Cooking tips for people who don’t like to cook: tips, tricks, and advice for people who want to eat, but would rather be anywhere but in the kitchen.
I know there are a lot of people out there who genuinely don’t enjoy cooking. For whatever reason, they’d prefer to spend their time doing a hundred other things before they’d willingly hang out in the kitchen. What I’ve found, though, when I discuss my love of cooking with people who don’t cook, is that this is a typical response: “I’m not good at cooking; I don’t like it.”
Those are two entirely different statements, but I’ve come to understand how related they are. It makes sense; most of us don’t enjoy things we aren’t good at. I don’t like to sit down and paint or draw, largely because I’m a horrible artist. I never enjoyed math in high school and college because, while I wasn’t horrible, I wasn’t as good at it as I was at other subjects.
So if we can remove that degree of fear from cooking, if we can make it feel accessible even for those who aren’t at home in the kitchen, we can eliminate the first half of that statement and, in doing so, eliminate the second half, too.
Cooking Tips for People Who Don’t Like to Cook
If cooking isn’t something you’re good at or comfortable with, don’t jump right into hosting a five course meal for 12 people. Find a couple easy, similar recipes and master them. Maybe you’ll start with chicken- if so, I’d recommend trying baked green chile chicken taquitos, oven-fried chimichangas, and easy weeknight chicken tacos– or maybe pasta- sausage and tortellini or baked spaghetti– is more your thing.
Look for ingredients and techniques that you’ve heard of. Seek out recipes with a short list of steps, or processes that claim to be fool-proof.
2. Read the Entire Recipe Before Getting Started
Don’t just scan the ingredients list and call it good. Read all the ingredients and their amounts and read all each step. Be sure to read the comments, too; learn from the tips and critiques of others who have already prepared that dish. If a recipe calls for ingredients or techniques you’re not familiar with, consider finding another (or see #3).
Read through the recipe again right before making it. Pay attention to how the ingredients are listed; does it call for “one onion,” or “one onion, diced”? You’ll want to make sure your ingredients are in the required state so you don’t lose time when you start cooking. If you’re uncomfortable with the fast pace that’s necessary for a lot of recipes, make sure all ingredients and tools are accessible and ready to go. Measuring out spices, digging for the colander so it’s ready to drain the pasta; these are all small things you can do to make yourself more comfortable when the cooking begins.
3. Look Up Unfamiliar Terms and Techniques
You might really want to try a recipe that seems out of reach. Maybe you want to challenge yourself, or maybe it just looks really good. Unfamiliar ingredients or terms don’t have to drive you away. The internet is a beautiful resource for home cooks everywhere who want to expand their cooking skills. Note sure how to properly dice an onion? Don’t know what al dente means? Look up those terms and techniques on Google or Youtube. There are plenty of experts out there eager to pass on their knowledge.
4. Go Semi-Homemade
It’s perfectly okay if you step into the kitchen and don’t immediately morph into Martha Stewart. We can’t all make our own gluten free vegan vegetable pot pie with organic ingredients grown and harvested in our own yards. Some of us settle for what we’re capable of and call it good. Maybe you want to make a pie but you’re terrified of homemade pie crust. Buy it. Focus on the part you can do, the part you want to do, and don’t sweat the rest.
When you’re comfortable with one aspect of a meal or a dish, move on and try making another component from scratch. Before too long, you’ll have an entire array of homemade dishes in your arsenal.
5. Have the Right Tools
It’s hard to cook well when you don’t have the right tools. It’s totally possible to prepare delicious meals without a kitchen worthy of a professional chef, but we all need the same basic tools to make even the most basic recipes. Here’s a great graphic to get you started, but realize this is just one person’s opinion (I don’t own several of the items on this list). The point is, it’s hard to make soup without a large pot (here’s my favorite). You might have trouble cooking lots of things without a decent spatula.
If you don’t have much money to buy lots of tools or gadgets at once, or if you’re overwhelmed about where to start, buy a few items that will allow you to create several different recipes. As you discover what you enjoy, and as you set your sights on new recipes to try, you can slowly grow your collection.
6. Be Patient
If cooking is something you haven’t done before, you’re likely to mess up a few times before you get things right. And even when you nail more recipes than you fail, there will still be some failure.
Be patient with yourself, have realistic expectations, and don’t be afraid to fall back on those one or two recipes that you always do well. There’s nothing like nailing a recipe to give you the confidence to try something new.
Some people don’t want or need to cook; I get that. If you already know you hate cooking, this post probably isn’t for you. There are a lot of people, though, who need to cook, for health reasons or financial reasons or geographic reasons. To those people, I say: hang in there, keep plugging away, and your perspective on cooking will begin to shift.
If you dislike cooking, I’d love to know why you feel that way. What are the biggest obstacles keeping you from enjoying your time in the kitchen?
(this post contains affiliate links; to learn more, see my disclosure policy)