HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


20 foods everyone should know how to cook

Kitchen Daily.com has generated a list of the 20 foods everyone should know how to cook.

Here is the link:


Here is the list and my reaction.

Pancakes agreed
Roast Chicken agreed
Hamburgers agreed
Pasta agreed
Roast Turkey agreed
Whole Fish Never had an opportunity to do it
Mac and Cheese agreed
Tofu Never made it
Artichokes agreed
Pie agreed
Scrambled Eggs agreed
Potato Salad agreed
Steak agreed
Hard Boiled Eggs agreed
Cookies agreed
Meatloaf agreed
Pesto never made it
Roast Vegetables agreed
Basic Tomato Sauce agreed

reactions: Where is the following? Any of which are more important than pie, tofu, pesto, whole fish or artichokes.

fish filet

What is your list? Anything you would add or delete?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Apart from tofu, this is a very Western list so its relevance is variable depending on what you grew up on.

    22 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti

      I'd ditto your comment and add it's a very AMERICAN list. There are a few items in there that don't really apply to canadians.

      1. re: SourberryLily

        What would apply to canadians? Poutine? :)

        1. re: juliejulez

          I *so* want to try that! There is a restaurant in Raleigh NC that serves that, and I can't wait to try it.

          I've never had poutine, but I LOVE potatoes! :-) And I figure I should find out what it is supposed to taste like, before i try to fix it on my own.

          1. re: luvcubs

            I've only had a bastardized version of it, with gravy and cheese, not cheese curds. We've been talking about taking a trip to Toronto at some point so I'm planning on getting the real deal.

            1. re: juliejulez

              Merely watching someone eating it in Quebec was nauseating to me. It looked like someone had vomited onto a pile of fries.


            2. re: luvcubs

              Do you love soggy fries? Think that through very seriously before investing a lot of time in making poutine. I see some people pouring ketchup all over their fries when they first get them and so I realize that there are people who don't mind soggy. And a lot of those people are from Quebec (my husband was born there but doesn't care for poutine or soggy fries). I'm not being judgey here, just want to make sure you have thought about this aspect of that dish.

              and hey, a shout out to you from the other side of the triangle!

              1. re: LulusMom

                Sorry Llm, I have to say I disagree. My family is originally from Québec and I have spent a lot of time there over the last 35 years and I can honestly say that a soggy poutine is a bad poutine. Much like any other dish there are often more good than bad renditions out there, and I hear what you are saying about soggy fries, but there are a lot of poutine out there that are just fabulous.

                Crispy double fried french fries that are just thin enough to be mostly crust, sparingly sprinkled with delicious salty fresh room temperature cheese curds, drizzled with a satisfying beef gravy in the style of a classic demi glace. As with anything you would want to eat it piping hot just after it has been assembled.

                What Llm is likely speaking of is the all too often seen take away poutine of fat fries that were never really crunchy to begin with, covered in cold cheese curds that are days old and have come straight from a bag in the fridge, sopped all over with reconstituted powdered gravy. Much like any take away in this category, the results are less than stellar.

                1. re: delys77

                  So the cheese goes on top of the fries, then the gravy on top of that?
                  Is it always a brown gravy or are there a variety of ones you can put over everything?

                  1. re: bbqboy

                    There are definitely variations to the sauce. I have seen Bolognese stake sauces or chicken based gravies with fresh peas.

                  2. re: delys77

                    I think one of the problems is that I am a slow eater. Any fry, no matter how crisp, is going to be limp with stuff sitting on top of it by the time I get through with it. I used to work at a restaurant, and I'd see people pouring ketchup onto their fries and I could feel the poor things wilting. Do you really find there are fries that can stand up to anything remotely wet being on top of them for more than a few minute?

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      I would consider myself an average paced eater and generally I haven't had a problem with sogginess, but yes you are right that after some time the fries will soften but usually if sauced just before eating you should be ok.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I'm the same way, LLM. Ketchup is to be placed to the side, each fry dipped individually.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          I'm a very slow eater and delys77 is correct, any good poutine should not be soggy, even if you take a long time to eat it. When we bring poutine home for dinner, I usually put it in the oven for a couple minutes to reheat it and the fries usually stay quite crisp.

                      2. re: LulusMom

                        Maybe I could do the gravy on the side & just dip the fries & cheese. (Or is that Just Not Done?)

                        I wonder how it would be on a baked potato? Last year I was putting gravy on a baked potato, and that was awesome.

                        Still haven't made it to Raleigh to try that restaurant.

                        1. re: luvcubs

                          While you could dip your fries in a sauce on the side... but it wouldn't be the same. The point of poutine is to use cheese curds (hard to find outside of quebec) and put them on the fries, then pour the hot gravy over them, which partially melts the cheese.

                          Gravy on a backed potato is an awesome idea, but i would use a thicker gravy than the poutine one.

                    2. re: juliejulez

                      Ok... so I had to go online and find out what poutine was. Interesting... I used to get french fries with beef gravy poured over them at a coffee shop I went to all the time. I never thought about curded cheese, though. How bad can anything with taters and gravy be? ok....maybe the whole heart and Cholesterol, carbs and calories thing might hold you back a little.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        I'm from Montréal, and usually HATE poutine. I like crisp frites (Belgian-style). However I could perhaps be tempted by the variety made by a Syrian restaurant here. Tazah, for "poutine week". See the relevant thread at the Québec board.

                        I don't indulge in frites often, and would hate to waste the calories and fat on anything gloppy. But I dearly love Levantine food.

                        Learning to make good, crisp frites (twice-cooked, please!) is a useful skill and will make some friends very happy.

                      2. re: SourberryLily

                        Which foods on the list would not apply to Canadians? The only food on the list that I can see that might not apply to Canadians are the artichokes. While I know how to cook artichokes (they are a favorite of ours) I would never have included them on such a list. (Pesto, tofu, and whole fish would not have made my list either.)

                        1. re: John E.

                          We have artichokes in Canada. The rest of the list is fine too, in terms of North American staples.

                          1. re: piccola

                            Agreed. I'd made everything on that list when I was still in Canada.

                          2. re: John E.

                            Why not whole fish? The very first time I was fishing, I had beginner's luck and caught a doré. Of course we had to clean and cook it. And whole fish are certainly readily available, even at major supermarkets. (I live in Montréal).

                            Pancakes, but in particular thin crêpes and buckwheat galettes, as they are such a good - and cheap - basis for attractive meals.

