Look, we get it – not every guy is going to be a world class chef. In fact, not every guy is going to be much of a chef at all. Some guys manage to get by on take-out and cobbling together sandwiches, and some guys just have no interest in upping their culinary prowess. When you’re in college, that’s fine. When you’re a grown adult, though, even if your own diet resembles one of a six year old, you should at least have a handful of dishes you can bust out if the need arises. What if you’re trying to impress a lady? You can’t exactly whip up a PBJ and expect her pants to be charmed off. What if you’re invited to an important work potluck? Or you’re trying to impress your significant other’s family? The point is, there are many situations where having a few recipes in your back pocket is really, really handy.
Now, we’re not saying you need to know how to flambe things and craft an intricate plated dish with multiple components and sauces. We’re just saying you should probably know how to prepare a few things that require a little more effort than ‘open can, put on plate/in bowl.’
Here are 15 simple dishes that every guy should know how to cook. We’re serious – they’re basically foolproof.
Sure, you can buy the pancake mix that you just add water to, stir together, and pour into a pan, but why would you do that to yourself? Homemade pancakes are far, far superior, in both flavour and texture, and honestly, they’re not that much harder to make. Instead of adding one or two wet ingredients to one dry ingredient, you just add a couple more things into the mix. All you need to do is combine them in a bowl – flour, eggs, milk, sugar, things you likely have at home already. If you really want to get fancy, you can toss in a few things like blueberries or chocolate chips, and she’ll probably love you forever.
It’s pretty easy to screw up an omelet and make a messy, half-scrambled mess when you try to flip or fold it. Scrambled eggs, on the other hand, are basically foolproof – but they’re also not impressing anyone. The perfect solution to your egg-centric troubles? The frittata. You basically just mix eggs, a splash of milk, whatever veggies or meats you have on hand, perhaps a sprinkle of cheese and seasonings, and toss it into some type of pan or dish to cook in the oven. It’s just as simple as scrambled eggs, and it looks way fancier. Your egg game is instantly elevated.
Some grocery stores that make their guacamole in house might have some tempting offerings, but let’s face it – in general, the kind of guacamole you buy in the store is a little underwhelming. It’s generally full of preservatives, a little too weirdly salty, and the texture is too uniformly pureed. Making guacamole from scratch isn’t much harder than picking it up at the store, and the flavour is infinitely superior. All you have to do is toss together avocado (check a YouTube video on how to slice it open and remove the pit if you’re nervous) with some lime juice, onions, garlic, cilantro, and salt – at the minimum. You can mix it up and add in other flavour elements if you want, but basically, this is a ‘toss in a bowl and smush it all together’ recipe, and really, does it get any easier than that?
12. Roast Chicken
For some reason, not only is roast chicken absolutely delicious, but it seems like an insanely impressive dish to make. It’s not much harder than roasting up separate chicken breasts, but somehow, when it’s all kept in one glorious, crisp-skinned bird, it seems way more gourmet. Learn how to season your bird and keep it moist with oil or butter, and then basically you just need to stick it in the oven and maybe use a meat thermometer to check when it’s fully cooked. It’s easy, it’s a crowd pleaser because everyone can pick whatever part of the bird the prefer, and it’s super simple to customize with different seasoning mixes. You can’t go wrong.
11. Pasta Sauce From Scratch
There’s nothing wrong with jarred pasta sauce. Let’s face it – the grocery stores continue to sell jarred sauce because consumers buy it all the time because it’s so quick and easy. However, there’s something to be said for homemade pasta sauce, and unlike some homemade dishes, it isn’t too tough to master. Basically, if you can follow a recipe, you can make delicious pasta sauce from scratch – it generally just involves taking a bunch of ingredients and simmering them together, or blitzing them together in a food processer. Whether you’d like to master a phenomenal Bolognese sauce or a delicious pesto, having one sauce up your sleeve can be a lifesaver.
It’s the littlest things that make you seem like you have your life totally together, and one of those little things is homemade salsa. Sure, you could buy one of those jars of salsa and just slop it in a bowl for your guests to enjoy. However, it just takes a few extra minutes to chop up some tomatoes and onions and seasonings and mix them together for a tangy, heat-packed homemade salsa. You can customize it however you like, whether that be towards the sweeter side of things or insanely spicy, and bask in the fact that you know how to whip up homemade salsa.
9. Chicken Noodle Soup
Remember when you were younger and your mom used to whip up delicious chicken noodle soup that was better than any medicine you could buy? Why wouldn’t you want to be able to give someone else that same comfort when they’re sick? The canned version of chicken noodle soup is always a bit too salty, a bit too preservative-packed, and just… not the same. Listen, we’re not suggesting you make your own chicken stock from the bones and bits – that’s an advanced move. For a simple chicken noodle soup, combine some store-bought stock with a few veggies, some chicken, and some noodles, and that’s all you really need.
