Learn to Like Cooking

If you don’t love to cook, I’ll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn’t need to be drudgery.

This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees. Your price does not change, but your purchase indirectly helps support this site. So thanks!

Learn to Like Cooking - If you don't love to cook, I'll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn't need to be drudgery.

I’m always a little taken aback when someone says they don’t like to cook. Certainly, they like to eat. Most people I know like to eat. Why don’t they like cooking?

As I think about it, though, I get it. I liken it to my dislike for sports. What? Hockey mom doesn’t like sports?! No, not really. The lady who goes to the gym doesn’t like sports? Um, no.

Here’s why:

  • I typically don’t know what it’s all about.
  • I’m no good at it.
  • I’m too embarrassed to try and fail.

I’m guessing that those same feelings might fuel someone’s dislike of cooking.

Let’s return to the sports analogy. Over time, or the last four years, I’ve attended my sons’ hockey games, I’ve watched the Kings on TV, and I’ve asked questions about the sport. I still don’t know all the ins and outs of the game, but at least I have a clue.

Having a clue helps you like something more.

Last June after my chiropractor said my back and hip would probably never get better if I didn’t start working out and strengthening my core, I went to the Y and asked for a tour of the fitness center. (Again, getting a clue.) Cesareo, the gym guy, set me up on the machines and showed me how to use them. And then I went, every day for three months. I didn’t lose any weight, but I gained stamina and comfort in an athletic setting. I wouldn’t say I’m good, but I’m not bad when it comes to exercise.

Developing a skill helps you like something more.

I want to encourage my children in their hobbies and pursuits. I want to feel better about the only body I have. Those two things were important enough to overcome my pride and embarrassment in order to learn and get better at something quite foreign or distasteful to me.

Seeing the value in something helps you like it more.

Did I feel like an idiot walking in the first few days and weeks? Yes. I assumed everyone knew what a green horn I was. But, I realized people don’t really care.

Do I feel dumb at hockey games when I don’t see if it was my kid or another who made the goal? Yes, but it happens to every parent, even the hockey experts. It doesn’t really matter. I’m there.

I don’t hate sports like I did as a child, partly because I’ve learned something, I’ve practiced a bit, and I’ve swallowed a bit of my pride.

Learn to Like Cooking - If you don't love to cook, I'll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn't need to be drudgery.

The same holds true for cooking. You want to eat, I would guess. And you want to save money. Cooking at home will save you a ton of money. Cooking from scratch will save you even further. These are reason enough to try harder, learn more, and inevitably get better at it.

Liking the process? Well, that’s icing on the cake. Since I love to cook so much, I want you to love it, too. Or at least like it. It doesn’t have to be a duty or a necessary evil.

Learn, practice, and fear not the mistakes, my young padawan.

That said there are some things that you can do to help you enjoy the cooking process more. They aren’t typically time consuming or expensive, but they pack a powerful punch in your experience in the kitchen. I asked the Good Cheap Eaters on Facebook what helps them. You can read their answers here.

Here’s my list of things that make cooking more enjoyable: 

Learn to Like Cooking - If you don't love to cook, I'll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn't need to be drudgery.

Start with a clean kitchen.

Cooking in a messy kitchen is no fun. It’s cluttered, not to mention there’s some germ potential going on. You’ll be more efficient and have more fun if you cook in a clean kitchen.

If I have to clean the kitchen before I even start, it really takes the wind out of my sails. That’s just no fun. Ideally, the kitchen is cleaned and spotless when I shut it down after the last meal. If your housemates are continually making more messes, time to establish some kitchen rules.

Beautifying your clean kitchen with good lighting, some fresh flowers, and relaxing music is a bonus. Make the room pleasant to be in and you’ll be there more often. That is a good thing because it means more good cheap eats!

Sharpen your knives.

Sharp knives make meal prep go quickly, safely, and without a lot of fuss. A few years ago we bought a knife sharpener. Every so often, my husband takes care of all the knives for me. This weekend I was able to chop through a bowl full of vegetables in about six minutes. I had a tidy work space, sharp knives, and a trash bowl. It was a total breeze!