                            1. re: lagatta

                              I have cooked whole fish and still do occasionally (usually brook trout and lake trout) but whole fish would not be in the top 20 if I were to create such a list.

                      3. Pie but not cake? This is better than that other list you posted, but still on the strange side.
                        Artichokes? Really? That's why there's a microwave god.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bbqboy

                          yep... I see no reason why someone would absolutely need to know how to make artichokes or even pie or cake.

                          and yes it is a westernized list.... but I live in the USA so... that doesn't bother me much... :-)

                          I will be interested to know what the new cooks think.

                        2. Is one supposed to make tofu or prepare a dish using tofu? If the first, I would agree that it should be off the list because of the easy availablity of packaged tofu and the lack of availability of soy beans.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: honu2

                            Don't need soy beans to make tofu, I have made tofu with soy milk numerous times

                            1. re: honu2

                              I'm sure they mean cook with tofu, not make it from scratch.

                            2. I agree with most, although I don't see myself ever doing a whole fish or tofu, and I'm not sure pie is a must know. I don't think artichokes are a "must know" either. I also agree with your list of rice, beans, soup (although that's a pretty broad category), fish filet, and bacon.

                              I can't think of anything else to add to the list.

                              1. I certainly enjoy all of the top 20 items but...potato salad over mashed potatoes? Pie over cake? Pancakes over omelet? I'm not so sure.

                                I think rice and beans deserve to be on the top 20 list, western version. Soup is a good one too. For me, using up leftovers is a high priority. Things like soup, fried rice, frittatas, and leftover stuffed baked potatoes are both delicious and good way to avoid waste buy repurposing leftovers.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: tcamp

                                  Oh good point on the mashed potatoes, I'd add those to the "must know" list.

                                  1. re: tcamp

                                    Potatoes are so ubiquitous (for those of you in Rio Linda... that means they are everywhere), that everyone should need to know several ways to cook them... mashed, baked, roasted, fried and twice baked. Several ways to cook eggs are important.

                                    Where's a pot roast?

                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                      Are you referring to Rio Linda, California? Gosh Hank do the folks in Rio Linda really need you to define ubiquitous?Gosh Hank you sure are smart.

                                  2. I'd sub soft boiled eggs over hard boiled eggs. Who doesn't know how to hard boil an egg? Soft boiling, on the other hand takes a bit of skill,

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: bbqboy

                                      Totally. Who wants to eat a hard boiled egg (says the person who hates hard boiled eggs)? I taught my daughter to make an omelet, not a hard boiled egg. I agree rice is hugely more important than an artichoke. And cake more than pie. As someone else said, it is all pretty subjective. I think pasta and some sort of main course egg dish are the two most obvious ones.

                                    2. Meh. While I know how to cook most of this list, it's super subjective.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Violatp

                                        Agreed. While I know *how* to make everything on the list I find no need to make half of them.

                                      2. Roast vegetables but not steamed vegetables or green salad?
                                        The whole list seems very protein-centric. Also, if one is going to limit the list to 20 items that one must know how to cook, I am not sure that any sweets belong on the list.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: masha

                                          A salad is a must for sure, though I don't think steamed vegetables are, but vinaigrette seems to have that covered, since it's the most "cooking"-intensive part of most green salads.

                                        2. I would have included bread as one of the baked goods and also rice in this list. I also agree with how to use up leftovers.

                                          1. Oh, I don't know about those choices. Many aren't great tests of ability or instructive of a principle. Just a list of common/comfort foods in part of the US. Not even reflective of the diversity in the country.

                                            1. Well, if I lost my faculties and had to depend on someone to cook for me some things missing from that list of "essentials" are:

                                              Poached eggs
                                              French toast
                                              Grilled cheese
                                              Beef stew
                                              Mashed potatoes
                                              Pork roast
                                              Chocolate something
                                              Whipped cream

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: nlgardener

                                                Gravy! You are correct. Hell, lots of folks I know have still never mastered it in it's various forms.

                                                1. re: bbqboy

                                                  agree that gravy is a very good candidate.

                                                  white sauce? or does everyone just use the cans now ...

                                                  1. re: foiegras

                                                    Canned white sauce?? I admittedly don't often make white sauce (it just doesn't come up) but I had no idea it came canned. Though, now that I think on it, I guess I have seen it in those little Knorr style packets.

                                                    1. re: Violatp

                                                      campbell's cream of ... is often substituted for white sauce.

                                                    2. re: foiegras

                                                      You can get white sauce in a can?

                                                2. I pretty much know how to cook all those things, though I never make fluffy pancakes - either crêpes, Indianish pancakes from chickpea or lentil flours or wee blinis.

                                                  And have never roasted a turkey alone - no reason to do so as near and dear prefer chicken or duck.

                                                  Find it odd that macaroni cheese gets an entry apart from pasta on such a short list. There are so many other "dishes" prepared from pasta

                                                  Not much veg!

                                                  And are there really no recipes for rice, or for bean dishes from scratch; lifesavers if you are without money or supplies.

                                                  1. For me, I'd skip pancakes, roast turkey, whole fish, tofu, potato salad, cookies, and meatloaf. Those are things I eat only when prepared by others (i.e. at restaurants or gatherings), and I have survived to tell the tale (I can survive without cookies from my own kitchen, or without cake, but definitely not without pie!). I do think that the following are more important for *everyone* to be able to cook:

                                                    Stock (chicken and beef especially)
                                                    Omelets (best meal in the world for one)
                                                    A pork or beef roast
                                                    Sauteed greens
                                                    A pan sauce

                                                    1. I'm a beginner cook, but I'm an experienced eater ;) I think what's considered a "must learn" is dependent on what and how you eat. I'm probably not going to learn something that I'll never want to eat.

                                                      Anyway, here's my thoughts:

                                                      Pancakes agreed
                                                      Roast Chicken agreed
                                                      Hamburgers agreed
                                                      Pasta agreed
                                                      Roast Turkey agreed
                                                      Whole Fish Agreed
                                                      Mac and Cheese agreed
                                                      Tofu Disagree. I feel like Tofu is a very specific food. Not everyone likes it, so why should everyone learn to make it?

