How to Cook for Total Beginners
Welcome to the ultimate cooking guide for beginners. If you feel out of your element in the kitchen, you’re not alone. There are many reasons some of us never learned to cook confidently. Perhaps you had a partner who did most of the cooking, you’ve been too busy to learn, or you’re someone who’s always enjoyed eating in a restaurant. No matter how basic your cooking skills are, this article is your ultimate guide in kitchen basics.
This article will help you transition from a total cooking beginner to a confident chef, from the essential cooking tools and cooking basics to learning how to cook basic meals. Don’t forget that this is meant to be fun! Choose recipes you love, the kitchen utensils that feel right to you, and an approach to cooking that helps you build up your skill steadily and confidently. Move at your own pace and make your cooking personal and creative to get the most out of your cooking journey. Boomerang is here to support you on your culinary journey with useful tips, tricks, and classes as you explore cooking from home.
The benefits of cooking
Learning a new skill can be intimidating, so it’s good to remember why you want to learn to cook. What are your goals? If you’ve made microwave meals a habit, you’ll need some extra motivation to get into the habit of cooking your own meals. Think about why you want to learn to cook. What simple, home-cooked meals do you love? What vision do you have for yourself and your cooking? You may want to impress someone you care about by making them a lovely meal or start a new healthy journey with nutritious meals that are easy to pre-prepare.
Here are some of the benefits of cooking that may motivate you to begin your own cooking journey:
Lose weight and gain nutritional value
Studies show that people who regularly make home-cooked meals for themselves consume fewer calories. When you prepare your own food, you’re more aware of what’s in the food you’re eating. Making your own meals also lets you modify the food you’re cooking to include food groups you need more of. Perhaps your doctor has said that you need to consume more vitamin C. If you’re cooking from home, it’s easy to research vegetables that contain high levels of vitamin C and work them into the recipe you’re making. Cooking helps us to be intentional and aware of what we’re putting into our bodies. Studies also show that by understanding food and cooking at home, your overall eating habits change—even when you aren’t cooking for yourself. People who cook for themselves also tend to make healthier choices and consume fewer calories when eating out at restaurants. Cooking at home not only ups nutritional value and helps give your metabolism a boost, but it also changes your lifestyle and habits in positive ways.
Save money by cooking at home
Cooking for yourself is a great money-saver. Takeout meals can be expensive, and delivery costs often add extra costs to restaurant meals. By learning the basics of cooking, you’ll be able to cook great meals for yourself without spending much money. If you’re looking for motivation, add up the approximate cost of the ingredients in the pizza or pasta you order online or at a restaurant. Then think about the cost of the dough, noodles, vegetables, and sauces you’d need to make your own. Realizing the true cost of the food you’re eating can inspire you to meal prep and cook more at home. Think of the money you’re saving! If you’re cooking at home, treat yourself by buying the fancy cheese or a premium brand of pasta to enhance the flavour and add some luxury to any recipe.
Show others you care
Cooking is an easy, cost-effective way of showing thoughtful care for those you love. A home-cooked meal tells those you care about that you’re willing to make an effort to make them feel special.
If you’re in a partnership and one partner is always cooking for the kids or grandchildren, imagine their joy when you announce you’ll be making dinner this evening! Cooking is an act of service that requires effort and always offers a reward.
Even as a beginner chef, you can learn simple recipes to whip up a lovely soup, pasta, stew, or stir fry that everyone can enjoy. If you’re not great at saying how you feel, a home-cooked meal always tells someone you care about them.
If you’re looking to show support for a friend who lives alone, dropping off a casserole is a great way to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
Ready to start dating again? Cooking is a classy way to infuse some romance into an otherwise ordinary encounter. Find out what your partner loves to eat and learn to make their favourite recipe. Light some candles and pour them a glass of wine. Then you’ll have an easy way to break the ice as you cook, and they have a chance to marvel at your culinary confidence.
Cooking is therapeutic
If you’re new to cooking, you may not yet know the joys of conquering a new recipe. But being able to master a new skill, invent a delicious flavour, or explore a new cuisine builds confidence. Cooking can have a positive influence on your overall quality of life, from how you feel about yourself to your quality of life and social confidence. Cooking can be a creative, fun way to create and enjoy something new.