Learn to Like Cooking - If you don't love to cook, I'll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn't need to be drudgery.

Get a new gadget, cookbook, or dishes.

Sometimes you just need a little boost of something fun. A gadget, cookbook, or a new dish might cost about ten bucks, but if it gets you back in there and cooking more at home, then I say it’s worth it.

My husband, a construction guy, insists that you must have the right tools. It does make all the difference. Is your potato peeler the pits? Then get one that works super well, like this one. It makes the job so much easier, and even fun.

Some favorites of mine?

Make something difficult easier.

Chances are that when something is hard, it’s less fun to do. If you can make it easier, well, you increase the fun in the thing.

What cooking task is hard for you? Google it and you will find a myriad of solutions and tricks. C’mon, you’d be surfing the net anyway. Put that time to good use and figure out how to make things easier on yourself.

If you don’t really know how, there are lots of ways to learn to cook without taking a class. Even something as simple as cutting apples in a new way can make the task easier and more likely to happen.

Know what you have.

If you don’t know what you have in your kitchen in terms of ingredients, it can make meal prep difficult and complicated. If you take inventory, however, and are aware of what you have on hand, you’ve equipped yourself with knowledge that helps you steward your resources economically as well as be more on your game when it comes time to prepare a meal.

Experiment.

Any good cook will tell you that he or she has had lots of bad experiments. I’ve burned things, forgotten ingredients, and made many an icky mess in the kitchen. That comes with learning. It’s all about the process.

My wise husband tells his carpenters, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” It’s okay to fail in the kitchen. Just learn from those failures. Use them to teach you kitchen skills and what not to do next time.

We learn through experimentation. So experiment.

Learn to Like Cooking - If you don't love to cook, I'll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn't need to be drudgery.

Give yourself more time.

Are you rushed all the time in the kitchen? Do you find yourself grumpy and fumbling because you’re in a hurry? Lots of people who dislike cooking, put it off, but then they feel rushed, make mistakes, and hate the experience.

Do your cooking in a low-stress time slot. If you know that your family needs to eat by 6, then start the process at 4. You’ll have ample time to read directions, assemble your ingredients, and take the relaxed approach to cooking. You’ll probably enjoy it more.

Take a class.

I’ve never taken a formal cooking class, but I worked in commercial kitchens in college and grad school. My supervisors had taken plenty of cooking classes. Their job was to train me how to do the task efficiently and safely. Who knew that this would serve me so well so many years later? I wonder what grumpy old Norbert would say now!

If you can’t get “on the job” training, then consider taking a cooking class. See what’s available from your rec center, community college, or other local institution.

Learn to Like Cooking - If you don't love to cook, I'll help you troubleshoot why. A daily necessity doesn't need to be drudgery.

Subscribe to a good magazine.

I’m a good reader. I remember a lot of things that I read. I was still in college, over 2o years ago when I started reading magazines like Bon Appetit. I learned a lot about food from reading the magazine and then trying out the recipes. If you prepare enough recipes, you start to see common themes and techniques among them.

About 15 years ago, my mother-in-law gifted me Fine Cooking. I had found my happy place! I love, Love, LOVE that magazine. I recently restarted my subscription and am thrilled to expand my repertoire.

Another good one that I’ve enjoyed over the years is Cook’s Country. They really explain to you why an ingredient or technique works or why it fails. It’s definitely an educational resource.

Read a good cookbook.

Cookbooks are not just collections of recipes. At least not good ones. They are compendiums of knowledge about their particular subject within the realm of food.

Think about something you love to eat, like bread or pie. Look to see what kinds of cookbooks there are on bread or pie. Chances are good that you will receive a veritable cooking class worth of information about how to bake a great loaf or pie.

Read the book, especially the early chapters. They are generally packed with info, tips, and tricks you could benefit from.

How do you feel about cooking?

Love it or leave it? If you fell in love with cooking, how did that happen? If you’re not sold on it, tell us why?

