Weeknight Cooking

20 Essential Dishes Every Cook Should Know

January 10, 2014

If you were going to ever commit any sort of recipes to your memory -- if you were going to ever cook things so often that they become second nature -- you should look to these twenty. (Or, if they won't all fit in your brain, at least have them at the ready). Because while we're all into big parties and fun experiments and playing around in the kitchen, we've got our staples. We've got the things we turn to for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert -- all week long, when we're hungry or when we're tired or when the mood suddenly strikes. So here are Food52's most essential recipes: the things you really should know -- or strive to learn! -- how to cook.

Scrambled Eggs 

Scrambled eggs from Food52

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Pancakes from Food52



Chili from Food52


Roast Chicken 

Roast Chicken from Food52


Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce from Food52


Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese from Food52


Salad Dressing

Lemon Caper Dressing


Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes from Food52



Steak from Food52


Stir-Fried Noodles 

Noodles from Food52



Pesto from Food52


Roasted Vegetables

Roasted vegetables from Food52


French Toast 

French toast from Food52


Puréed Vegetable Soup

Soup from Food52



Burgers from Food52


Macaroni and Cheese 

Macaroni and Cheese from Food52


Chicken Cutlets

Chicken fingers from Food52



Frittata from Food52


Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies from Food52


Chocolate Bundt Cake

Bundt cake from Food52

What recipes would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


cl March 9, 2015
Rice and Beans, Pastas, soups/stews, salads, baked potato, stir-fry, meatballs/meatloaf, baked/sautéed fish, roasts, bacon, gravies/sauce, fruit crisp, cake, muffins, microwave cooking, omelets
arcane54 January 11, 2015
Simple pan sauce (so versatile); custard; Cook's Illustrated "almost no-stir risotto; shortbread... Endless variations for all of these!
Sharon November 1, 2014
Jenn C. September 30, 2014
Chicken stock. Its so useful, for so many things.
Diane July 13, 2014
Chicken noodle soup and spaghetti and meatballs.
Nancy P. January 26, 2014
I, too, love this site! It has become my go to for many things.
You cover everything well! Yum!
nunya B. January 22, 2014
I cant believe you added bread on top of mac and cheese,or carrots and stew beef in chili! yuk!
patricia R. January 18, 2014
classic meat loaf...
DianeT January 18, 2014
Great list. I'd add chicken stock, some sort of braise, like a brisket, and cobbler - and skip the mac and cheese.
scott.finkelstein.5 January 15, 2014
Lost me at including macaroni and cheese and fritata (don't even know what that is) but not chicken-kneidle soup or white fish with a ritz crust.
Wendi January 14, 2014
Meatloaf/meatballs. Same ingredients, with a variation on the meatballs for hors d'oeuvres
Sofia January 13, 2014
bonbonmarie January 13, 2014
I would add a good fruit pie to this list. Something you don't need a recipe for, just luscious, just-picked goodness and a flaky crust or crumble to contain it. yum!
Patricia January 13, 2014
Basic pound cake is a family staple!
NinaM January 13, 2014
I'd like to see a basic pizza!
KitchenBeard January 13, 2014
I'd add a good stew. Beef, pork, chicken, whatever, but the process of a one pot multihour braise is a good use of cheap ingredients to produce a complex flavor. B
Peggy January 12, 2014
Chicken soup!
Bryan P. January 12, 2014
I actually wouldn't be NEARLY as specific as this list is. Every cook (home cook) should know how to make: 1)scrambled eggs, 2)some form of hot cereal, 3)some form of fried/BBQed meat (skill is generally transferrable), 4)at least one simple pasta dish, 5)at least one complex dish suitable for company, 6)a basic green salad, 7) steamed vegetables and 8)at least one sweet. Everything else is optional. Know these six things and you'll be able to keep yourself and even a family at least relatively happy and healthy. These things should be known BEFORE a person is old enough to drive a car.
Bryan P. January 12, 2014
Doh, I forgot one....4a)at least one soup..preferably one that can be used as a base and varied.
Ketoko January 12, 2014
I want to dedicate my life cooking pancakes. There is something mystical in it:)

Happy New Year
Kitchen G. January 12, 2014
Survival cooking should include a basic spaghetti, oatmeal cookies, and rice.