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How to ease an adult non-cook into being comfortable planning and making meals?

My awesome bf is a terrible, reluctant cook. He hates the time that shopping, cooking, eating and cleaning up takes out of the day. When he preps food he moves the knife like an (adorable) 5-year old and doesn't know how to properly use salt, fats, or spices (and hence, doesn't). He's said he would like to take a pill each day instead of eating real food, but he also loves french fries, fois gras, and baked asparagus, so I suspect this isn't really true. I love cooking, and he's good at doing the dishes, but I don't want to make every single one of our meals. I want to encourage him 1) to cook 1 edible meal a week and 2) to enjoy occasional casual, low-fuss messing around in the kitchen at the end of the day! Any tips?

asked by sandy84 about 4 years ago
14 answers 2232 views
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HalfPint is a trusted home cook.

added about 4 years ago

My husband is a decent cook who thinks he's a terrible cook. He like to have me supervise him while he cooks. He feels more comfortable when there's a safety net, an extra pair of eyes. You should cook together. That way, he can see how to prep, season, and cook while your presence assures him that he's doing it 'right'. Initially, it might be longer, but later on, when he gets more comfortable, it will go faster. Eventually, he can go solo. There's no fast fix. You can't make someone love cooking and want to cook.

I would also suggest a food project of some sort, involving a particular food or food product that he loves. A lot of them aren't very difficult either. I remember my delight when I made my first pizza from scratch. The most surprising thing was that it actually tasted great!

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pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added about 4 years ago

Well if BF likes foie gras it's not a lost cause. It means he really is not a total food phobe. And there's nothing wrong with French fries. But I do know what you mean about a 5 year old with a knife, I've seen that before.
Start with simple things that you can make mostly from your pantry and build on that. Things like tuna noodle casserole, pasta with meatballs etc. Key idea to get across is that you have to taste for seasoning constantly. With meatballs demonstrate that you break off a small piece and fry it separately so that you can find out if the bulk of loaf needs more seasoning. And so on...

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added about 4 years ago

Or, if he's like my husband who can't manage cooking much more than toast but is expert at computers and other electronics, and can fix anything around the house, let him do what he enjoys and is good at and you do the cooking. My husband is a very appreciative diner, so it's a pleasure to cook for him. And doesn't every cook need a receptive and grateful audience?

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Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added about 4 years ago

Another possibility if you have this option in your area - fun cooking classes. We have a market here that does them - all different topics / cuisines / teachers, every night of the week. The great thing is you get the demo, recipes, they feed you and give you wine. It's a fun date night and might help with some inspriration as well.

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added about 4 years ago

This is going to sound counter-intuitive, and it would possibly be a longer path to making a weeknight dinner, for example, but my husband got really interested in what I call "project meals" (for us -- I'm sure for most people on this site they're "standard means," but we both work in fields completely unrelated to cooking, food, restaurants, etc.). We started with making pasta from scratch together, which is a nice, manageable process and fun to do together. Now my husband makes it himself all the time -- I'm in charge of sauces. And I think that gave him confidence to try to make some things he really likes -- he makes amazing ribs, bacon, and clam/fish chowder. He likes to grill, so we do that a lot. He also gets involved in the process -- so we made burgers the other night, and he ground the meat while I made the sides. That kind of stuff, I think, has both given him a sense of enjoyment with the process (especially the "project" meals-- he'll try stuff that I would never attempt, and I never thought I'd say that!), and confidence to try new things here and there. I still usually make dinner on the weeknights, but now he's involved in the process more, and he often makes dinner on weekends.

