There are a couple problems that make cooking at home seem harder than it really is.
Many guys never learn how to cook. You’re probably pretty clueless unless you’re in the minority that took a home economics class in high school or had a mom that taught you.
It can be tempting just to stop and grab some fast food on the way home from work too. After working eight hours, you don’t want to spend another hour in front of the stove when you’re already hungry.
There are lots of reasons to learn how to cook. It can be cheaper and healthier for you. Cooking a romantic meal at home can make a great date no matter what stage of your relationship you’re at. If your wife or girlfriend is usually the one who cooks, why not show how much you appreciate her by giving her a night off and preparing dinner by yourself?
Luckily, cooking doesn’t have to be hard. By the end of this article, I’m going to show you how you can cook a delicious meal for yourself in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered. Hopefully, you’ll also gain a few favorite recipes that you can make every week.
Basic Ingredients to Buy
If you’re a single guy who doesn’t cook, then your cupboards and fridge are probably pretty bare. Maybe you’ve got some cookies, some beer, and whatever takeout food you didn’t finish the night before.
To start cooking, you’ll have to stock up on some essential ingredients. But most of them are pretty cheap, last for weeks or longer, and can be used in a variety of recipes.
You’ll need to buy other ingredients on top of these depending on what dish you’re making, but these ones will come in handy for lots of different recipes.
Eggs. Really versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Either by itself or incorporated into a recipe.
Cooking oil. I use olive oil for probably for 90% of things I cook (everything except desserts like cakes or muffins.) Lots of people also swear by coconut oil, but it can turn solid at room temperature, so I find it harder to work with. There’s also canola oil, and the generic “vegetable oil” which is the cheapest but usually contains a blend of soybean, corn, sunflower, and palm oils.
Spices. You don’t need to buy a whole spice rack. But I’d suggest getting at least salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some generic spice blend. I like Italian seasoning which usually contains basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. It goes well with pretty much any kind of meat. If you like things spicy, you might want to grab some cayenne or chili powder too.
Condiments. Get whatever you enjoy and will eat the most. This will vary from person to person. You might want to get some ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, hot sauce, or vinegar.
All-purpose flour. Flour is cheap and stays fresh for about a year at room temperature. You’ll use it in pretty much any baked goods. You don’t need to go crazy and buy a 20 lb bag. A couple of pounds should be good to start with.
Rice. Another cheap dried product that will last for months. Makes a filling side dish for pretty much any main course.
Dry Pasta. If you don’t like rice or just want to mix things up, pasta is excellent as a side dish or a main course. Spaghetti is a favorite. You might want to try penne, bowtie, or egg noodles too.
Cheese. I find that a medium cheddar goes well with pretty much anything you’re making.
Equipment You’ll Need
As well as the ingredients, you’ll need the right tools to make your recipes a reality.
A metal cookie or baking sheet. 99% of the stuff I cook in my oven, I use a baking sheet. Cookies, bread, pork roasts, pizza, whatever. Unless you’re making muffins or something that requires a specific mold, you can cook everything on a flat metal tray.
A fry pan or skillet. You’ll use this to cook all your eggs, meats, and vegetables. Ideally, you want something with a flat bottom and somewhat raised sides. If you can only get one, I’d just get one large one. Get something that you think you could fit a couple of steaks or four chicken breasts or hamburgers into.
A saucepan. You’ll use this to cook pasta, rice, and of course sauces. Again I’d just get one large one that you can use for everything. Buy one large enough to fit a dozen eggs or a couple whole heads of broccoli into.
Knives. The easiest way to get all the knives you need is just to buy a knife block. Plus then they all match and you have a nice place to store them. Look for a set that has at least one larger chef’s knife, a bread knife, a bunch of steak knives, and a sharpener. You want non-serrated knives (a solid blade without teeth) if possible so you can sharpen them yourself. I wouldn’t cheap out on knives, because you’ll keep them for years. A good set should only put you back $50-$100.
Cutting Board. You’ll want something to cut your food on without damaging your kitchen counter or table. Cutting boards come in a variety of materials including plastic, wood, and even marble. I recommend getting a wood one. An unvarnished one to avoid any chance of chemicals rubbing off into your food over time. Properly drying your wood cutting board will help prevent it warping or cracking.
Utensils. You’ll want a large plastic or wooden spoon for stirring and mixing. Ideally one solid and one slotted spoon. You might want to get some tongs for flipping meat, although you can just use regular forks if you’re on a budget.
Miscellaneous. You probably want the basic single-purpose tools like a potato peeler, masher, and a cheese grater. You can get by without these tools and just use a knife, but they make your life a lot easier.
You may have gotten through college on just ramen and pizza, but now it’s time to learn how to cook!
I’m listing this one as both an ingredient and a recipe because everyone has a favorite way they like their eggs.
