Owning the Kitchen: Basic Cooking Skills

The Freshman 15 is no myth. Bad eating habits and new college students go together like peanut butter and jelly. And there are several key reasons why. First off, those who have open access to the college buffet via a meal plan have an open door to binge on their favorite (often fatty and carb-heavy) foods. Then there’s how fast-paced college life can be. Eating something quick and simple (but also often unhealthy) like ramen or frozen pizza can be incredibly tempting when you’re on the go-go-go. Finally, cooking can be easy but it doesn’t always feel easy. This is especially true for students and young adults who don’t have a history cooking back at home before college.

So if not knowing how to cook is what’s stopping you from cooking and preparing healthier meals, then why not take a moment to change that? The following is a look at a few basic but often overlooked cooking skills that can help you succeed in all of your kitchen endeavors:

Owning the Kitchen: 4 Basic Cooking Skills & Tips Every College Student Should Have

Always Read the Entirety of a Recipe Before Starting and Don’t Stray Once You Get Started

These are among the biggest of rookie mistakes. Yet, it happens all too often. You skim through a recipe thinking you have all the ingredients, only when you get started you realize that you have baking soda and not baking powder. Or sometimes a recipe at the top will have the full amount of a given ingredient that later needs to be split apart. The problem here comes when you do something like add all of the listed amounts of sugar into the mixing bowl only to realize later some was supposed to be separated to be added ontop. Another common mistake in cooking comes from misinterpreting the recipe. For example, an undercase “t” means teaspoon while a capitalized “T” means tablespoon. Check out this website for common abbreviations and conversions.

Invest in Some Equipment

You don’t need a dozen different types of fancy cooking gadgetry, but there are some important essentials you should consider. First off, what base equipment you start off will depend largely on what you enjoy eating. If you like seafood and vegetables, then we recommend getting a bamboo steamer. If you like chicken wings and want something easy, then consider investing in an air fryer. These types of equipment are specific to your unique cuisine preferences. However, there are also some basics every college apartment kitchen should have, including:

  • A saute pan with a lid
  • A sheet pan or 9×12-inch baking pan
  • At least one good pairing and chef’s knife
  • A cutting board (high-grade plastic tends to be easier to clean and maintain)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Whisk, spatula, and can opener
  • Potholder

Be Savvy With Your Grocery Shopping

Another common impediment many students and young adults have to cooking at-home healthy meals is cost. Buying ingredients and food can feel expensive, especially if you shop at a more expensive grocery store. So for this latter part, stay away from places like Brazos Natural Foods and consider instead shopping at H-E-B. First off, try and avoid fully a lot of fully prepared foods and instead aim to make more meals from scratch or partially from scratch. Choose store brands which can save you as much as 25% of the cost and yet offer essentially the same taste as name brand foods and ingredients. Go bulk when it comes to base ingredients like potatoes, rice, and beans to save you in the long run. Finally, frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones and yet you can often get them for half the price and enjoy a significantly longer shelf life. The more you hone your grocery shopping skills, the more you’ll save. And that extra money you save on food can really add up.

Perfect a Signature Dish for Potlucks and Friend Dinners

Potlucks and dinner parties are very likely to become a regular part of your social life. If that doesn’t happen often during college, then it’ll happen post-college. From game day cookouts to big Friendsgiving meals, bringing a dish to a party is a common adult activity. It can also be a very frustrating one if you don’t know what to bring or always delay until the last second. The best way of avoiding this and always getting a good response is to pick a good signature dish now and start perfecting it. Practice makes perfect, and the more you repeat a recipe, the easier and faster shopping, prepping, and cooking it will become.

Start Simple, Practice, and You’ll Go Far

Cooking is just like any other skill. The more you practice and the more you try different things, the better you’ll be. Furthermore, learning how to prepare and cook a great meal is a very valuable life skill. This is a skill that will aid you in social events and can even help you land your next partner. So get out there, grab a new recipe, and start cooking today!