This post does include affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees. Your price does not change, but your purchase indirectly helps support this site. So thanks!

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Comments

  1. I LOVE cooking. I recently realized that I had lost some of my good kitchen habits simply through life being busy and being distracted! Things like keeping a stock jug going in the freezer for all my veggie scraps that are great for stock. I was pleased at the end of the day when I realized I had made excellent chicken stock from things I would have normally thrown out like chicken carcass and veggie scraps plus some spices and 2 carrots. And I did it without a recipe, and without stress. I feel like such a pro when I make something now with the chicken stock I made! Cheesy but true.

    I also use your tip for Thursday night soup and have a container in the freezer collecting leftovers. It makes me so happy not to throw things out that are still good and useful!

  2. Stephanie M. says:

    Cooking is a very huge part of who I am. Being in my kitchen and preparing a meal or baking bread or a cake brings me a great deal of pleasure. I became interested in cooking when I was 16. I would stand next to my mother in the kitchen with my notepad and take notes. That’s how it started for me. I agree with Jessica that a clean kitchen is paramount to an enjoyable experience. I usually clean as I go. It’s like anything else though, some people like cooking while others don’t. Some people like watching sports on TV, while others, like me, don’t. My husband loves hockey and no matter how many times he asks me to watch with him, try as I might, I just can’t get into it. The same is with anything including cooking. My love for cooking is something I like to share with my friends and family in the form of dinner parties. I have several a year and it always warms my heart when I watch people eating the food I cooked and enjoying a nice evening together. Like you said, all good cooks have had bad experiments and I’ve had plenty of disasters. But I never let that stop me from moving on and trying again. Even if you’re new at cooking or just don’t care for cooking, think of it like this:
    you can give your family a gift everyday by making a simple meal; it does not have to be fancy but they’ll all appreciate the effort that was put into it. Your gift will be the smiles on everyone’s faces after they enjoyed what you’ve done.

  3. I love cooking and baking! I absolutely agree with the right tools making the difference! I do have limited space so what I buy must be something I will use and be totally worth the space it takes up.
    I credit my 7th grade home economics teacher with lighting the fire within me. I remember so many things she insisted were required in the kitchen (at least in the school kitchen!) for example: tying back long hair, wearing an apron, the right way to wash dishes. Such fun memories! I remember going home one day after school and deciding I had to recreate the jelly roll we’d made in class that day. What I hadn’t counted on is that my mom didn’t have the right size pan…yeah, it was definitely a disaster. But it didn’t keep me from pursuing cooking! I’ve made many a “hockey puck” biscuit in my day. Well, my early days. Now? people request my bread. Even my pastor – for large church functions :)
    I only wish I’d been able to thank that teacher. I moved to another state after that year and by the time I even thought of thanking her – many, many years later – and got back to NH for a visit, I’d unfortunately forgotten her name. She not only taught cooking, but crewel embroidery, sewing, crochet…. the poor woman didn’t quite know how to teach a leftie…. so I taught myself to crochet right-handed! This teacher also gave me the courage to teach myself how to knit.
    Sorry. Off on a tangent of memories. You do have a penchant for pulling out the good ones — thank you!!

    • ‘wearing an apron’

      a dear friend of mine speaks of ‘the power of an apron’. skeptical i gave it a try. when i’m in the kitchen i tie one on and it tricks my mind into power tool mode. and when i take it off, my mind wanders to other things.

      you’re home economics teacher was onto something!

    • I agree with the apron, too. I’m much more efficient (and less likely to ruin my clothes) when I put on an apron.

    • We didn’t get home ec until 10th grade, and the teacher was… not the best. I don’t think it is even an option for kids any more. I also agree that wearing an apron just changes the mindset. I tend to not think of it when doing just daily meals, but I have a couple of them and will pull one out when doing marathon or holiday cooking.

  4. I used to have oodles of time from 3pm until 5pm. Our family kept aging too *gasp*, and grew into one with pre-to-full blown-adolescent kiddos with their myriad of personalities and needs. As these variables changed I found cooking to become a downright chore for me.

