This is my list of recipes I think everyone should know how to cook. These recipes will be the ones that I make sure my kids know how to cook before they leave the nest. Knowing how to make all these basic dishes teach essential skills you need to know in the kitchen to be able to learn how to cook a wide variety of dishes.
1. Roast Chicken – Roast Chicken is a recipe everyone should know how to do. When you learn how to make a roast chicken, you will also learn the basics of roasting other meats like turkey, beef, pork and lamb. Roasting a chicken is simpler than you think. You can make any chicken juicy by stuffing it, but not with traditional stuffing. Using fruits and vegetables like grapes, cut up citrus, apples, onions or fresh herbs paired with a little wine or chicken stock poured into the cavity of the bird make the most succulent roast chickens. If you want to get fancier, you can separate the skin from the breasts of the bird with your fingers and add some butter between the chicken breast skin and meat. Then add a little salt and pepper over the bird, a drizzle of oil on top, and it’s ready for the oven. Trussing the chicken for roasting is something completely optional in my opinion, and a step I almost always skip. For the juiciest bird, I always roast chickens at 350 degrees until the internal temperature of the bird is 165 degrees. One of my favorite roast chicken recipes, roast grape chicken is shown above.
2. An omelet – Omelets, frittatas, tortilla espanolas and quiches are all great egg dishes everyone should know how to make. Eggs are cheap and healthy sources of protein that can be made in so many ways. Omelets are the most simple and best way to start. This Caprese Omelet from Shaina shown above is super simple and so easy to make. Omelets can be made with just about any filling you want. I like to keep mine simple with just one or two veggies and some cheese. Frittatas are the same as omelets, except you don’t fold them over. To complete their cooking process, you finish them in the oven under the broiler. Tortilla espanolas are basically the same as frittatas except for the addition of potatoes. Quiches are kind of like frittatas cooked in pie crusts but with the addition of lots of cream. For quiche I always use one pre-bought pie crust, 2 eggs scrambled with one cup cream or half and half poured over any leftover meats, veggies, cheese and herbs. For more great egg recipes, try this bacon and zucchini frittata, tortilla espanolla with sweet potatoes, and this savory pumpkin quiche.
3. Rice – Everyone needs to know how to make rice, no questions. It’s too easy. My most important tip is to never, ever remove the lid to the rice during the cooking process. Here’s my foolproof recipe:
2 cups plus 2 teaspoons long grain basmati or jasmine rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 glove garlic, grated
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon olive oil
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn burner off but leave rice on warm burner.
2. Set the timer again for 15 minutes. After the timer goes off remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.
For a healthier recipe, check out the secret to quick and easy brown rice here.
After learning these two simple rice recipes, you can easily stir fry any combination of meat and vegetables to make a quick and healthy dinner. You can also use your leftover rice to make fried rice, rice salads or rice pudding.
4. Bread – Bread may sound complicated and unnecessary since it’s so readily available at any grocery store, but I really think it’s a recipe every home cook should learn. Learning a yeast bread teaches you most importantly how to follow recipe directions. It may be something you have to do more than once before mastering, but it will be well worth it. Once you figure out a simple yeast bread, you’ll also know how to do any other types of yeast recipes like homemade pretzels, homemade pizza crust and yeast rolls. To start with something really simple, you should try a quick bread like this Guinness 5 ingredient bread. It really isn’t a yeast bread recipe, but is a super simple bread recipe to raise your confidence when making breads. For a yeast bread recipe, you can find the recipe for the bread pictured above here and a simple white bread recipe here.
5. Chili – Chili is one of those things we should all learn how to make. Chili is an easy all American comfort food that can be made so many ways. Make it with or without beans, with as much spice as you like, and whichever type of secret ingredients you’d like to add in like beer, a pinch of cinnamon or a touch of chocolate. You can even make a white chili with chicken. For me, I like to try a new version every time I make my chili, but my favorite over the past few years would have to be this Crock Pot Ancho Chili with Beans. You can find Laura’s recipe pictured above for Killer Beef Chili here.
6. Chicken Noodle Soup – This is a essential soup to learn how to make for everyone. Chicken noodle soup is one of those classic feel better soups you just have to learn whether your making it for yourself when you don’t feel good or for a friend or loved one. Classic chicken noodle soup is not something that I think should be served from a can when it’s so easy to make in your own kitchen from scratch. For mine, I use pre-made chicken stock, bits of chicken, any vegetable I have on hand and egg noodles. It’s fast, easy and the best medicine for any type of ailment. You can find my recipe for chicken noodle soup with mushrooms here. If you want the southern feel good chicken soup, check out my classic chicken and dumplings recipe here.
