We asked ten professionals, including food bloggers and CEOs, to share their experiences and tips on learning to cook their first meal. Their advice ranges from embracing trial and error to learning to cook with AI. Dive into these insightful responses and start your culinary journey with confidence.
- Embrace Trial and Error
- Start Simple, Gradually Progress
- Attend a Cooking Class
- Learn Out of Necessity
- Take Baby Steps
- Cook a Simple Dish
- Use Family Recipes
- Master One Dish, Then Expand
- Watch Cooking Shows
- Learn to Cook with AI
Embrace Trial and Error
A lot of cooking is trial and error. Find a recipe and watch a video of that specific recipe being prepared.
Then, just go for it. Remember, cooking isn’t an exact science. Cooking times are estimates. Some ingredients can be substituted or omitted. Of course, stick to the recipe as best you can in the beginning, but don’t scrap what you’ve started because something isn’t exactly as planned.
Start Simple, Gradually Progress
When I began cooking, it felt exciting yet a bit overwhelming. Starting with easy recipes boosted my confidence. Equipping myself with essential kitchen tools, like pots, pans, and knives, made the process smoother. Reading recipes thoroughly and practicing “mise en place” (prepping ingredients beforehand) reduced surprises.
Learning basic techniques, such as chopping and sautéing, proved invaluable. Avoiding rush, sticking to recommended cooking times, and adjusting flavors as I went were vital lessons. Don’t fret over mistakes; view them as opportunities for improvement.
As I gained experience, I explored various recipes and cuisines, using online resources for guidance. Remember, cooking improves with practice. Start simple and gradually try more complex dishes. The kitchen can be a place of creativity and discovery. Embrace the journey and enjoy the process—mistakes are part of the learning adventure.
Attend a Cooking Class
I learned to cook my first meal by attending a cooking class. My experience was both exciting and nerve-wracking, but I found myself eager to learn more. One basic tip I picked up there was to recall the fundamentals of taste—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, savory—and use those as guidelines for seasoning new dishes.
As a beginner chef, I also urge others to experiment with techniques such as roasting and baking; these can enhance the flavor of certain dishes while keeping them healthy. Above all else, don’t be intimidated by complex recipes; start simple and let your curiosity lead you in the kitchen!
Learn Out of Necessity
My first foray into cooking was born out of necessity. I was living alone for the first time and quickly realized that eating out was neither sustainable nor healthy. My first meal was a simple pasta dish, and let me tell you, even boiling water seemed like a Herculean task at that time. But the joy of creating something with my own hands was unparalleled.
I started with simple recipes that required minimal ingredients and equipment. Over time, I’ve become more adventurous, experimenting with flavors and techniques. One tip I’d offer is to not be intimidated by the complexity of a dish. Break it down into smaller tasks and tackle each one methodically.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of setting up all your ingredients before you start cooking. It’s a game-changer, especially when you’re pressed for time. I usually spend about 15 minutes on weekends prepping vegetables and storing them in portion-sized containers. This reduces my weekday cooking time by almost 30%.
Take Baby Steps
Cooking my first meal was an incredibly rewarding experience. I started by following a simple recipe that my mom gave me. I pored through the instructions carefully, making sure I understood each and every step before attempting it. I found it useful to read up on some cooking tips to make sure I was on the right track.
There were a few issues and moments of panic, but with some trial-and-error, I was able to successfully dish up my first meal. It was so rewarding to share my delicious creation with friends and family! My advice for all new cooks is to take baby steps, stay positive, and familiarize yourself with the basics.
Cook a Simple Dish
Ooooh! My first attempt at getting into real cooking, versus heating up pre-cooked stuff, was homemade Alfredo. I picked a night and knew it would be an easy first dish for a beginner like me because of how few ingredients it included. I found a self-proclaimed easy recipe and went at it. The result was fantastic, because Alfredo is just an amazing dish, such that you’d think I was a real chef!
Use Family Recipes
I started putting together meals when I was about 11 or 12 years old, using recipes from my mom’s cookbook collection. It really helped that my mom and dad are both excellent cooks. They’d often let me try out new ideas on them or give feedback on what worked and what didn’t.
My first successful meal—and the one that taught me how to make pasta carbonara—was chicken cacciatore. It’s a pretty simple dish: chicken breast, mushrooms, onions, and peppers sautéed in olive oil with tomatoes and basil. The sauce is made from the juices from the chicken and vegetables, cooked with white wine, garlic, and tomato paste until thickened. I served it over angel hair pasta with grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Master One Dish, Then Expand
I started eating a lot of ramen in college to save money. After about a year, I began to wonder—is this all there is to ramen? Turns out, not even close! Ramen is essentially a base to build on in Japanese cuisine. I stepped away from the Styrofoam and visited my local Asian market to buy the good noodles.
Over time, building the perfect ramen dish became a bit of an obsession of mine, and one that led me to cooking other cuisines as well. Having so many ingredients in my pantry encouraged me to try other foods with them. Find one dish you love and perfect it—then start building from there to find other delicious foods.
Watch Cooking Shows
I used to be, and still am, obsessed with watching The Food Network. It’s what got me interested in cooking from a young age. My parents would watch it, and it made me really food-curious because there was so much I wanted to try. I learned how to cook from my parents, but also by watching cooking shows. I would want to try what I was watching on TV, so I decided I would make these things myself!
I think watching people cook is a great way to learn how to do something, especially if you’re a visual learner. There are some great cooking shows that go over simple techniques, like how to properly hold a knife, that are very useful. I highly recommend that people watch cooking shows on TV or YouTube to learn skills as beginners and to simply try things in the kitchen, as practice is what helps to make you better!
Learn to Cook with AI
Believe it or not, ChatGPT taught me how to cook! I just asked all the most basic questions I could, like what utensils to buy, what ingredients to always have in stock, and some basic recipes great for beginners.
You can simply tell the AI to give you slightly more complex recipes as you work your way up, and it’ll always provide clarifications or substitutions as needed. I truly believe that anyone can become a great cook thanks to the power of AI.
Corey Donovan, President, Alta Technologies