5 essential cooking tools for beginners
Here are some of the basic tools you’ll want to have if you’re just getting started in the kitchen. You may want to expand your kitchen with fancier tools as you go along, especially as you try new recipes and grow into more advanced techniques. The kitchen tools on this list are meant to be a starting place so you can get cooking and make the most basic, delicious recipes with confidence.
1. A sharp kitchen knife
You may already have a knife, but it’s wise to invest in a good kitchen knife with a sharp blade. This will make chopping easier and save you time as you begin cooking. You’ll want to take good care of this essential kitchen utensil, so store it in a block or knife holder to keep the blade sharp and wash it (carefully) by hand. Choose your knife intentionally. This is one kitchen tool to invest a bit more money in since you’ll be using it nearly every time you cook.
How to choose the best chef’s knife:
Hold the knife in your hand. It should have a decent weight but feel easy to control, with a comfortable heaviness. If it feels flimsy, it’s the wrong knife.
Invest in a good quality chef’s knife.
Consider purchasing a serrated edge knife to easily cut bread or more dense vegetables.
Overall, you’re looking to choose a knife that’s sharp and cuts smoothly.
2. A strainer or colander
This is a multi-purpose tool that you can use in a variety of different ways. Regardless of where you’re buying your fruits or vegetables, you’ll want to rinse them before cooking with them. A decently sized strainer lets you rinse and clean effortlessly. Choose something practical or have fun with a unique stoneware piece. Pasta recipes also require some straining; after you boil your noodles, you’ll pour them into a strainer to get rid of the extra water. Then you can add them back into a pan to add your sauce. Choose ceramic or metal strainers with a sturdy base to use boiling liquids without worry.
There are many different kinds of spatulas, but we recommend you begin with two spatulas in your kitchen: a metal spatula and a silicone spatula.
Metal spatula: A solid metal spatula can be used for flipping, stir-frying, tossing, and serving the delicious meals you’re about to cook. Whether you’re flipping eggs and pancakes for breakfast or serving a roasted salmon dish, this spatula will serve you and your guests well.
Silicone spatula: The second spatula, made of silicone, will help you get the last bits of pancake batter out of the mixing bowl or food processor. This spatula will also save you time on cleanup and ensure you’re not wasting any of the delicious salad dressing, sauce, or dip that you made.
You likely learned how to use a whisk if you spent any time in the kitchen as a kid. Whisking is an easy, fun job that fluffs eggs, stirs together a dressing, or combines dry ingredients. There are many different whisk sizes, but choose one that’s medium size and has a bit of weight in your hand. If your whisk is too small, it will be harder to use. If it’s too large, you’ll make more of a mess! A medium whisk with a handle that’s comfortable is the perfect accessory to your beginner’s kitchen.
5. A skillet
This skillet or pan will quickly become your best friend. It may seem like a lot to invest in a good pan, but as you begin cooking, you’ll quickly realize that you’re using this skillet for almost every meal. Why buy a decent skillet? It will make you into a better chef. Cheap skillets make it harder to flip or fry, and you’ll notice that your cooking sticks or chars easily to a flimsy pan. A good quality cast iron skillet will keep you from burning your meals and make flipping a fun and easy activity! The best part? A good cast-iron skillet without a plastic handle goes right in the oven, so you’re saving dishes and cutting down on the steps you need to learn a new recipe.
Here are a few more items that you might want to have in your beginner’s kitchen:
A slotted wooden spoon for stirring, making pasta and stew, and mixing things.
Saucepans for making sauces and stews.
Mixing bowls of different sizes to help organize your ingredients as you cook.
Sheet pans and baking dishes to easily slide in and out of the oven.
A great blender to make smoothies, mix sauces, or prepare dressings for your recipes.
A grater for cheese, lemon zest, or other ingredients you may wish to add to your cooking. Choose one with a variety of textures so you can make very fine or thicker flakes depending on your recipe.
A great wooden cutting board to chop ingredients. Consider buying two so that you can use one for stronger flavours like garlic, which tend to linger and can affect the taste of whatever you use the board to chop afterwards.
