10 Simple Tips for Beginner Cooks

If you’re starting to cook for yourself for the first time, these cooking tips for beginners will help you to feel more confident!

A woman wearing a checked dress chops a yellow pepper, there are other ingredients on the tables such as chillis, tomatoes onions and garlic

Spending time in the kitchen can be a very relaxing pastime, stirring pots and pans as you rustle up some delicious food. 

But if you’re just starting university or leaving home for the first time, and you haven’t cooked much before, the kitchen can be a daunting place. It’s easy to fall into a rut of microwave meals, instant ramen and expensive takeaways.

So here are a few simple tips that will help any beginner cook to feel more at home. Follow these beginner cooking tips and before long, you’ll be feeling much more confident in the kitchen!

A white china bowl filled with penne pasta in a creamy tomato and mascarpone sauce

Start with something simple

If you’re a beginner cook, don’t be tempted to dive straight in with something complicated like a Beef Wellington or a three course dinner for eight. 

Start off with some simple recipes, preferably something that you already know that you enjoy eating. If you’re looking for simple recipes for beginner cooks, this Creamy Tomato Penne Pasta is an ideal place to start. There’s only a little bit of chopping and very little that can go wrong. 

The more you practise, the more confident you will get and before long you’ll be able to tackle something more complicated.

First read the recipe

Before you even start to cook a recipe, read the list of ingredients and the instructions all the way through. This will help you to get a clear idea of what you need to do, and avoid any nasty surprises like a 2 hour marinating time that you hadn’t planned for.

Once you know what the recipe involves, then you can move on to getting things organised.

Next assemble your equipment

When you’re ready to start cooking, get all of the equipment you need together and within easy reach.  That way, you won’t discover that you need an extra pan, or find that you’re missing a vital piece of kit while you’re busy whisking a sauce. 

If you don’t have enough space on your worktop to set out all of the equipment you need, just make sure that everything is close at hand and easy to reach.

A young man places chopped peppers into a glass bowl ready for cooking later

Prepare your ingredients before you start

When you’ve got a little more experience in the kitchen, you’ll probably be able to start cooking some recipes while you’re still preparing the ingredients. But when you’re a beginner cook, that is just a recipe for extra stress. 

So while you’re still finding your feet in the kitchen, be sure to prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking. Put each chopped ingredient in a separate bowl, plate or tupperware box and cover them if you’re not going to use them straight away. You might want to pop some ingredients back in the fridge to keep them cold, if you won’t need them for a while.

A woman in jeans and a green jumper loads crockery into the dishwasher

Clean up as you go

Cooking is much more stressful if you’ve got cluttered surfaces and can’t find a clear piece of work surface to use. And there’s nothing worse than finishing a lovely meal and then having to clear up a messy kitchen.

So have a quick clear around before you start cooking and then try to clear up as you go along. If you’ve got a dishwasher, you can pop things in there as you finish using them. If you haven’t got a dishwasher, then run a sink of hot soapy water so that you can put utensils and pans in soak while you’re enjoying your meal. 

Have a practice run

It’s always a bit more stressful when you’re cooking for other people. So if you’re planning to cook for friends or family, it’s safer to choose recipes that you’ve tried before and know that you can cook well. 

If you really want to impress someone with a new recipe, it’s a good idea to have a trial run a few days beforehand. It’ll help to iron out any tricky bits and you’ll feel more confident on the day.

Cook at the right temperature

Although it can be tempting to turn the heat up so that your food is cooked sooner, it’s really not a great idea. You could end up burning food onto your pans, which either means scrubbing for ages or having to pay for new ones. Or if you’re cooking meat, you could end up burning the outside while the middle is still raw.

It’s much safer to stick to the temperatures stated in a recipe, and that’s especially important if you’re baking. If you’re in a rush, you’re better off looking for a recipe that takes less time to cook, rather than ruining your food by using the wrong temperatures.

A young man and woman smile as they cook together. The woman is holding two glasses of red wine while the man grates parmesan

Season as you go

Seasoning your food properly is really important if you want to get the best possible results. And it’s much better to season your food as you cook it, rather than when it’s on your plate. Some spices need a long slow cook to really bring out their flavours properly, so make sure you add them to your pan at the right point in the recipe. 

Then, just before you serve your food, taste it one last time to see if it needs more seasoning. You might want to add a pinch more salt and pepper, or lift the flavours with a squeeze of lemon juice. You might even want to add some hot sauce if the recipe isn’t quite spicy enough for you!

Don’t be afraid to experiment

When you’re a beginner cook, you will probably want to stick closely to recipes to make sure you get the best possible results. But as you gain confidence, feel free to make some changes to suit what you have in your kitchen and what you enjoy eating.

Some of our recipes will have suggestions for how you can make changes to them, such as  changing the vegetables, meat or spices to give a different flavour. But don’t be afraid to add your own twist to recipes, that’s part of the fun!

A group of three young women smile as they cook together. One is holding a tablet while another breaks eggs into a bowl, the third is waiting to mix the ingredients

Have fun!

And having fun is definitely an important part of cooking. Good nutritious food is important for our health but cooking and sharing food is also great for socialising as well as being a great hobby.

So follow these beginner cooking tips and when you’re feeling more confident, challenge yourself to try something new. Share the results with friends and family, and have some fun in the kitchen. 

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