If you’re new to the kitchen, start here! These essential cooking tips will help save you time and make all of your homemade meals that much easier (and tastier). For more seasoned cooks, test your knowledge and see how many of these crucial techniques you’ve already mastered.

By Andrea Beck
Updated July 23, 2018

Some kitchen skills can certainly be intimidating, so we boiled it down to the basics. These cooking methods can be used in a variety of different recipes and will help make preparing meals and recipes a little bit smoother. We’ll share our top picks for the cooking skills you just HAVE to know—you can thank us later.

1. How to Keep Your Food Safe

Food safety should always be first and foremost on your mind in the kitchen. After all, no one ever wants to get sick when it can be avoided by following just a few easy guidelines. Always be sure to avoid cross-contamination, keep everything clean (including your hands), and store and thaw food safely so you can keep yourself, friends, and family healthy.

2. How to Chop an Onion

We can’t even count the number of times our recipes call for chopped onion—this technique is everywhere! Of course, general knife skills are important for any home cook to master, but chopping an onion is almost its own art form. It might take you a little practice to perfect all of the individual cuts that go into chopping an onion, but once you do, you’ll get to show off your skills on tons of different recipes.

3. How to Cook an Egg (a Few Different Ways)

Hard-boiling, poaching, scrambling—it helps to know 'em all. Not only is knowing how to cook an egg essential for breakfast and brunch, but it can also be a quick dish to whip up for lunch or even dinner when you find yourself in a time crunch. Plus, keeping hard-cooked eggs stocked in your fridge makes it super easy to add one to a salad or to grab and go for a protein-packed snack.

4. How to Sauté

Sautéeing is a technique you can use for almost any food, including veggies and proteins. In fact, you can easily cook up an entire meal in just your sauté pan! Just think of all the different ways this cooking method can come in handy—sauté a chicken breast for a quick dinner, veggies to serve on the side, or chopped onions to add to another recipe. This technique is a must-know!

5. How to Deglaze a Pan

Once you finish roasting a chicken or sautéeing a steak, deglaze your pan to make a thick gravy or a yummy pan sauce—a great way to take your dinner to the next level. Deglazing incorporates the browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan during cooking into your sauce so you never have to worry about a pan sauce not complementing your meal. Trust us: You’ll want to know this technique for much more than just Thanksgiving dinner.

6. How to Line a Pan

This might seem like an obvious and super-simple technique, but it’s SO important whenever you’re baking. Lining a pan with foil before you bake brownies can save you a lot of time later on during cleanup, and properly lining cake pans is crucial for making sure your baked goods come out intact. After all, no one wants a crumbly layer cake!

7. How to Mince Garlic

There are a lot of different ways to mince garlic, so experiment with this kitchen skill until you find the one that works best for you. Chopping garlic with a chef’s knife is the most classic way, but you can also try using a garlic press or a microplane. You can even cheat on this technique by buying garlic that’s already minced; it just won’t have the same flavor as fresh garlic.

8. How to Make Salad Dressing

Homemade dressing is better than store-bought for a number of reasons. You can make it just the way you like it and you know exactly what ingredients went into making it. It’s also super easy because you just need oil, vinegar, and a few seasonings. Once you find a combination that works for you, make a big batch and store it in the fridge to spice up all of your salads!

9. How to Roast

Whether you’re roasting vegetables, chicken, or another protein, this cooking technique adds a delicious crispy, caramelized coating to everything you roast. Roasting vegetables is a great way to give them a boost from plain to mouthwatering. Not all vegetables and proteins roast for the same amount of time, so be sure to pay close attention to your recipe’s instructions while you learn this technique.

10. How to Cook Chicken

Is there anything a perfectly cooked chicken breast can’t do? You can add it to salads, serve it with a side of veggies, or eat it all on its own—it’ll be delicious every single time. There’s more than one way to do it, too, including grilling, broiling, sautéeing, and boiling. Just be sure to master at least one method that will work best for you.

11. How to Cook Steak

Enjoying a great steak is a delicious way to mark a special occasion, but you don’t have to go to a steakhouse to do it. One of the simplest ways to enjoy a tender, juicy steak at home is to learn how to cook one in your oven. Knowing how to broil a steak can help you sink your teeth into a celebratory meal in hardly any time at all.

12. How to Bake Fish

There’s no doubt that fish can be a healthy, easy dinner you can make any night of week. Baked fish is a good-for-you protein that’s a tasty choice for the starring role at dinnertime. It's important to know when fish is done baking, so be sure to learn the flaking test while you’re at it!

13. How to Measure Flour

Measuring flour seems like it should be obvious, but it’s a little trickier than you might think. The right way to measure flour is to spoon it into the measuring cup (don’t use the cup to scoop it out of the container), then level it off with the straight side of a knife. If you’re not measuring flour correctly, your baked goods can come out dry, so this technique is super important.

14. How to Make Broth

Sure, store-bought might be easiest, but homemade broth is definitely the most delicious option. Plus, making chicken broth is a two-in-one recipe—not only do you end up with tasty broth, but also cooked chicken that’s great for making chicken noodle soup, pot pie, or a casserole. Trust us: All of your future soups and sauces will be much better with a homemade broth.

15. How to Cook with Fresh Herbs

Leave the dried herbs on the grocery store shelves and use fresh instead. You’ll be surprised how much more flavor fresh herbs can add to a dish. They won’t keep as long as dried herbs, so make sure you know how to store them correctly, too. Fresh herbs might take a little extra time to chiffonade, snip, strip, and more, but the end result will be well worth your effort.

16. How to Bake a Potato

Whether you need a simple side dish or even an easy lunch, knowing how to bake a potato is a skill that will definitely come in handy. There’s nothing better than pulling one out of the oven to enjoy a fluffy baked potato with all of the fixings. But if you’ve found yourself questioning how long to bake them, or whether or not to wrap them in foil, now is the time to learn!

17. How to Pit and Slice an Avocado

Avocados are good for much more than just spreading on toast, but you have to know how to slice and pit them. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to accidentally cut yourself when trying to remove the pit, so learning the proper technique is crucial. With this trick in your repertoire, adding avocado slices to salads and making your own homemade guacamole and even avocado toast will all be within your grasp.

18. How to Cook Rice

Rice is an easy, healthy addition to mealtimes, so knowing how to cook it properly is a must. It can be a little intimidating to know how long to cook it and how much water to add, especially since rice can be overcooked or undercooked so easily. If you use a lot of rice, it might be worth investing in a rice cooker. But once you master cooking it on your stove top, this technique is hard to beat.

19. How to Use an Instant Pot

This trendy kitchen tool is definitely having a moment right now, and for good reason. There’s not much that this one-stop pot can’t do, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, and sautéeing. Whether you already have one for yourself or it’s on your wish list, mastering the basics of pressure cooking and slow cooking can absolutely help you save time and energy in the kitchen.


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