25 Easy Recipes That Will Make You a Better Cook
To all hesitant fledgling cooks out there, we feel you. The idea of pouring time and money into preparing food that doesn't turn out so tasty (or even worse, makes someone sick) is terrifying enough to want to avoid cooking altogether. But that doesn't mean you should. It'll take time, but with every recipe mastered, you're one step closer to being able to whip up something amazing without a recipe at all. In the meantime, fake a little expertise and take a crash course on fundamental cooking principles with these easy-to-follow recipes.
Time to oust your box cake mix, and embrace your inner baker with this basic yellow cake formula. This easy recipe will raise your cake-crafting confidence to new heights the first time you try it. As the name suggests, the numbers represent the measurements of the ingredients in the cake. Just remember what number matches with which ingredient, and you can easily memorize this recipe to whip up anytime you please. The buttery yellow cake is moist and has a perfectly dense crumb. Consider the 1-2-3-4 Cake a blank canvas; have fun adding layers of your buttercream frosting, whipped cream with fruit, or your own favorite frosting. One key to keep in mind when making this cake is that you really do need to have your butter softened and, ideally, your eggs at room temperature. Mixing these ingredients in when cold makes them more difficult to incorporate and can yield a “broken” batter. When baking the cake, be sure to use a light baking pan to help prevent over-browning. If you see that the top of your cake is brown, but the center is still wet, make a foil tent over the cake to keep it from getting darker.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
We love the heat level in this slow cooker take on tikka masala to fend off winter chill. If the spice kick is too much for your family, you can cut the red pepper down by half without losing any of the dynamic flavor layers.
Classic Pasta Carbonara
This simple, classic pasta carbonara recipe is the perfect dish when you need a special night in. And with this foolproof method for nailing the signature creamy sauce, you can go into the kitchen with confidence. Traditionally, you would toss your hot pasta with the eggs and cheese right in the skillet you’ve used to cook the pork (over low heat) to create a smooth, emulsified sauce. However, this method takes practice to get right—and crossing the fine line between gently cooking the eggs and scrambling them is all too easy, even for a pro. With this smart test kitchen technique, you essentially create a double boiler to provide just enough heat to melt your cheese and emulsify the silky sauce, without running the risk of breaking it. Finally, drizzling pancetta drippings over the pasta disperses rich porky flavor throughout the sauce even without ever having the pasta in the skillet. We use pancetta for this recipe as it is easily found in most supermarkets, but guanciale is traditional and worth trying if you can find it. Gemelli pasta is a great noodle shape to pair with this rich and saucy dish, but feel free to use whatever noodle you prefer.
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Schmaltzy Vinaigrette
You'll get all the deliciousness of a roast chicken in a fraction of the time when you opt for bone-in thighs as opposed to a whole bird. Schmaltz, a Yiddish word for chicken fat, is the base for a bright pan sauce that's drizzled over the vegetables and crispy chicken thighs. A cast-iron skillet will maintain an even heat so the hot drippings don't smoke or scorch.
Best Fudgy Brownies
Meet your new go-to recipe for homemade brownies. These decadent treats are extra rich and fudgy, thanks to a double hit of baking chocolate and bittersweet chocolate morsels. They’re incredibly easy to make, plus you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. And while we’re definitely not above boxed brownie mixes, these homemade brownies would certainly steal the show at any party or get-together.
Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken Pho
For pho, it's legitimately all about the intensely delicious broth. And thanks to the flavor-concentrating power of the pressure cooker, we were able to make a robust and dynamic chicken broth—using shallots, fresh ginger and cilantro, and a few spices—in a matter of minutes. Thus, this restaurant favorite can now be a comforting, go-to weeknight dinner.
Simple Lemon, Shrimp, and Prosciutto Pasta
Salty, umami-packed prosciutto complements the sweet shrimp and tomatoes in this streamlined 20-minute main.
Spicy Black Bean Soup with Chorizo
Homemade Dinner Rolls
Soft, tender, pillowy, and buttery. What's not to love? Once you go homemade, it's hard to go back to store-bought dinner rolls.
Pan-Seared Strip Steak
This fantastic strip steak is the perfect dinner for date night or any special occasion that deserves something extra delicious on the table. A little butter adds richness and keeps the leaner-than-usual beef moist without adding much in the way of total fat. Don't know how to cook steak on the stove? No worries! Not only is this one of our best steak recipes, it's incredibly easy. However, a word of caution: This recipe is smoky! Keep your exhaust fan on high or cook in a skillet on a hot outdoor grill.
Classic Sesame Noodles
This Chines takeout favorite is wholly satisfying and simple to prepare at home. If you need a little bit of shopping guidance when it comes to some of the less familiar ingredients in this recipe, be sure to check out this explainer on Chinese sesame paste (and how it differs from tahini) as well as our guide to Asian noodles.
Perfect Grilled Burgers
Delightfully charred, juicy, and full of nuance, these burgers are the only ones you will ever want to make. That’s why we named them Perfect.
Classic Banana Bread
Our easy banana bread recipe is hands down the best. This classic recipe yields everything you want from a great banana bread: toasty sweetness, impeccable moistness, and a crispy top worth swooning over. Enjoy this go-to quick bread as a quick breakfast or a sweet afternoon snack; and for a real treat, try a warm slice slathered with softened cream cheese.
Coconut and Basil Steamed Mussels
Impress guests with this elegant and easy main dish. Pair with spinach and scallion rice for a complete meal in about 20 minutes.
