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Fundamental Cooking Abilities for Rookies

It’s easy to ignore your lack of rudimentary cooking skills when ordering pizza or going to take away every night. When people switch to primary or keto diets, they typically spend significantly more time in the kitchen. On the plus side, they are better able to control the ingredient quality and macronutrient distribution of their meals. This also forces them to grapple with their lack of culinary skills.

Preparing two or three homemade meals a day can be daunting if you’re used to eating mostly prepackaged or restaurant meals. However, as with any other skill, by starting with the basics, you will learn, practicing often, improving your skills as you go. Your meals don’t have to be lavish, your technique perfect, or your dishes artistic. They just have to taste good.

Today I’m going to nominate some skills and dishes that I think every beginner should learn. Sign up in the comments and let me know what else you would put on the list.

Where to start

First some basics:

First, follow other people’s recipes. Don’t try to give it wings if you don’t know what you are doing. Find a cookbook or two or blog you like and work your way through. The books Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen have proven themselves to help you find your way around a kitchen. My favorite book for artful yet practical kitchen inspections is Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.

Get good knives and keep them sharp. Check out some YouTube videos to learn basic knife skills. Everyone should know how to chop an onion. Start there.

Season your food, for God’s sake. My theory is that most of the people who think they’re bad cooks are mostly just boring cooks. (That and they overcooked their meat, but we’ll manage.) Salt is your friend. You should have a decently stocked spice rack. Tell me in the comments which spices you use the most often. Mine are cumin and turmeric.

Just do it! As with anything else, this will make you better. Stick to simple recipes first, then get more adventurous as you get more confident.


I firmly believe that everyone should know how to cook a whole chicken. A fragrant, golden chicken feels like real kitchen masteryand yet it’s that simple. Ina Garten taught me (not personally, but you get it) or start with this recipe for perfectly fried chicken.

If you fry a whole chicken, you get a carcass. This is great news because You should also know how to make your own bone broth. It doesn’t matter whether you use the hob, slow cooker or pressure cooker. Either way, filling your freezer (no puns) with jars of homemade bone broth couldn’t be easier. Then you always have something to hand to soup, stew, chilli or just to drink.

When it comes to making chicken breasts or thighs, I usually go for thighs because they are more forgiving. Breasts tend to get dry and disappointing. The secret is to salt your chicken breastespecially when you bake them or toss them on the grill. (You can also salt thighs or whole chickens or poultry or lean meat, but in my opinion it’s especially life-changing with chicken breasts.) Here’s how I do it:

Salt step by step

  • Boil two cups of water.
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup sea salt until dissolved.
  • Transfer the salt water to a large glass bowl. Add ice water to cool the solution so you don’t poach the chicken. Stir it up. If you have fresh herbs and cloves of garlic on hand, you can throw them in now, but it is not necessary.
  • Add the chicken, making sure it is covered with water. Let it sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes (yes, it’s fine) or stick it in the refrigerator for up to an hour.
  • Remove the chicken and cook according to your recipe, but don’t add more salt!

Chicken recipes to try:

Devyn’s Grilled Marinated Chicken (MDA)

Cracklin ‘Chicken (Name Surname Paleo)

Mayo fried chicken (original cuisine)


Please, I beg you: if you don’t make soup, don’t cook your vegetables. Steaming is acceptable, however Sear or fry for really tasty cooked vegetables.

When frying and roasting, avoid these three beginner mistakes:

  1. Don’t use enough fat or oil. Vegetables need lubrication to avoid sticking to the pan, and oil will allow your roasted vegetables to develop those delicious crispy pieces. When frying, add enough oil / fat to cover the bottom of the pan. For frying, use enough to coat the vegetables when you toss them, but not so much that they float in an oil basin.
  2. Overfilling the pan. Give the vegetables room to breathe. Use multiple skillets or sauté them in batches instead of overlapping them unless you are frying with stirring.
  3. Too cool to play. Hot = browning, browning = taste. When it comes to frying, 375 ° F (190 ° C) is as low as I’ll go, but really, I rarely fry below 425 ° F (220 °). When roasting multiple vegetables at the same time, it is best to keep them separate in case they are cooked at different rates.

