of the recipe. You get to know things like should I prep everything first because the recipe comes together fast? Or do I have time to chop veggies while something else is cooking? Getting an idea of what’s next and how much effort each step requires is going to help you feel more confident while cooking and make the process more fun!

3) Start with simple recipes.

I define a simple recipe as one that requires only a few ingredients and has clear instructions. Even if a recipe claims to “come together in 30 minutes”, doesn’t mean it’s simple and easy to follow. I have found many “quick” recipes are only quick if you don’t count all the prep and chopping involved before the cooking starts. 

Find a favorite recipe author who explains the recipe steps in a way that makes sense to you – or rewrite a recipe in words that help you understand the process – and get good at making those simple recipes before moving on to more challenging recipes and techniques.

a young woman lifting the top off a black cast iron pot

Resources:

1) Cooking classes

If you’re serious about learning how to cook, and you have the funds to do so, getting hands-on experience is the best way to start. A cooking class with professional instruction will allow you to learn and ask questions in real time, which is so important for building confidence in the kitchen. Do a quick web search for in-person cooking classes in your area or look into a virtual cooking class. We love the simple, approachable recipes that Debbie Brosnan of The Effortless Kitchen teaches in her classes or if you already have a subscription, Masterclass offers multiple cooking lessons. 

2) YouTube channels

For a zero cost solution, turn to the many YouTube channels that can help you learn to cook. Chef John from Food Wishes does a great job of teaching techniques and basic recipes. Kenji Lopez cooks recipes that might feel outside your comfort zone as a newbie cook, but he does a great job of explaining how to do each step and why. 

We love Mary’s Nest for learning how to cook traditional home cooked foods like a simple roast chicken, bone broth, and all types of ferments. If you’re vegan or trying to eat more plants, follow Maddie at Let’s Eat Plants for great meal prep advice and plant-based recipes. 

3) Websites

Of course there are thousands of recipe websites and blogs available to you once you feel more confident in the kitchen but sites like America’s Test Kitchen and AllRecipes also have their own cooking courses. Look into America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School and check out the Kitchen Tips section on AllRecipes. 

4) Ask for help

Cooking is a great way to build community and connection with others. Ask a trusted friend, relative, or even neighbor to show you how to cook their favorite dish. We all have our own “tricks of the trade” from years of mistakes and recipe fails, so even if someone isn’t a professional chef, they probably still have a few lessons to teach you!

 

I want to encourage you to simply get in the kitchen and start. You will learn to cook by cooking, so don’t be afraid to get started. Make some mistakes. Follow a recipe and see how it goes! Good luck!

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