    I create anxiety for myself each time I think about all the things I can’t make due to cost, time constraints, picky eaters, or whatever. Denial keeps me from accepting the season of life this mom is in because my circumstances are hanging around much longer than I want them to :)

    Making something difficult easier? For the next few months I need to cook only things that I know like the back of my hand. I need to think effortless meal preparation. It’s not the time for me to try something new every week. That time will come back someday.

    This is a perfect post. I’ve been working on decluttering my kitchen space, keeping only the things I love or use or have to keep until they can be replaced. Another task I’ve been doing is moving pieces into more intuitive places because my magic wand is not obeying the command to give me a brand new kitchen.

    Thank you for the post. QUestion for you, where do I take a knife to get sharpened? I have one of those weustinhorf (?!) chef knives that can’t cut butter anymore.

  5. I pretty much enjoy cooking but if I have a ton of things I have to make, I can get overwhelmed. LOVE all your tips and your blog. There is one small typo in your article…”Every so often, my husband takes care of all the knives for me. This weekend I was able to chop through a bowl full of vegetables in about six months.”

    I am going to look into a knife sharpener, ours are getting dull

    Have a great week!

  6. Great post! I love cooking, baking, trying new recipes, kitchen gadgets, and cookbooks! On your recommendation I checked out The Kitchen Counter Cooking School from our library. While I was looking for it I came home with several other cookbooks to peruse. My mom was an excellent cook—made many things from scratch—and she let me help and eventually make meals on my own. I think that really fostered my love of cooking. I have her 1951 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook now. I used to love to look through it at the pictures of the ladies (in their aprons) demonstrating various cooking techniques. I’m also fascinated by the menu plans from that era.

  7. We have always eaten most meals at home in an effort to save money. I used to view cooking as a chore. I dreaded dinner time all day. It was so difficult cooking while consoling a fussy child or pulling pans from burners to address a crisis. Now that my kids are older (youngest is 6) and can amuse themselves or pitch in while I cook, I really enjoy cooking. I am more relaxed while I cook and don’t feel like I am trying to beat a ticking time bomb. I try to do some prep work earlier in the day or use a component from my freezer. Planning ahead for the week is most helpful to me. My kids appreciate home cooked meals both for flavor and health. They like trying new foods and give great feedback. They inspire me to keep cooking and for our family to enjoy healthy home cooked meals together.

    • I know exactly what you mean. I am at that earlier stage… my kids are 4, 3, & (2) 18-month-olds. Since I’m expecting in May, I know I won’t be out of this stage for quite a few years. It seems like no matter what I make or when I start, I am always interrupted. I used to love to cook and now I really don’t care for it because I get too stressed out. It’s good to know my love may return in a few years… but I do agree with your suggestions, Jessica. Especially the clean kitchen and sharp knives – they make a huge difference!

  8. After reading… I figured I share that I do not like to cook because I’m tired after working 60hrs and it just sounds like more work.

  9. I’ve been preparing food since I was in elementary school. I’ve just always enjoyed it. It used to be that cooking was simply a means to an end and baking was my true passion, but that has shifted a bit over the years. Not to say that I do not still love to bake, but cooking has become more interesting. Perhaps it is simply having gained the experience of cooking from scratch enough times that while I do generally still like to have a recipe to use as a guideline, however vaguely utilized, I am capable of creativity on my own. Perhaps I’ve adapted because we have to eat every day but our waistlines do not need baked goods every day! Either way, I love working in my kitchen. Even if it is only 25% the size of yours. However, I’ve learned to just stay out of kitchen appliance stores. They are too dangerous!

  10. Cooking used to be a chore for me because I never felt I had time for it. But in the past couple years, I’ve done steps to help organize myself, like making a meal plan and trying new recipes and challenging myself with new flavors. This year as I improve my skills in the kitchen I am putting my kids along side me so they can learn how to cook. It’s been a challenge as both can be stubborn and not want to help all the time because they have more important things to do lol but this too will improve…….as will my patience for them.

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