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added about 4 years ago

I taught my Dad to cook after my mom died and he had no experience in the kitchen at all! She REALLY spoiled him. But he was motivated because he quickly realized that frozen entrees taste awful and eating out all the time wasn't an affordable or healthy option.
This is how I did it: First I started with really easy, simple things that he likes, such as pasta or frittata. He was missing my Mom's cooking so I did a lot of her old standards and that motivated him. The first time I'd give him the recipe - written out so he could see what the steps were and I'd do the whole thing start to finish as a demonstration, explaining as I went and answering his questions. And, oh, boy, did he have a lot of crazy, silly questions! because he was so green in the kitchen he didn't know things as basic as yes, Dad, you have to chop the parsley before you add it to the pan. He'd take a lot of notes on the recipe to explain all these standard recipe terms I was using that were basically just Greek to him but that were so basic to me, it never occurred to me he wouldn't know that. Then the next time I saw him, we'd reverse the process and he'd cook the recipe and I'd supervise and steer him right if he was messing up and answer a million more questions. And he'd make a bunch more notes. And only then would he try it on his own....well, I got a lot of panicked phone calls at dinnertime the first time he tried something new, but eventually he figured it out.
The whole process took YEARS and is still going on. I'm always giving him tips or new recipes to try when I come across something I think he'd like that's easy enough for him to pull off. But now I only need to explain it to him over the phone and he's usually able to figure it out on his own. He still doesn't really like to cook, nor is he great at it. But he can make himself a healthy, real meal whenever he wants and his cooking is plain and basic but it's not bad.
So know what you're getting into - this isn't necessarily a quick or easy thing to do and my Dad was pretty motivated to learn.
Good luck!

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added about 4 years ago

I think motivation is the key, whether it's the motivation to cook or to please you! Unlike klrcon's dad, my father-in-law really didn't want to learn to cook after he was widowed. He seems happy to carry out some salad and prepared salmon or chicken from the local WF or other grocery store. Much as we tried to persuade him to try, it's just not his thing. He's completely capable, as he makes his "special" butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving. No interest. My husband seems to be the same way. He can make a couple of dishes and is the family expert at eggs over easy without breaking the yolk, but day to day, he'd rather do the dishes. This works for us, as I love to cook and hate doing the dishes. If you will begin to feel resentful, though, doing all the cooking even if he cleans up, I definitely think that should be motivation for him! btw, I'm making sure both my kids can cook - one boy and one girl!

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added about 4 years ago

In DC, I started using a few different food delivery services (ScratchDC and Plated), where you can order meals from their menu, that come with all of the ingredients measured out and mostly prepped, and a recipe card. Then all you have to do is follow the directions and make it happen. It's a nice segue for people who maybe feel like they only have 30 minutes of time, or who don't want to do all the prep work. I love cooking, but it was great for those last minute meals or when I had been out of town for a few days and hadn't been able to get to the store yet. It's perfect for people who don't like looking up recipes or spending all the time chopping veggies. Agree with the other suggestions here, too - on the projects, classes, and cooking together.

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QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

added about 4 years ago

What if your bf simply does not like to cook? Why force him if it is not his thing...

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added about 4 years ago

I tripped over this web site, DoItDelicious.com. Very simple recipes with extensive "how to" photographs. A useful hook to get someone to look at it might be that the teacher is Jerry Seinfeld's wife!

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added about 4 years ago

I agree with project meals. Especially if you phrase it not so you're asking him to do it, but, "hey, I really want to try this but it's too much work on my own. Maybe we can do it together?" Put on some music, get a drink, and make it into a fun activity. Then it's not a chore and he gets to see firsthand why you love to cook so much.

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added about 4 years ago

I would choose 2 simple techniques, rather than recipes. For example, teach him how to do a chicken and veggie stir- fry. He has to learn the order of ingredients, then he can use any vegetable in the fridge. Or do a crock pot pork and root vegetable. Or a baked dish - throw together some chicken thighs, potatoes, carrots, parsnips with some garlic and olive oil. 30 mins to an hr later, you have a meal. I thing it is best to learn simple techniques so that you can adapt the menu according to what is in the house.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added about 4 years ago

I totally agree with Queen Sashy! My husband could grill a decent steak. The end. Beyond that, as long as I cooked (which honestly I love to do even after a long day at work as a financial analyst, non-cooking in other words), he did the dishes. Win!

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Sam is a trusted home cook.

added about 4 years ago

People like Rachel Ray and Sandra Dee get ALOT of kicking around here on this site.

But for a non-cook; their stuff is elementry school. Using 'semi' cooked stuff and combining stuff. Using stuff thats canned out deli items..and plating them and serving them with personal flourishes.

That's is how to learn...you don't just in making your own cheeses, and smoking your own fish; etc.etc.
Basic recipes using ready made short cuts are a great way to get combining thing to someone's brain.
There's a reason why Campbell soup green bean casserole is a 'comfort' food for pot luck dinners and thanksgiving.

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