                                                      Artichokes Depends if you like artichokes
                                                      Pie agreed
                                                      Scrambled Eggs agreed
                                                      VINAIGRETTE agreed
                                                      Potato Salad No
                                                      Steak agreed
                                                      Hard Boiled Eggs agreed
                                                      Cookies agreed
                                                      Meatloaf No
                                                      Pesto No
                                                      Roast Vegetables agreed
                                                      Basic Tomato Sauce agreed

                                                      Also seems like the list is missing a lot of basics. Like other people said: what about rice, bean, omelettes, bacon, sauteed veggies, gravy, white sauces, mashed potatos, I'd put pot roast on the list instead of meat loaf. I'd also add cake. Why just pie?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: kdlalib

                                                        I know! Why the cake hate? Perhaps the author of the list was dumped by a cake the night before prom...

                                                        I'm not great with American pie crust (vs pate sucree or similar that I can do) and if I do get a successful crust, I'm unlucky with fruit fillings.

                                                        That being said, I'm a hell of a cake baker so I don't sweat it.

                                                        1. re: Violatp

                                                          I don't make the American pie crust either, and I rarely make pâte sucrée (since I almost never make sweet pies or tarts). Just the very occasional apple tart or other seasonal fruit tart. But I certainly make quiche and savoury vegetable tarts. They can make a nice presentation from stuff in your fridge. Well, so can crêpes.

                                                        2. re: kdlalib

                                                          Because apparently that author is a dirty rotten cakist!

                                                        3. The list is so silly it literally reeks of irrelevance.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            This is the only comment in this thread I can get behind.

                                                          2. this is an unanswerable question.

                                                            but don't put artichokes into a microwave unless that's your only cooking mechanism

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                              I don't know. We can grow artichokes up here in Southern Oregon, but steaming on top of the stove takes forever.
                                                              Microwave steaming means they can go from my garden to
                                                              on the table in about 10 minutes instead of an hour.

                                                              1. re: bbqboy

                                                                We do par-steam our artichokes in the micro. Then oil them up and slap them on the grill to char and complete the cooking. Ah la Houston's restaurant. It's on our Valentines menu. I was really surprised to find these at the store today. They look pretty good, wonder where they are from :-/ ?

                                                                1. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                  We just steam em in the microwave and start dipping the leaves in Mayo... well maybe miracle whip (did i say that?).

                                                                2. re: bbqboy

                                                                  growing up i thought artichokes were the reason pressure cookers were invented. i think i was in my teens before i realized there were other ways to cook them. microwaves existed, but certainly no one I knew had them in the 60s or early 70's.

                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                    The first thing I microwaved was a chips ahoy cookie.

                                                                    That would be an interesting thread actually.

                                                              2. i would add a decent pasta bolognese (although i suppose tomato sauce suffices).
                                                                chicken soup
                                                                and my husband would have my head for not adding brownies.

                                                                1. This is totally a Point of View type list (along with many that the posters here have added) and there should be some qualifiers to stipulate where that point of view is coming from. Although I am sure this is written by someone in the US, several of those items are not something I have had in years and there are other items that I would include.

                                                                  Just an opinion piece if you ask me. While I am spreading my culinary wings and trying new things all the time, I don't feel like less a cook because I can't / don't cook artichokes. Last time I had them I was in high school. They were good. But not something I feel I need / want to cook.

                                                                  1. Home baked bread.... properly prepared crispy baked potato and home made gravies.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Lillipop

                                                                      I thought about bread but there are so many people that have never baked bread.

                                                                      Sauces and gravies are very important though. There comes a point in every cook's development when he/she becomes determined to learn more about sauces and gravies. Once they do, their cooking improves dramatically. That and learning to make and use good stocks in them.

                                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                        True about the bread. I just started baking most of my own in 2011 because I saw an ordinary loaf of bread at Safeway priced at over $4.00 and it infuriated me for some reason. So I decided to start baking my own.Having fun......so delicious and saving $$$$$.

                                                                    2. First of all its like asking what 20 books everyone should read. It is not a sin to have never read Tom Sawyer, Catcher in the Rye, or even The Iliad or Odyssey. It's not a sin to not know how to make mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, or roast chicken. Nothing wrong with knowing how either.

                                                                      One of my grandmothers was not allowed to bake pies- but her vegetables were always great, we wished the other grandmother was not allowed to prepare vegetables - any vegetables (Really Grandma? You boiled the zucchini for how long?) But boy could she bake a pie! My mom can't make a good pancake if you gave her the batter and turned on the stove for her. But she was teaching me to stir fry back in the 60's when no one knew how.

                                                                      On the other hand just because I don't like eggs in any form (except hard boiled) doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to scramble an egg. Why should I make tomato sauce when tomatoes in the store cost a fortune, aren't very good, and I can buy a can of very good tomato sauce for under a dollar? And no, I don't have a garden patch out back where I can grow some. I love artichokes. I could live on them for a couple of weeks every fall (if I lived in CA and could afford them), but I hardly think it belongs on a list of what everyone should be able to make. So here's my comments:

                                                                      Pancakes - no objection, more practical than waffles.
                                                                      Roast Chicken - never made one, ever. Probably should.
                                                                      Hamburgers - agreed
                                                                      Pasta - agreed
                                                                      Roast Turkey - no objection
                                                                      Whole Fish - really? why? Trout, Salmon, Swordfish?
                                                                      Mac and Cheese - My cardiologist isn't gonna go for this
                                                                      Tofu - uhh.. is this to compensate for the mac and cheese?
                                                                      Artichokes - love them, but hardly mandatory
                                                                      Pie - piecrust? Sweet or Savory filling? Nice but not required
                                                                      Scrambled Eggs - i suppose, but I detest runny scrambled eggs.
                                                                      VINAIGRETTE - agreed (but why upper case?)
                                                                      Potato Salad - wouldn't be in my top 20.
                                                                      Steak - agreed
                                                                      Hard Boiled Eggs - agreed, you need em for that potato salad
                                                                      Cookies - agreed but marginally
                                                                      Meatloaf - agreed
                                                                      Pesto - have you priced basil lately? This is not a must know.
                                                                      Roast Vegetables - ok, no objection
                                                                      Basic Tomato Sauce - good canned is fine for most uses.

                                                                      HH list:
                                                                      rice - agreed
                                                                      beans - mostly agreed but you can buy decent canned.
                                                                      soup - nope. rarely eat it, maybe if i lived in a cold climate.
                                                                      fish filet - won't object
                                                                      bacon - should be first on the list.

                                                                      My adds:
                                                                      Roast meat (beef, pork, or lamb) vegetarians excused
                                                                      Baked Potato
                                                                      Mashed Potatoes
                                                                      Steamed Vegetables
                                                                      Sautéed Vegetables
                                                                      White Sauce
                                                                      Basic Gravy

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                        I have been cooking for a million years it seems for many different people but in all honesty I can not master a home made pie crust.

