(Closed) My friend asked me to teach her to cook. Where do I start?

posted 4 years ago in Cooking
Post # 2
1032 posts
Bumble bee

I’d start with her taking a recipe and making it. That way you can see how she actually does things. Then you can take the next steps. You can also answer her questions if the recipe calls for a certain dice or food she doesn’t know. 

Post # 3
2890 posts
Sugar bee

I would start with easy recipes that you two can follow together step by step. Like an entrée of bruschettas (which you can use on bread, as a salsa dip, or as a topping for brie cheese), cooking a chicken breast (and using it in salads, sandwiches, pasta), and baking a vanilla cake (and showing her she can do cupcakes with it instead, and instead of vanilla, she can do chocolate or other flavours).

Basically, I would opt for recipes that are easy but can be versatile.

Post # 4
9916 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

There’s no guarantee she knows how to follow a recipe.  I’d start there.  What is her ultimate goal?

Post # 5
1000 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2016

Check out The Four Hour Chef. Tim Ferriss isn’t necessarily the nicest or most modest of men but he breaks down the skill pretty well. Another book I *love* is Herbs and Spices. And my favorite recipe book, when it comes down to it, is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. 

Okay, as far as where to start with basic stuff: if she can boil water, that’s a start. So begin with things that involve boiling water: pasta, boiled eggs. 

Then maybe go toward things like pancakes and omelettes. That way she can make you a Sunday brunch as a Thank-You 😉

Afterward, I vote for baking cookies. Then start to go through dinners: combining herbs & spices with meats and vegetables to create delicious meals.

Post # 6
1000 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2016

I would say emphasize technique also – teach her what dicing, julienning, broiling, boiling, etc means.. then follow recipes with regard to her interests.

Post # 7
4415 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

peachacid:  +1

Following a recipe is only easy if you know what “brown the meat” and “dice up half an onion” and “whisk the flour in until it begins to thicken” mean … which, if you can’t cook at all, is extremely daunting! I’d start with spaghetti. It teaches a lot of simple skills while also being pretty easy and universally delicious.

Post # 8
2945 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

I think I would start by asking her some questions.  What does she exactly want to learn?  Is it everything, or is it “I don’t know how to do XYZ” After that, I would put together a board of pintrest recipies that are basic, and let her pick what to start with.  I don’t think cooking is much fun if you don’t like what you are cooking afterwards. 

Post # 9
992 posts
Busy bee


Overjoyed:  As someone who is a terrible cook, I can tell you the points where I tend to struggle. The first time I cooked for my Fiance (we’d been dating almost 5 months. He’s a fabulous cook and he’d cooked me dinner just about every night since we started dating, so I wanted to cook dinner just once to give him the night off), I chose a simple marinated chicken breast with a side of green beans and potatoes. Here’s everywhere I went wrong:

  • I had no idea what chicken to buy when I went to the grocery store. How do you know if it’s “good”? Bone in? boneless? breasts or tenderloins? etc.? I had no idea and spent forever comparing before I flipped a coin and walked away.
  • I got home and threw together the marinade from a recipe I found online. It only covered 1/2 the chicken (I actually still don’t know if that would have been fine), and I didn’t have enough ingredients to just double the marinade and had already had to go to the store twice, so I improvised and just added more white wine until the chicken was covered
  • I let it marinade for the amount of time the recipe called for and then put it in a baking dish in the oven. I was really worried about killing my now-FI and I with salmonella, so I cooked it way longer than the recipe said because I figured “better safe than sorry”
  • I cooked the green beans way too early & didn’t season them at all, so they were cold and bland by dinner time
  • I didn’t start the potatoes early enough, so they were undercooked and inedible by dinner time.
  • In the end, the chicken was super dry and tasted AWFUL because, well, it basically tasted like wierd meaty white wine.

Fiance tried to choke it all down so I didn’t feel bad, but in the end, we ordered pizza and he made me swear not to try to “surprise” him with dinner anymore…if I want to cook, he’ll supervise.

So what I would recommend to you is, don’t just show up and expect her to have everything she needs or show up with everything…go to the store w/ her and help her learn how to pick the right ingredients, make sure she’s got a meat thermometer & knows how to use it, and help her learn how to manage both a main dish & sides as far as timing goes. Good luck.

Post # 10
1984 posts
Buzzing bee

Overjoyed:  I would just honestly have her come over once or twice a week to cook with you. That’s how I learned. I went over to my grandma’s house at least once a week and we would spend the day cooking. Anything from bread to sides to entrees to desserts.

Post # 11
14494 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

One of the first things I’d show her is to make a good roux and a basic gravy. It’s one of the most versatile things she can do. In my house, cover even the crappiest food with my gravy and the guys will suck it down fast. 

Post # 12
11657 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: May 2014

Overjoyed:  my step mom can ONLY cook from a recipe and even that she has trouble with.  I think I’d start by finding out what she CAN cook.  Can she boil water?  Can she cook kraft dinner?  Can she chop a vegetable? What is her skill level and go from there.

Post # 13
767 posts
Busy bee

Overjoyed:  I think it is one of those things that just takes time to get that intuition.  But you can still definitely help her! I think a mistake made by most people who say they can’t cook is that they don’t truly follow a recipe and pay attention to the ingredients or instructions.  Like buying chicken breasts when the recipe calls for thighs, taking shortcuts, etc.  When you’re starting off, you really want to follow recipes to a T.  Later on, you learn what kind of creative liberties you can take.  For instance I rarely measure spices anymore, I can do it by look and feel.  But I also know where precision matters, like in baking.  So I’d start off by getting her to actually follow recipes when you cook together, and encouraging her to practice on her own.

Post # 14
123 posts
Blushing bee

Cooking was something I learned on my own. Nobody taught me. I do collect a lot of cookbooks. I would suggest your friend goes on allrecipes(dot)com, they have a lot of instructional videos. I think it is wonderful you are helping your friend. also, suggest she watch cooking shows like Pioneer woman and there are other cooking channels on youtube. Your friend will know she is a good cook when someone asks her to serve them another helping.

Post # 15
2191 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I agree with PP – pick out a recipe together that has some basic skill attached

some of the ones mentioned above – bruscetta would be about knife skills and prep, making meat would be about proper browning, using the heat adjustment and maybe using a thermometer to get a safe temp for eating, roux would be about mis en place and versitility of ingredients (ie add chesse and its mac & cheese, add broth/drippings and its gravy), baking a cake would be about accurate measurements….

Once you have maybe 2 or  3 recipe to try maybe pick a sunday or some day when you have a few hours and first go food shopping so that you can help her pick out the proper ingredients (what to look for, how much per person, where you can make substitutions) and then go back to one of your house to prep – wash and clean the ingredients, chop them up and then go over the directions with her … and hopefully at the end you will be eating a delicious meal!

For the next time maybe let her pick and do the shopping on her own or take a little more ownership and try something a little different (like making a pot roast – shows proper cutting for even cooking, braising meats, making flavorful stocks or a sunday pasta “sauce” & meatballs – shows adjusting to ingredients, flavoring as you go, building on flavor and timing correctly so pasta is done when the sauce is ready)


I think that this sounds like more fun to me (as a cook and a friend) than making her do knife skill drills or something

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