Learning how to start cooking from scratch doesn't have to be difficult. With a few simple tips and tools, you can easily put together a home-cooked meal to bring your family together.
Learning how to cook from scratch using real food is something that everyone can do. You don't need to have formal training, fancy equipment or difficult recipes. It's something that can be done with basic skills, using easy recipes and whole foods.
Cooking from scratch is not only healthier than buying convenience foods, but it is one of the best things to bring the whole family together for delicious meals and lasting memories.
Here are my top tips for helping you feel confident in the kitchen to be able to cook new recipes from scratch using real ingredients.
It's always a good idea to plan ahead when learning how to start cooking from scratch. Planning ahead will help to make sure you know what you are doing in a recipe and help you stay organized. It will also make sure that you have the skills, tools and ingredients needed to complete it.
Meal planning is an easy way to start planning ahead. Plan 3-4 homemade meals for the week that you know you will be able to make. If there is a more lengthy or difficult recipe you want to try, save that for the weekend when you have more time.
Read through all of the ingredients, instructions and any notes that are included in the recipe. Make sure you are comfortable with the techniques and that you have all of the equipment needed.
Go through your pantry and refrigerator and see what you have on hand. Then make a list with everything else you will need at the grocery store or farmers markets. This way, when it comes to cooking time, you will have everything you need.
When it comes time to cook, read through the recipe again. Make sure you know what is going to be happening and when. Then, gather all of the ingredients, equipment and utensils needed so you aren't scrambling for anything.
It's VERY tempting when starting off, to jump into an elaborate four course holiday dinner or decadent layer cake. Instead, start with an easy recipe that will help build your confidence.
You can start by making a sauce from scratch to serve with a meal you are already skilled is cooking. Is there a certain prepared ingredient you always buy? Why not try making that from scratch this time.
Once you have a few simple recipes that you have mastered, it's a good idea to practice them a few times. Get comfortable with the basic techniques so you can add your own twists and make them your own.
As you practice, you may find a faster way or new idea to make your own meals from scratch.
Spending the time to cook from scratch can sometimes be more than you can do every weeknight. If you take the time to cook a homemade lasagna, make two instead. Freeze the second one for later, your future self with thank you!
Find recipes that store well or that you can make in bulk. Things like beef stock, banana bread, pulled chicken or Italian gravy are a great recipes to practice cooking from scratch in large quantities.
Stock your pantry
Having a stocked pantry with basic ingredients and seasonings makes it easy to cook from scratch. This way, when you are going through your recipes for the week, you know you just need to go grocery shopping for mostly fresh ingredients.
Grab a few basic spices to stock your pantry and use in every day cooking. As you make different recipes, you can add more seasonings to grow your spice and herb collection. I like using these spice jars with labels so I can easily see and find the seasonings that I need.
Having some basic baking ingredients on hand will also help you to both cook and bake from scratch. Things like flour, sugar, baking powder and cocoa powder will make it easy to make basic recipes from scratch.
When stocking the pantry, it's also nice to have other pantry staples on hand that you may regularly use. This will include oils, vinegars, stocks, pasta, beans and more.
Invest in a few kitchen tools
While you don't have to have the fanciest knives or the most expensive pots and pans, having a few simple key items, will help you to easily make a from scratch meal.
Cookware - Finding a decent set of pots and pans will make it easy for you to cook a variety of recipes. They can be non-stick, stainless steel, cast iron or even a mix of all of the above. Instead of investing in a huge set that may not work for you, try picking out one of each kind and see what you prefer.
- Stainless steel is great for simmering sauces or stocks and searing meat and vegetables. I have a full set that I use on a regular basis for everything from boiling pasta, to making soup, cooking meat and sautéing vegetables.
- Non-stick pans are great for when you want to make sure the food doesn't stick while cooking. Things like crepes, eggs, pancakes and more are perfect for these types of pans. I have a couple non-stick frying pans that I use regularly in my kitchen and they are great with more delicate food.
- Cast iron is also very popular and something that I use in my kitchen as well. They are great at retaining heat and perfect for baking, stews, braising and more. I have a cast iron dutch oven and a few skillets of various sizes that I love and use frequently.
Bakeware - Having a few bakeware items will be key for not only baking from scratch, but cooking from scratch as well.
Knives - While you can go out and grab a decent knife set, it can be quite expensive. I personally love and use Wuhstof knives in my kitchen, but they are more pricey. You can get a less expensive set or just buy some key knifes that will help you do a variety of things.
A chef's knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife will help you to accomplish most things in the kitchen. From breaking down a whole chicken, to mincing garlic or slicing bread, these three knives will do the job. Then as you perfect your knife skills, you can buy a more expensive set or expand the current one.
Utensils - Make sure you have a variety of tools, such as mixing spoons, spatulas, whisks and ladles will help you cook from scratch. I personally have a variety of wooden, metal and heat proof silicone tools that can help you mix and serve most things that I make.
Small Appliances - Having a few essential appliances in your kitchen can make things easy for yourself when preparing home-cooked food. A hand mixer or stand mixer is great to have for baking. A food processor or blender is great for making sauces, soups and dips. If you are tight on time for prep and cooking some nights, an instant pot or crock pot might also be a good addition to your kitchen.
One thing that is important to remember when buying tools and equipment, is to know yourself and your kitchen space. If you don't like baking, don't buy a fancy stand mixer or all of the cake pan sizes. If you don't have a lot of storage space, then be mindful about how many tools and equipment you purchase.
Part of learning how to start cooking from scratch is building confidence in the kitchen. You can do this by practicing different techniques. Practicing is the best way to build your skill sets in the kitchen to become a better cook.
Find a recipe that you like and then keep making it on a regular basis. Soon you will start to see how different techniques work and will be able to apply them to all sorts of recipes.
To help perfect your skills, make sure to check out all of our from scratch essentials recipes. These recipes all come with easy to follow step by step instructions and photos to help you along your way.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in the Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.