Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
May 24, 2010 09:06 PM

Would like to finally learn how to cook

I am a 25 year old NYC law student currently in San Francisco for the summer for work. I have gone by life not have ever learned to really cook, surviving primarily off of my family, dorm food, and now free food that I get at the law school supplemented by buying food somewhere in the city that is prepared one way or another (microwavable to take out, etc.) Having hit this point in life, I would like to learn how to actually cook, esp now that have some time that won't have when go back to school and when eventually start working as a lawyer. This is in hopes of garnering long terms savings, healthier eating, and making myself a better person. I have some basic ability to microwave and boil pasta, but that is the most i have really done, plus make a basic tuna sandwich. Now that I have some down time on a relatively regular basis compared to my first year, I would like to go forward and start learning to cook rather than spend a whole summer eating some form of prepared food from the Safeway across the street,. Thus, I am hoping for some advice about how to proceed. I tend to learn best through a structured method (have spent my whole life as a student), so looking for either some sort of schooling/course or a highly recommended site/books that teach how to cook from step one onward. I am less interested in what tools should get, since can learn that from the books as well as classmates who cook regularly, and I am a very flexible eater, hoping to get a good variety of food in my diet, having traveled and lived both outside and around the US. I appreciate any advice and thank you for your responses.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. To get started on your own, check out Mark Bittman's cookbook, "How to Cook Everything" and Irma Rombauer's "The Joy of Cooking." Those are good, pretty comprehensive guides to basic techniques, recipes, and variations. Similarly, there are lots of good websites and blogs with information, such as,, and

      A quick google search turns up these cooking classes at a community college in San Francisco:

      Good luck! Please report back on how it's going. Once you get started cooking, you'll be hooked...and you'll save a lot of money.

      1. Find a classmate or friend whose food you like to eat. Learn from them. That way, you will start off with basic dishes that you like. At least initially, you won't need to learn skills that you don't need in the short term. Eventually, you will learn enough that you will be able to come up with your own ideas or be able to cook from a recipe.

        2 Replies
        1. re: raytamsgv

          +1. You will learn way faster from someone who knows how to cook and can show you, than from a book. Plus it's more fun.

          1. re: raytamsgv

            Cooking with a buddy makes it all more fun. But basically, if you want to learn how to cook, then cook! Get a book that speaks to you, and make some recipes in there. Fail occasionally. Have a few stupendous successes. Learn from that. Read on the internets. Buy another book. But really, the best way to learn how to cook is by doing it over and over and over, and critically evaluating your work.

          2. There are many cooking classes available in SF. First, sign up for a basic knife skills class, then one on making stocks/sauces. Various technique classes, e.g., sauteing, braising. You'll learn a lot by watching proficient chefs (and cooking classes are a great way to meet like-minded folks).

            1. all the suggestions are good but why not just try and either fail or succeed. For example, start with chopping a small onion, fry in a little olive oil, add a clove of garlic, some chopped celery and green pepper, then add a can of tomatoes and cook on a low heat for about an hour stirring now and again. Add some salt and pepper, boil up some pasta separately, strain pasta and serve yourself pasta and sauce. If you want to add some ground beef do so about the same time as the canned tomatoes.

              Then another day, get a chicken from the supermarket, wash and make sure there are no giblets inside, put into a roasting tin (buy a foil one if you don't have any), add salt and pepper, cut an onion in quarters and put half inside the chicken the rest around the chicken, squeeze a lemon over the chix, put the rest inside, cook at 350 in the oven for about an hour and a half. If you want to roast some potatoes, peel 2, cut into roast size chunks, pour about half an inch of vegetable oil into another roasting pan and cook the spuds at the same time as the chicken on a higher shelf in the oven.

              A lot of cooking is trial and error, more or less seasoning, some disasters that go in the trash. Watch the cooking shows.

              1 Reply
              1. re: smartie

                don't forget to rub the chicken with oil-- remember this is a beginner and may not know this stuff, nor how to properly secure the wings and legs-- that's a technique which is easier taught by observation. and what size/type of chicken?

                a chicken is done roasting and cooked all the way through when you can grasp (protected by thick towel) the end of its drumstick and move it easily in a circular motion around in its socket. raw chicken, of course, may be dangerous to eat.

                i personally in this case might rec that "the egg comes first (before the chicken ;-P)." buy a doz supermarket eggs. cook one at a time in a small fry pan-- see if you can do a simple flipped fried egg, a sunny side up. . . a decent scramble, hard & soft. also with the eggs, you can do a french toast, which is a satisfying and economical dish for a single person, for dinner as well as breakfast. these simple egg preparations are quick and just take a little practice to master. if you don't get it right, it's okay, you're just practicing, with a small investment. crack another egg. if you have leftover eggs, you can attempt hardboiling (peel and eat them or make egg salad). next week you can move to omelets and poached eggs, and the week after, to quiches.

                ask to help one of your friends (who likes to cook) prepare a regular meal, once or twice a week. show up with a share of the groceries, or go to the store together and help to pay for the food. your friend can help demonstrate food prep and knife work and you'll learn through observation, and have a nice meal together. no two cooks are the same, so learn from others as well, after you've gotten ahold of some basic techniques.

                i agree that watching some cooking shows can be helpful. some of the older pbs-type shows will show more actual prep work. i don't have cable so i don't have a clue about food network etc.