Sustenance. Stress relief. Health. To attract a good woman. To keep a good woman. To save money on takeout. There are so many reasons to take up cooking, but where to start when you’ve done much more than toasted bread?
Going from kitchen novice to capable culinarian starts with assembling the right tools and mastering a few key recipes.
In the kitchen, holding a high-quality chef’s knife is like having the keys to the kingdom. Armed with a beautifully sharpened, expertly balanced piece of cutlery, you can do everything from dicing an onion to breaking down an entire side of beef (you might want to work up to that second option though). You don’t need to spend a fortune to pick up something utilitarian and durable.
- Start with a standard 8-inch chef’s knife
- Try the knife in person or order online from a company with a generous return policy — the right knife will feel comfortable and evenly weighted in your hand
- Carbon steel is often the choice of pro cooks, but stainless steel is far easier to maintain
Once you bring home your new knife, treat it right by storing it properly and never, ever putting it in the dishwasher (the abrasives in dishwasher soap will destroy your blade).
Cast Iron Skillet
Your grandma’s loyalty to her ancient cast iron skillet wasn’t just some generational oddity. These bad boys are the original nonstick pans (assuming you prep them correctly or buy one that’s pre-seasoned) but without those suspicious chemical coatings. They’re suitable for use on the stove or in the oven, they clean up a jiffy, and they even add iron to your food which is a way more delicious way to supplement than downing a bunch of horse-sized vitamins.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of cast iron is its versatility. Your grandma probably fried a lot of chicken, but you can also braise, bake, sear, sauté, broil, and roast. Make a chicken pot pie one day and a brookie the next. Learn how to clean your cast iron properly and it’ll last virtually forever.
Pizza is life, which explains why Americans spend about $10 billion every year getting it delivered. It’s a somewhat curious habit when pizza is so easy to make at home, but while the ingredients are quick to come by, it’s difficult to replicate the crust you get from those industrial ovens. Soggy crust is such a bummer. A pizza stone changes the game completely. The porous material draws out water to create a crispier exterior while preheating the stone heats the crust immediately while the inside gets a slightly slower, softer cook. The result is a pizza that offers both crunch and chew. Two thumbs up.
But wait — there’s more! Pizza stones are good for making bread, potato chips, cookies, quesadillas, and crackers, too.
Instant Pot/Slow Cooker
Call it the comeback kid. The humble pressure cooker is in the middle of a major resurgence, but they’ve gotten rid of the risk factor — no more iffy clasps and guesswork — and made them nearly foolproof by adding high-tech venting mechanisms and digital interfaces. Most versions, like the Instant Pot, double as a slow cooker. Whether you want to turn your veggie scraps into broth, hard boil eggs in big batches as part of your weekly meal prep, or satisfy your craving for comfort food with a ginormous bowl of mac and cheese, the Instant Pot has your back.
Three Impressive Recipes Even a Beginner Can Pull Off
No-Fail Roast Chicken with Lemon and Garlic
Roast chicken is a classic and almost universally beloved. The crispy skin, the juicy meat — it’s memorable and can stand on its own yet also serves a blank canvas for whatever flavors or side dishes you want to add. This version only has six ingredients (and that includes salt and pepper) and makes great use of your new cast iron pan. Make one for yourself and give the Postmates driver a break for once or whip this up for a date.
Artichoke, Spinach, and Prosciutto Flatbreads with Spicy Honey
Anyone can toss some pizza sauce and mozzarella on a prebaked crust and call it pizza, but is that really your style? We thought not. This recipe is a winner not just because spicy honey is the best thing since avocado toast (go ahead, try and argue!) but because the other ingredients are either pantry staples or bought frozen. In other words, shop smart and you’ll always have everything you need to make the perfect pie.
Feeling industrious? Swap out the frozen dough for this easy homemade version.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Get a few versatile recipes under your belt and you exponentially expand your culinary options. This pulled pork is a tasty example. It only takes a few minutes to prep, then the pork cooks all day while you’re at work or out hiking or however you like to while away an afternoon. A quick shred of the lusciously tender meat and you have a succulent treat that you can throw on a bun for a tailgate-worthy sandwich or you can pair it with greens and precut veggies for a hearty salad, plop it on a roasted sweet potato and top with Greek yogurt and chives for a healthy lunch, or put on a grilled cheese just because you can.