                                                                        1. re: Lillipop

                                                                          Hey Lillipop have you ever tried Martha Stewart's pate brisee pie dough? You may want to give it a go. http://www.marthastewart.com/317858/p...

                                                                          I ama fairly crap dough maker and yet this recipe seems fool proof. I make a few and freeze them in disks. for some reason the idea of making a crust each time seems overly irksome.

                                                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                            This is the recipe I use as well. Although I've been considering making the CI one that uses vodka as it's liquid.

                                                                            1. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                              Oh yeah. I forgot about that. Actually you could, in theory, use any alcohol I suppose. Anyone know?

                                                                              I also like rolling crust out on parchment. Ditches the need to add flour. I also add liquid bit by bit and not all at once. Once it goes in, it can't easily be taken out. Or cannot be taken out.

                                                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                Oh yeah. I forgot about that. Actually you could, in theory, use any alcohol I suppose. Anyone know?

                                                                                Yes any alcohol is fine but vodka is preferred because it's tasteless and odorless.

                                                                        2. Tofu? Roast vegetables? Artichokes? This list of 20 seems to have been made by someone who is 20.

                                                                          1. The most important thing to learn to cook up is a relationship with an awesome cook.

                                                                            Now go dazzle and then steam up the windows!

                                                                            Happy valentines day.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                              Either that, or BE the awesome cook. My best match is a fellow who likes housecleaning...

                                                                                1. re: lagatta

                                                                                  I think I'm going to have to be involved in a threesome. I would like to be the official taster!

                                                                                  1. re: Kalivs

                                                                                    Now I understand what the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker were up to.

                                                                                  2. re: lagatta

                                                                                    I always wanted a woman that owned a baskin robbins.

                                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                      I am not at ALL surprised by that : )

                                                                                      Oh make me laugh.

                                                                                    2. re: lagatta

                                                                                      I found someone who obsesses over edging the lawn and keeping the books. Whew. He seems oblivious about the house until I point directly at something I want him to clean. I used to think he was toying with me. Nope. He is an AMAZING dishwasher.

                                                                                  3. I agree about roast poultry and eggs. Everything else optional depending on who you are and where you're from.

                                                                                    1. This is a very silly list for so many reasons, but IMO the main reason is because learning to "make a dish" is an incredibly bad way to learn to cook. If you learn techniques and focus on understanding how different types of heat affect different foods, you'll know most of what you need to know to cook ANY dish.

                                                                                      As for the particular items on the list that I find exceptionally stupid, I have to say "tofu" is at the top. I mean, it's smart to have an idea of how to use tofu, but "tofu" in and of itself is not a dish. I cook with tofu semi-frequently and employ a number of different preparations for it, including braising, marinating/grilling, deep frying, sauteing and more. Same goes for artichokes. How is that a dish?

                                                                                      Also, why roast chicken AND roast turkey? You can use the same technique for both (if you want) and end up with a good final product. There are also 10,000 ways to do both, so why not focus on different roasting techniques in general, rather than saying "I know A recipe for roasting a chicken."

                                                                                      Pesto? Really? I mean, I love pesto. But really, how is putting basil, walnuts, cheese and oil in a food processor a "must-know" recipe? Mac and cheese? Why not learn to cook pasta competently, learn how to make bechamel, and then realize that you can now make ANY baked pasta dish?

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                        The article wasn't titled 20 dishes that will teach you how to cook. It's about the 20 dishes every cook should know how to make. Are some of the dishes silly?... perhaps
                                                                                        Is the list American-centric ? .. probably but chicken is pretty universal so are eggs.

                                                                                        I posted it because I thought it would encourage some conversation.

                                                                                        By the way... I am not angry or offended or trying to be defensive about your comments, I am offering some friendly rebuttal for the sake of conversation.

                                                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                          No offense taken! I agree that it does encourage conversation, and it's interesting to see what people think are the top 20 important dishes. However, if the topic is "20 dishes every cook should know how to make" then it's an even sillier list. If one considers oneself a cook, then the idea of not "knowing how to make" a dish should never come up. There are plenty of dishes I have never cooked before, but I am familiar enough with most cooking techniques that I wouldn't shy away from trying just about any recipe.

                                                                                        2. meh. these lists are silly.

                                                                                          i don't like pancakes, tried a million ways/times to like tofu, find potato salad gross and meatloaf even worse.

                                                                                          a quick perusal on these boards will show threads listing a GAJILLION ways that are the BEST scrambled eggs, etc. lol.

                                                                                          also vinaigrette and pesto aren't cooked, ya know?

                                                                                          1. Yes, everyone should know how to make these:
                                                                                            Roast Chicken
                                                                                            Roast Turkey
                                                                                            Whole Fish (or filets, IMO)
                                                                                            Mac and Cheese
                                                                                            Scrambled Eggs
                                                                                            Potato Salad
                                                                                            Roast Vegetables
                                                                                            Basic Tomato Sauce
                                                                                            mashed potatoes

                                                                                            I never make these, but I agree they're worth knowing how to make:

                                                                                            And I think the world would be a better place if no one ever made:
                                                                                            Hard Boiled Eggs

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                                                              LOL I'm with you on both of your "if no one ever made" list. I hate eggs in all forms, with hard boiled being near the top of the list. The whites are OK but the yolks... blech blech blech.

                                                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                I only like eggs when the whites and yolks are mixed together. No fried, poached, or soft-boiled, either. But scrambled, omelets, souffles are all wonderful.

                                                                                                And then there's cake.

                                                                                                1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                  the whole purpose of hard boiled eggs is to make egg salad sandwiches or deviled eggs. while I don't really like eggs if you find a good way to incorporate enough mayonnaise and some seasonings they can be enjoyed. I definitely agree with Jay regarding fried, poached, and soft boiled. there was a whole thread devoted to eggs a few months back.

                                                                                              2. The list is remarkably meat-centric, so vegetarian cooks can strike five or six of the items right there.

                                                                                                I can't imagine how artichokes made it onto the list at all, and cooking a whole fish is not a basic-20 item either. Roasting a turkey is not different enough from roasting a chicken to rate as a separate item.

                                                                                                The omission of soup is pretty major. Considering how varied, flexible, and fridge-clearing soups can be, learning to make a couple of basic kinds of soup is a fundamental cooking skill. Once you have that down, you can make something delicious and comforting out of next to nothing.

