Great Recipes for Learning to Cook

Barbara Rolek
Encouraging woman cooking

Recipes for Beginning Cooks

It's not hard to cook as long as you have a few basics down pat before you begin. Make sure you have the proper liquid and dry measuring cups, a variety of mixing bowls and kitchen tools, and have read through a recipe fully at least one time.

When you've mastered these basic recipes, you will have the tools at your disposal to wrap your friends, your family and yourself in the warm fuzzies only well-prepared food made with fresh and simple ingredients can do. Many recipes even take the classics a step further by adding an easy spin that anyone can create!

Whole roasted chicken

Whole Roasted Chicken

There simply is nothing as delicious as a whole chicken scented with fresh herbs roasted until the skin is crackling and golden brown and the flesh is succulent. Served with potatoes and mixed vegetables, it's a dinner that can go from everyday fare to company-worthy. In addition to being a confidence builder, this recipe shows how to roast whole poultry, how fresh herbs and lemon enhance its flavor, and how to amaze your friends and family.

Slow cooker beef stew

Easy One-Pot Beef Stew

Stew is nothing more than braised meat and vegetables in a thickened sauce. They require a little vegetable chopping (nothing fancy), as well as cubing (or leaving the meat whole and cutting it after it's cooked) and searing the meat. After that, the meal pretty much takes care of itself as it bubbles away on the stovetop or in the oven. A slow cooker is the ideal way to make easy beef stew because a low-and-slow cooking method is the perfect way to tenderize tough cuts. This recipe has just five ingredients, including the vegetables, making it a great option for a new cook.

Ribeye steak

Broiled Ribeye Steak

If you can make a mean steak, you can consider yourself an accomplished cook. They're not rocket science but getting them just right can be a little challenging unless you have an instant-read thermometer. Pan frying, grilling, and even cooking in the oven are all acceptable ways to prepare ribeye steak, one of the juiciest cuts. Follow the easy recipe for broiling a ribeye steak; after all, you only need olive oil, salt, and pepper; it's the perfect recipe for a new cook!

Juicy hamburger

Juicy Hamburger With Extras

What's so tough about cooking a hamburger correctly? Well, it's the difference between eating a hockey puck and a drip-down-the-chin juicy sandwich. The key is to use a light hand when working with chopped meats so they don't become compacted, and knowing proper temperatures for safe-yet-moist burgers. Add a few extras like sun-dried tomatoes and top it with arugula, fennel and cheese and you have a first-class hamburger.

Pesto avocado grilled cheese sandwich

Dressed Up Grilled Cheese

Here's another item that some folks would consider a no-brainer, but getting a golden brown, meltingly delicious grilled cheese takes a little practice. Besides, you can amaze your friends and family with this dressed-up pesto and avocado grilled cheese sandwich. Using a cast-iron pan, not burning the butter, and getting the cheese to melt by the time the bread is toasted are sure signs of success.

Cauliflower and celery soup

Cauliflower and Celery Soup

With vegetable soup firmly in your culinary tool belt, you can create a hearty vegetarian meal made even more nutritious with the addition of beans or lentils. Chopping the vegetables the same size will help them cook evenly. Homemade stock would be great but it's perfectly fine to use canned stock or water in this soup made with cauliflower and celery. Soups like this one can be puréed or left chunky and adding leftover cooked meats can turn it into a casserole or pot pie.

Vinaigrette salad dressing

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

A vinaigrette is a must-know when learning to cook. Getting the right balance of vinegar to oil is the hardest part about making this type of salad dressing. Once that's achieved, by varying the herbs and spices, a simple vinaigrette can be pole vaulted into unlimited versions. Shallots, a mortar and pestle, fresh garlic and different types of oils and vinegars are good things to have on hand. If you can make a good salad, completely dependent on the dressing, you're really on the way to becoming a maven in the kitchen.

Blanched green bean salad

Green Bean Salad

Blanching simply means to plunge a food item in boiling water for a minute or so and then shock it in cold water. It's a technique with a million applications in the kitchen. It's a wonderful method for cooking tender young vegetables like green beans and to set the color of vegetables before freezing them for future use. Once you've blanched the beans, put them into a simple fresh green beans salad recipe with pecans, onions, and a Dijon sauce.

Beets with olive oil and herbs ready to be roasted

Roasted Beets

Roasting vegetables is not only easy but very trendy. The roasted garlic craze started years ago and people are just now discovering what other foodies have known for years. Roasting vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, onion, even lemons with olive oil and herbs helps caramelize them to bring out their deep, natural flavor that can become a main dish or side dish. Roasting root vegetables like beets with olive oil, fresh herbs and balsamic vinegar brings out their sweetness.

Mashed potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

Some of the most experienced cooks make gluey or starchy, unappealing mashed potatoes. You don't want that. Fluffy mashed potatoes are dependent on knowing which potato and tool (never a hand mixer or immersion blender) to use and knowing when to stop with the butter. Try this easy recipe for great mashed potatoes every time.

Lobster macaroni and cheese

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese presents so many opportunities for learning how to make a cheese sauce, learning which cheeses melt well, and how to keep a high-fat sauce from breaking or curdling. The macaroni end of the equation can be any small pasta like bowtie, small penne, and shells. Adding a protein like lobster to macaroni and cheese lets your guests know you've got some chops in the kitchen - and it's a fancy addition that doesn't require any additional skills.

Stuffed french toast

Stuffed French Toast

When you know how to put a new spin on French toast, you've got a recipe that works for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. Stuff this humble dish with cream cheese and jam or jelly and dredge it in egg. Baking or pan frying elevates it to a gift from the gods. You can fancy it up even further by garnishing with strawberries and raspberries. The best part is that eggs and bread are so economical, you can serve French toast in many variations and never feel like you're eating the same old thing.

Brownies

Brownies

Working with chocolate is a great learning experience. Chocolatey brownies are a perennial favorite that can be made cakey or fudgy and served frosted or plain. To turn them into a novel treat, you can add espresso powder, coffee-flavored liqueur, mint chips, macadamia nuts, cashews, sweetened dried cherries or swirled cream cheese. Or bake them in a pizza pan to make a brownie cake.

Chocolate whipped cream

Flavored Whipped Cream

Everything's better with whipped cream on it. No, not whipped topping - actual real heavy cream that's 30- to 40 percent butterfat. It can mean the difference between a ho-hum dessert and something truly exceptional. But there are few rules to getting it right otherwise your heavy cream can turn into whipped butter in a flash. You can even make stabilized whipped creams that can be used for frosting a cake. And, by adding cocoa powder, cinnamon, coffee crystals, liqueurs, booze and different extracts, you end up with flavored whipped cream perfect for accenting a favorite dessert, hot cocoa, coffee or mixed drink.

Now that you have recipe spins on everything from soup to dessert and beyond, go forth and cook!

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Great Recipes for Learning to Cook