18 Basic Cooking Skills You Should Learn in Your Twenties
Master these, and you're well on your way to becoming a kitchen boss.
So, you’ve moved into your first apartment, bought your very own set of pots and pans, and maybe even stocked your pantry with all of the essentials. Now you just have to tackle the cooking part. Whether you feel completely lost in the kitchen—apart from filling a cup of noodles with some hot water—or have a few skills under your belt, there’s no faster way to feel secure in your new appliance-filled space than to solidify some basic skills that will put you on a path to culinary greatness.
These essential skills and recipes will help you build a solid foundation to further grow your kitchen techniques and become a cooking pro in no time.
How to cut and chop the essentials
The first task any aspiring home cook should focus on is building a solid arsenal of knife skills, learning how to properly chop onions and garlic, dice tomatoes, prep a head of romaine for salads, and so on. Check out this guide to chef’s knife basics to get you started.
How to cook rice
Though rice is an essential element of many kinds of cuisine, nailing the cooking technique can take some trial-and-error perseverance. But once you’ve aced this simple long grain rice recipe, you’ll be able to create countless recipes moving forward.
How to boil a pot of pasta
Like rice, pasta is the base for unlimited sauces, proteins, and more. Whether you prefer your pasta to be as simple as possible—dressed in just butter, cheese, and herbs—or want to get fancier with your toppings, the first step to reaching your carb-y potential is to learn how to cook a pot of pasta properly.
How to roast a chicken
Roasting a bird can definitely be an intimidating undertaking, requiring time and patience. However, once you’ve got this essential roasting technique down you’ll feel totally unstoppable in the kitchen and ready to tackle more complicated tasks. Learn how to make a classic roast chicken here.
How to roast vegetables
Though deceptively simple in nature, learning how to roast vegetables to perfection is just about as valuable a cooking skill as it gets. Once you’ve locked down your roasting regimen, no matter what season it is or what main dish you’re building your menu around, you’ll always be able to make a delicious, healthy side dish with whatever produce you have to work with. Here’s how to roast your veg right.
How to bake a potato
An all-star side dish or respectable main in its own right (given the right kind of toppings), a classic baked potato recipe will be the gift that keeps giving. You can opt to cook it in the microwave by piercing the spud all over with a fork and zapping for 5 minutes, turning over, and cooking it for 5 minutes more. However, for a more gourmet baked potato experience, aim to learn this perfect baked potato method.
How to make pancakes without a mix
Chances are some of your fondest breakfast memories are built around pancakes, as this classic recipe is the ultimate cozy and nostalgic dish. Both easy to master and popular with just about everyone, learning how to make a simple buttermilk batter and execute your pancakes to golden brown glory will take you far in your culinary life. Grab our classic buttermilk pancake recipe here and get started with these pro-tips for pancake perfection.
How to make red sauce from scratch
Italian food is arguably the most popular kind of cuisine worldwide, and for good reason. With some well-cooked pasta (which you already tackled earlier) and a hearty, homemade sauce, you can make a memorable meal with even the sparsest of ingredients and budgets. Learn how to craft a delicious signature homemade sauce and you’ll impress your dining companions for years to come.
How to hard-boil an egg
Though simple in nature—boiling water + egg = hard-boiled—nailing the perfect yolk and white consistency can be a challenge. Let this how-to guide to hard-boiled eggs get you started.
How to make an omelet
Another breakfast classic, omelets are an easy way to make an affordable, customizable, and impressive breakfast. However, just because omelets appear to be simple doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work to get yours just right. Use this folded cheese omelet recipe as a jumping off point for future eggy endeavors.
How to make chocolate chip cookies
Though there are plenty of desserts you could choose to master, the simple chocolate chip cookie is both universally loved and easy to execute. Once you’ve memorized a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe, play around with the quantities until you’ve found the perfect texture and flavor for you, and make that your signature cookie recipe for every food-related gathering.
How to make basic bread dough
Slightly more ambitious than a simple cookie, bread dough can be an invaluable recipe to have in the memory bank—as long as you get it right. This how-to guide for making yeast bread will open you up to a world of gluten-filled possibilities.
How to make homemade salad dressing
An easy way to feel like far more of a grown-up in the kitchen is to ditch the bottled store-bought stuff and start crafting your own dressings. This is an easy skill to master and will help you execute infinite salads and vegetable-based dishes with a few small adjustments to your original blend. Check out this guide for making homemade salad dressing without a recipe to get started.
How to make a simple burger
Whether you’re in the midst of grilling season or trying to get a taste of summer in the dead of winter with the help of your grill pan, learning how to craft a deliciously simple burger from scratch is an essential skill. Luckily, burgers are super easy to pull off and will impress your less cooking-inclined friends. Master this foolproof burger recipe to kick off your career as a grill master.
How to clean and cook mussels
Mussels are an amazing first seafood dish to master, as they are fairly easy to clean and cook and more affordable than other creatures found under the sea. Though you have to pay careful attention to cleaning and prepping these mollusks to avoid any potential stomach ailments, once you’ve learned the basic technique you’ll be making this dish over and over again.
How to make homemade chicken noodle soup
A big step towards adulthood is ditching the cans of soggy noodle soup with tiny chunks of chicken, and learning to make your own simple and delicious cure-all batch. This homemade chicken noodle soup recipe is easy to execute and will make you feel warm and cozy in no time.
How to cook a perfect steak or salmon
Whether you’re a red meat eater or prefer something lighter, learning how to cook a simple, flavorful steak or salmon will help you create countless meals over the course of your kitchen life. After all, what’s more impressive than a juicy sirloin or fresh fillet cooked to perfection? Check out this pan seared strip steak or salmon with roasted cherry tomatoes for great starter options.
How to mix up a signature cocktail
Once you’ve nailed all of your essential cooking techniques, it’s time to craft a cocktail to go with your hard-earned meal. Whether you’re into gin, whiskey, or rum, or would rather opt for a booze-free mocktail, memorizing a signature cocktail recipe (or a few) will be an impressive skill to show off at your next dinner party or gathering. Check out these drink recipes to hunt down your new go-to cocktail.