                                                                                                That'll come in a whole lot handier than knowing how to make pesto, which is most useful for people who grow their own basil (or other greens, herbs, or veg).

                                                                                                Making a pie crust is a skill that allows you to make quiche and tarts, not only sweet pies, so there's a good case for it as a basic. Cookies, not so much (I'm sure I'm in a minority here, but could happily go the rest of my life without eating another cookie).

                                                                                                The omission of rice is also pretty startling, considering that tofu made it...

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                  ellabee, making pancakes is also a very useful skill for vegetarian cooks. Not only the egg and milk containing kind, but buckwheat galettes can be eggless and milkless, and of course there is a wealth of South Asian pancake/crêpe-like dishes. Like making tart or pie crust, it also provides a handy and economical way of dressing up the stuff in the fridge and larder for guests.

                                                                                                  Indeed, as usually one has to cook one's own rice - and a lot of Western cooks wreck it - while most tofu eaters simply buy it.

                                                                                                  I noted the dearth of vegetables higher up, along with the absence of rice and legume dishes that can assure life in times of hardship.

                                                                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                    I interpret tofu's presence on the list to mean, "know how to cook with tofu", not "know how to make it from soy".

                                                                                                    Pancakes are such a big, wide genre that they probably belong on the list.

                                                                                                2. I don't think there's a "must" list. For example, I can make killer mashed potatoes but last year, my "must" was learning delicious low carb cooking, helped by my buddies on the Special Diets board.

                                                                                                  Instead of a list like the above, I'd tend to break it down

                                                                                                  Eggs--scrambled, soft boiled, hard boiled, omelet, sunny side up, frittata, etc.

                                                                                                  Chicken--Roasted, fried, in soup/with dumplings

                                                                                                  Pasta (in my former life)--spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna

                                                                                                  Ground beef--hamburgers, meatloaf, meatballs, etc.

                                                                                                  But then, I'm a serviceable, but not expert, cook.

                                                                                                  1. Whole Fish? I wonder how often a whole fish is cooked or ordered at an American restaurant? I would change whole fish to learn how to properly cook a fillet or steak of fish since that is more often what is served/ordered.

                                                                                                    To be added: meat stock/chicken stock. None of the items in the list are a must-know and neither is this one but it sure does boost up your game in the kitchen.

                                                                                                    1. my daughter's list would be different. she just moved out of the house and has learned to cook the following things from scratch:

                                                                                                      potatoes - double baked and mashed
                                                                                                      scrambled eggs
                                                                                                      rice (LOTS of rice)
                                                                                                      sushi - various kinds
                                                                                                      tuna salad
                                                                                                      grilled cheese sandwiches

                                                                                                      yup. that's about all she does. but, really.. it's not a bad list for a college kid! I think you can see that most of the stuff on the list differs not just because it's "kid" stuff, but also they are easy, fresh things to eat. Is it possible our national tastes might be changing slowly??

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: rmarisco

                                                                                                        That's a lot better than I did when I was in college. I was the queen of boxed pasta dinners and frozen waffles back then.

                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                          I still like boxed waffles with peanut butter and syrup. y husband makes them for me when I feel crummy.

                                                                                                      2. Pancakes agreed~or any other breakfast batter. I prefer waffles

                                                                                                        Roast Chicken agreed~this is the one on the list that when you get it right you have grown immensely as a cook.

                                                                                                        Hamburgers agreed
                                                                                                        Pasta agreed

                                                                                                        Roast Turkey agreed~this is my favorite challenge of the year.
                                                                                                        Whole Fish~yes. Inexpensive (1 lb trout, cleaned, stuffed with lemon and herbs, scored and grilled) so yummy

                                                                                                        Mac and Cheese~I guess, but so many restaurants are doing such great versions of this. I'd rather them do the work, I'll do the eating.

                                                                                                        Tofu~I love it, but have never cooked it.

                                                                                                        Artichokes~see my post above about my fav way to cook.

                                                                                                        Pie~this is an art, not sure that everyone should be baking pie.

                                                                                                        Scrambled Eggs agreed and omelets. I'm making the CI whipped/baked omelet tomorrow and I can't wait!!

                                                                                                        VINAIGRETTE~absolutely, it's so freaking easy. No fillers/gums/sugars added. Salad dressing companies should go out of business.

                                                                                                        Potato Salad agreed

                                                                                                        Steak agreed~but I do think this is an art, such as pie crust making. Although, maybe at least a sear in a cast iron. Grilling is a whole different ball game.

                                                                                                        Hard Boiled Eggs agreed~at the very least, "Eggsact Eggtimer" I admit, I still use one.

                                                                                                        Cookies agreed

                                                                                                        Meatloaf agreed~or at least a good ole ground beef casserole, al la CH rednecks! haha

                                                                                                        Pesto agreed (HH, it's so easy and delicious, why?)

                                                                                                        Roast Vegetables agreed
                                                                                                        Basic Tomato Sauce agreed

                                                                                                        14 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                                                          Just haven't gotten around to making Pesto, yet. I'm not really a big Italian food fan . I do know how to make it, though.

                                                                                                          it's on my list of fashionable foods to try, just because they are so fashionable.

                                                                                                          Fennel - finally got around to trying it. It isn't bad as long as it isn't too expensive. Usually it is overpriced but when it is in season it's acceptable.

                                                                                                          Pesto - not yet.. probably next though

                                                                                                          Hummus - not yet. It looks like it is just a relatively bland tasting low fat alternative to cream cheese or sour cream that you can mix with strong flavors to make a dip. We will see.

                                                                                                          Kale - not a big fan of greens. I usually use fresh spinach in places that kale is often used.

                                                                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                            pesto was "fashionable" in the 80s, lol and there is nothing low-fat about or bland traditional hummus. i despise tahini utterly so won't go near the stuff.

                                                                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                              Pesto hasn't been "fashionable" in a generation, really. It's a home kitchen standard in 2013.

                                                                                                              Hummus is is a dip in its own right, not a substitute for something else. I like it with thick-ish slices of cucumber and peppers of various colors. If you like raw carrots -- I don't -- it would work well with those, also.

                                                                                                              I leave out the tahini, Hotoy. I don't like it, either.

                                                                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                my sister makes a black bean hummus with peanut butter instead of tahini. I didn't believe it until I tried it. It works and it's cheaper. I'll stick with my tahini though. I've found a brand that I like, although I have had some that were awful!

