back to top
Shopping

37 Cooking Basics You Should Probably Know By Now

::bookmarks immediately:: This is the Antoni from Queer Eye of BuzzFeed articles.

Posted on

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

1. Make sure your kitchen is properly stocked with the right knife for the task at hand. For example, you don't want to squish tomatoes with a chef's knife — you should be using a serrated one!

Keep in mind the three *most* important knives to have in your kitchen: the chef's knife, the serrated knife, and the paring knife. You can basically do it all if you start with these bbs.Need the three basic knives? These are great options:—Calphalon eight-inch chef's knife ($25.87 from Amazon or $34.99 from Bed, Bath, & Beyond)—OXO Professional Five-Inch Serrated Utility Knife ($17.86 on Amazon or $7.99 from Bed, Bath & Beyond)—J.A. Henckels Classic Four-Inch Paring Knife ($25.30 on Amazon or $32.99 from Bed, Bath & Beyond)
blog.bedbathandbeyond.com

Keep in mind the three *most* important knives to have in your kitchen: the chef's knife, the serrated knife, and the paring knife. You can basically do it all if you start with these bbs.

Need the three basic knives? These are great options:

Calphalon eight-inch chef's knife ($25.87 from Amazon or $34.99 from Bed, Bath, & Beyond)

OXO Professional Five-Inch Serrated Utility Knife ($17.86 on Amazon or $7.99 from Bed, Bath & Beyond)

J.A. Henckels Classic Four-Inch Paring Knife ($25.30 on Amazon or $32.99 from Bed, Bath & Beyond)

2. When prepping your ingredients for a recipe, make sure you're actually following the chopping guidelines. If it calls for a one-inch dice, a julienne, or a mince, make sure you know what those words mean.

Learn what each of these knife cuts are called at All Food Considered.
all-food-considered.com

Learn what each of these knife cuts are called at All Food Considered.

Until you get the hang of it, use a cutting board with measurements etched right on it so you always chop evenly, whether you're mincing or julienning!

Get it from Amazon for $24.70.Promising review: "My husband IS the obsessive chef! He is always very precise and careful in his cutting. If a recipe calls for dicing potatoes into one-inch chunks...that is what he will do. I really bought this for him as a joke because of how precise he is, but he LOVED it. He truly uses the gridlines and the measurements to accurately dice his food. Additionally, its a nice light weight cutting board. If you know a perfectionist chef, this is a GREAT gift idea." —TJ Callahan
amazon.com

Get it from Amazon for $24.70.

Promising review: "My husband IS the obsessive chef! He is always very precise and careful in his cutting. If a recipe calls for dicing potatoes into one-inch chunks...that is what he will do. I really bought this for him as a joke because of how precise he is, but he LOVED it. He truly uses the gridlines and the measurements to accurately dice his food. Additionally, its a nice light weight cutting board. If you know a perfectionist chef, this is a GREAT gift idea." —TJ Callahan

3. Be the salt bae meme you wish to be, and sprinkle your salt from high up — that'll ensure a more even distribution and no salt stuck in a certain area.

This is one of 17 Genius Cooking Tips That Professional Chefs Want You To Know, so you know it's good.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

4. Before you start cooking, prep your ingredients and put them in little containers or glass bowls (this is called mise en place) — that way you won't ever forget an ingredient or accidentally add the wrong amount.

Get a set of three from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $6.97.Still not convinced? Read about the magic: Prep Bowls Will Seriously Change The Way You Cook.
linksynergy.walmart.com

Get a set of three from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $6.97.

Still not convinced? Read about the magic: Prep Bowls Will Seriously Change The Way You Cook.

5. Master the one-pan dinner and you're basically already a master chef. All you need is a sheet pan + protein + veggies + salt + oil. That is IT.

BuzzFeed has tons and tons and tons and tons of sheet pan meal ideas to get you started, but just get experimenting with your favorite flavors! Need some quality pans to get you started? Get a set of two 17"x11" nonstick sheet pans with red silicone handles from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $14.75.
buzzfeed.com

BuzzFeed has tons and tons and tons and tons of sheet pan meal ideas to get you started, but just get experimenting with your favorite flavors!

Need some quality pans to get you started? Get a set of two 17"x11" nonstick sheet pans with red silicone handles from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $14.75.

6. Don't shy away from herbs and spices — they make all the difference between meals that are bland and meals that are bangin'.

Educate yourself when it comes to herbs and spices at Cook Smarts!
cooksmarts.com

Educate yourself when it comes to herbs and spices at Cook Smarts!

