Teaching Young People to Cook
In many ways cooking is one of the easiest life skills to teach. Picking up a room or doing laundry may be less complex, but the delicious rewards of cooking are typically more enticing than tidy rooms and drawers of clean clothes! Even so, the idea of teaching a young person to safely and confidently use knives, stoves and blenders, understand the terminology in a cookbook and practice good food safety can be daunting, to say the least. Here are some tips to help it go smoothly.
- Set reasonable expectations for you:
- It will take longer.
- It will be messier.
- Sometimes they will fail badly and food will be wasted.
- This is an investment. Eventually they will be able to make a meal and your efforts will pay back! 🙂
- Set reasonable expectations for them:
- It will take time to learn.
- The cooking session is not over until clean-up is done.
- You can make a mess, but you can’t be unsanitary—hands must be washed (and not licked), surfaces and utensils must be clean, cross-contamination must be prevented, food must be thoroughly cooked before eaten. Tell horror stories if necessary to reinforce this…
- Some things take practice; you will get better as you go.
- Some day you will be able to prepare great food!
- Have them learn on things that they like to eat. The end result will help them pull through tough spots.
- Consider starting with no-recipe cooking such as omelets, tacos and simple pizzas with pre-made crusts.
- Baking is a great place to start to learn recipes. Muffins, brownies and cookies are typically un-fussy but will teach accurate measuring and basic terminology.
- Read through recipes together and review techniques and terminology before beginning, then show them what you mean and, finally, watch as they do it.
- Teach and regularly review stove, oven, knife and other kitchen tool safety rules—turn pot handles in, lift hot things with two hands, keep fingers out of the path of the blade, don’t stick anything in a mixer or blender when it’s running, etc. I often remind my kids that these are tools, not toys, and must be used correctly…not creatively.
- When they master kitchen basics and start to become dependable, give them responsibilities in the kitchen. Assign them to be in charge of salads or side vegetables, or give them a night to make dessert. When they get older you can assign them full meals. As you give them new assignments, help them to see it as a step on the road to adulthood. They are now beginning to provide food for their families!
- Give them more freedom as you give them new responsibilities. Allow them as many choices as possible and give them access to the kitchen at other times. I, personally, keep certain expensive ingredients ‘by request only’, but most things are freely available as long as they clean up and obey the rules. So far, it’s gone well. One of my sons decided he wanted to start making pies one day, so he tracked down the necessary recipes and just went after it. His first couple of attempts were a little unusual, but he just fed us all a pretty amazing lemon meringue a couple weeks ago—with zero help or guidance from mom!