We always feel a bit ageist when writing lists like this—to be honest, we don’t care if you ever learn to cook, as it’s 2016, Postmates exists, and women’s lib happened for a reason (“engagement chicken” is not a thing). That said, as you get a little older, you may find yourself wanting to cook more than you used to, as all of the money you once spent on expensive dinners out with friends is now being funneled towards “adult” things like debt reduction and savings accounts. Plus, you’re tired, and anything not involving your pajamas starts to seem like a bad idea at least 50% of the week. If you do find yourself suddenly looking to become a competent cook, here are a few easy and useful skills to master stat.
You Can Totally Bake
We're sure you'd probably prefer just to buy the pre-cut roast chicken packs at Trader Joe's, but trust us, doing this one yourself will be a major lifestyle upgrade. Plus, you will feel super competent and domestic after roasting your own chicken, and you can get creative with the approach you take over time.
Tools: A roasting pan with a rack (a rimmed sheet pan works as well), kitchen shears
Ingredients: A whole chicken, fresh salt and pepper, fresh garlic, 1 lemon, thyme and some low-sodium chicken broth. (Alternatively, you can use just olive oil, salt and pepper to season your bird simply.)
What You'll Need To Know Before You Get Started: Sometimes the chicken's organs are stuffed inside the chicken in a little packet—you'll want to remove that before you cook the chicken. Also, you should NOT wash the chicken before you cook it, but you should let it sit, unseasoned, in the fridge for 24 hours before you roast it.
How It's Done: We'll let Martha handle the nitty gritty—see her instructions here.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but making fluffy and delicious scrambled eggs actually takes real focus and effort.
Tools: A skillet, a spoon
Ingredients: Eggs, seltzer water
How It's Done: Whisk your eggs with salt and pepper, as desired. Add one tablespoon seltzer water for every two eggs. Then, cook the eggs on the lowest heat setting on your stove, slowly, mixing every so often with a spoon.
Blanching makes veggies less bitter, more colorful, and more healthful. Blanched vegetables can be used to for salads, crudite, stir fries and more. You should also blanch your vegetables if you plan to freeze them.
Tools: A large bowl, a large pot, a cutting board, a slotted spoon and paper towels
Ingredients: Vegetables (of your choosing), water, ice, salt
How It's Done: Fill the bowl with ice water and have it on standby. Then, fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil. As it's heating, cut your vegetables. Just before you drop the cut veggies into the boiling water, add two tablespoons of salt to the water. Then, add the veggies into the water slowly, in batches. If you're doing more than one vegetable, be sure to blanch them separately. After 30 seconds, pull a veggie from the boiling water, dip it quickly into the ice water, and taste it. Do this until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. When they're done, remove them from the pot using the slotted spoon and then dump them into the ice bath. When they're completely cool, remove them and let them drain on the paper towels. See a more detailed step-by-step here.
This will be the easiest thing you've ever done, and cooking veggies this way will ensure you crave them regularly.
Tools: A baking sheet, a bowl
Ingredients: Your veggie of choice (root veggies such as brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and carrots are best), olive oil, salt and pepper
How It's Done: Chop your veggies into the desired size, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and stick them in the oven for 10 to 45 minutes, depending on the vegetable (root vegetables take longer than other veggies). The Kitchn has specific cook times here.
Italians make spaghetti a bit differently than your mom may have done, but don't worry, they still use pasta from a box (and it's just fine to follow suit, according to the New York Times). Warning: Once you've cooked pasta this way, you'll be forever spoiled.
Tools: A skillet, a large pot, a cutting board
Ingredients: One onion, chopped tomatoes, salt, uncooked spaghetti
How It's Done: Chop a fresh onion and then fry it lightly in your skillet. When it's golden, add in some chopped tomatoes and salt. Simmer this sauce for 10 minutes. Then, turn your attention to the pasta. Bring your generously-salted water to a boil, and then add your pasta into the pot. Stir often, and cook to personal preference. Follow additional instructions for perfecting this dish here.
There are a lot of ways to cook fish, and the easiest is just to sprinkle some olive oil, salt and pepper onto the piece you prefer (we're partial to salmon) and stick it in the oven for a few minutes; however, we like this easy technique for steaming fish in parchment paper as well, particularly when entertaining.
Tools: Parchment paper, a baking sheet
Ingredients: A fish fillet of your choosing, olive oil, salt and pepper
How It's Done: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, follow Chowhound's simple instructions here.
Knowing how to make chicken soup from scratch is an invaluable skill that will inevitably win you friends. If that doesn't motivate you, do it for selfish reasons—as we head towards chillier temps, there's likely to be many a night on which all you want is a steaming hot bowl of soup (okay, Postmates, but still). Since there are so many different versions of this, the ultimate comfort food, across cultures, we figured we just pull a few of our favorite recipes for you to master as you please.
Traditional Chicken Soup, from The Pioneer Woman
Chicken Pho, from The Steamy Kitchen or Vegetarian Pho, from The Kitchn
Matzo Ball Soup, from Bon Appetit
Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup), from Epicurious
Simple Homemade Chicken Ramen, from Fork Knife Swoon