7. When zesting a lemon, use a microplane to remove only the top layer of skin, and try not to get too much of the white stuff (it's called the pith). You get all the delicate citrus-y flavor, with none of the bitterness!

Learn more about this technique at The Kitchn.Get a top-rated microplane from Amazon for $12.94 or Walmart for $12.90.
thekitchn.com

Learn more about this technique at The Kitchn.

Get a top-rated microplane from Amazon for $12.94 or Walmart for $12.90.

8. Perfect the art of the poached egg so you can top every meal with an Instagram-able runny yolk! The key is to add a tablespoon of vinegar and keep the boiling water swirling around the egg.

Find all the steps and Never Fuck Up Your Poached Eggs Again.
Photos by Lauren Zaser/ Graphics by Chris Ritter/ BuzzFeed

Find all the steps and Never Fuck Up Your Poached Eggs Again.

If you need help while you get the hang of it, you can try silicone poaching cups with perforations to mimic the traditional swirling method.

Get a set of two from Amazon for $9.95.

Promising review: "These are just great! No spread-out poached eggs, the eggs don't stick to the silicone poachers, and clean-up is a breeze. The top section folds over for nice compact storage. If you like poached eggs, you'll like these little poachers." —E. Deland

9. The easiest way to peel garlic is to crush each clove with the flat of a knife first. This trick is tried and true!

BuzzFeed

Learn more about this technique at Here's How You Should Actually Be Peeling Garlic.

10. If knives frighten you (honestly, I get that) you can also use a silicone tube designed to easily peel garlic. Just pop the clove in the tube and roll it back and forth against the table or counter.

It totally works — and this one has over 1,000 glowing reviews! Get it from Amazon for $5.15.Promising review: "It really works! My least favorite part about cooking is peeling all the little garlic cloves. This thing peels them in a snap! I don't have to smash each clove and pick the pieces of skin apart from the pieces of crushed garlic. The skin just slides right off! 10/10 would recommend." —Ruth Dickhoff
amazon.com

It totally works — and this one has over 1,000 glowing reviews!

Get it from Amazon for $5.15.

Promising review: "It really works! My least favorite part about cooking is peeling all the little garlic cloves. This thing peels them in a snap! I don't have to smash each clove and pick the pieces of skin apart from the pieces of crushed garlic. The skin just slides right off! 10/10 would recommend." —Ruth Dickhoff

11. When making stir fries or cooking in a frying pan, don't add garlic too early — it might burn or brown too much. Toss it in towards the end to let the flavor bloom quickly!

Learn more about this trick at The Kitchn!Check out this tip in action in the recipe for Garlic Chicken Stir Fry at The Recipe Critic (pictured above).
therecipecritic.com

Learn more about this trick at The Kitchn!

Check out this tip in action in the recipe for Garlic Chicken Stir Fry at The Recipe Critic (pictured above).

12. Onions are amazing, but not all created equal. Don't buy sweet onions when you want to use shallots!

Yes, it does matter what kind of onion you use, so learn which varieties to buy for which recipes!
Photo by Macey J Foronda / Chris Ritter

Yes, it does matter what kind of onion you use, so learn which varieties to buy for which recipes!

13. When you're chopping an onion, make two horizontal slices before chopping down to keep it all together. Even if you're not keeping it all together yourself — I see those onion tears!

BuzzFeed

Need more details and GIFs? Check out Here's Everything You Need To Know About Chopping Onions.

14. And use the ~claw hand~ technique to protect your fingers from your not-quite-Top Chef knife skills. No ER visits, please!

Tuck your fingers in and maintain a firm grip on the vegetable. Learn more at The Kitchn.
thekitchn.com

Tuck your fingers in and maintain a firm grip on the vegetable. Learn more at The Kitchn.

15. Put those chopping skills to the test and whip up some caramelized onions to improve ANY meal. Yes, it takes time, but yes, it is totally worth it.

Check out the ultimate tutorial for caramelized onions at Gimme Some Oven.
gimmesomeoven.com

Check out the ultimate tutorial for caramelized onions at Gimme Some Oven.

16. Don't let the idea of seasoning and cleaning cast iron pans intimidate you; they're one of the most versatile tools in your kitchen. Use them on the stove, pop 'em in the oven. They're basically indestructible — we're talking magic pans, folks.