                                                                                                                1. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                                                                  That's not hummus, it's black bean peanut butter dip. Hummus translates to "chick pea." :-)

                                                                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                    Oh my goodness when you put it like that it does not sound appetizing.I am sure I would still scarf it down though.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                      Hey, you never know how good a weird combination is until you try it!

                                                                                                                  2. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                                                                    What brand do you like? I'm interested in making my own hummus but the tahini is kind of pricey for me, so I'd hate to buy one that sucked!

                                                                                                                    1. re: pagesinthesun

                                                                                                                      I don't think that's hummus, per se. Just black bean dip. I'd probably like it better than hummus. I'd put lime juice and garlic and cilantro and some kind of chili in it, too.

                                                                                                                  3. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                    Hank, I am thinking it is time to actually try some of those goodies. Pesto does not have to be Italian. I think the definition has expanded some.

                                                                                                                    I know some people are saying pesto is not considered fashionable now, but it certainly has made a resurgence in the non traditional varieties in the last few years... just like most old time fashionables. Anyone eyeroll over the slow food discovery?

                                                                                                                    If you have a yard where you grow veggies, consider a plant or so of kale - maybe the non curly variety. It is better than the shoe leather you often find at the grocery. Or maybe the chard. It is in between spinach and kale texture wise.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                      Actually I was thinking of making hummus a few days ago. Will be interesting... never had it in any form.... at a restaurant, in a tub at the grocery store... haven't even tried it on a cracker at the grocery store when they were passing it our for free.

                                                                                                                      I'd like to make bread sometime.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                                                        just like hummus is chickpeas and tahini, pesto is basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic. you can whizz herbs or greens in the food pro, but that's not pesto.

                                                                                                                        also, pesto "should" be made with a mortar and pestle -- the heat of whizzing blades can turn the basil leaves bitter.

                                                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                          In my house, hummus is chick peas, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Taught to me by a Lebanese friend. Very creamy style.

                                                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                            Mine too, and also taught by a Lebanese friend, who is a splendid cook. Although it is very nutritious, I would never describe it either as tasteless or low-fat.

                                                                                                                            And taboulé contains more flatleaf parsley and perhaps mint than anything else; it is also very lemony. And not very starchy.

                                                                                                                  4. I would add the following over-generalized dishes:

                                                                                                                    Some sort of meat/fish curry
                                                                                                                    Lentil/bean curry
                                                                                                                    Some sort of stir fry
                                                                                                                    Some sort of meat on sticks (sate, etc)
                                                                                                                    Something cooked in parchment (eg fish)
                                                                                                                    Plain steamed rice
                                                                                                                    French omelette
                                                                                                                    A frittata or quiche like dish
                                                                                                                    A fruit crumble
                                                                                                                    A noodle soup
                                                                                                                    A quick pickle

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: fmed

                                                                                                                        I love making pickles! So crazy easy it made me mad that I had not done it sooner! I had similar feelings after making bread, cheese and sour cream. And buttermilk. Grrr.

                                                                                                                      2. fried eggs aren't here ...

                                                                                                                        agree on whole fish & pie. i have yet to do either & don't believe i'm disqualified from being an accomplished cook. i've also never prepared tofu as i'm not a fan. same for pesto--but don't you just throw everything in the food processor? some of these require real skill.

                                                                                                                        1. At a bare minimum......

                                                                                                                          Fried Chicken.....
                                                                                                                          Pudding (Banana, Rice, Bread etc.)
                                                                                                                          Macaroni and Cheese......
                                                                                                                          Pie (Pecan, Buttermilk, Lemon, Chocolate)
                                                                                                                          Cake (Chocolate, Caramel, German Chocolate, 2 or 3 more)
                                                                                                                          Sweet Potatoes (5 different ways)
                                                                                                                          Pimento & Cheese.......
                                                                                                                          Cornbread Dressing/Rice dressing/Oyster Dressing
                                                                                                                          BBQ (Various Ribs, other pork, beef, and game)
                                                                                                                          Gumbo (Minimum 3 varieties)
                                                                                                                          Vegetables (Peas, butter beans, okra, squash, greens etc.
                                                                                                                          Potato Salad.......
                                                                                                                          Fried Seafood (Catfish, Shrimp, Oysters, Crab, etc......
                                                                                                                          Jambalaya (No tomato products)
                                                                                                                          Red Beans & Rice......
                                                                                                                          Crawfish Etouffee (No Roux, No Canned Soups)...
                                                                                                                          Sauce Piquant (Chicken, Shrimp, Alligator, Turtle, Game etc)
                                                                                                                          Peach Cobbler.....
                                                                                                                          Various gravies.......

                                                                                                                          Others need not apply! :))

                                                                                                                          1. ?????? If they say so... ;)

                                                                                                                            Any list of this type is going to be very subjective. Why artichokes and no other vegetable? If this was an article in a magazine, it's a silly premise.

                                                                                                                            Besides they left Barbecued ribs off that list. It can't be worth much..... (;) )

                                                                                                                            1. Gravy of all kinds (cream, poultry (giblet), beef, etc.)
                                                                                                                              Bechamel (basis for gravies and sauces)
                                                                                                                              Hollandaise (teaches patience and joy of mastery)
                                                                                                                              At least a couple of dessert sauces (Hard Sauce, Hot Fudge, Homemade Marshmallow Cream, etc)

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                In our household we have added salted caramel sauce to the mother sauce list!

                                                                                                                              2. I'm going to channel my inner Sri Lankan here...

                                                                                                                                The top twenty list from one Sri Lankan cook's perspective would be... Although even this list would be argued over since what Sri Lankans eat varies between regions and ethnicities.

                                                                                                                                -Rice, including milk rice, butter rice
                                                                                                                                -String hoppers
                                                                                                                                -Hoppers, egg hoppers
                                                                                                                                -Pol Roti
                                                                                                                                -Curries - chicken, fish, beef, vegetable, whatever - the principle is the same
                                                                                                                                -Pol Sambol - which is one of the very best foods in the entire world anyway, which is why it gets its own separate listing
                                                                                                                                -Sambols like curd sambol, gotakola sambol, and so on
                                                                                                                                -Mallungs - leafy vegetables cooked together with freshly shredded coconut and spices
                                                                                                                                -Coconut milk - as in, how to make it by hand from a freshly shredded coconut. Absolutely essential skill, although not a dish.
                                                                                                                                -Watallapam - which is a sort of custard made with coconut milk and jaggery.
                                                                                                                                -Roast chicken - nice and spicy spicy spicy
                                                                                                                                -Short eats
                                                                                                                                -Soup, like Mulligatawny
                                                                                                                                -Pulses like chickpeas, green gram (mung beans), dals
                                                                                                                                -Milk tea

                                                                                                                                Okay, so that's only 17. So bite me. :P

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: LMAshton

                                                                                                                                  That list looks great!

