1. Master a couple of super easy desserts that are fancy enough to bring to a potluck or serve at a party.
Here’s a really great video, with tips about how much water you should be cooking your pasta in, how much salt you need (more than you think), and how to tell when it’s done. Once you’ve mastered that, the possibilities are endless for an easy weeknight pasta dinner, like the Roasted Garlic Butter Bucatini with Burst Cherry Tomatoes, above.
3. Memorize the grain-to-water ratios of your favorite whole grains.
Or, just print this out and hang it on the fridge so that you never have to deal with crunchy rice or soggy oatmeal ever again. Get it here.
4. Take your grilled cheese game to the next level.
The secret? Cooking it in mayonnaise! Go try it immediately, because even if you “hate mayo”, it works. Recipe here.
5. Get a knife that’s sharp, and learn how to keep it that way.
Having a sharp knife will make it so much easier to chop things properly and efficiently—AND a sharp knife makes it LESS likely that you will cut yourself. Developing badass knife skills takes lots of practice — which you’ll get plenty of, the more you cook, YAY! — but a sharp knife is the first step. Here are 5 great chef’s knives, at various price points, and here’s exactly how you should be sharpening your knife.
6. Once your knife is sharp, learn how to chop an onion.
It’s one of the most useful knife skills to have, and it pretty.
7. Pickle something.
You can pickle pretty much any sturdy fruit or vegetable with not much effort, and it’s a great way to preserve and enhance produce when it’s in peak season — think green beans in the spring, corn in the summer, carrots in the fall. Learn more here.
8. Roast the most perfect chicken with nothing but a hot oven and plenty of salt and pepper.
Justine Zwiebel / BuzzFeed
There are so many reasons why roast chicken is an all-time favorite dish. It’s fancy enough for company, but it also makes for great leftovers if you want to cook one just for yourself. And those leftovers? You can do pretty much anything with them, from salads to sandwiches to entirely new cooked meals (pastas, rice bowls, etc.). And learning to roast a chicken is actually SO EASY. Here’s exactly how to do it..
9. Jumpstart a whole week of meals in just a couple of hours.
The trick is to cook big batches of one protein, one starch, and a bunch of vegetables, then remix them in whatever way you feel like each day. Here’s a make-ahead meal plan that pretty much anyone can cook, to get you started.
10. Make your own chicken stock instead of buying it. You can even do it in a slow cooker!
It’ll taste so much better than the mass produced stuff that comes in a carton or can. Doing it in a slow cooker means all you have to do is throw stuff in — no tricky ingredients necessary, just bones, vegetables, and maybe some aromatics like bay leaf or parsley stems, if you want — let it go all day, then strain. Learn more here.
11. Pack your own lunch instead of buying it, at least a couple of times a week.
It can be as easy as making a sandwich or as involved as cooking your favorite grains, vegetables, and protein and throwing them together. Get more ideas here.
12. Bake granola from scratch, with whatever mix-ins you want.
Basically you just toss a bunch of things together and bake them, so you can’t mess up. Plus, it’s cheaper (and more delicious) to make it yourself. Here’s how to do it.
13. Sear the perfect steak
Meat often tastes better when you get a good, brown (or DARK brown) crust on it. In order to do that without overcooking the meat, you need to get a pan really, really hot and add plenty of fat, then put the meat in the pan and leave it alone (NO TOUCHING, NO MOVING) so that it can brown. Here’s a more in-depth explanation.
14. Make homemade vinaigrette.
All you need is oil, acid, salt, a bowl, and a whisk. Here’s a great primer on vinaigrettes, including common mistakes and how to avoid them.