We've got you covered — here's Everything You Need To Know About Cooking With Cast Iron Pans.Looking for recipe ideas? Check out 21 Cast Iron Skillet Recipes You Should Try.Still don't have one? Get a top-rated Lodge cast iron skillet from Amazon for $8.99 (for an eight-inch; also available in seven other sizes) or Walmart for $9.88.
BuzzFeed

We've got you covered — here's Everything You Need To Know About Cooking With Cast Iron Pans.

Looking for recipe ideas? Check out 21 Cast Iron Skillet Recipes You Should Try.

Still don't have one? Get a top-rated Lodge cast iron skillet from Amazon for $8.99 (for an eight-inch; also available in seven other sizes) or Walmart for $9.88.

17. Stop overcrowding your pans. I mean it! The heat won't distribute evenly, and you won't get those lovely caramelized bits — no one wants bland chicken thighs.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

18. Learn how to perfectly cook a steak, including searing it (in a HOT, HOT, HOT pan) and then basting it with butter and herbs.

buzzfeed.com

I watched this GIF and suddenly I'm hungry.

We've developed the ultimate guide for cooking several cuts of steak!

19. Don't cut into your meat to check how done it is; try the ~meat done-ness hand test~ for perfectly pink results every time.

Chris Ritter / buzzfeed.com

20. And on that note, you need to let your meat rest after cooking! It helps the juices settle and get reabsorbed, so they don't all come running out when you cut in. Tender!

While it varies by cut of meat and recipe, the rest time is usually 10–20 minutes.
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

While it varies by cut of meat and recipe, the rest time is usually 10–20 minutes.

21. Unless you're making risotto, NEVER stir rice while you're cooking it! That's how it goes from fluffy to sticky and starchy.

Other tips for making perfect rice? If you're making it on the stove, use a heavy-bottomed pot to prevent burning, and during the final stage, put a towel under the lid to avoid extra condensation making it mushy.Of course you can always use a rice cooker ($24.99 on Amazon) or a microwave rice steamer ($24.99 on Amazon) for complete effortlessness.
Zoë Burnett / BuzzFeed

Other tips for making perfect rice? If you're making it on the stove, use a heavy-bottomed pot to prevent burning, and during the final stage, put a towel under the lid to avoid extra condensation making it mushy.

Of course you can always use a rice cooker ($24.99 on Amazon) or a microwave rice steamer ($24.99 on Amazon) for complete effortlessness.

22. And grain-to-water ratios depend on what you're making; keep these handy and you can venture out to fun, different grains like farro and quinoa.

Keep this guide from Good Eggs handy!
blog.goodeggs.com

Keep this guide from Good Eggs handy!

23. When you're making pasta, once it's just about al dente, finish cooking it in the sauce, adding in some of the leftover pasta water. Your sauce will cling to the pasta *so* much better, making for a real Italian restaurant–quality dish.

Get all the steps for perfecting your pasta at Serious Eats.
Vicky Wasik for Serious Eats

Get all the steps for perfecting your pasta at Serious Eats.

24. And pair the right pasta with the right sauce for the best ~texture combos~.

Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

25. Try your hand at roasting a whole chicken. It's easier than you think (we promise!), delicious, good for you, and cheaper than buying individual cuts, AND it makes THE BEST LEFTOVERS.

BuzzFeed's food editors tried EIGHT recipes to find you the best (and easiest!) roast chicken recipe of all time.Here's LITERALLY all the things you need: a chicken (duh), butcher's twine ($4.99 from Amazon), a roasting rack ($11.99 from Amazon), salt, and pepper. THAT IS IT!!!! No other ingredients, no other tools. SERIOUSLY. If you're looking into a reusable option when it comes to trussing up your bird, you can opt for silicone butcher's twine; get it from Amazon for $14.99.
Justine Zwiebel / Buzzfeed

BuzzFeed's food editors tried EIGHT recipes to find you the best (and easiest!) roast chicken recipe of all time.

Here's LITERALLY all the things you need: a chicken (duh), butcher's twine ($4.99 from Amazon), a roasting rack ($11.99 from Amazon), salt, and pepper. THAT IS IT!!!! No other ingredients, no other tools. SERIOUSLY.

If you're looking into a reusable option when it comes to trussing up your bird, you can opt for silicone butcher's twine; get it from Amazon for $14.99.

Side note: When I'm talking about leftover possibilities for a whole chicken, they're basically endless. And it's already cooked, so you can assemble a fun new meal on a weeknight.