7. Lasagna – Nothing says homemade feel-good like a good lasagna. I cringe when I see so many people buying store bought frozen per-packaged lasagnas when it’s so easy and 1,000 times better to make your own. And the best part is when you learn to make the homemade meat sauce for the lasagna, you’ve also learned how to make a homemade spaghetti sauce. You can use ground beef, turkey or even Italian sausage in the sauce. Remember the secret to any amazing Italian red sauce is the quality of the ingredients. Be sure to use good quality San Marzano tomatoes to avoid a sauce that’s too acidic. The recipe featured above is my best lasagna recipe. It does take a little time, but it is so worth it. It’s the perfect dish for a big family Sunday supper. Pair it with a simple Italian salad and some garlic bread.
8. Steak – Steak is one of those things we all need to know how to do. Mainly so that we don’t have to pay an arm and a leg at a steakhouse every time we get a steak craving. There are a ton of tips and tricks to making great steak. In my opinion, almost none of them are very effective. The real key to a good steak is starting out with a really good cut of beef. Go ahead and spend a little extra and go to Whole Foods or any other high quality market and get a nice cut of beef. Then when you get it home season it right before cooking it. Letting the salt sit on the meat for a long time can draw out some of the steak’s juices. I usually just use simple herbs or a grill seasoning, sometimes along with an alcohol or wine to season my steak. But my favorite go to recipe can be found here. It’s a simple 5 ingredient recipe with worcestershire sauce. In the recipe I use Bison, but you can easily use beef. For some more simple recipes check out this Steak with Whiskey Mushroom Sauce and Rosemary Garlic Steak from Steamy Kitchen. And if you love anchovies, you’ll love my recipe shown above, Steak with Mushroom Tequila Sauce. And remember when cooking steak to never cut into the meat when it’s cooking to check for doneness. Instead, learn how to touch the meat and tell the inside temperature to check for doneness. Cutting the meat while it’s cooking, or before it has rested will make all the juices run out. The ideal time to wait for meat to rest is for 1/2 the amount of time it cooked. So if your steak cooked for 20 minutes, let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
9. Fried Chicken – I still can’t believe how many people I run into that don’t have a clue how to deep fry chicken. I really beleieve fried chicken is something everyone should know how to make because once you have mastered it, you will be able to fry anything. Frying chicken is actually very simple once you get the the hang of it. It all starts with marinating the chicken, whether in a brine, buttermilk or eggs. I rarely use a brine. My rule is to use buttermilk for bone in chicken and eggs for chicken tenders and nuggets. I mix my eggs or buttermilk with herbs and spices and let the chicken marinate for anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on how much time I have allotted. Then I pre-heat my cooking oil. I either use vegetable, canola or peanut oil, peanut oik being a favorite of mine. I preheat my oil to 350 degrees in a old large cast iron skillet on my stove top, but you can alternatively use a deep fryer. Then I bread my chicken in self-rising flour mixed with herbs and spices. Remember to use self-rising flour (if you can find it), it’s a secret to great southern fried chicken, and you don’t have to add extra salt becuse self-rising flour already has it in it. You can also use Bisquick if you want a slightly sweet flavor. The type of seasonging I add to my marinade and flour changes almost everytime I fry my chicken. One of my favorite go to seasonings though is this southern spice blend. But I also sometimes just use dill, onion and garlic powder to get a similar taste to Chick-fil-A. Other times I add a little of this and a little of that, or any spice blend that I find in the grocery store that looks interesting. Then after I bread , and the oil is pre-heated, I fry. I only turn my chicken once halfway during the cooking process. Knowing when your chicken is done is the tricky part you may have to practice at. The chicken will be the same color as in the photo above and the sound it makes as it fries will change when the cooking process is done. There will be less bubbles, and the bubbles will be much smaller. The sound will be less sizzle and a quieter frying noise. This is how you know when the chicken is done. When you remove it from the pan use a thermometer to check the internal temperature to make sure it’s at least 165 degrees. If not, place it on a baking rack on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 350 degrees, until it reaches temperature. For Laura’s fried chicken recipe pictured above click here.
10. Gravy – Gravy is a recipe you’ll be happy you mastered, especially when you’re the only one in the family who knows how to make the turkey gravy at Thanksgiving. It may take several tries to get the process of making gravy, but after you finally “get it,” it’s like riding a bike, and you’ll never forget how to do it. The formula for making gravy is super simple it’s equal parts flour to fat (like butter or any oil), and measured in tablespoons. Use a whisk to mix the fat and flour over medium heat in a skillet and cook it until it smells nutty, or at least 2 – 3 minutes. Lighter gravies are cooked less than darker gravies. Then how many tablespoons of flour you have, for instance 2, is how many cups of liquid you add, which would be 2 cups. For a liquid you can add chicken stock, water, or milk. For seasoning, I use the same type of seasoning I used to cook my meat. This will add extra flavor to the gravy. And it’s fine to use self-rising flour in the gravy too, just remember it already has salt in it, so don’t salt the gravy before tasting it. Then you have to stir the gravy constantly until it comes to a boil. This prevents it from getting lunpy. Then let it simmer until it thickens. Check out this tutorial on my site for more detailed information on how to make gravy. For the yummy sausage gravy geatured above, my favorite comfort breakfast food, check my easy recipe here.
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