Hard-boiled eggs are probably the most convenient way to make eggs if you’re on the go. You can cook a whole carton of eggs on Sunday night and have a quick breakfast that you can grab for the entire week. Just make sure to label them, so you don’t mix up your raw and cooked eggs! If you want to get extra fancy, you can make your hard boiled eggs into deviled eggs with just a few extra ingredients.
Fried eggs can be done sunny-side up, over easy, over medium, or over hard depending on how you like them. The only difference really is how long you leave them in the pan.
Scrambled eggs or omelettes are pretty similar in that you stir the yolk and egg whites together. An omelette is basically a big scrambled egg that isn’t broken apart, but instead, you fold it over ingredients like meat, veggies, or cheese.
Poaching eggs is probably the most complicated way to cook them, and I recommend starting with one of the other methods first. Poaching is basically boiling an egg without the shell on by carefully lowering it into boiling water.
You can eat pancakes for dinner if you want, you’re an adult now! You can use a recipe to make the batter yourself or buy a box of pre-made pancake mix if you think you’ll be eating a lot of them.
You can experiment with your pancakes by adding chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, or whatever tickles your fancy.
If you prefer waffles, you can use the exact same pancake batter to make them. You’ll just need to buy a waffle iron. You should be able to find one second-hand for about $10.
Guacamole and Salsa
Making guacamole is as easy as cutting up some avocados and a few other veggies and adding some lime juice.
Salsa is just as easy, and will only take you about five minutes to make.
Both go together perfectly and give you a few servings of fresh and healthy vegetables.
Plus they will taste so much better homemade than something out of a can. You can adjust the recipe to your taste. If you love cilantro, you can add as much as you want. Or if you’re someone who thinks it tastes like soap, you can leave it out entirely.
Then just grab a pack of your favorite tortilla chips from the store and dig in! You can also create your own tortilla chips. But you’ll first need to cook your own tortillas and then bake them, which will take about an hour.
Here is a whole variety of chicken breast recipes that you can explore. You can get chicken breasts with the bone and skin on, or boneless skinless ones. Make sure your recipe is for the right type.
It can be as easy as cooking them in a pan with a bit of oil and seasoning or making a whole sauce for them.
I prefer using boneless skinless chicken breasts. My chef friend taught me a trick to cooking them perfectly, so they don’t dry out: sear them in a pan for a few minutes to lock in the moisture before putting them in the oven.
You can eat them whole or slice them up into a pasta or rice dish.
Sandwiches – Grilled Cheese or Tuna
These might have been childhood favorites for you. There’s a reason why your mom or dad was so happy to make them for you. They’re pretty fast and easy and don’t require many ingredients.
A grilled cheese sandwich just requires bread, cheese, and some butter or oil. Cheddar is the original, but you can try mixing in some mozzarella or other kinds of cheese too. You can also experiment with different types of bread. Or add in some interesting ingredients to mix it up like jalapenos, ham slices, avocados, mushrooms, pesto, or more!
A tuna salad sandwich is just as easy. The basics are just bread, tuna, and mayo. You can add in celery and onion for a little extra crunch. Some salt, pepper, lemon juice, and mustard will really spice things up too.
Pizza is another recipe that can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it! You should set aside at least 3 hours to make sure you have time for your dough to rise if you’re making it from scratch. So this recipe is a bit more time-consuming and in-depth than most of the other ones on this list.
My go-to recipe for making pizza dough isn’t listed on a website but is in a Youtube video. It turns out perfectly every time, so I just keep coming back to it. I find it easiest to just load up the video on my phone and pause as I get to different stages of the process:
Here’s a written recipe if you’d rather read than follow along with a video.
Some pizza tips:
– Get your flour measured out and ready before you start mixing with your hands. Your dough will be really messy and sticky to work with until you’ve added the right amount of flour.
– The longer you let your dough sit and rise, the better I find it tastes. I find a really fresh dough that hasn’t sat long enough has a yeasty bread taste, but that goes away the longer you leave it. I’ve heard good things about leaving your dough to ferment overnight, but I haven’t been committed enough to stretch my pizza-making process over two days yet.
– Poking your pizza crust with a fork before adding your sauce and cheese is super important. The couple of times I’ve forgotten to do this, my crust goes all bubbly and uneven when cooked.
– Every pepperoni I’ve bought from a grocery store tastes gross and not like what you get on a restaurant pizza. For this reason, I skip pepperoni on my homemade pizzas and just opt for a cheese pizza or different kinds of meat.
You’ll need a deeper glass or ceramic dish for this one.
Here is a shepherds pie recipe. But it’s so easy to make that I find I don’t really need one.
I peel and boil some potatoes while I’m cooking some ground beef or chicken in a pan. When my potatoes are done, I mash them.