Quesadillas, chicken salad, and fried rice OH MY! These are the joys that await you in 24 Easy Meals You Can Make With Rotisserie Chicken.
Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

Quesadillas, chicken salad, and fried rice OH MY! These are the joys that await you in 24 Easy Meals You Can Make With Rotisserie Chicken.

26. Never buy salad dressing again — making your own vinaigrette is as easy as this ratio: one part vinegar/acid, two parts oil.

Learn more about making your own dressings at Little Coconutty.
littlecoconutty.com

Learn more about making your own dressings at Little Coconutty.

Btw, you can just whip one up right in a handy mix-and-pour salad dressing bottle. It has measurement markings to make things ridiculously easy, and a whisk ball inside so you re-combine your dressings right before you pour.

Get it from Amazon for $12.Promising review: "This is a very well thought out product. The measuring lines on the container are easy to read and make putting together salad dressing a breeze. The mixer means you just give it one good shake and your dressing is ready to pour even after sitting in the refrigerator and getting a little solid. The wide pour top gives you good control and lets you pour even thicker ranch type dressings, And I really love the fact you honestly can just stick it in the dishwasher and get it totally clean. I've only had it a couple of weeks so I don't know if it is well made enough to outlive me, but so far I'm impressed. Whoever designed this has actually made their own salad dressing!" —E. Hauptman
amazon.com

Get it from Amazon for $12.

Promising review: "This is a very well thought out product. The measuring lines on the container are easy to read and make putting together salad dressing a breeze. The mixer means you just give it one good shake and your dressing is ready to pour even after sitting in the refrigerator and getting a little solid. The wide pour top gives you good control and lets you pour even thicker ranch type dressings, And I really love the fact you honestly can just stick it in the dishwasher and get it totally clean. I've only had it a couple of weeks so I don't know if it is well made enough to outlive me, but so far I'm impressed. Whoever designed this has actually made their own salad dressing!" —E. Hauptman

27. If you're getting the hang of using your slow cooker, keeping in mind that the order you add your ingredients is important!

theskinnyfork.com

Add dairy ingredients later, because adding them too early might cause them to curdle. And when it comes to pasta and beans, add those last too, because you do *not* want them getting mushy.

For more slow cooker info, check out 17 Genius Tips & Tricks For If You Own A Slow Cooker. And check out this recipe pictured here (it's slow cooker jalepeño corn chowder) at The Skinny Fork.

Still don't have a slow cooker (first of all, really?). Get a six-quart programmable Crock-Pot from Amazon for $34.99 or Walmart for $29.92.

28. Don't sleep on the beauty of the dutch oven. It's one of the most useful tools you have have in the kitchen for making one-pot dinners (aka tasty meal, basically no dishes).

Get a five-quart dutch oven from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $27.88 (available in blue and copper).Need some inspiration? Let me show you right over to 18 One-Pot Dinners You Can Make In A Dutch Oven.
Walmart

Get a five-quart dutch oven from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $27.88 (available in blue and copper).

Need some inspiration? Let me show you right over to 18 One-Pot Dinners You Can Make In A Dutch Oven.

29. If you're cooking only with EVOO, you're doing it wrong. Extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, so try other varieties when stir frying or roasting!

Learn more about these oils at World Market.
worldmarket.com

Learn more about these oils at World Market.

30. You should really be baking your bacon, not frying it in a pan. Why?? 1. It's easier to cook a bunch at once (the more bacon, the better) 2. It's wayyyyyyy less messy. 3. It cooks up perfectly every time! Without having to do any extra work!

Check out all the steps for the best baked bacon (try saying that five times fast) at Food52.
food52.com

Check out all the steps for the best baked bacon (try saying that five times fast) at Food52.

31. Learn how to bake something in ❤️parchment paper❤️ for a no-fuss (and like, no dishes!) dinner. Yes it's basically the easiest way to cook fish, but you can totally make chicken, shrimp, veggies, and eggs in it too!

::Immediately clicks on 16 Parchment-Wrapped Dinners For People Who Hate Dishes:: These recipes include mains AND sides! Dinner = done.Get a box of 22 pre-cut parchment paper sheets from Amazon for $3.48 or a three-pack of parchment paper rolls from Amazon for $11.99.
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

::Immediately clicks on 16 Parchment-Wrapped Dinners For People Who Hate Dishes:: These recipes include mains AND sides! Dinner = done.

Get a box of 22 pre-cut parchment paper sheets from Amazon for $3.48 or a three-pack of parchment paper rolls from Amazon for $11.99.

