Cooking, for beginners, can be confusing and intimidating. When I was new to the kitchen, I felt the same way. What ultimately changed everything for me was gaining gaining confidence with the simple things and then branching out. But to help me write this article, I enlisted the help of some of the best cooking peeps in our audience. We came up with 39 cooking tips for beginners. Enjoy.
Wanting to eat healthier and having the skills to follow through with that goal are two separate things. Sometimes, it’s the cooking part that gets in the way.
As a former kitchen scaredy cat, I know how important it is to have solid beginner tips to get off on the right foot. It’s the best way to gain confidence in the kitchen.
Cooking for Beginners – The 39 Tips
1. Keep the freezer stocked with organic frozen veggies.
If you’ve got frozen veggies on hand, all you need is a protein and some healthy fat and you’ve got a meal. This goes A LONG way toward staying consistent.
2. You can always add more.
But you can’t take ingredients away once they’re in. This is especially true with salt. So build up a recipe slowly rather than getting ballsy on the front end.
3. Learn spices the easy way.
A great way to learn spices is to have a single spice on your eggs in the morning. One at a time experience the smell and taste of each spice alone just on your eggs until you have a visceral association with each one. Then start to combine them. It will enhance your cooking skills rapidly.
4. Be okay with failing.
Sometimes things just don’t workout or go as planned. Throwing food away sucks, but all great cooks have thrown food away. Expect to have to do that sometimes and don’t beat yourself up.
5. Do NOT cook when hungry.
Do not cook when you’re hungry. You will rush things and not properly season them, Taking your time in the kitchen is critical to a wonderful outcome.
6. Listen to music.
Listen to music while cooking it helps relax you and passes the time. Cooking can be meditative and enjoyable, especially when you cultivate the right atmosphere.
7. Cook in batches.
Batch cooking is amazing. Cook up a bunch of easy peasy turkey meatballs, meatloaf, hard-boiled eggs, asparagus, broccoli and whatever other meats/veggies you like. Then, have fruit on hand to grab as well as individual baggies of nuts. Boom — you’re set for the entire week and don’t have to slave in the kitchen every day.
8. Watch cooking shows on TV.
Cooking shows will teach you a few things here and there, but mainly they’ll get you engaged in the process and motivated to take action. That’s critical.
9. Get a sharp French knife.
One of the best things you can get is a quality French knife and keep it sharpened. This will make cutting all those veggies a breeze! Dull knives make cooking painful!
10. Forget about fancy gadgets.
Forget about all the gadgets. Just get real tools for real food. The worst thing when cooking is not having the right pan, the right knife, or core things like an electric mixer or baking sheet.
11. Don’t improvise!
Find a recipe and follow it to the letter. Improvising in the kitchen is not for beginners! Sometimes it takes a few attempts to get it right, so don’t let mistakes stop you from trying again.
12. Save on seasonings.
Instead of investing a lot of money on individual seasonings, buy spice blends: Mexican, Italian, Greek, sea food, etc. Just be sure to check ingredients for ﬁllers and other nasties.
13. Prep and organize ahead of time.
Prep and organize your produce, meats and groceries as soon as possible after you come home from the market based on your menu for the week. This will save you so much time and stress.
14. Get an automatic shutoﬀ steamer.
All veggies can be steamed in under 6 minutes. Almost anything can be steamed, really. You can set it, go workout, and by the time you’re ﬁnished showering you have a healthy homemade meal. Steam On!
15. Make mason jar salads.
Make mason jar salads on Sunday for the next 5 days. Dressing in the bottom of the jar, layer the veggies and meat and put the lettuce on top. Nothing gets soggy and your lunch requires no more thought for the week.
16. Master two options for each meal time.
Find two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners that aren’t complicated and master them. This builds a platform of conﬁdence to branch out from.
17. Get a George Foreman grill.
I know it sounds cliche, but it’s so easy to cook chicken and hamburgers (especially in winter) on a George Foreman Grill without worrying about over or under cooking. And there is practically no mess or cleanup.
18. Deﬁnitely start with a slow cooker!
Grab a slow cooker and look for as many crockpot meals or freezer meals as possible. For the most part, these will allow you to chop up some veggies and meat and then forget about them while they’re cooking, which is great when you’re busy or not conﬁdent in your cooking skills.
19. Learn the basic cooking terms.
Print out a quick guide that tells you what diﬀerent cooking terms mean (found in the free guide ). I avoided cooking meat for so long because I didn’t know what sauté meant!