What guy doesn’t love a great steak? It seems like an indulgent treat, but if the only time you’re eating steak is at restaurants, you’re missing out. Steak is one of the easier meats to prepare because, unlike poultry or pork, you don’t really need to worry about whether it’s done or not – there’s a pretty forgiving range, and even if you go a little under medium-well, or a little over medium-rare, you’ll still have a tasty meal. Pick up a good cut of steak and you don’t even need to mess around with a marinade – salt, pepper, heat. That’s it.
7. Grilled Cheese
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, or for some reason dislike cheese, chances are you love a good grilled cheese sandwich. It’s something many of us remember from our childhoods, and it’s still tempting whenever you see one on a menu. The process itself is insanely simple – bread, butter, cheese. Apply heat and enjoy. However, since it is so easy to prepare, we feel like you should definitely upgrade from the plastic cheese slices and white bread to something a little nicer. Find one or two types of cheese, a nice loaf of bread, and even add in a flavourful addition like sundried tomatoes or pesto, and suddenly you’re not just making a meal for children – you’re making a delicious gourmet dish worthy of any date night.
6. Stir Fry
When you’re trying to keep things simple, the best recipes are the kinds that aren’t really even recipes at all. After all, unless you absolutely love cooking, chances are you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen using all the pots and pans and measuring cups for a single dish. It’s just a lot of effort. When it comes to stir fry, things are a lot more flexible – you basically just get a big pan, a splash of oil, and then toss in whatever combination of vegetables and meat you want. Add a dash of soy sauce or sweet chili sauce, maybe a splash of hoisin, and you’ve got a meal. No measurements necessary.
5. Chocolate Chip Cookies
Most guys aren’t exactly masters of the dessert world – and if you are, by all means, learn how to make things like bourbon brown sugar blondies and finicky layer cakes. However, if you just want to add a simple dessert to your arsenal, let’s be serious – everyone likes chocolate chip cookies. Unless you’re allergic to chocolate or something, no one can turn down a warm, gooey, delicious chocolate chip cookie. You’ll need to learn how to do things like creaming butter and sugar together, but honestly, even a bad chocolate chip cookie is still pretty good. You’ll enjoy your efforts while you master the art of the cookie.
Quesadillas are just another one of those recipes that basically involves putting things together in one place and then applying heat. For a mouth-watering quesadilla, all you really need to do is take a large tortilla, fill half of it with any mixture of cheese, meat and a sprinkling of veggies you’d like, and then stick it in the oven until the cheese melts and the outside gets crispy. They’re so, so easy, and you can go from ingredients to cheesy quesadilla goodness within about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on whether your meat is cooked yet.
It’s a bit stereotypical to assume that grilling is a man’s job, but come on – if you don’t know how to grill a simple burger, that’s just embarrassing. Sometimes, a fast food burger really hits the spot. However, you should definitely know how to craft a delicious burger at home. After all, what are you going to do if you want to throw a BBQ? Supply Big Macs for everyone? Making patties involves nothing more than mixing the meat with some spices and often a binder, like an egg or some breadcrumbs, and grilling it until they’re cooked and juicy. Advanced cooks can get fancy with the toppings and plate up some truly gourmet creations, but if you learn how to make a juicy patty, maybe toss a slice of cheese on there and serve it up with ketchup and mustard, that’s good enough.
2. Roasted Vegetables
Maybe you’ve been asked to bring a side dish to a potluck and don’t want to be the fifth person with potatoes. Maybe you just want to add something fancier to your repertoire to potentially accompany your roasted chicken. Whatever the reason, knowing how to roast vegetables is a great skill to have. They’re simple, they’re quick, and they don’t require a lot of know-how in the kitchen. It’s just a matter of heating the oven, mixing the veggies with oil and a bit of seasoning, and baking until they’re ready. The only thing you need to know is that you should group vegetables that require similar cooking times – so, for example, don’t mix soft mushrooms in with harder root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, because the mushrooms will be roasted far, far faster.
1. Salad Dressing
Imagine you’re invited to a potluck or family event where you’re asked to bring one dish – let’s say, a salad. Don’t be the guy who shows up with the bagged mix that disappoints everyone. Making a simple dressing is literally the easiest thing in the world, and if you bring that alongside a box of greens, suddenly your simple two-component salad is almost gourmet. While creamy dressings require a bit more knowledge, vinaigrette dressings follow a basic formula – one part acid to three parts oil. Your oil can be whatever you prefer, from olive oil to something more flavourful, and your acid can be anything from balsamic vinegar to lemon juice. Add a dash of seasoning, add a bit of a thickener like a spoonful or two of mustard, and you’ve got a delicious homemade dressing that people won’t believe you made. You’re better than bottled dressing and bagged salad.