Teach a Friend to Cook…

Some of my friends want me to hold a cooking class to teach them how to cook.  Do you have any recommendations on what dishes I should teach them?  How should I format the class and what kind of prep-work I should do before they get there?


My friends will cook for me as soon as I teach them how


What you should teach them depends on two main factors: what you know how to cook well and what your friends already know.

There’s no way you’ll be an effective teacher if you’re trying to show people how to cook something that you’re not already completely comfortable doing yourself.  So, choose a couple of dishes that you have made many times and go with them.  Break them down into the component techniques that add up to the dish and explain different ways those same techniques can be used.  That way, your students will leave not only knowing how to make the specific dishes that you teach, but also knowing that their newly gained knowledge can be applied to other culinary creations.  For instance, if you’re making French Onion Soup, you’ll be caramelizing onions; deglazing; and simmering—techniques that are applicable to most stews and sauces.  If you’re making waffles, all of the steps are applicable toward making a souffle….

When you’re choosing your dishes, the other thing you should keep in mind is their general level of cooking experience—the less experience they have, the simpler you should keep things.  Don’t try to make puff pastry from scratch with people who have never made a pie crust.

As far as the level of prep you should have going into the class, make sure that your students help with (or at least see) every step that goes toward making the dish: from cutting the vegetables on through. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have flour, baking powder, etc. measured out beforehand (if necessary); everyone should know how to measure quantities of dry goods already.  There’s probably not a need to do much beyond that unless you’re making something that takes an extremely long time to cook (like a stew that would have to braise for three hours).  In that case, you should still have your students help with each step toward getting it ready; but you should have one of whatever it is completely done that can be taken out of the oven when you put the student-made one in: that way they’ll be able to taste the results without waiting around for the long haul.

3 Responses to “Teach a Friend to Cook…”

  1. Otto Schmidlap Says:

    I got my son into cooking for himself by giving him easy familiar dishes to start with. Pasta sauce, pizza, chili, pancakes, salads. Coffee. Pancakes are a great instructional dish for beginners.

    Once someone has mastered making pancakes for example, that person will have the confidence and skill to do dozens (hundreds?) of other new things that have nothing to do with pancakes, but require similar skillsets.

    Kids absolutely love to make pizza as well. You can easily make a party out of it. Let them choose ingredients and make their own pies, witness the magic of rising dough.

    Its really fun to show someone that they dont have to run to the store for salad dressing. The average kitchen has ingredients for probably a dozen at any given time, and they can be prepared in seconds. The outdoor grill is a great place for instruction as well, with proper supervision and safety.

    Just a dad’s perspective

  2. jwsharrard Says:

    Commodore Schmidlap got me thinking— a great way to learn how to do the professional flip of the saute pan is to cook eggs over easy. It’s an easy dish to make; even if you screw it up and break the yok, it’s still good to eat; and anyone who can flip something in a skillet feels like a champ in the kitchen (motivation to continue on and learn even more).

    Using a non-stick skillet with sloped sides, put some oil or butter in the bottom of the pan and, once the fat is hot, crack an egg into it. Let it cook about 2/3 of the way before trying to flip it. Shake the pan slightly so that the egg is loose and slides freely around the bottom of the pan. Slide it forward to the front of the pan (away from the handle). Then, slide the pan forward quickly and immediately pull it back. Though performed quickly, this should be a fluid (not abrupt) motion.

    When done properly, the egg will flip and the yolk will not break. Once you have a handle on how to flip an egg, you can transfer the same skill to tossing your vegetables in the pan when you’re sauteeing them.

  3. Peter Says:


    great article.

    If you want you can add it to Garlicoon, the Food & Wine network.


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