Garlicky Roasted Spatchcock Chicken
Removing a chicken's backbone—a technique called spatchcocking (or butterflying)—ensures juicy meat and golden crisp skin in less time than roasting a whole bird. Although it does require some simple knife skills, it's the best and fastest way to roast a chicken. Plus, you can save the backbone to make a great chicken stock. This is the kind of sheet pan dinner you'll want to make all fall and winter long.
Lemony Chicken and Spinach Soup
Inspired by Greek avgolemono, this recipe yields a creamy, comforting, bright bowl of soup that delivers everything we want when feeling a little under the weather. Heck, served with a warm blanket and a cozy couch, we’re convinced this lemony chicken soup can fix just about anything. As delicious as it is, this soup requires very simple ingredients and is easy to make. Just be gentle when adding the hot broth into your egg mixture (to temper), and the rest couldn’t be easier. This is a smart trick for richening soup without cream, and produces a uniquely rich broth that’s easy on the stomach. While we call for rotisserie chicken and store-bought stock for convenience sake, you could certainly roast your own chicken, then make chicken stock with the carcass for an even more flavorful pot of soup. We specifically developed this soup to make a large batch so that there’s plenty to share with friends, or stash in the freezer for the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather or simply need a warming, fuss-free meal.
One-Pot Pasta with Tomato-Basil Sauce
This dish is a revelation. Throw all of your ingredients into one pot over medium-high heat, and about 25 minutes later you'll have noodles perfectly coated in a luscious tomato-basil sauce. This is any busy mom's weeknight dinner perfection. If entertaining, serve with one of our easy green salad recipes for the complete dinner experience.
Poached Chicken Noodle Bowl
There’s no better way to describe this poached chicken dish than wellness in a bowl. The delicate and delicious noodle bowl is a shining example of how to make and use poached chicken like a pro. Gently poaching chicken breasts in a liquid thats lightly flavored with aromatics, such as ginger and lemongrass, leads to wonderfully succulent, tender meat with a lovely level of flavoring. In this wholesome dish, we also use the poaching liquid both to cook the noodles and create the light coconut broth. The key to successful poaching is temperature control; once you’ve added your chicken to the pot, you want to keep your poaching liquid from ever reaching a boil. In fact, you should aim to keep the water at a state of releasing wispy spouts of steam from the surface, but never bubbling, throughout the entirety of the cooking process. (It’s not nearly as intense/difficult as it seems.) You should also try to purchase chicken breasts that are roughly the same size so that they cook at the same rate.
Best Ever Seafood Gumbo
The genius of this menu is that most of the work can be done ahead of time
No-Knead Lightly Rye Bread
Ready to try your hand at bread baking? This simple, no-knead bread is the perfect recipe to start with. The easy-to-follow recipe yields a delightfully chewy, crisp-crusted, bakery-style boule and is an excellent yeasted bread for a novice bread maker to build confidence (and impress guests) with. Small additions of whole-wheat and rye flours give the loaf a great depth of flavor and chew without affecting the bread’s ability to rise. Beyond being simple to make, this no-knead loaf is ready to enjoy in a fraction of the time required to make many traditional yeasted breads. A touch of molasses not only adds a little flavor, but it speeds up the yeast growth, as does using warm water in the dough. Allowing a 4-hour proof time gives the yeast enough opportunity to grow and time to develop flavor. This bread is fantastic warm from the oven, would be marvelous served alongside soup, and absolutely sings when lightly toasted and served at breakfast. We love it with a simple smear of butter, as well as with slightly more dynamic spreads like this savory Pear, Olive, and Walnut Chutney.
Whole Roasted Red Snapper with Potatoes and Onions
While cooking a whole fish definitely seems intimidating, this is the recipe to show you just how easy it really is. But don’t worry, no one has to know—because it’s gonna look ridiculously impressive when served, no matter what. You simply need to ask your fish monger to scale and clean/gut the fish, as well as remove the gills and fins; then, you just pop it into the oven like anything else. Roasting a whole fish on a sheet pan like we do here is exponentially easier than tackling it on the grill, as you have less to worry about with temperature control and there’s no flipping required. Be sure not to skip cutting slits in the snapper—this is a really important step for a few reasons. For one, it lets you rub the flavorful herb mixture into the flesh of the fish for a tastier final product, the slits allow heat circulation around the flesh of the fish for quicker, more even cooking, and finally, these openings are the perfect spot to check for doneness with a fork (meat should release easily from the bone). If you use larger potatoes, just cut them into 1-inch pieces to ensure they cook all the way through. This simple one-dish meal is certainly elegant enough for a special occasion, but easy enough to pull together on a Tuesday. If you have any leftover fish, flake the meat for fish tacos or a fish chowder.
Salmon Croquettes with Succotash
You’d never believe these crispy little croquettes with veggie relish were whipped up exclusively from pantry and refrigerator/freezer staples. It’s the perfect satisfying supper for those occasions when you’re next grocery shopping trip isn’t gonna happen for a few more days.
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Roasted Fennel and Tomatoes
One pan, a handful of ingredients, and 30 minutes are all you need to put this impressive pork chop skillet dinner on the table. This flavor-packed, single-skillet supper is an easy dinner for two that feels like something special. It’s also an ideal recipe for one, as the leftover chop and veggies reheat well for a next-day lunch worth looking forward to.
Fast-and-Fresh Sausage Ragu
This quick pasta dish incorporates fresh veggies, a rich tomato sauce, and a large rigatoni pasta shape that your kids will love. Italian sausage adds a delicious savory flavor that is sure to keep you satisfied.