Then I just add some mixed frozen veggies (peas, corn, and carrots usually) right into the bottom of a pan. After that, I pour in my cooked ground meat and cover everything with mashed potatoes. I find the vegetables fully cook from frozen while everything is in the oven, so there’s no point in cooking them separately beforehand. They actually stay nicer and don’t get mushy that way.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to salad. You can throw in meat, nuts, fruit, or whatever else you want. There are hundreds of homemade dressing and vinaigrette options too. Most salads have lettuce or some type of leaves in them, but even that isn’t mandatory.
A Caesar salad is my favorite. You just need some romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, and croutons. I like to cook up a few slices of bacon and crumble them on top too, and maybe a few slices of chicken breast if I already have some cooked up.
And of course, the Caesar dressing. You can go as far as mushing up the anchovies and other ingredients yourself, but when it comes to the dressing, I’d rather just buy a bottle from the store.
Here’s a slideshow of 100+ different salads if you want to mix things up a bit.
Tacos, Burritos, and Quesadillas
The basic preparation and ingredients for these Mexican-inspired dishes are all pretty much the same. The difference is in the presentation. Whether you use hard taco shells or tortillas, or cleverly fold your filled tortillas and fry them in a pan.
Some people can make Mexican food really complicated. But I make burritos pretty much every week and like to keep it pretty basic.
Most of the time I only use a handful of ingredients.
Meat. You’ll need some type of ground meat unless you’re making yours vegetarian. Ground beef is most popular, but I usually substitute ground chicken or ground turkey instead. You can also use sliced chicken breast or steak if you prefer.
Seasoning your meat also comes down to preference. I usually just use salt, pepper, and garlic because I like things pretty plain. But you can add chili powder, cumin, oregano and paprika for a more authentic taste.
Veggies. I usually use shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce, as well as diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions. You can get as creative as you like. I’ve even put leftover broccoli or some sliced apple into my wraps before and they turned out pretty tasty.
Cheese. Normally just a medium or old cheddar works for me. I buy a block and shred it myself instead of buying it pre-shredded. You can mix in Monterey jack for a bit more spice.
Other. Rice and beans are some more common ingredients to include, although I usually find it’s too much work to bother cooking them just for burritos. You can also make the guacamole and salsa recipes I listed above and add those in, as well as sour cream.
With a jar of pre-made sauce and some dry pasta, you can have dinner ready in 5-10 minutes.
Spaghetti is popular with adults and kids alike. You can mix things up and use some penne or bowtie pasta instead.
Personally, I like fettuccine noodles with alfredo sauce and some broccoli and chicken cut up into it.
Pasta is great because many types can be eaten warm or cold as part of a pasta salad. Plus it’s easy to reheat. That makes it great for taking leftovers to work.
Once you’re a real aficionado, you might want to even try making your own pasta from scratch.
Baking Your Own Bread
I find there’s something really satisfying about making your own bread. It’s another really simple recipe. The main ingredients are water, flour, yeast, salt, and time.
Many people think that baking is a more female-dominated method of cooking. But historically, most bakers have actually been men.
One warning I’ll give about baking bread is that it can be addicting. You start off just making one loaf of white bread. But then you see how cheap, easy, and tasty it is. Before long you’re making sourdoughs and banana bread, and branching out into other forms of baking. As well as making extra loaves for family and friends.
Baking bread in the winter is great. It makes your house smell wonderful and adds a bit of extra warmth to your kitchen as well. It’s not so great to have your oven running for hours in the heat of summer though, so it’s best to save your bread-making for the cooler months.
Chocolate chip cookies
Cookies make a great dessert after your meal, or just to eat as a snack whenever. Your coworkers will love it if you bring in a batch as a surprise too.
Chocolate chip cookies are a classic, but oatmeal raisin cookies and other variants are just as easy to make.
Like most homemade recipes, they taste so much better straight out of the oven compared to out of a box. Plus, your whole house will smell like cookies after!
Since they lack the artificial preservatives of store-bought cookies, homemade cookies tend to go stale a little faster. But most people don’t have a problem finishing a batch within a couple of days!
I’d recommend erring on the side of undercooking your cookies for the first time rather than overcooking. They will look very soft and doughy when you take them out of the oven, and you might think you’ve done something wrong. But they quickly harden up as they cool. Don’t be tempted to leave them in longer than the recipe says or you’ll end up with bricks!
Time to Get Cooking!
Cooking doesn’t have to be hard or take up a lot of your time.
Once you find a few favorites, you can make the same few recipes every week and just add a little new flair to them. I make tacos, some type of pasta, and some type of chicken breast dish pretty much every week. Then I use the remaining days to experiment with new meals.
Cooking at home is great whether you’re trying to impress a date or just to make a meal for yourself. It’s typically healthier and cheaper than constantly ordering from restaurants as well.
The best part of learning to cook is figuring out what you really like, and the things you don’t like so much. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find some new favorites!
Once you’ve mastered these basic recipes, you can also find some other recipes in the cookbooks discussed here. You can learn some more advanced cooking techniques like grilling and barbequing as well.
What’s your favorite go-to recipe when you want something quick and easy? Let us know in the comments below!