Kitchen safety 101
If you’re new to cooking, it’s smart to take a moment to consider kitchen safety. As a beginner chef, you’ll want to make a note of safety considerations to ensure that the food you’re making and the way you prepare it is safe for you and anyone you’re cooking for.
Handle knives with care
Now that you’ve purchased a sharp kitchen knife make sure you keep it stored safely with the blades covered. If it’s loose in a drawer, you’ll be more likely to accidentally cut yourself. When you’re chopping something, ensure that your cutting board doesn’t wobble and always cut away from yourself with your fingers out of the way of the blade. By choosing a sharp knife, you’re also choosing safety. You should never have to wrestle with a vegetable to chop it or struggle with force to cut something. A sharp knife does the job for you so that you can cut carefully and responsibly while you are cooking.
Cooking your own meals means respecting the risks involved with raw chicken, fish, meat, and unwashed vegetables. Salmonella or food poisoning is a serious risk that can cause serious illness, so it’s important to take food safety and cross-contamination seriously. Make sure you wash vegetables before you eat them, even if you’re using organic produce. When handling raw meat, work with a clean surface and wash your hands and counter thoroughly before (and after) touching the uncooked product. Wash and throw away or recycle the container the raw meat was in immediately, and don’t leave it on the counter. Wipe counters, wash dishes, and dry everything before and after you cook a meal.
Think preventatively in the kitchen
Kitchen safety is all about thinking ahead and minimizing any risks. If you’re a first-time cook or have limited mobility, you’ll want to take extra precautions in the kitchen.
If you have children, grandchildren, or pets, they’ll likely be curious about what you’re cooking up—especially if you’re someone who hasn’t frequented the kitchen before. Try to keep kids and pets out of the cooking area if you can’t keep an eye on them while you’re preparing food. Even if your pet knows not to leap up onto the counters or swipe a taste of your food, you could trip over a furry friend or get caught off guard while carrying a hot liquid.
Make sure that your fire alarms are properly installed and up to date, and clean your oven if it hasn’t been used in a long time. Don’t let spray cans or oils sit near your stovetop, and wear shorter sleeves when you’re working over a hot stove. Consider setting a timer so your food doesn’t burn.
Minimize kitchen stress when you’re cooking for the first time. Being in a rush or pressed for time can make cooking feel more stressful than it needs to me. Give yourself more than enough time to prepare a meal and plan ahead so that you won’t feel panicked about having a meal prepared on time or synchronizing the prep time of a sauce with the rest of the dish you’re creating.
The best starter meals for beginner cooking
The simplest recipes can also be the most delicious. Learning the essential recipes is anything but boring. There’s always a fun way to change up a recipe or make it your own with modifications. Learn the basics of cooking, and you’ll be able to modify recipes and easily impress those you love with your confident cooking.
Egg dishes like omelets or scrambled eggs are simple and will let you learn the basics of your stovetop while understanding and mastering the essentials of the perfect, fluffy egg breakfast. Add your favourite vegetables, spices, and flavours until you get the recipe just the way you like it.
Pancakes are another brilliant breakfast staple that you can have some fun with. Once you master pancakes from scratch, try adding delicious toppings or adding different things to the mix to experiment with flavour. Try sprinkling cinnamon on a pancake before you flip it, sprinkling blueberries into your batter, or adding a dollop of yogurt or ricotta to the batter for a more dense, creamy flavour.
Roast a chicken along with an array of root vegetables. You might be surprised to learn that roasting a chicken is remarkably simple. Make an impressive feast with an all-in-one dish that roasts your chicken at the same time as it perfects root vegetables, big pieces of garlic, onion, and potato.
Learn to cook with Boomerang’s online classes
Our online community at Boomerang is a great place to source inspiration for your next great adventure from the comfort of your home. Our community members love to share cooking tips, information, insights, and ideas. Whether you’re looking to try something new or develop skills you already have, our community learns by doing. Learn more about our cooking workshops and events.
Are you looking for more cozy winter inspiration? Take a minute to sign up for Boomerang and learn to make festive holiday appetizers or the best pancakes ever. Cozy up with a book, and chat about it with an online club or learn more about health and mindfulness. Boomerang is a great place to learn, make friends and get inspired for a cozy, fulfilling winter season. We’re here to help you get things cooking with confidence.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.