For a masterful roast, preheat your pan over medium to high heat with no fat or oil. When it’s nice and evenly hot, add the fat, then the vegetables. Fry over medium to medium heat.

In general, I prefer roasting for softer vegetables that cook faster – think mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, fresh green beans, peppers – and roasting for tougher vegetables like winter squash and the cruciferous Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, or romanesco. These are not hard and fast rules. For example, you can roast zucchini or peppers and onions.

Two more tips:

  • Take the time to cut your vegetables into roughly even pieces so that they cook at the same speed.
  • Don’t be too excited while frying. If you want your vegetables to brown nicely, leave them undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring and repeating.

Vegetable recipes to try:

Easy recipe for roasted winter vegetables (MDA)

Grilled Greek Summer Vegetables Recipe (MDA)

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts (MDA)

Also read Mark’s 8 Tips For Cooking Vegetables


Steak lovers have strong feelings about how to cook the perfect steak. You have to experiment with different methods and cuts to find out which one you prefer. Personally, I like to cook NY Strips on very hot cast iron, seasoning my steak with just coarse salt before cooking, and turning it over frequently. Others swear by reverse searing, which is also fantastic. Still others cook steak only on a grill, like Mark’s grilled steak.

I’m not going to tell you how to cook your steak, but I will suggest that if you prefer your steak to be well done, you shouldn’t admit this out loud unless you want some serious ribs. I am just saying. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the steaks and remove them from the stove when they are 5 to 10 degrees below your target temperature:

Rare: 45-50 ° C (120-125 ° F)
Medium-rare: 55-160 ° C (130-135 ° F)
Medium: 60-65 ° C (140-145 ° F)
Middle recess: 65-70 ° C (150-155 ° F)
Good:> 160 ° F (> 70 ° C)

Keep in mind, No matter what cut and method you use, you should let your steaks sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting them. During this time, the internal temperature of the steak will rise 5 ° F or so.


Omelets are always on the list of kitchen skills everyone should have, but I disagree. Omelets are fussy. Scrambles are a lot easier and just as delicious. In any case, however, I think that Primal + Keto eaters should have some egg skills in their repertoire. I would start with this:

Scrambled eggs. How to make the greatest scrambled eggs:

  • Heat a pan over medium-low heat.
  • Melt some butter in the pan and add the eggs to the pan without stirring. (You can also separate whites and yolks here, but it’s a more advanced maneuver.)
  • When the whites are about half cooked, pushing them around with a spatula avoiding the yolks.
  • When the whites are almost done, take the pan off the heat, break the yolks and fold the yolks and whites together. Keep stirring gently until the eggs are cooked to your liking. They should be creamy, but if you just can’t handle soft eggs, turn the pan back on low heat and finish to your liking.

Hard boiled eggs. The truth is, I never boil eggs again. For hard-boiled eggs, I either use the Instant Pot (easiest!) Or steam them. That way you won’t lose eggs when they crack.

The Instant Pot 5-5-5 method is foolproof: boil eggs for 5 minutes using the Egg or Manual function, naturally release the pressure for 5 minutes, then release the remaining pressure and set the eggs In an ice bath for 5 minutes. Voila.

Or boil a few inches of water in a pan and put a steam basket in it. Steam the eggs for 7-10 minutes depending on how you like the yolks, then place them in an ice bath to cool.

Egg muffins. Like this recipe.

Egg recipes to try:

This should be a good start for any new chef. What else would you add? Which books are must-have books for beginners in the kitchen? Skills or dishes everyone should have in their arsenal?

About the author

Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is Senior Writer and Community Manager at Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach and co-author of three keto cookbooks.

As the author of Marks Daily Apple and the leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance communities, Lindsay’s job is to help people learn the what, why, and how of a health-focused life. Before joining the Primal team, she earned her Masters and Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, where she also worked as a researcher and educator.

Lindsay lives in Northern California with her husband and two sport-obsessed sons. In her free time, she enjoys ultra running, triathlon, camping and game nights. Follow @theusefuldish on Instagram as Lindsay tries to balance work, family and cardio exercise while maintaining a healthy balance and most importantly, enjoying life. More information is available at lindsaytaylor.co.

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