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Mastering These 10 Cooking Skills Will Make Adulting Much Easier

A woman cooking and looking at a recipe on her phone.

Adulting is hard no matter what, but especially if you haven’t yet learned some basic cooking skills. That’s where we come in! Whether you need to invest in some kitchen must-haves, or you just want to learn how to use a meat thermometer, we’ll show you the ropes.

Brush Up on Food Safety

The last thing any cook wants to do is make someone ill from a meal they’ve cooked. This is why following the USDA’s safety practices when it comes to handling food will reduce the risk of any foodborne illness.

Be sure to scan all of them, but these four principles are the most important:

  • Clean everything thoroughly: Always wash your hands before and after handling food, and keep all surfaces, tools, and appliances sanitized.
  • Separate foods: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, seafood, and poultry away from fresh, ready-to-eat foods, both while shopping and prepping.
  • Cook thoroughly: Use a thermometer to check internal temperatures. Hot foods should be 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above before they can safely be served.
  • Chill properly: Avoid the Danger Zone (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) by storing foods at the appropriate temperature. Cold foods should be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Learn How to Boil Pasta

Someone checking spaghetti in a stockpot.

Elevate your pasta game by boiling it to a perfect “al dente,” which is pasta boiled just long enough to create a firm bite. The trick here is to cook your pasta just long enough that it’s not crunchy, but not so long that it’s mushy.

After about seven minutes of boiling, remove and test a piece. You can also check for al dente by cutting a piece of pasta in half and checking the inside. If there’s a tiny core that’s uncooked in the middle, you have reached al dente!

Invest In the Right Tools

Someone measuring an ingredient in a 1/4 teaspoon, a sheet pan full of food, a utensil set on a counter.
forkmannie/Nordic Ware/FineDine

A good set of knives is, arguably, the most essential kitchen tools anyone can own. However, you’ll also need a few others to get started.

Here’s a short list of helpful tools you’ll want by your side for all your cooking adventures:

An Extra Large Cutting Board

Chop all those veggies and meats without damaging your counters.

HOTEC Locking Tongs with Silicon Tips

For sanitary, hands-free handling.

Lodge 10-1/4 Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Everyone needs one of these for scrambled eggs and steaks.

AmazonCommercial Glass Measuring Cup Set

Follow those recipes precisely with this four-piece set.

forkmannie Magnetic Measuring Spoon Set

You'll need these to measure smaller amounts.

Nordic Ware Aluminum Sheet Pan Set

Perfect for baking cookies, rolls, or French fries.

Amazon Basics 8 Pc. Nonstick Cookware Set

You'll need these to make soups, sauces, stocks, and veggies.

FineDine 10 Pc. Stainless-Steel Utensil Set

Flip, stir, whip, and baste with all these essential cooking utensils.

KULUNER Instant Read Meat Thermometer

This will help you avoid the food Danger Zone.

Learn How to Make Breakfast

A gorgeous hot breakfast with scrambled eggs, who grain toast, and everything bagel, bacon, sliced avocado and tomatoes.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Eggs are one of the most versatile (and affordable) breakfast foods you can make. Not only are they super tasty, but they’re also versatile and offer tons of nutritional value.

Start by making these fluffy, soft scrambled eggs, and then you can work your way up to over-easy, fried, and poached. Before you know it, you’ll have a full-fledged omelet bar, or be serving up a hot brunch for the whole family.

Elite Gourmet Easy Electric Egg Poacher

Let this handy little appliance do the poaching for you!

Learn How to Make a Stock

Stocks are an excellent way to prevent food waste. They also create a neutral base for sauces, stews, and gravies. If you’re new to cooking, you might find the idea of making a stock a bit intimidating.

However, to make a stock, all you do is simmer animal bones and some aromatics for 12 hours or more. The gorgeous liquid this creates will not only fill your home with a fantastic aroma, but you’ll also have a nutritious base for lots of meals. If you’re into meal prepping to save time through the week, this is a handy skill to have.

A chicken stock is a good place to start. All you’ll need for this recipe is some chicken bones and skin, along with some celery, onions, and carrots.

Learn How to Use a Meat Thermometer

Someone using a meat thermometer on a pork chop.

An instant-read thermometer is a cheap, convenient way to ensure that you’ve cooked your meat to a safe internal temperature. Remember, you always want to avoid the food Danger Zone (between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) so no one gets sick.

This is why any time you put together a casserole, roast, or any other recipe that calls for meat, you should always check the temp with a food thermometer.

KULUNER Instant Read Meat Thermometer

You'll always avoid the food Danger Zone with this at your side.

Learn How to Properly Measure Ingredients

A kitchen scale sitting on a counter next to a bowl of blueberries.
Greater Goods

Measuring your ingredients, especially in the baking world, is an essential skill. Just eyeing them before dumping them in often leads to disaster. Most often, you can use your measuring cups and spoons for this, but many baking recipes use metric measurements.

A kitchen scale will ensure you’re always adding just the right amount of an ingredient to any dish. This option from Greater Goods is affordable and compact, so it won’t take up much room on your counter or workspace. It’s also available in eight colors to match any kitchen décor.

Greater Goods Digital Food Kitchen Scale

Small, affordable, and easy to read.

Learn How to Make a Roux

Someone using a wire whisk in a bowl of batter.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

If you’ve ever wondered what the secret to creamy, rich sauces or soups is, it’s a roux (pronounced roo). Don’t let this French word scare you. A roux is just a mixture of flour and fat, but you’ll be amazed at what these two humble ingredients can do together.

When you’re ready to make some chowder, gravy, or creamy alfredo sauce, that’s when you’ll need a roux. And luckily, we have a recipe that’ll walk you through the process step-by-step.

Learn How to Roast Veggies

There’s a right way to cook vegetables and it’s roasting. Root veggies, like potatoes (regular and sweet), carrots, and parsnips, are roasting staples.

However, you can throw just about any vegetable in the oven, including broccoli, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, and you name it! Any veggie you roast will taste fantastic.

Follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 415 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash, and then chop your veggies into bite-size pieces.
  3. Coat them with olive or any other healthy cooking oil you prefer.
  4. Place them on a sheet pan, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and put them in the oven.
  5. Roast for 30 minutes (some vegetables can take up to an hour), but check them every 15 minutes.

Soft and hard vegetables cook for different amounts of time, so you’ll want to roast them separately.

Create a Signature Dish

A pot of chili on a wooden table.
from my point of view/Shutterstock.com

Perfecting one dish will come in handy down the road. Whether you want to impress a date, or you’re throwing a dinner party, a signature dish will ensure you always have a fantastic meal you can feel confident making.

The easiest way to figure out what your signature dish should be is to just think about some of your favorite childhood meals. Is there one that never got old that you would love to learn how to make?

Whether it’s homemade chicken and noodles, grandma’s chili, or mom’s spaghetti, you can tweak the recipe to your taste and preferences and make it your own.

Cooking doesn’t have to be intimidating—like any other skill, it just takes time and practice. After you have all the right tools and master the basics, it’s time for the fun part: creating your own recipes!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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