20. Clean up as you go.
Clean up as you go. The mess won’t be as big and it will give you something to do in between some of the steps that require a little time to complete on their own. Cooking will be so much more enjoyable this way because the clean up won’t be daunting.
21. Get a cast iron pan.
Get a cast iron pan (cheap!) and a decent knife. These two tools will revolutionize your kitchen. Learn to pan sear meat in it. You can cook salmon, scallops, steak, pork chops, almost anything with a bit of good salt and cracked pepper and a nice fat in only a few minutes. Add a salad and you’re done. So easy and so good.
22. Taste as you cook.
Get into what you’re cooking. Tease yourself as you go. This is especially true with sauces. It’ll also let you know if what you’re making needs more seasoning with herbs or spices.
23. Create a beautiful atmosphere.
Invest in making your kitchen look pretty! It sounds superﬁcial but it creates an atmosphere that you’re happy to be in. And that makes cooking fun!
24. Read recipes ahead of time.
Use a recipe and read it all the way through before you begin, Make sure you have all ingredients, the time to do all the steps (such as allowing time to marinade), and understand all the instructions (such as “sauté” or “broil”). Don’t shy away if you don’t understand something. Look it up or ask someone — that’s how you expand your skill set.
25. Defrost meat completely.
Defrost your meat completely before baking, frying, grilling, and so on. If you start cooking with chicken that’s still a bit frozen, it’s going to be tough, dry, or rubbery.
26. Season with the trinity.
The trinity works for a myriad of recipes. Lemon juice, salt and pepper. What are you waiting for?
27. Choose recipes that have common ingredients.
Most people can’t discern exotic ingredients. Simple foods, well cooked, bring big wins.
28. Learn to roast veggies.
Roasting vegetables in the oven with a little bit of oil gives them great texture and caramelizes the natural sugars. It’s a simple way to enhance their ﬂavor. You can roast any vegetable at 350 degrees until the edges are crispy and golden. Don’t salt them until they’re done cooking (salt draws out water so salting them before cooking can make them soggy), and play around with artisan salts for diﬀerent ﬂavors.
29. Be fully present.
Be fully present in your cooking. Things can go from undercooked, to cooked, to burned within a matter of minutes, and frustrate you. This is also an important tip to have a better connection with the food you’re eating, which creates a healthier relationship with food.
30. Practice with eggs.
It’s cheap. Learning to cook eggs a variety of diﬀerent ways gets you in tune with your pans and tools, heat variations, and so on. And if you mess anything up, it’s only a few cents down the drain.
31. Involve your family.
Cook with your partner or family members. It’s a lot more fun & you can create/improvise together. If you screw up, you screw up together. If you succeed, you have someone to high ﬁve. And it’s a new way to connect in a world where connection time is growing more and more scarce.
32. Conquer one cooking medium.
It’s best if you learn to cook on just one medium at a time: the stove, the oven, the grill, or the slow cooker. It gets you in tune with each medium so you’re not doing it all at once. Once you’ve mastered one, move on to the next.
33. Don’t put food in a cold pan.
Let the pan heat up before you start cooking food in it. Sometimes people rush things and toss the food right in.
34. Start with soup.
Soup, like a slow cooker recipe, is more free-form. There’s a lot more wiggle room and lot less focus on speciﬁc cooking times.
35. Eggs and dairy products should be room temperature.
It’s a beginner mistake to cook with eggs or dairy products straight out of the fridge. Take dairy products out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to use.
36. Be patient with cooked meat.
If you just ﬁnished cooking meat, don’t slice into it right away. That will dry it out. Let cooked meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes before doing anything to it. If it’s a roast or something of similar size, wait 20 to 25 minutes.
37. Pre-chop your veggies.
Chop veggies as soon as you buy them and store in separate containers. Then you won’t have to do a bunch of cutting all at once. Totally worth it.
38. 4+4 for quick success.
I always make 4 kinds of veggies and 4 kinds of meat at once. During the busy work week, I can just add seasonings and I have a quick and easy meal.
39. Give veggies some space!
When roasting veggies in the oven, it’s important that they have space. People crowd the pan and it ruins the process. If you roast less veggies at a time, they’ll be 3-4x as good.
That’s all our tips for cooking for beginners. Add your tips and questions!
Do you have an excellent cooking tip for beginners that hasn’t been mentioned? Or, do you have a question about a tip or beginner-level cooking? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and programs like Shut Down Your Sugar Cravings.