                                                                                                                                  Do you usually make hoppers from scratch or buy them readymade? And how do you eat them?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                    Hoppers we buy, and they're usually eaten with lunu miris or seeni sambol, and can also be eaten with a fish, chicken, or meat curry. I haven't actually made hoppers, although I know how it's done. I have, however, made string hoppers, and if you don't have strong hands, it'll be difficult.

                                                                                                                                    Lunu miris is a dish made with onions and spices. Seeni sambol is also onions and spices, but it's cooked much longer, to the point where the onions are soft to nearly melting and sweet.

                                                                                                                                    If you ever have the opportunity to eat Sri Lankan food, do it. It's among the best, most flavourful cuisines of the world.

                                                                                                                                2. The list is a bit weird to me as the list Pasta as one and Mac & Cheese, and scrambled egges and hard boiled. Either go broad or go with a dish but not both.

                                                                                                                                  Yes it's American. I don't mind if its coming from an American source but the article could have been tightened up.

                                                                                                                                  Learn eggs - Fried, poached, baked, hard boiled, soft boiled, scrambled and omlettes

                                                                                                                                  Learn to make a signature sandwich and a signature soup of your choosing,
                                                                                                                                  Create a salad and make your own dressing

                                                                                                                                  Learn to cook steak at - Rare, Medium Rare, Medium
                                                                                                                                  Learn to bake or grill a fish
                                                                                                                                  Shrimp and Lobster
                                                                                                                                  Learn a vegitarian dinner
                                                                                                                                  Learn a pasta dish

                                                                                                                                  Learn a grilled, steamed veggie of your choosing
                                                                                                                                  know what to do with potatoes
                                                                                                                                  A rice dish
                                                                                                                                  When beans work

                                                                                                                                  a basic red sauce for pasta, marinera, pizza sauce
                                                                                                                                  A butter sauce
                                                                                                                                  A stock sauce, chicken, beef, veal stock

                                                                                                                                  A cookie that you can't just buy frozen dough at the store
                                                                                                                                  Creme Brulee
                                                                                                                                  A cake from scratch start to finish

                                                                                                                                  1. Including both Roast Chicken and Roast Turkey is absurd - I would replace by Roast Fowl as I find all birds can be cooked in much the same ways.

                                                                                                                                    Mac and Cheese, - it comes in a packet - its not cooking.
                                                                                                                                    Artichokes, just don't belong in the top 20.
                                                                                                                                    Cookies, - Cake would be more useful here.
                                                                                                                                    Meatloaf - who cares about meatloaf seriously I've never even eaten it.,
                                                                                                                                    Pesto doesn't involve cooking!,
                                                                                                                                    Vinagrette also doesn't involve cooking.
                                                                                                                                    Hamburgers. - there is nothing very tricky about Hamburgers and they are not something one ever bothers to make at home.


                                                                                                                                    RICE ?!?! absorption method rice. half the world eats rice every day and its not in the top 20?
                                                                                                                                    Soup - a basic vegetable / meat and vegetable soup.
                                                                                                                                    Risotto - classic and actually very easy
                                                                                                                                    Wine based stew of red meat. Beouf Bourginon or lamb shanks or Osso Bucco type dish.
                                                                                                                                    Basic Indian-Style Curry

                                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: echoclerk

                                                                                                                                      "Mac and Cheese, - it comes in a packet - its not cooking."

                                                                                                                                      >>have never had mac and cheese out of box. only the type that begins with bechamel.

                                                                                                                                      "Cookies, - Cake would be more useful here."

                                                                                                                                      >>i much prefer cookies to cake, but don't think either is relevant on a list of things to know.

                                                                                                                                      "Hamburgers. - there is nothing very tricky about Hamburgers and they are not something one ever bothers to make at home."

                                                                                                                                      >>i think about a gajillion americans with backyard grills would beg to differ.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                        I so much agree with you on Mac & Cheese. It's one of the basic dishes that my husband regularly makes from scratch. Just delicious. I've never bought a box of the convenience Mac & Cheese in my life. Not sure that it's an essential dish for everyone's cooking repertoire if limited to 20 dishes but it's at least as worthy of consideration as risotto.

                                                                                                                                        Also not sure why Pesto & Vinaigrette are deemed not to be "cooking" -- perhaps a cramped definition that is limited to dishes to which heat is applied? Any assemblage of ingredients involves cooking, even if some of those dishes are more simple to make than others. Surely the recent posts on how to make vinaigrette on this Board are testimony to the fact that it involves some level of cookery skill.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: echoclerk

                                                                                                                                        I'm not sure where you live or shop, but often where I live, chicken or turkey are the only birds available.

                                                                                                                                        Your scope must be very limited if you think macaroni and cheese only comes from a packet. I haven't had the packet variety in years, but make it from scratch every few months.

                                                                                                                                        I care about meatloaf... I like it, and there's a million different ways to make it.

                                                                                                                                        I make cookies way more often than I make cake. I haven't made an actual cake in about 3 years.

                                                                                                                                        Pesto and vinaigrette don't involve cooking, at least when it comes to heating, but they do involve knowing how much to use of each ingredient etc.

                                                                                                                                        I make hamburgers at home all the time in the summer, I grind my own meat for them, and I prefer them over the ones you can get in a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                        I don't think rice is really cooking... You get rice, you get water, you put them together on the stove and you get cooked rice. Less involved there than making a pesto or vinaigrette.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                          actually making the blue box is more complicated than rice from scratch ;) with rice, choosing the pan is half the battle.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: echoclerk

                                                                                                                                          Basic Indian-Style Curry? In the top twenty list of foods everyone should know how to cook? In India maybe or Great Britain. There are dozens of basic foods people should master before they need to worry about curry.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                            I never made curry in my life...don't intend to.

                                                                                                                                        3. Maybe this is more properly the subject of its own thread, but I think a list of 20 items to know how to cook is such an individual project, and is so culturally, geographically and even economically variable that it might be more useful to list some cooking techniques that would-be cooks should learn. (I omit knife-skills, etc., because that seems to fall in the category of preparation techniques.)