32. Amp up the moistness and flavor of standard chicken breasts by using a marinade. You can whip one up with as few as three ingredients!!

Looking for something a little more impressive? We've got four-ingredient and five-ingredient marinades for you too!
Design by Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Looking for something a little more impressive? We've got four-ingredient and five-ingredient marinades for you too!

33. And don't over- or under-marinate. Match your protein to the chart below for just the right amount of flavor (and no sogginess) every time.

BuzzFeed Life / buzzfeed.com

34. Combine butter and flour to make a roux, the base of tons of sauces (including bechamel, aka what you need to make a dope mac and cheese).

Get the how-to at The Pioneer Woman.

35. Know what kind of pan to use for what meals — and only use nonstick for things you need to, like making eggs or pancakes (things you don't need to crisp up).

Get a PFOA-free (PFOA is that chemical found in most nonstick pans) nonstick skillet from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $15.48 (for a 9.5-inch pan) $19.88 (for an 11-inch pan).
Walmart

Get a PFOA-free (PFOA is that chemical found in most nonstick pans) nonstick skillet from Tasty's collection for Walmart for $15.48 (for a 9.5-inch pan) $19.88 (for an 11-inch pan).

36. Master the art of making the perfect grilled cheese so you can always feed a crowd (or just yourself) without having to whip up anything fancy. No matter what kind of bread or cheese you want, create your own *uLtImAte* blend.

Emily Fleischaker / BuzzFeed

Haven't been making your grilled cheeses with mayo? Now is the time to start. Thomas Jefferson voice: "If you don't know, now you know."

37. Still need some pointers? This bestselling book has all the ~truly basic~ techniques and recipes you need to impress a date... or your mom, who you can totally invite over for dinner now. It has over 1,000 photos, so you cannot screw this up.

The reviews for this are straight-up glowing.Get it from Amazon for $20.49, Barnes and Noble for $22.04, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.Promising review: "I just turned 25, and my lack of cooking skills was beginning to be embarrassing and unhealthy, so I began searching for a cookbook to help me out. I usually got recipes online, but they tended to be either too complicated or too expensive for someone who's not that well off. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book has turned my culinary life around. I cook pretty frequently now, and I basically exclusively cook out of this book. I'm going to list several things about this book that I like:* TONS of great tutorials for things like cutting up veggies, how to boil pasta the right way, etc. Along with these great helpers, every recipe includes page numbers to the relevant stuff, so you can easily flip back and forth to figure out how to do all of the mechanical stuff.* The recipes are arranged in each chapter from easiest to most difficult, so it's perfect for new cooks to build up their confidence.* The recipes are simple, and simple generally means cheap. It does NOT, however, mean flavorless. Everything I've made out of this book has been fantastic, even the super-simple chopped salad and homemade dressing.* The section on what tools/equipment needed in a kitchen has also helped me furnish my kitchen better.I would say that if you are a beginner cook, this book is absolutely the one to buy. It's affordable, well written, and will help you make fantastic food. Seriously. Look no further." —Patrick Rinker
amazon.com

The reviews for this are straight-up glowing.

Get it from Amazon for $20.49, Barnes and Noble for $22.04, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

Promising review: "I just turned 25, and my lack of cooking skills was beginning to be embarrassing and unhealthy, so I began searching for a cookbook to help me out. I usually got recipes online, but they tended to be either too complicated or too expensive for someone who's not that well off. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book has turned my culinary life around. I cook pretty frequently now, and I basically exclusively cook out of this book. I'm going to list several things about this book that I like:

* TONS of great tutorials for things like cutting up veggies, how to boil pasta the right way, etc. Along with these great helpers, every recipe includes page numbers to the relevant stuff, so you can easily flip back and forth to figure out how to do all of the mechanical stuff.

* The recipes are arranged in each chapter from easiest to most difficult, so it's perfect for new cooks to build up their confidence.

* The recipes are simple, and simple generally means cheap. It does NOT, however, mean flavorless. Everything I've made out of this book has been fantastic, even the super-simple chopped salad and homemade dressing.

* The section on what tools/equipment needed in a kitchen has also helped me furnish my kitchen better.

I would say that if you are a beginner cook, this book is absolutely the one to buy. It's affordable, well written, and will help you make fantastic food. Seriously. Look no further." —Patrick Rinker

Listen to Chef Auguste Gusteau: Anyone CAN cook!

Pixar Animation Studios

Check out the entire collection of Tasty kitchenware at Walmart!

Tasty
The best things at three price points