How Anyone Can Learn to Cook

The first step in building a sustainable cooking habit is to address your challenges head on and come up with rational solutions. Here are some of the most common reasons people say they can’t cook, and tips to overcome each one.

This popular excuse is pretty powerful, and we use this rationale to avoid much more than cooking. To overcome this block, the most important thing that’s needed is a shift in mindset.

“Not having time” is just a matter of priorities. If learning how to cook isn’t a priority for you, then you’re doomed, regardless of effort. If cooking isimportant to you, you can make time by shifting around other activities. For example, before I learned how to cook, I’d get home from work each night and watch TV. When I said I didn’t have time to make dinner, I really meant that I’d rather watch another episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia than cook. 

1. Write it down. Start by recording what you do every day when you get home, along with a rough estimate of how much time you spend doing each activity. Don’t leave anything out. Do you go out for drinks with friends? Watch TV? Play games on your phone? Write everything down.

2. Prioritize. Next, look at each item on the list and think about whether or not it’s more important to you than cooking yourself a healthy meal. Maybe you can cut 30 minutes out of watching TV or cut out Angry Bird completely. Find the time.

3. Try it out. Commit to a one-week trial in which you swap in cooking activities for the time you would have spent doing a task of lesser importance. Once that week is over, commit to another week—and so on.

Incorporate cleaning into your cooking process. There’s almost always some downtime when prepping a meal, like when food is roasting in the oven or simmering away on the stovetop. Use those spare minutes to get dishes out of the way.

Shift your mindset. Think about how cleaning dishes can be an opportunity rather than a chore. I decided to turn cleaning dishes into a moment to unwind after a busy day. Washing plates and pots can be tedious, but it also provides a brief time to clear your mind while your hands do the work. Play some music, dance while you clean, and turn it into a fun, relaxing experience.

Enlist help. If all else fails, people who live with others (roommates, family members, or partners) can trade off cooking and cleaning duties to make the workload lighter for everyone.

Once you incorporate washing dishes into your cooking routine, these tasks will become a natural part of the process and you won’t think twice about the hassle.

A lot of adults (especially young adults) who are comfortable in the kitchen grew up with parents or other relatives who cooked a lot. As kids, they started small, probably just cracking eggs and mixing ingredients. Over time they became competent and at ease with more complicated recipes. If your parents didn’t teach you how to cook, you can replicate that experience (and no, you don’t have to move back home with Mom and Dad). 

Trust that it’s better to do something than do nothing. A Feast student recently shared her first cooking experience with Nadia and me. She was cooking dinner for herself and made a few mistakes: She forgot to remove the skin from the beets and overcooked some of the other veggies in the oven. Regardless, she was still excited! She realized that even if the dish was less than perfect, she was still successful because she actually cooked. Unsurprisingly, the next meal she attempted was much better.



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