                                                                                                                                          As a few examples, I think everyone should know how to stir-fry, how to sautee, how to braise, how to poach, how to follow a baking recipe, how to grill, how to steam, how to make a stock, a complex sauce or reduction, etc. Once you have nailed some of these, there is almost nothing you can't cook.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. I don't understand the phrase "know how to cook." I've made most of these, but there are precious few items I can just walk into a kitchen and make from memory and pancakes, for instance, certainly aren't one of them. I've got the Toll House recipe memorized, but if I have to read a recipe for oatmeal cookies does that mean I don't "know how" to make them?

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: blackpippi

                                                                                                                                                i think it means you've done it successfully at least once & could do it again on demand.

                                                                                                                                              2. Fried rice, whether it's white, brown, black or whatever rice. Leftover rice, like leftover bread, is never very good the next day. That's why canny cooks have invented so many ways to make something delicious of them rather than throw them away.

                                                                                                                                                The simplest fried rice, which is very good, requires nothing more than cold rice, a couple eggs to scramble in the pan with the rice, a chopped green onion or two, a clove of minced garlic. Salt and pepper are all the seasoning that's needed. You can go from this basic recipe in whatever direction you want: meat, seafood, tofu, veggies, soy sauce, oyster sauce, hot chili peppers, sesame oil. But just the basic recipe is comfort food at its finest.

                                                                                                                                                1. What an bizzare list. Mr lilham doesn't eat red meat, doesn't like turkey, doesn't like roast veg.

                                                                                                                                                  My parents are chinese and won't eat that list of food, except the whole fish and scrambled eggs. (I guess that steak could be in a stir fry, but it's not what is shown in the picture).

                                                                                                                                                  I hate these lists because it doesn't take into account the culinary habit of different people. The 20 things you should know how to do should just be 20 things you like to eat.

                                                                                                                                                  To me, the big missing thing is rice and noodles. If it's the UK, you need to add curry :)

                                                                                                                                                  1. I would add grilled fish, steamed rice, hot pot, miso soup, pickles, and gravy.

                                                                                                                                                    I wouldn't include roast turkey, pancakes, pie, cookies, or meatloaf.

                                                                                                                                                    If we were to encourage everyone to learn to cook macaroni and cheese, I'd have them to learn a version using sodium citrate instead of one using bechamel. Otherwise I would just leave it off the list.

                                                                                                                                                    I think, obviously, that "everyone" is a loaded term. Even using the term "all Americans" would be a problem. But saying "20 all-American foods..." might bring some focus to the article.

                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                      What is better about your sodium citrate version of mac and cheese?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                                                                        I think the bechamel dilutes the impact of the cheese. An extremely small amount of sodium citrate combined with grated cheese and a liquid (e.g. water or beer) gives the perfect consistency for mac & cheese, with no other ingredients to get in the way.

                                                                                                                                                        Here is a recipe:


                                                                                                                                                      2. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                        I agree that cooking rice should be on the list as well as gravy. I disagree about pickles (it's easy to buy them at the store), hot pot and miso (if that's part of your food culture, then sure) and turkey. I think turkey should be on the list just for Thanksgiving alone. However turkey is cheap enough that it should be eaten more than just for holiday gatherings (it is at our house, of course Minnesota is a large turkey producing state).

                                                                                                                                                        I do think the average American should know how to cook pancakes, pie, and cookies. I'm indifferent about meatloaf since I'm not a fan.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                          The phrase "average American" can take one down a slippery slope pretty quickly.

                                                                                                                                                          Many Americans don't eat any of the foods on that list but they can still proudly call themselves "average". :)

                                                                                                                                                          It could be where people live -- if you live in a coastal urban city or other area which is more obviously multicultural you may have a different view of what American food is than if you live in Minnesota or other area in the middle of the country.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                            I knew after I wrote that post that this would come up. Did you see the part about food culture? Those two words say basically the same thing as did your post using a lot of implied words.I probably should have expounded on that part.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I'm sure we agree on the point.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                          Why would "hot pot", miso soup or the ability to make pickles be more important than pancakes, or meatloaf?

                                                                                                                                                          I've never made any of the three dishes you feel are so important.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                            And yet, to me, it's perfectly reasonable. I love miso soup and make a LOT of pickles. Meatloaf I think I've made perhaps once in my life. It just has no appeal.

                                                                                                                                                            That's where this list falls apart - it's very American-centric, but it doesn't even necessarily represent whatever the average American would mostly eat, I don't think.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LMAshton

                                                                                                                                                              Although I don't believe miso soup really needs to be on a list of the 20 things every American should know how to cook, unless of course that is part of your food culture, I plan on making miso soup soon. After being intrigued by miso for a long time I recently purchased some concentrated miso/dashi flavoring. The dried bonito flakes is what was previously holding me back.

                                                                                                                                                              I've made meatloaf a couple of times. It was quite good I was told because it doesn't appeal to me either.

                                                                                                                                                        3. This is a presumptuous "Ugly American" type list that assumes everyone eats a typical American diet, though they did toss in the tofu to point to when this accusation is leveled at them.

                                                                                                                                                          "Everyone" means something different from region to region, country to country. Whether or not any one person agrees or disagrees with this list is utterly irrelevant.

                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                            Of course ... the list came from an American web site. Chowhound is an American web site, also. Both sites are in English... so why shouldn't it be American-centric?

                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps the non-american cooks should start their own list.
                                                                                                                                                            Even better... maybe they should start their own web sites in their own countries. Oh but there wouldn't be near as much traffic, would there?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                              That's an odd thing to say. People from many countries contribute to this site, which is one reason it is interesting.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                                                                That's an unwelcoming remark. Why the hostility? We have international participation here. Do you not enjoy foods from other cultures?

                                                                                                                                                            2. The ONE THING everyone should know how to do is use a cookbook. Everyone should know how to make a pie and that to do so doesn't require knowing how to make pie crust.

                                                                                                                                                              1. Based on the rest of these remarks, I once again say that this list is ridiculous. Not because any of the foods or dishes are ridiculous, but it's entirely subjective and based purely on whatever the author of this ONE list likes to eat and cook. One person.

                                                                                                                                                                If I was to make this list and include stuffed cabbage as something *everyone* should know how to make, it would be equally ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                                                1. I think I've figured out how this list should be structured. A list of the 20 things everyone should know how to cook needs to include 20 things that person likes to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                  The emphasis should be on the ability to cook, not on what is BEING cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Doesn't it make more sense just to know how to cook the things you like to eat and that your family likes to eat? Surely everybody's list is different.