10 Cooking Skills Every Kid Should Know

10 cooking skills every teen should know

It was in the throws of dealing with a plumbing problem in the the downstairs bathroom of our house that it hit me. I was mid-plunge, trying to avoid the splash, when out of nowhere a wave of mild anxiety settled across my consciousness that had nothing at all to do with plumbing and everything to do with my oldest daughter, Isabelle.

“Oh God,” I thought, “does she even know how to use a plunger?”

It’s the sort of worry that seems to be happening with increasing frequency as we stare down the handful (yes, handful) of months that lay between now and the day we deliver her to college in August.

This is a girl who knows the history of the influenza virus in perfect detail, can outwit the grown ups in the house in a game of Scrabble, and can tackle complicated equations in calculus without breaking a sweat.

But, I keep wondering where the gaps are. Does she know how to add bleach to a load of laundry? Or repair a bicycle chain? Or, God forbid, when to get herself to the ER?

10 cooking skills every kid should know

Cooking, an Essential Life Skill

There are so many tasks to tackle; it can put me into a tailspin as I wonder about all the places Mr. Mom’s Kitchen and I have come up short.  So instead, I’ve been retreating to the kitchen, pondering the most essential of so many life skills:  cooking. There is so much more I want to pass on before she heads clear across the country for college.

So I’m putting angst into action and have developed a list of skills that I want my kids to know before they walk out the door. Perhaps your children are approaching this turning point too, or perhaps they are far off. Either way, it’s never too early to start.

10 Cooking Skills Every Kid Should Know Before They Leave the Nest

How to use a knife

I can’t understate the importance of teaching kids to use a chef’s knife or paring knife, both for safety and ease. Have a few good knives, make sure they’re sharp, and take baby steps in teaching your children to use them.  If you aren’t confident in your own knife skills, this tutorial from The Kitchn may help. 

How to wash and cut vegetables and fruit

Sounds so basic, but if you’ve never split open a red pepper or seeded a cucumber, you’d never know where to begin. If we want our kids to eat vegetables and fruits, we need to show them how.

How to make a salad

Lettuce doesn’t come with operating instructions. We must teach kids to dismember, wash, and dry a head of leafy greens. Better yet, show them to make a simple dressing that will be miles better than store bought. This basic vinaigrette is a good starting point. 

How to cook grains

Teaching children the essentials of cooking grains (grain + water + cooking time) arms them with the know how to make one of nature’s most affordable and fundamental foods.  Start with rice or oatmeal and they can build from there.

How to roast vegetables

Show kids how to roast a pan of potatoes and they can parlay that knowledge into cooking almost any vegetable at the produce stand. These Thick Cut Roasted Sweet Potatoes are a winning first step 

How to cook a piece of chicken, fish, or meat in a pan

A cast iron skillet, a swirl of olive oil, and a little salt is really all that’s required to quickly cook a chicken breast or pork chop. Teach kids how to make one variety, and they’ll get the others in time. Here you’ll find a “how to” on cooking chicken breast in a pan. 

How to make one simple pasta 

Pasta is cheap, hard to screw up, and universally appealing. Teach your child one good dish as a foundation from which they can grow. This Spaghetti with Butter, Egg, and Cheese is one my Italian aunt learned from her mother, taught to her children, who taught it to me, and now I’ve passed it onto to to my own kids, who say it’s an all-time favorite.

How to cook eggs

Whether scrambled, fried, or soft boiled, eggs are the foundation for terrific, affordable, healthful meals. Consider, for example, that scrambled eggs embellished with greens and cheese (and perhaps leftover grains) makes for an excellent meal. This fried egg with beans on a tortilla will set you back less than a dollar, is good basic nourishment, and super tasty.

How to bake something sweet 

Knowing how to bake a batch of cupcakes or a sheet pan of cookies isn’t essential for nourishment, but it is awfully handy when it comes to celebrating a friend’s birthday or commiserating over a first heartbreak.  Baking is also an excellent place for kids to learn the basics of how to properly measure and follow a recipe.

How to clean the kitchen

Falling squarely in the category of “boring but important”, getting kids to clean up after themselves will endear them to roommates and romantic interests over the long haul.

These are the 10 cooking skills every kid should know in my book. What skills do you think are essential?


04.11.2016 at5:52 AM #

Deanna Segrave-Daly

Oh how I love this! I think so many parents can relate to your train of thought mid-plunge (hehe) I’m hoping my daughter will be able to living independently at some point and the cooking skills are at the top of my “need to know list”

And I don’t know if it’s any consolation but I barely know how to add bleach to laundry and I definitely don’t know how to fix a bicycle chain – lol!

04.11.2016 at5:52 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks Deanna. I’m sure you are off to a great start with your daughter.

04.11.2016 at7:29 AM #

Alison Sullivan

How to exercise control with sweetening–how much brown sugar will kids add to oatmeal when I don’t do it for them?

04.11.2016 at7:29 AM #

Katie Morford

Good one Alison. I do think the fact that they are eating homemade oatmeal, not pre-sweetened packets, means your kids are ahead of the game to begin with.

04.11.2016 at7:29 AM #


I let my kids, ages 7 and 4, do all the adding for themselves. I provide a small bowl of sugar to each or a tiny pitcher of maple syrup and they can add as they like without over doing it. Then if they put the whole about in, it was a limited amount, but they get to do it themselves and choose their sweetness.

04.11.2016 at7:44 AM #


Thank you for posting this reminder and how-to! I spent time last summer teaching J how to do laundry, change sheets, and do a bit of cooking. This summer I’m going to make sure he masters those skills and the ten you list. The last one may be the most challenging! Haha!

04.11.2016 at8:03 AM #

Katie Morford

What a great article, Aviva. Thanks for sharing the link so others can find it too.

04.11.2016 at9:10 AM #


One that I would add is how to make a decent pot of soup. Soup and toast feels like a proper hot meal, reheats well for lunch or dinner, and can be made with a lot of random ingredients or leftovers. And right behind that is a simple chili recipe because on game day everyone will want to come sit on your futon! Trust me, I’ve officially been in college for longer than anyone I know.

04.11.2016 at9:10 AM #

Katie Morford

Touché, Monica. Great ideas. And yes to chili.

04.11.2016 at12:36 PM #

Anne Mullen

I had never cooked a single thing when I got to my new home after our honeymoon. Steep learning curve! Then, foolishly, I didn’t teach my children many of the life skills, especially cooking, that one should know when they leave home. You’ve listed great lessons, and I agree about adding soup and chili, which after 50 years of marriage, I still haven’t mastered despite living in Texas. I’m not sure the grandsons have learned all these, but the granddaughters certainly have. Gender inequality hangs on.

04.11.2016 at12:36 PM #

Katie Morford

Interesting point you make about gender. I do think inequality lingers where cooking is concerned. Boys need these skills just as much as girls. I’ve heard Italian mamas teach their sons exactly three recipes…just enough to woo a bride, only to hang up the cooking tongs.

04.11.2016 at5:21 PM #

Jessica @ Nutritioulicious

This is a fantastic resource for parents. I’m a ways away from this time of my life, but it’s certainly something I hope to instill in my girls as they get older. I certainly didn’t know how to cook much when I went off to college, but I guess I picked up a thing or two from watching my mom over the years!

04.11.2016 at5:21 PM #

Katie Morford

I’m sure they will be in great shape when they are ready to ship off.

04.11.2016 at11:06 PM #


Love this. So thoughtful and practical. Passing you a virtual hanky!!

04.11.2016 at11:06 PM #

Katie Morford

Thank you Laurie-Ann. I have been needing them quite a lot lately.

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