How to Cook – Getting Started
If you’re a beginner in the kitchen, we understand it can feel overwhelming at first. Don’t panic, we’re here to help! We’ve pulled together a list of essential equipment, tips and tricks, and simple recipes to help you get started.
Learning how to cook isn’t something you can learn in a couple of days, it’s something you practice and improve over time. Even as chefs with years of experience, we’re still learning new things all the time! The key message here is not to be afraid to experiment and find what works for you, and before you know it you’ll be whizzing around the kitchen like a pro.
Looking for recipe inspiration to get you started? We have an entire book dedicated to quick and easy recipes! It’s ideal for those that want simple, fuss free food without lots of obscure ingredients or hours standing over the stove. You can find out more about Pinch of Nom: Quick & Easy here.
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Before you start, you’re going to need some basic kit! Firstly, think about your lifestyle: would a slow cooker help with busy days?
You can add ingredients to the slow cooker in the morning and have a freshly cooked meal ready to eat at dinner time.
We’d recommend a slow cooker as you start to learn how to cook, and they are ideal for stews and casseroles like our Beef Stew. Unsure which one to buy? We have a handy guide to the best slow cookers here.
If you’re keen to use the stove for cooking, consider investing in a decent set of pans. It may seem like a lot to spend to get a full set, but different pans serve different functions. For example, you can fry an egg in a frying pan, but you’re better off boiling pasta in a saucepan!
A good set, like this one, can last for many years. If you have an induction hob, always check that the pan set is suitable before you buy.
When you’re cooking vegetables, preparation is key! Try to cut them into similar sized pieces so they’ll all cook at the same rate. Using a sharp knife, like this one from a set, is a must.
Not only will it make chopping fruit and veggies easier, but it’s also safer – be sure to follow safety advice when using a sharp knife, and never touch the blades.
A fine grater will also be useful, especially if you’re following a slimming plan! Foods like cheese will go much further and melt faster when grated finely than if they’re grated with a standard grater. You can also use it for zesting fruit or even grating chocolate.
A blender or food processor will help with so many things during cooking. We’d recommend it when creating one of the simplest dishes ever: soup!
Soup is a great way of practicing chopping and cooking times, and you can experiment with so many flavours to find your favourite. Try starting with a simple Spicy Tomato Soup, and working up to a slightly more complex Mulligatawny Soup.
When you’re following a recipe, it’s important to use the correct quantities. For example, a tablespoon of an ingredient doesn’t necessarily mean you can use any old spoon from the cutlery drawer to measure it out as it can be inconsistent.
We’d recommend using proper measuring spoons like these ones, and a digital weighing scale to keep things as accurate as possible.
When starting your culinary journey, it’s always worth stocking up your cupboards before you begin so you’ll have the basics on hand! Here are some of the essential ingredients we’d recommend to begin with:
Low calorie cooking spray
Whether you’re frying or roasting, low calorie cooking spray is used in place of oil to keep calories low. You can also find chilli, garlic or butter varieties which can enhance certain dishes.
It can be used in pretty much any recipe that calls for oil during cooking, including Lighter Yorkshire Puddings.
Salt, pepper and spices
From just a handful of dried spices you can create so many different flavours from around the world. From basic Chicken Tikka Kebabs to smoky BBQ Chicken Steaks, you’ll never have to eat bland food again!
See our roundup of Cheap and Easy Spice Blends for a selection of essential mixes to keep on hand for easy seasoning.
Our second food planner is perfect for helping you to keep track of exactly what you’re eating or need to buy, with weekly shopping lists included for ultimate convenience.
Stock cubes are the base of so many dishes, and they’re cheap and easy to find. You can add them to soups, stews, risotto and pasta sauces.
We’d recommend starting with beef, chicken and vegetable stock cubes but also keep an eye out for red or white wine stock cubes. These can be used in cooking instead of cooking with wine!
We’ve used a white wine stock cube in our Cuban Beef, and it brings a great depth of flavour without needing to add wine from the bottle.
Food safety and hygiene are really important in order to keep you and your family safe. There are some very simple tips that you can follow in order to do this. It includes keeping food at the correct temperature, keeping your fridge organised and taking extra care with ingredients such as rice.
You can find our full guide to food safety and hygiene here.
Practice makes perfect!
The best thing to do when starting to learn to cook is to simply give it a go! Pick your favourite recipe and try it out in the knowledge that you’re learning how to cook wholesome, homemade food that’s good for you and slimming friendly.
You can even use our Recipe Finder to filter by ‘ease of cooking’ to only display easy peasy recipes to begin with, and work your way up to the trickier ones over time.
And most importantly of all, have fun! Cooking is something you can do to relax, to create new traditions with friends and family and to discover new, delicious flavours.
What dish are you most proud of creating on your cooking journey? We’d love to see your snaps over in our Facebook Group, where we have nearly 1m members ready to inspire, motivate and support you in reaching your goals.